Seduction by Controllers

I’ve selected the word seduction because many times we are not completely aware of what we’re choosing in life. A definition for seduce is: to persuade somebody to do something by making it seem desirable or exciting”.

 To this, I would add “or by making it seem inevitable”. Controlling people trap us unawares by identifying what our particular seduction themes are. We can break free from the metaphorical ropes that bind us if we examine our internal beliefs that have been aligning themselves with the aggressors.

We are all vulnerable to believing controlling people and institutions. There is subtle pressure to ignore what we perceive or want when we’re told, “this is the way it should be” or “this is the way it always has been.” This contributes to control in its various guises being an epidemic in our society. Learning to ignore our own perceptions can happen regardless of whether we grow up in controlling families.

If on top of that, we haven’t been reinforced for our strengths and valued by family and friends, we are even more vulnerable to being seduced by controlling people. Both socialization and low self-esteem contribute to vulnerability in being subjugated by others. It is important to learn to think critically and trust your instinctual nature.

What do I mean by instinctual nature? Clarissa Pinkola Estes uses this term to encompass insight, intuition, endurance, keen sensing, far vision and acute hearing. These are the very things that all too often women are taught to ignore in themselves.

Estes tells a version of the story of Bluebeard[1] that illustrates the internalized “predator” and the importance of paying attention to our instincts. This is a story of three sisters who are courted by a man with a bad reputation named Bluebeard. The heart of the story is summarized in the following quotes:

 “But the youngest sister thought if a man could be that charming, then perhaps he was not so bad. The more she talked to herself, the less awful he seemed, and also the less blue his beard”.

The woman marries Bluebeard because of his charm and promises of status. All seems well for a time, until he leaves and lays down the rules for what she can and can’t do in the castle. Estes says:

“All creatures must learn that there exist predators. Without this knowing, a woman will be unable to negotiate safely within her own forest without being devoured. To understand the predator is to become a mature animal who is not vulnerable out of naivete, inexperience, or foolishness”.

When the wife disobeys his rules and instead follows her own intuition, she discovers his secret and is threatened with death. Just in time, she digs deep into her nature and finds the will to protect herself and fight the predator.

“ . .  the ability to stand what one sees is the vital vision which causes a woman to return to her deep nature, there to be sustained in all thoughts, feelings, and actions”.

Many people who have left abusive relationships understand what Estes means by this last quote. They have to reach deep within and discover their strength that has always been there.

Similar to this story, we may internalize messages that we aren’t powerful and believe that we have no choice. The end result is often behavior that inadvertently colludes with external predators or perpetrators. This does not mean that we give them permission to dominate or control us, that we in fact want this behavior from them.

It simply means that our vision has been clouded so that we either don’t see the dangers or can’t conceive of anything different for ourselves. We begin to believe in the natural “rightness” of the person or institution rather than questioning them. We learn to doubt our perceptions and believe as in the above story, maybe his beard really isn’t so blue.

While I have used Estes’ story to illustrate important dynamics for women, it is just as important for men to pay attention to their instincts. Their dynamics are generally somewhat different, but they also are affected by these seductions and have their own internalized oppression. My next blogs will explore the various themes of seduction that can make up the “internal predator” in both women and men.

[1] Estes, Clarissa Pinkola, Ph.D. Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype. New York: Ballantine Books, 1992.


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