A Deeper Look at the Controlling Personality.

I’m a daily reader of USA Today, a wonderful newspaper. Susan Page, a USA Today writer, wrote a long, informative piece on Dick Cheney after interviewing him at his home this past week. Her article piqued my interest in his book and in Cheney, the person, too. So I went over to the online issue of the Washington Post to read a review by Robert G. Kaiser of Cheney’s memoir “In My Time.” Kaiser’s piece not only reviewed what was in the book but remarked on what Cheney had left out. Which turned out to be some pretty significant stuff. Also, there’ve been replies this week from Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice basically “calling Cheney out” for mentioning incidents involving them that they insist never took place. Interesting.

All of these pieces and others I’ve read this week focus on Cheney’s political and government roles over his last 40 years. They also detail various consequences that have come from his involvement. As they should, because those views have important political and historical value. But, as you know, what fascinates me is the, “The Deeper Look.”

A Deeper Look.

From the time years ago when Cheney came to Washington right through this past week, Cheney has been described with the following words, not by just a few observers but by many: hardnosed, critical, combative, unapologetic, blaming, aggressive, manipulative, defensive, distrustful, and hypocritical. Out of the four major personalities we talk about on this blog, these words would only be used to describe the exaggerated Control style. You’ll see why if you read on.

There are four major personality types: Comfort, Pleasing, Control and Superiority. (1) Comfort people are passive; Cheney’s active. (2) Pleasing people cooperate with others; they want to please. Cheney is aggressively competitive. (3) Superiority people are focused on “knowing;” they seek all of the facts about an issue. Cheney doesn’t. (I hasten to say that Cheney’s second strong style (we all have two) is Superiority. We know that because he’s an expert in his chosen subjects, he sets heavy goals and accomplishes them and he’s persistent. This is a partial description of Superiority. But, when “knowing” threatens his Control over a situation, his Control wins out.)

It’s clear, then, from Cheney’s answers to questions, in interviews, press conferences and now in his book that he behaves like a true exaggerated Controller.

*** Please Note: Controlling people who are balanced possess many great qualities that we see in action every day. These qualities benefit everybody the Controller comes in contact with. Think: Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Colin Powell among many others. We’re talking here only about the extremely exaggerated Controlling type.

So, what are some of the Controller’s deeply held beliefs?

  1. I’m right
  2. Because I’m right, it’s my responsibility to tell others what to do and how to do it.
  3. Others should listen to me.
  4. I should control myself, the situations I’m in and others to get the result I want.
  5. I can’t trust others.
  6. I must be in charge.
  7. I don’t have to listen.

So, you can see right away that if you believe as the Controller does, it would be second-nature to use a variety of behaviors (defenses) to make sure things go your way simply because you believe you’re right and others should do it your way.

Some of the defenses Cheney has used throughout his career were resurrected again this week in talk about his career and his book. Here’s a sample of the behaviors I’m talking about.

  1. Ignoring questions, facts, or issues.
  2. Excusing himself from various responsibilities.
  3. Aggressively blaming others for negative results in situations that he set up.
  4. Arguing aggressively, even with the Presidents he served, instead of listening and understanding.
  5. Criticizing others repeatedly, even those in the Republican Party and other fellow Bush administration officials.
  6. Using black/white reasoning and aggressive talk instead of understanding a full range of choices including a middle ground.
  7. Behaving impulsively; making reactive decisions.
  8. Using silence to gain an advantage over others who are more open.

There are some important things to understand about a person who has this personality:

  1. The Controller cannot completely appraise a situation because he’s hampered by his own beliefs (see above). Instead, he shuts others out to gain the power he wants. In other words, power is more important to him than creatively solving the problems at hand.
  • (Wow, I mean think about it, just between you and me, isn’t it really preposterous of anyone to think that he/she is always “right.” Hey, what about the rest of us out here; don’t we know anything?)
  • Even though powerful people look confident, often they have low self-esteem and are short on skills. I believe this describes Cheney.
    • We see this lack of skills when Cheney is confronted with important facts (the reality) that he doesn’t want to hear. He simply ignores the questions and moves on. He uses that tactic (defense) to protect himself emotionally and intellectually precisely because he doesn’t have the advanced examining, analyzing, and visualizing skills he needs to really deal with heavy situations. Again, power is his goal and you don’t need a lot of thinking skills to gain that; you just need to be really good at manipulation.
  • For me, it’s sad to see a person who has this obvious affliction but is clueless about it. I think Cheney is completely unaware. Each writer I’ve read remarked at least once in their pieces about Cheney’s lack of awareness as to his own inner self.
  • We ask ourselves: “But, how can that be?” The answer is that people are often unaware of “who they are,” simply because they haven’t bothered to look at themselves: their behavior, where it comes from, their values and why they’ve chosen them. They do no introspection. Without looking inward, any one of us will remain clueless as to why we behave as we do.

    A couple of other thoughts:

    1. The exaggerated Control type is a “dark” style. Here’s what I mean. Go back up to the list of defenses above. Now imagine how it would feel to put your energy into controlling others or defending yourself or both—every day. To get through it you’d have to be chronically on guard, you couldn’t trust those around you, you’d know that every day you’d argue or fight with someone to get your way. And, I could go on here but you see what I mean. It’s an awful way to approach your life’s work.
    2. When I went back to read Susan Page’s (USA Today) article again on her interview with Cheney, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Mr. Cheney. Page asked him if he’ll endorse a candidate for the 2012 presidential race. He replied, “Not all the candidates are interested in my endorsement. Probably some just as soon I stay away.” Here’s a man, 70 years old who seems wistful, as though he doesn’t understand why that’s probably true. He’s apparently unaware of how respectful relationships work. Sad.

    Page asked another question: “What would he like his epitaph to read?” His reply was, “No comment” with a small, wry smile. Again, here’s a man, 70 years old, who seems totally closed, maybe even uncertain about his inner life. That too, makes me sad.

    We should all seek to know who we are.


    Please understand that this is a very short explanation of a very complex subject: the exaggerated Controlling personality type. But, I hope that it’s given you a start. Do you know any exaggerated Controllers? I’d love any comments you’re willing to leave for me.

    Best regards until next time,


    Author's Bio: 

    Joan Chamberlain is an author, therapist, and life coach with over 30 years of experience helping adults, couples, and teens. She has a Bachelor's degree in Business and Finance, a Bachelor's in education, and a Masters in individuals, couples, and family counseling. Her book, Smart Relationships, has helped many people achieve the self-awareness needed to see themselves honestly. Its wisdom has helped them work toward improving their relationships with themselves, their friends, and their families.

    To learn more about the ideas and concepts presented in her articles, please peruse her website: