Becoming a Powerful Person: Part Two – Spotting Powerless Relational Dynamics

Danny Silk

This is part 2 of a 4 part series on how to become powerful people. In part 1, we discussed 4 ways to spot powerlessness in our own lives. If you missed it you can you read it here.

Today, let’s go beyond qualities of powerlessness and explore relational dynamics that are typically in play when we give our power away.

Namely, triangulation.

When you give your power away, you subconsciously grow to believe that other people are scary, unsafe, and more powerful than you. and therefore, you need to CONTROL THEM TO get them to meet your needs.

When this is your belief,  you have three possible roles you get to play in relationships:

1) The Victim.

If you’re the victim, you’re looking for a rescuer to make you feel safe and happy.

2) The Bad Guy.

If you’re the bad guy, you are using control and intimidation to protect yourself or get someone to meet your needs.

3) The Rescuer.

 If you’re a rescuer, you’re taking responsibility for someone else’s life in an attempt to feel powerful. Powerless people will switch in and out of these roles in relational interactions.

The subconscious fears driving the triangulation dynamic in victims, bad guys, and rescuers go something like this:

I live in a perpetual state of anxiety because I feel out of control. In adding you to my life, I have increased my anxiety because I can’t control you either. I’m threatened by everything you do that I didn’t decide for you. Until you let me control you, I don’t feel safe in this relationship. Unless you let me control you, you don’t love me.

In order to stay in relationship, powerless people make an agreement to exercise mutual control over each other. The unspoken pact between them is,

“It’s my job to make you happy, and your job to make me happy. And the best way to get you to work on my life is to act miserable. The more miserable I am, the more you will have to try to make me feel better.”

Powerless people use various tactics, such as getting upset, withdrawing, nagging, ridiculing, pouting, crying, or getting angry, to pressure, manipulate, and punish one another into keeping this pact. However, this ongoing power play does nothing to make them happy and mitigate their anxiety in the long term. In fact, their anxiety only escalates by continually affirming that they are not actually powerful. Any sense of love and safety they feel by gaining or surrendering control is tenuous and fleeting.

A relational bond built on mutual control simply cannot produce anything remotely like safety, love, or trust.

In fact, it can only produce more fear, pain, distrust, punishment, and misery.

I saw this dynamic in the most dramatic ways possible  for six years when I taught programs for men and women convicted of domestic violence. The fear most of my  students brought into the room was intense. Some of them had been in relationships for twenty- five years with unending cycles of abuse.

One man I worked with had been arrested because he had hit his wife.  It was a serious offense.  But before that incident, she had knocked him unconscious on two occasions—once with a frying pan and once with a gun. So when she came at him the third time, he took the first punch and knocked her down. The cops took him away because she had a black eye when they showed up and he didn’t.

That’s the kind of relationship they’d shared for over two decades. They called it love. But it was really two powerless people who had agreed to engage in a lifelong battle for control.

Don’t let these patterns,  regardless of how extreme or not,  be your story!

In the next blog, we will be talking about  practical ways to become a powerful person yourself.  But today, I’d love to hear  if   you’ve experienced some of these dynamics in your relationships  and perhaps, how you’ve overcome them in your life. Comment below!

PS)  One of the quickest  ways to break triangulation   is to learn how to forgive quickly.  I recently   recorded a class on ‘how to forgive and the life-changing power of overcoming hurt.’ Feel free to  watch it here, now!

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