In relationships, there are balances of control and power to navigate. Does someone have the last (or only) word? Is there trust and cooperation? Is there independence along with interdependence? Is there shared responsibility, or victimization and blame? Is there a balance between sensitivity and firmness?
In her Self-Mastery Workshop, Rose Mary Boerboom discusses the importance of power and control as valid human needs, using Webster’s definition of power as the capacity or ability to influence, and control as the capacity or ability to limit, shape, or regulate influence. “Who would want to be in a relationship where they had no influence? Where what they thought, wanted, needed, said or did was not important?” (n.d.)
Boerboom discusses four types of power: 1) Hierarchical, which is power over others. This is our traditional, cultural view of power. 2) Victim power, which is power from below. Someone who over-identifies with being a victim uses guilt to control others. 3) Shared power, or power together with others. This is a partnership built on trust, cooperation, and compromise. 4) Personal power, which is power from within. It “comes from a solid sense of self built on the awareness of innate worth” and “self-awareness, self-control, self-respect, self-confidence, and integrity.” (n.d.)
Working to increase “personal power” can help us to positively impact the balance of power in our relationships. The more we truly value ourselves, the more ability we will have to interact with others
in a positive way. The more self-respect and confidence we have, the more we will be able to trust others and cooperate with them, without resorting to either hierarchical or victim power to control them.
Using empowering affirmations can help “reframe your attitudes about yourself and any situation in which you have felt victimized”, according to Boerboom (n.d.). Empowerment helps us to take charge of our lives. Some examples of this type of affirmation:
- I honor myself at all times. I am now doing the very best for myself.
- I trust in the good. I allow it to enter my life.
- I take responsibility for who I am and how my life is.
As empowered individuals, we can rise to the challenge of participating in our relationships in a more balanced way. Our personal power can help us work toward, and with, the shared power that is available in the marriage relationship.
Important! If you find yourself in an abusive relationship, please seek professional help. Nothing in this blog is intended, nor will it be adequate, to replace professional counseling or serve as medical/professional advice.
Boerboom, R. (n.d.), Self-mastery workshop [Workshop handout]. Used with permission.