Power Imbalance in Abusive Relationships – Part 1

th-2Evelyn Ryan, Yourlifelifter

This is Part 1 in a two part series on power imbalance in abusive relationships, common misperceptions, causes and effects of power imbalance, and how to correct them.

Part 2 discusses further the differences between aggression, power, and control in abusive relationships and how healing allows us to access and rely comfortably on our own personal power in mutually respectful healthy relationships.

This article discusses misperceptions on the relationship between abusers and their victims and describes the predatory aspects of abuse and the not so obvious causes of power imbalance in abusive relationships.

There is what I believe a huge misperception on the relationship between abusers and their victims. That is correct…their victims. You will read often that abuse is the need to control and take power over another. While this may be partly true, this does not accurately or completely describe the predatory aspects of abuse and the not so obvious causes of power imbalance in abusive relationships.

Dynamics of Work and Obligation in Healthy Relationships

starving soul hungerThe core to healthy relationship are healthy interactions between compassionate people who have healthy views on work and obligation. Simply put, emotionally healthy people work for what they need to benefit and sustain themselves and those they are in relationships with. We expect to periodically self-sacrifice and put in the extra effort to benefit someone else because we know if we do, we will reap the rewards as well. We also expect sometimes to not work so hard and let others put in the extra effort to care for us when we need it. We know that we are paid for the value of the service we provide to others no matter if they are loved ones, customers, bosses, or even strangers. We also work for what we need because we know and are confident we can do so and enjoy working towards our goals. It brings us joy. It sustains our life. It nourishes our souls. It makes us better people. We know that having “skin in the game” builds character. If we reap benefits that are equal to or exceed the efforts or costs to achieve them, then we are happy, content, fulfilled.

Dysfunctional Work and Commitment Dynamics in Abusive Relationships

This balance of give and take and work and obligation that fuels normal character development, relationships, and human existence becomes severely skewed in power imbalanced relationships. Why?

Because abusers simply detest putting out effort that might, even in part, benefit someone else. They can work very hard and can spend inordinate amounts time and energy working purely to get something they want. As most of us very well know, they can put in extraordinary efforts to groom and love bomb a potential mate or spouse. But putting the same amount of energy into finding or keeping a legitimate job, a personal relationship. taking care of a sick family member, demonstrating the loyalty and consistency necessary to be considered for advancement, or making the investment in personal self-development to merit consideration for more advanced positions are completely different matters and very unattractive enterprises to them. They want all the benefits of marriage, for example, without having to work for them or earn them! Abusers resist working to become better human beings more than any other kind of work. So even when it comes to respect and love and admiration, they want to come by them in the same manner as everything else  – without having to earn them.

Abusers benefit from the self sacrifice and work or their victims whom they exploit for their personal gain. The victims are stuck in “hamster wheel relationships” that go nowhere and get nothing back in return for their extreme investments of pain and energy. Their efforts are unrequited. Chronic exploitation leads to chronic emotional pain and trauma, overtaxing of our pain-based emotional mechanisms. They become depleted and emotionally fatigued, depressed, and traumatized. The extreme and long-term imbalance of power and chronic invalidation are the core to the damage from abusive relationship fueled by legacy wounded thinking and skewed beliefs that originated in abusive childhoods. It is this wounded thinking and these skewed beliefs that also makes us vulnerable to these predators.

Read more here on how we inherit pain-based thinking and how it is passed from generation to generation.

Abuser Find Us and Prey on Our Vulnerabilities

Abusers find us. We do not find them. In reality, abusers aggressively and offensively target and prey on the vulnerable ones who will easily give up their power and energy to them. Abusers do this because they loathe working on self-improvement, cannot self-soothe, cannot generate their own power and get great enjoyment and emotional fulfillment from taking it from, where else? Others! As discussed above, they want all the benefits others can provide them without working for them.

The abusers shadow their pain on vulnerable victims and use them and play on their vulnerabilities so they defensively give up their power to them. Abusers learned these predatory practices from the same place their victims learned their maladaptive behaviors – in their own families. People who are emotionally fit do not readily give up their power to others. In short, they would simply not be bothered with abusers because they are confident in their self-truth and rely comfortably on their personal power and on their internal cues to define their worthiness. They reserve their self-power for themselves and others they voluntarily choose to share their power with and who treat them with respect. They monitor and protect their personal rights, authorities and divinity comfortably and confidently. They assertively would tell the abusers to go away or ignore them and the abusers would simply move on to the next victim.

Adult survivors of childhood abuse, on the other hand, suffer from low self-esteem and pain addiction because their pain-based emotions lose their protective functions, go haywire, and become toxic. In effect, when we are abused as adults, our exaggerated pain and trauma and accompanying feelings of unworthiness and defenselessness from our youth are triggered. So our shame is old unhealed legacy shame and the beliefs are false wounded beliefs our childhood abusers shadowed on us that we bring with us into adulthood.

How Do Victims Become Victors and Take Their Power Back

Abusers do not hold some magical hold on us. We are not the source of our shame that drives our self-loathing. We are, however, vulnerable to abusers who target us due to damage from overuse of our pain-based emotions. It is our toxic pain-based emotions and false beliefs of powerlessness that cause us to give up our power to abusers who trigger our pain. We also believe falsely that we must suffer to be lovable, another skewed belief we were conditioned to believe in childhood.

th-1So victims of abuse do not deserve the pain and are not powerless or defenseless to their abusers. We are not the cause of our pain and we are not responsible for it and we are not defenseless to it. We are, however, adults who are thinking like abused wounded children, maladaptive thinking we formulated  when our brains and characters were developing and when we were most vulnerable that resulted from abuse and neglect and pain inflicted on us by those we trusted and were dependent on and who were supposed to care for and love us unconditionally. It was not our pain to begin with. This is pain and distorted thinking we shadow on our own children. This is how intergenerational abuse is perpetuated.

705466_cover_mockup1-1It is time to fix our self-esteem, heal our traumas, and TAKE OUR POWER BACK! It is time to break the cycle of intergenerational abuse. And as we heal, our children will heal through us. I explore these issues in much more depth in Part 2 in this series and in my book, Take Your Power Back: Healing Lessons, Tips, and Tools for Abuse Survivors. You can read a free sneak peek and review of the book and purchase a copy here.

How Do We Remove Toxic People from Our Lives?

Evelyn Ryan, Yourlifelifter

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You know who they are.

The ones you do not look forward to seeing.

The ones who demand EVERYONE’s attention…always.

The ones YOU must accommodate or you will “hear” about it.

The ones who sit quietly in meetings. That is until the end and repeat what you or someone else said or disagree with it with panache just to make you look bad.

The ones who can suck the air out of a room.

They are everywhere – work, church, your neighborhood, your family, your home.

romans-2How do we remove them from our lives?

Well, the answer is pretty simple.

TAKE ACTION!

DO NOT RE-ACT!

We can’t change them but we can very easily take actions to minimize their deleterious effects on us.

This is how.

th-1It is called the Time – Distance –  Shielding (TDS) rule and it is used to control hazards in industries world-wide. It works just as effectively with people.

This is how the TDS rule works.

  1. Minimize your time with them.
  2. Maximize the distance between you and them.
  3. And put a shield between you and them.

These three objectives can be accomplished in many ways that will allow you to act on your free will and protect your personal rights and minimize their toxic effects!

The more toxic they are, however, the more drastic the actions you should take.

Let’s explore these options for removing toxic people.

LEARN TO SAY “NO”

You may be able to mitigate most of the impacts from toxic people by just learning to say “no” assertively, calmly, and non-aggressively. This may be difficult for some and especially “people pleasers,” so self-esteem work and assertiveness skills can help immensely in learning not to say “yes” when you really mean “no” while maintaining your cool and composure.  Simply saying “no” will also benefit you by making you feel more empowered and in control of your life and by plain just limiting the amount of time you interact with them.

LEARN ALL YOU CAN ABOUT COVERT AGGRESSORS AND THEIR TACTICS

Toxic people have covert aggressive personalities and prey on empathetic, kind, conscientious people who they believe they can successfully attack and defeat. Why? Well, they lack empathy and personal power and so they have learned to covertly but aggressively go after other people’s power, attention, money or whatever. They want all the benefits that you have to offer without doing any of the work. They also use you to help maintain an illusion of grandeur and makes others perceive them as powerful when in fact, like the Wizard of Oz, they are a mere illusion of smoke and mirrors that a scruffy dog exposed.  They are masterful at triggering your vulnerabilities (e.g. pains, fears, insecurities, apprehensions, compassion, conscientiousness), putting you on the defensive, and making you let down your boundaries and then wham! They have got you where they want you. They then go in for the kill and manipulate your power from you.

Learning all you can about covert aggressors and their lack of compassion and depraved need to win along with assertiveness skills and doing self-esteem work can help you make huge strides to stand up to these creeps, manage boundaries, and shield yourself in a cool, calm and collected manner. Your sense of defenselessness and powerlessness will diminish and your self-worth, self-respect, and self-assurance will soar!

NEVER LET THEM SEE YOU SWEAT

Reacting emotionally to toxic people advertises your vulnerabilities to them and then they more actively and aggressively pursue you. So even if they have pushed your buttons, divert from the situation to allow yourself time to calm down and think. Just say you are busy and need some time to think about it or say something neutral like “That’s interesting. I never heard it put that way before,” and then say no or remove yourself from the situation. When in doubt say nothing.

PUT UP AND MAINTAIN PROTECTIVE BOUNDARIES

th-1Toxic people are notorious boundary violators and are masters of covert manipulation to get you to let down your personal boundaries. So putting real or imagined space between you and them may be the most readily available shielding. Shutting the door to your office or listening to music can serve as barriers to their “noise.” Imagining a protective light forcefield around your body can also be a very effective defense to ward off their offensive maneuvers. Delete their messages or texts without reading them and, if you find this difficult, block them on Facebook and on your cell phone to facilitate having “no contact” with them to allow your wounds to heal fully without have your pain-buttons triggered.

Read more here on how managing boundaries is critical to emotional health.

KEEP A COOL HEAD – LEARN TO MANAGE YOUR EMOTIONS

Even if they are sabotaging you behind your back or perhaps even actively bullying, keeping a cool head and addressing the “facts” are fundamental in keeping the emotional element out of the equation. It is so easy for them to focus on your emotional state or your defensiveness to divert from the real issue which is their unacceptable behavior and harmful motives and point the problem to you. Vilifying the victim is a common combat tactic they use to trigger your emotions, put you on the defensive, get you to react and let your boundaries down, and feed their insatiable need to win. Not reacting will keep the attention on their depraved action, not on your reactions that they use to support their illusion of lies. This is how you can maintain and defend your personal power and defuse them all the same time.

Remember. Learning assertiveness skills and doing self-esteem work can help you make huge strides to stand up to these creeps, manage boundaries, and shield yourself in a cool, calm and collected manner and diminish your sense of defenselessness and powerlessness. Your self-worth, self-respect, and self-assurance will soar!

REGISTER FOR FREE SELF-ESTEEM BUILDING TIPS HERE!

CUT TIES WITH THEM

In your personal life, it may just be best to cut ties with the toxic individual. Everyone has redeeming qualities however toxicity is not one of them. They are energy vampires and accepting them for who they are can help release your empathetic need to rescue them. They need to go after others’ energy because they cannot generate their own. Accept also that you do not have to give up your energy to anyone unless you choose to. These are your personal rights and authority that you should always honor. Normally, when you learn to say no and put yourself first, they move on anyway. If you feel compelled to say anything, simply tell them the truth that you are at a different stage in your life and that your paths are no longer crossing and these are causing a conflict. Then wish them well.

Cutting ties with toxic people. shark

Cutting ties does not mean we no longer care for our friends or relatives. We cannot and should not turn off our feelings like a faucet. It does mean, however, that we have chosen to take a stand and put our self-worth, welfare, emotional health, and honor ahead of others who do not and cannot have our best interests at heart. Self-esteem work and assertiveness training can provide you the peace of mind and skills to easily manage the boundaries between them and you and identify when they are using you at your expense for their benefit and empower you to no longer allow it.

HOW DO SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE MANAGE THEIR EMOTIONS WHEN DEALING WITH TOXIC PEOPLE

Dr. Travis Bradberry in his article, “How Do Successful People Handle Toxic People” provides 12 very coping strategies for managing emotions when dealing with toxic people. He reports that 90% of top performers use these skills to manage stress and keep toxic people at bay by controlling what they can and eliminate what you can’t. The important thing he reminds us all is that we are in control of far more than we realize.

Take your power back, act on your free will, protect your personal rights, and learn how to say no!

I hope you find these tips useful!