Five Mechanisms of Wounding to Exercise Control

We're all immersed in different kinds of power games. These kinds of circumstances are perhaps best seen in the context of the couple where it's a natural kind of struggle. However, in these kinds of disputes, not all the strategies adopted are appropriate.
Five Mechanisms of Wounding to Exercise Control

Last update: 29 August, 2022

There’s a wide range of mechanisms that are used to manipulate in the social sphere. Some are extremely explicit, like raising our voices. Others are more veiled. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re not as aggressive and harmful.

When faced with direct aggression, there’s more clarity and the individual has more tools to respond. In fact, there’s no ambiguity in these forms of violence. On the other hand, when surreptitious resources are used, the mechanism of wounding to exercise control is usually more effective.

There are several ways of controlling. Some might even be disguised as good deeds. They’re usually more effective with insecure or dependent people since these conditions tend to facilitate manipulation. It’s important to learn how to identify the mechanisms of wounding. This means we can exercise control in order to deactivate them and prevent them from reaching their goal.

We’re going to look at five mechanisms of wounding to control.

To injure an opponent is to injure yourself. To control aggression without inflicting injury is the Art of Peace.” 

-Morihei Ueshiba-

1. Passive-aggressive silence

This is a mechanism we might call a ‘cold war’. It keeps the other person on tenterhooks and fuels their insecurity. There are no shouts, no long words. In fact, there’s a laconic kind of communication, in which the ‘wounder’ answers the other person with monosyllables, despite the fact that it’s evident that they need broader answers.

This way of wounding to exercise control means the aggressor keeps silent about important issues that concern the other person. Consequently, they’re kept uninformed or are only partially informed, as the aggressor wants to create bewilderment and confusion. This kind of silence is passive-aggressive.

Argument between mother and daughter
Keeping silent is a form of control and manipulation.

2. Blocking dialogue to maintain conflict

This mechanism is similar to the previous one, but not quite the same. Here, there’s a systematic blockage of dialogue on specific issues. As a rule, the aggressor prevents or sabotages the possibility of dealing with certain issues. They’re almost always connected with flaws in the person who holds the power in the relationship.

The aggressor might deviate from the central issue, staying only on the periphery. They also might react with obvious discomfort when certain topics or mentioned. This is likely to lead the other party to avoid such dialogues, thus the aggressor achieves their goal.

3. Belittling the other person

Mockery or ridicule are two ways the aggressor might downplay the other person’s capabilities. They might ask them for credentials or references to back up everything they say. Ultimately, their objective is to minimize them and disqualify what they say or do.

This wounding mechanism may also be used to attack the weak points or mistakes of the other person. The aggressor diverts the conversation toward uncomfortable aspects, such as the other person’s weaknesses or past failures and mistakes. Their ultimate aim is to make them feel insignificant.

4. Denying self-responsibility

This is another common mechanism of wounding to exercise control. The intention here is for the aggressor to justify any mistakes they’ve made. Their objective isn’t to admit their mistake, since they’d consider this to be an act of showing themselves to be ‘beneath’ the other person. For this reason, they might even lie to avoid any responsibility for a mistake.

They may also minimize their mistake, even if it was serious. Indeed, they’ll downplay it and might even accuse the other person of making it more important than it really is. Therefore, when an error is pointed out, instead of admitting responsibility, they end up talking about the mistakes of the other person who dared to question it.

Man arguing with his wife
Attacking the other person over their own mistakes is a way of wounding to exercise control.

5. Blaming and criticizing

This might be said to be the classic way of wounding to exercise control. It’s also one of the most camouflaged. It involves shifting responsibility from one problem to another. “You make me angry,” the aggressor says to the other person as if their emotions depended on them.

The cycle is completed with a series of criticisms, perhaps not particularly intense or profound, but continuous and repetitive. The aggressor will answer with a ‘but’ to any act or word from the other person. Hence the impression is generated that they’re always in the wrong.

All of these are mechanisms of verbal manipulation. They’re not explicitly violent and are often quite easily accepted in the context of the couple, family, or work.  However, it’s important to understand that they’re acts of psychological violence. Therefore, they demand a good dose of assertiveness in response.

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  • Rodríguez de Medina Quevedo, I. (2013). La dependencia emocional en las relaciones interpersonales.
  • Tallón, M. Á. J. (2015). La manipulación psicológica y su incidencia en la intervención terapéutica. Verdad y Vida, 73(266), 117-136.