Empowerment is a difficult concept to define. For me, empowerment means strength, courage, will, determination, confidence, autonomy and freedom, but mostly, empowerment is about control.
So many women enter into relationships and freely give away their power. For a Narcissist, power over another is what they covet most. Through well-honed techniques, a Narcissist has an uncanny ability, to slowly and methodically, siphon an individual’s personal power.
When one is powerless they become dependent, weak, fearful, self-loathing, lacking in confidence and self-respect. Powerless people are more likely to be victimized, feel trapped and catatonic.
Having and maintaining our personal power is therefore, a necessary component in healthy relationships, not just with others, but also with ourselves.
Despite its significance, it’s still something many are so quick to part with when we enter into a relationship.
Why We Give Away our Power
A hundred years ago women had no power. Women were basically property. A marriage meant that a woman was being passed from her father to her husband. They couldn’t vote, or own property. The customary belief was that a man was the head of his household. His word was law.
Today that concept just doesn’t fit in society, but many of us still cling to those traditional gender roles and due to the inequality of size and strength, believe that a man should run the show, make the decisions and be in control.
Another reason is that some people are just overly agreeable. They want to be liked, so they become people pleasers. In the hands of an abuser, a people pleaser is groomed to accept that their voice, their opinions and their wants and needs cause problems in the relationship, so their desire in giving away their power, is meant to ease tensions and make the relationship bearable.
Trauma bonding and Stockholm syndrome are other concepts I get a lot of emails about. In trauma bonding the belief is that the relationship with an abuser is so intense that any separation is devastating to the victim, because they have become biologically and emotionally addicted to those intense feelings. After such an experience a normal relationship just pales in comparison, because it doesn’t present those highs and lows. Like any addict they become a slave to their addiction. Those inflicted develop a dependency on their abusers for their emotional fix.
When people think of Stockholm syndrome they think of the infamous story of Patty Hearst. She was a newspaper heiress and was kidnapped by members of the Symbionese Liberation Army. In her autobiography, she describes being blindfolded and kept in a small closet for days on end. She came to realize that if she started to agree with her captors and repeated their propaganda, that she got to spend time out of the closet. At first, she says, she was just humoring them, for a bit of freedom, but eventually she came to understand that when you keep repeating something over and over again, a subtle form of brainwashing occurs and she started to internalize and sympathize with their views.
The same type of argument can be made for those in abusive emotional relationships. In an effort to appease their abuser and ease the torment, women will often say what their partner wants to hear. They become accustomed to threats, insults and numerous attempts to erode their self-esteem and when one is berated with this type of abuse on a consistent basis, the psyche may come to see the abuser’s demeaning behavior as truth.
“Suffering is the result of feeling powerless.”
Taking Back Your Power
I have been hesitant to talk about trauma bonding and Stockholm syndrome because for me, it creates and enforces the victim mentality. Don’t get me wrong, all of the symptoms are all there, but fostering the belief that you are a victim, is not empowering.
The process of taking back your power begins when we stop looking at ourselves as victims. Only when we begin to own our part in the relationship, are we able to begin the process of breaking free from it.
In my own relationship I realized that I allowed this to happen to me – yes I was a victim and there were all sorts of extenuating circumstances that made me stay, but I was a willing accomplice. I could have left, but I didn’t – so I had to own my part.
Putting the onus on me, gave me a sense of freedom and control. No, I didn’t cause this, but by allowing it I was a coconspirator. If I could allow this, then I could also not allow this. This revelation was the beginning of my healing.
What I soon realized was that the idea of gaining empowerment means that the holder of power isn’t fixed or permanent – power changes hands all the time. And everyone has the God given right to hold the reigns of their own power.
Someone that holds your power isn’t going to give it back to you willingly. A lot of my anguish resided in the belief that I was powerless and needed/begged him to give it back to me, but power isn’t something that is given to you by another, it already belongs to you – you just have to reach out and take it.
By taking back your power, you start to regain control of your own life. Like your self-esteem, your personal power is precious and must be respected, cherished and protected.
Once I started to feel in control again, I got angry. I kept repeating the mantra from the 1976 film, Network, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.”
Taking back your power is simply a shifting of your mind set. When your attitude changes, your actions will reflect that, and you will begin to realize that the threats, taunts and insults of your abuser only have meaning – if you give them meaning.
“ Stop allowing anyone or anything to control, limit, repress, or discourage you from being your true self! Today is YOURS to shape – own it – break free from people and things that poison or dilute your spirit.” – Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience
No one has the right to control or abuse another person. We were put on this earth to be free and in control of our own lives. When we see an injustice being done to someone else, we get incensed at the unfairness and will speak up in an attempt to right that wrong, but in our own relationships we are all too willing to allow injustices to go unpunished. Taking back your power is how you right the wrongs that were done to you.
Only you can liberate yourself. Only you are in control of you – no one else. You don’t need anyone else’s approval or permission, because no one can ever give you – what is already yours.
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