Road of Being Put on a Pedestal

It is healthy to receive attention and admiration from others as well as to give it. Sometimes in the beginning of a relationship, we feel like the other person can do no wrong. However, if this is too extreme, it can be a danger sign. If you’ve ever been put on a pedestal, you know it’s a heady experience. If you feel a little uncomfortable with it, that’s a sign of health because the truth is that none of us are perfect so there is no way we can stay on a pedestal; the fall off is painful.

Controllers are adept in the beginning of relationships at making you feel special, that they really have your interests at heart, and that they can’t live without you.[1] The experience of being idealized can be especially alluring if you have been seduced by fear of being alone.

The signs we gravitate toward on this seductive road say “Love” and “Appreciation.” These are perfectly natural things to be attracted to. Sometimes people crave to feel special if they have experienced neglect in their histories, but most of the time we aren’t seeking to be told we’re exceptional. We just want relationships that include connection and caring.

The danger is misreading the false caring and approval of a controller. One of the ways abusers seduce people is by making them feel special:

  • An employee is told the employer has never had anyone do such a great job; he is needed to make the company a success.
  • A “latch key” child warms to the attention of a teacher who tells him how great he is and wants to spend time with him after school.
  • A woman is flattered by gifts, a desire to do everything together, and proclamations she is the love of his life.

With controlling relationships, what follows an intense “honeymoon” period of behavior such as this is a shift to expectations that center on the abuser’s needs and neglect the other person’s interests.

  • The employee is asked to stay for longer and longer hours and is blamed when he wants time off.
  • The child begins to feel creepy because of physical or sexual touching, or is told he’s been a disappointment when he wants to play with friends instead of being with the adult.
  • The woman wants to go out with friends and the man accuses her of not loving him enough.

All of us need to be admired and appreciated. However, for those who are insecure about themselves, this need can blind them into accepting the irrational desires of a controller. If we’ve learned we have to have others to feel okay about ourselves, we are much more vulnerable to ignoring important stop signs.

Often coercive controllers depend upon people they associate with to feel important or loved. This leads to an intense attentiveness in the beginning of relationships since controllers are invested in insuring someone’s love or loyalty. When they become more certain of their allegiance, the power and control behind the attention more clearly appears, which is way past the point of their loved ones or associates becoming invested in the relationships. This leaves people working hard to get what they once had back, and asking themselves what they did wrong, which of course is usually helped along by blame from controllers. Survivors often spin their wheels on this path trying to figure it out.

It is important to pay attention to the degree of intensity that is present in a relationship in the beginning. See great intensity (having to spend all time with you, over-doing compliments, setting you up as the “perfect” whatever) as a potential caution light. Proceed carefully and observe whether control or too much insecurity and neediness follows. In the case of love relationships, sometimes it is easy to confuse control with normal attraction and desire to get to know a person. However, paying attention to other cues will help you to discern whether it is a healthy relationship.

  • Having a job should not become your whole life.
  • Keeping a friend should not require you to neglect everything and everyone else.
  • Loving someone should not mean giving up you!

It should feel to you like there is a sense of balance and proportion to your life, and especially, that your needs are an important part of the map. The internalized predator here is that part of you that doubts that you are worthy of love and attention. 

[1] Crazy Love, Leslie Morgan Steiner  (DAIS Luncheon June 2011)


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