NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Thursday, January 18, 2018

Relationships: Taking Back Your Personal Power

In a prior article I began a discussion about giving away your personal power to someone who isn't treating you well (see my article: Are You Giving Away Your Personal Power to Someone Who Doesn't Treat You Well?).  In this article I'm continuing this topic to discuss how you can take back your personal power.

Taking Back Your Personal Power

Taking Back Your Personal Power
  • Focus on Yourself:  First, rather than focusing on your significant other and what s/he might or might not be doing, focus on yourself and how you might be giving away your personal power.  While this can be difficult to do, it's an important first step and can't be ignored.  Rather than complaining about being mistreated, ask yourself how you're contributing to this and keeping it going.  For people who are accustomed to seeing themselves as being victimized, this might sound harsh.  This isn't to say that your significant other might not have some real power over you--whether it's financial or threatening to take your child away, and so on.  But, even if this is the case, you need to start with yourself because somewhere along the way you've lost sight of yourself in this situation.  This requires you to be honest with yourself.
  • Ask Yourself If You're Being Objective About Yourself, Your Significant Other and the Relationship:  In my prior article, I discussed how people who give away their power often idealize their significant other and give him or her attributes that aren't really there in order to be able to bask in the significant other's light.  When these attributes aren't there or are greatly exaggerated, you're in denial about your significant other, your relationship and yourself.  Have you received feedback from others who are familiar with the situation and who have expressed misgivings about how your significant other is treating you?  Pretend that you're looking at the same relationship, but instead of you being in the relationship, pretend that it's your best friend.  What advice would you give him or her?  
  • Ask Yourself If You're Making Yourself Small in Order to Make Your Significant Other Big:  It's common for people who get into emotionally abusive relationships to diminish their own positive traits in order to make their significant other look good.  If you're unable to be objective, ask close friends and loved ones that you trust about the positive traits they see in you.  Are you able to take their comments in or do you feel uncomfortable?  Was there a time when you felt good about yourself?  When was that?  How was that time different from now?
  • Ask Yourself If You Tend to See Yourself as a Victim:  While it might be true that you were victimized as a child when you were really powerless, as an adult, you're capable of taking yourself out of the victim role.  Sometimes, people who are accustomed to being in the victim role unconsciously find romantic partners who will be emotionally abusive in order to stay in the victim role.  This is difficult for most people to overcome on their own, and it usually requires working through the early emotional trauma in psychotherapy.
  • Ask Yourself If You're Blaming Others For Your Problems in the Relationships: Are you blaming your significant other, his or her family or your family for the emotional abuse that you're experiencing and for your own inertia?  When you blame others, you disempower yourself.  Ask yourself what you can do to take some responsibility and, in effect, take back your personal power (see my article: Empowering Yourself When You Feel Disempowered).
  • Ask Yourself If You've Given Up Your Dreams to Be in an Emotionally Abusive Relationship: When someone is in an emotionally abusive relationship, it often affects every area of their life--not just the relationship.  Maybe you had dreams to pursue higher education or training for a different career and the emotional abuse that you've experienced has eroded your self confidence so that you're no longer pursuing your dreams.  Will you look back at your life when you're older and regret this?
  • Ask Yourself If You're So Intent on People Pleasing That You're in Denial About the Emotional Abuse:  People pleasing is a trait that often begins at an early age and continues into adulthood unless someone gets help to overcome it.  It's common for people who people please to be in denial about emotional abuse in their relationship in order to maintain the status quo.   Denial can be very powerful and it will be necessary for you to try to be as objective as you can be. Many people who are in emotionally abusive relationships "let off steam" by complaining to friends.  Then, after they have vented to friends, they feel better and go right back into the same situation with their significant other and right back into denial.
  • Ask Yourself What You're Getting Out of Your Relationship:  Often, people remain in unhealthy relationships because they're afraid to be alone and lonely.  They rationalize that it's better to be with someone who mistreats them to be with no one at all.  They also fear that they'll never meet anyone else.  Ask yourself if whatever you're getting out of the relationship is worth a loss of self esteem and self respect.
  • Keep a Journal: When you're in denial about your problems, it's easy to "forget" the times when you were emotionally abused in your relationship, especially right after you and your significant other make up and you're both feeling good again.  Usually, there is a predictable cycle to emotional abuse and if you keep a journal and write about the times when you're accepting the emotional abuse, it might help you to develop a more objective perspective about the role you're playing in all of this.  Make sure that wherever you keep the journal that it's safe and secure so that it will remain private.
Get Help in Therapy
Everyone needs help at some point.

People who are ambivalent about a relationship where they're not being treated well can go back and forth for years trying to decide what to do.

In the meantime, as time goes by, most people in emotionally abusive relationships feel worse and worse about themselves over time.  Shame is also a big factor, and it can cause you to turn away from friends and loved ones who want to help you.

Unconscious emotions often play a big role in keeping people stuck in unhealthy relationships, and becoming aware of these unconscious emotions is very difficult to do on your own.

Rather than continuing to suffer on your own, get help from a licensed mental health professional (see my articles: The Benefits of Psychotherapy and How to Choose a Psychotherapist).

Once you've taken back your personal power, you feel entitled to be treated well and can lead a more fulfilling and meaningful life.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist (see my article: The Therapeutic Benefits of Integrative Psychotherapy).

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.