Some people, with intense energy, sexual power, or who are in a position of great influence in our lives, may accuse us of things we didn’t do, or of being things we’re not; in an attempt to shift the blame for something from themselves on to us. If we are in a relationship with them, and are pounded by these messages long enough, then we may begin to believe that they are true. They may try to control us with distancing, anger, or withholding of affection. If we disagree with them, or attempt offering evidence in support of a different position, then they may unleash one of these power and control maneuvers on us, in an attempt to regain control by getting us to agree with them. One way or another, they want to control us, so they can determine the outcomes of the situations we share with them. Examples could include intimate partner, parent-child, or extended family relationships. Those directing such power plays do not usually realize what they are doing. They often believe that, if they are not 100% in control of a situation, then they are being controlled by us. It is an all-or-nothing defensive posture.
Remember Who You Are
Remember who you are, from what you have known throughout your life, from what those who have known you across the years know about you; and don’t get sucked into believing untrue things about yourself. When the waves of confusion, hurt, doubt, or fear pass; focus on the truth of who you are. Reflect upon your life. Review the facts. Discuss your character, strengths, and accomplishments with those who have known you over long periods of time; like parents, grandparents, siblings, and long term friends (as long as they are not the ones who are trying to control you). Let the truth of who you are set you free. You might also consider keeping a journal, or looking back at your journal entries, to confirm this truth, and examine your life patterns more closely. This may present opportunities to gain deeper insights into who you really are.
For example, if, for whatever reason, you have a tendency to enter relationships with wounded, narcissistic, unavailable, or controlling people; there may be some useful clues embedded in your journal. Maybe you are just unconditionally loving and accepting, and so attract these types because they, deep inside, crave such unconditional love (although they may not be able to handle or recognize it very often, because of their defenses). Maybe there is a healer inside you who relishes the opportunity to encourage healing in others. If so, then it would be important to be aware of this tendency, so you could consciously decide if you wanted this to be a factor in your relationship. Some do, and some see it as part of their spiritual journey; but it usually makes for a one-sided relationship. If we choose a relationship like this, then we want to understand it clearly, and realize that we are responsible for having selected it, and also for the likelihood that we will do most of the giving, and that our partner may not be able to return very much. Some value opportunities like these, spiritually and philosophically; and even consider them a higher form of love; but the practical human part of us may end up feeling lonely or uncared for if it happens for too long. So we want to heighten our awareness to things like this, so we can understand what is happening, why, and be able to accept the responsibility for our choices (so we don’t end up blaming, feeling hurt, etc.).
Compassion and Understanding: They Are Not Doing It On Purpose
In my personal and professional experiences, regardless of how people may present themselves; I have grown to realize that most who engage in such behaviors are unaware of it, and are not doing it on purpose. It is usually a type of coping mechanism they have developed to help them function in life. It may have been forged during painful experiences of trauma or loss to help them survive. Stress will often trigger such defenses, and cause them to emotionally relive a past situation in the present, without being able to understand that this is what is happening. When they trigger based on a current stressor, and begin reliving a past event; they will usually believe that the full intensity of their emotion is related to the present experience. While in this stress response, there is nothing you or anyone else could say to convince them otherwise. If you try, then what you say will likely be twisted into something that supports their defensive position, adding fuel to the proverbial fire. When we are in intimate partner relationships, this is especially challenging at times, because what we want to do is openly discuss the truth of what is happening, in an attempt to foster clarity, understanding, and peaceful resolution. If we try to do this before they are able to get out of the defensiveness of this stress response, then the likelihood is that things will get worse. They will perceive us as arguing with them (because we disagree with them), or trying to control them (because we are not allowing them to control the situation). The best thing we can do, at these times, is offer them the gift of space. This can be especially difficult because we don’t always know when they are in these states. Things can be going along just fine, everything can seem sweet and connected, and then all of a sudden all hell breaks loose. And the tendency of many of us, myself included, is to try to help restore things back to the calm, positive place they were just in. In situations like those described here, this will usually backfire, resulting in an escalation of the defensiveness. Further, the risk of providing space is that they will feel abandoned or like we don’t care about them; but this is the lesser of the risks we are faced with in such situations.
And, although we can greet such things with compassion and understanding, it is important that we realize what is happening, so we can make a conscious choice about our involvement with people struggling with these challenges. For instance, if we are friends, and are considering the possibility of moving into romance with them; it may be better for both of us if we remain friends. From a friendship we can love them, support them, and offer community to them without risking as much. Whatever we do, it is important that we do it with conscious awareness, so we can take responsibility for our choices. And it is important that we remember who we are; and accept such fragile souls with compassion and understanding.
Photo Credit: Kris Williams