Why do narcissists need to control others?
The narcissist feels a compelling need to control people in his (or her) environment; his spouse, work mates, friends and neighbors. It's because in his mind he doesn't feel in control. It is abuse, which is often long-term. There are many people stuck in long-term abusive relationships. They often feel powerless to do anything about it.
"Abuse is when someone else hurts us to serve their own needs and uses the situation to lock us in and maintain control."1
The narcissistic personality manifests itself in the narcissist's behavior. He (or she) will seek to dominate every individual and every group with which he interacts. The narcissistic personality and its obsessive desire for control is not about control just for control's sake, but an essential defense against the risk of receiving a narcissistic injury; a blow to the ego or self-esteem.
Narcissism is almost entirely about gaining control over others, as is codependent behavior. Narcissistic behavior is most probably a reaction to an adolescence completely dominated by a narcissistic and/or codependent parent (or parents), controlled in all aspects of his young adult life, in a period when he needed to be allowed to develop control over his own life. Healthy parenting involves reprimanding their children so that they know where the boundaries lie, whereas narcissistic parenting involves the parent(s) establishing complete emotional control over their offspring.
The narcissist lives in fear of losing control. He sees other people in his environment - at home, at work, friends, relatives and neighbors - as extensions to himself. He sees himself at the center of the world, the controller, an idol to be adored and admired; in his mind this makes it acceptable for him to abuse others - he continually trys to rearrange the 'significant others' in his life to look towards him, and admire him.
A compelling need to control others
Codependents tend to look towards and admire narcissists as a matter of course, they see him as a successful version of themselves; ideally they would love to be in a position of control, but they can't when in the presence of what they perceive to be a superior being. Others, who don't immediately do as the narcissist wishes are subjected to manipulation, threats, coercion and any other means at the narcissist's disposal necessary to control them.
The following is an extract from the book The Emotionally Abused Woman: Overcoming Destructive Patterns and Reclaiming Yourself by Beverly Engel.
"The irony is that as much as a 'codependent' feels responsibility for others and takes care of others, she [he] believes deep down that other people are responsible for her [him]. She blames others for her unhappiness and problems, and feels that it's other people's fault that she's unhappy."
"Another irony is that while she feels controlled by people and events, she herself is overly controlling. She is afraid of allowing other people to be who they are and of allowing events to happen naturally. An expert in knowing best how things should turn out and how people should behave, the codependent person tries to control others through threats, coercion, advice giving, helplessness, guilt, manipulation, or domination."
Narcissists and codependents have the same compelling need to control others in their environment. Their need is driven by fear, which results in abuse.
To understand more about narcissism, codependency, abuse and control read Narcissism: Behind the Mask.
1Richard Skerritt (2005), Tears and Healing: The Journey to the Light After an Abusive Relationship, Dalkeith Press, USA.