LOVE & RESPECT
FROM POWER STRUGGLES TO EMPOWERMENT
We thrive in relationships when we feel respected, empowered, cherished, and appreciated with a freedom to be ourselves. A place to safely share our needs, desires, boundaries, and truths.
"AT THE ROOT OF EVERY CONFLICT AND POWER STRUGGLE ARE UNMET NEEDS."
Marshall B. Rosenberg
No one wins when there's an imbalance of power within your relationship. Imbalance of power is from childhood when you were in a place of "power-over (parent)/power-under (child)." This chain-of-command also works well in school, work, or the military. However, in relationship it results in disconnection, unmet needs, stress, reactivity, resentment, disrespect, power struggles, blurry boundaries, and intimacy problems.
BALANCED POWER PARADIGM
We need to feel seen for who we really are in relationship, to feel valued, safe, appreciated, and respected as an equal. This empowering partnership naturally occurs when each partner takes:
100% RESPONSIBILITY (POWER) to feel and process our own sensory experiences and emotions
100% RESPONSIBILITY (POWER) to know our own needs, wants, limits
100% RESPONSIBILITY (POWER) to communicate needs, wants, limits (with boundaries)
"WE CARRY THE EXPERIENCE OF HAVING BEEN DEPENDENT CHILDREN. STEPPING INTO EQUALITY, WHERE BOTH PEOPLE HAVE ROOM TO EXPRESS THEIR NEEDS AND WANTS AND HAVE THE SUPPORT TO MEET THESE NEEDS, COULD BE SOMETHING WE'VE NEVER ACTUALLY SEEN OR EXPERIENCED BEFORE."
Julia Colwell, PhD
RESPONSIBILITY = POWER
RESPONSIBILITY = EMPOWERED
It is easy to slip out of balance in any moment. If one person takes on MORE THAN 100% RESPONSIBILITY, they are in "power-over." If one takes LESS THAN 100% RESPONSIBILITY by BLAMING anything (thoughts, emotions, experience, behaviors, etc.) on their partner, boss, the weather, the news, even their own 'bad' habits, maladaptive stress-reactions, DRIFTS, moods, or disorders, they're sinking into "power-under."
DEFEND-OR-EXPLAIN = DISEMPOWERED
BLAMING is one way to disempower yourself. Another is stepping into DEFEND-OR-EXPLAIN MODE. This automatically puts you in "power-under" position. It happens so fast, you're likely unaware of it!
Observe how you feel next time you BLAME, DEFEND OR EXPLAIN. You'll likely feel small, powerless, cornered, victimized, frustrated, angry or anxious because you've fallen into "power-under" and your nervous system is activated as if you're literally "under" a threat/attack and powerless.
"ANYTIME WE TAKE LESS THAN 100% POWER OR RESPONSIBILITY FOR OUR OWN EMOTIONS AND EXPERIENCES, WE'RE IN THE VICTIM POSITION."
Julia Colwell, PhD
THE KARPMAN DREADED DRAMA TRIANGLE (DDT)
Without awareness, you may be stuck in the Triangle for months, years, or repeating in relationships... forever. Shifting from one role to another. Or you may get sucked into the Triangle vortex during conflict or as an attempt to avoid conflict. In fact, attempting to avoid conflict or guilt is the #1 reason we get stuck in the Triangle long-term.
NO ONE WINS IN THE TRIANGLE. INEVITABLY, EVERYONE ENDS UP IN VICTIM ROLE.
THE KEY IS KNOW WHEN YOU'RE FALLING INTO THE TRIANGLE AND LEARN TO STAY OUT OF IT.
Once you're in, it's near impossible to get out without awareness, as it triggers you into Reactive Brain - and a slew of DRIFTS and maladaptive stress-reactions and patterns - where you lose access to your Rational, Calm, Creative Brain, and your actual Self.
"Rescuing is an addiction that comes from an unconscious need to feel valued. After all, society always celebrates the Savior!"
UNDERSTANDING THE DRAMA TRIANGLE
"MOST RESCUERS [the classic codependent] ARE OFTEN ACTING OUT THEIR OWN UNMET NEED FROM THE PAST TO BE RESCUED AND PROTECTED. THEY UNCONSCIOUSLY PROJECT THIS NEED FROM UNHEALED CHILDHOOD WOUNDS."
Janae Weinhold, PhD, How to Break Free
VS POWER-UNDER POSITION
"POWER OVER" POSITION
This happens by default due to being or believing you're more responsible - whether it be with money, planning, organizing, making healthy choices, etc. This partner feels accustom to taking more than 100% RESPONSIBILITY. This caretaker-rescuer-hero role feels natural to you (it may have been your role in childhood). It offers a sense of comfort, control and safety.
Although unintentional, "power-over" erodes intimate relationships. It takes a lot of energy monitoring power-over someone else. A parent ensures safety for children. A boss manages employees. A sergeant commands privates. The parent, boss and sergeant don't get to relax into the flow and reciprocity of relationship. Nor do they enjoy feeling attractive, seen, valued, and understood for their authentic selves.
SIGNS YOU'RE IN "POWER OVER"
May feel resentful
Feel over-responsible, exhausted, confused, anxious, burdened, serious, like the 'bad guy,' or parental
Tend to sound nurturing (caretaking) or aggressive (critical)
Try to 'save' partner from their emotions
Try to 'rescue' or control partner's behaviors
Analyze partner's words instead of taking at face value
Don't recall knowing or clearly stating your genuine needs, wants, or limits (boundaries)
"Boundaries give others a manual on how you expect to be treated and what you'll allow. Without boundaries, people won’t know how to act around you, and you'll be left feeling disrespected."
Henry Cloud, PhD
"POWER UNDER" POSITION
This is typically the partner who is accustom to taking less than 100% RESPONSIBILITY and naturally complies. Plus, it feels good being taken care of. Eventually, however, you can begin to feel powerless and controlled. Unaware of the fact that your inability to take 100% RESPONSIBILITY for feeling your emotions, and communicating your needs, wants, and limits is what got into this victim position to begin with, only leaves you susceptible to feeling resentful, angry, and more powerless. This can lead to perceived powerlessness in all aspects of life and depression.
Like any "power-under" position you didn't consciously choose, you're bound to retaliate with predictable, yet unconscious reactions: (1) passive-aggressive or distancing behaviors, (2) child-like compliance, (3) out-of-control rebellion, or (4) angry blaming and resenting (grappling to 'power-up' but perpetuating the "power-under" position even more).
SIGNS YOU'RE IN "POWER UNDER"
May feel resentful
Tend to sound defensive, apologetic
Feel the need to blame and explain
Feel secretive, resistant or rebellious
View your partner as controlling or critical
Feel like you lost your freedom or yourself
Feel disempowered, disrespected, confused, pressured, enmeshed, or 'loss of self'
Don't recall knowing or clearly stating your genuine needs, wants, or limits (boundaries) yet expect others to know
IMPORTANT: We may flip back and forth between power-under and power-over roles. See the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT)
"overwhelmed by their own sense of vulnerability, inadequacy or powerlessness, THEY don't take responsibility for themselves or their own power, and look for a Rescuer to take care of them."
Stephen Karpman, MD
STAYING OUT OF THE TRIANGLE
INTENT TO LEARN VS BLAME-DEFEND-EXPLAIN
1 INTENT TO LEARN
What if your partner insults you, blames you, or does something wrong? Your partner is not your parent, child, boss, or any chain-of-command, where you take responsibility for them. If a passionate, respectful relationship is what you want, then TAKE 100% RESPONSIBILITY over observing your inner world of thoughts and emotional experiences. Stay in your Self.
Have the INTENT TO LEARN (empowered) what you need, instead of joining in Drama Triangle to RESCUE-OR-PERSECUTE (power-over) or DEFEND-OR-EXPLAIN (power-under). How are their words and behaviors impacting you in the present moment? What are YOUR current wants, needs and limits?
2 COMMUNICATE NEEDS, WANTS, LIMITS
As a child, asking directly for what you wanted may have been taboo due to familial and societal underlying beliefs in scarcity and deprivation - as if there's not enough love, joy, attention, praise, hugging or nurturing kindness to go around! As if you have to earn love and acceptance. So you were shamed, criticized or accused of being selfish for simply asking for what you needed and wanted (resulting in the Inner Critic). The same goes for having limits and boundaries. As an adult, it's imperative to realize your wants, needs, and limits, and clearly communicate your UNARGUABLE TRUTHS.
"power struggle collapses when you withdraw your energy from it... change your intention from wiNNing [or rescuing] to learning about yourself."
3 ALLOW PARTNER TO BE IN THE TRIANGLE
Allow your loved-one to have emotions, rather than 'rescue,' 'fix,' blame or criticize them. Let them 'fall' if they need to. It's hard to watch your loved-one spin around in the Triangle by themselves. Resist the urge to jump in and 'rescue' or 'criticize' them. See worksheet below: Responding to Loved-One's Emotions.
Remember, for a balanced, empowered relationship, we need to allow our partner to take:
100% RESPONSIBILITY (POWER) to feel and process their own emotions without 'fixing' or 'criticizing' them
100% RESPONSIBILITY (POWER) to know their needs, wants, limits without making assumptions or 'mind-reading' them
100% RESPONSIBILITY (POWER) to communicate their needs, wants, limits without 'analyzing' them (respect their words at face value, even if you think their words are misguided or disordered)
"SYMPATHY FOR VICTIMS IS ALWAYS COUNTER-BALANCED BY AN EQUAL AND OPPOSITE FEELING OF RESENTMENT TOWARDS THEM."
4 OPENHEARTED LISTENING
Learn and practice Openhearted Listening. This is also how you can partner and negotiate the big issues in life. Trying to resolve past issues or current big issues when triggered into Reactive Brain, in a DRIFT, or in the Drama Triangle - trying to RESCUE-OR-PERSECUTE (power-over) or DEFEND-OR-EXPLAIN (power-under) - is going to continue to disappoint and cause more conflict. Openhearted Listening allows your nervous system to calm for connected conversations.
5 KEEP LEARNING AND PRACTICING
You're likely learning a lot of new information about yourself, relationships, communication, boundaries, emotional health skills, and more. If you're single, you may want to partner with a friend or family member to learn together. If you're in a relationship, it's ideal for you to learn together. Schedule time, perhaps once a week to sit down and talk about what you're learning.
LEARN MORE ABOUT THE DRAMA TRIANGLE AND INNER HEALING
"VICTIM CONSCIOUSNESS [perceived powerlessness] INVOlves A SET OF BELIEFS AND FEELINGS LEARNED IN YOUR FAMILY. IT'S 'WIRED' INTO YOU. ONCE YOU BECOME AWARE YOU CAN CHANGE THE BELIEFS THAT tRAP YOU IN VICTIM CONSCIOUSNESS."
Barry Weinhod, PhD
SIGNS YOU'RE EMPOWERED
SIGNS YOU'RE "EMPOWERED"
Have Self-Leadership over your own Emotional Mind ('Inner Child') and feel confident processing your own emotions
Feel a sense of your needs, wants, and limits in each moment
Understand how to communicate your needs, wants, and limits
Have the INTENT TO LEARN by listening Openheartedly without doing anything to change or control others' experience
You're using Adaptive Stress-Responses instead of reactive
Realize your present experience and SHIFT Your DRIFTS
Allow others to have their own emotions and DRIFTS
Provide others with the time and space to process emotions
Feel present, empowered, self-aware and self-connected
Feel a sense of openness and vulnerability yet grounded and safe with Balanced Boundaries
Enjoying a sense of ease and playfulness with yourself
Enjoying a sense of ease and playfulness within relationship