Updated: Jun 22, 2022
How are unhealthy power dynamics created and what should you do to move past them?
When you form a connection with another how do you manage your sense of vulnerability when experiencing feelings and emotions?
Do you know which attachment style you are? Are you an empath or an anxious attachment style, in yet another unhealthy relationship dynamic? Or are you an avoidant, wondering why your partner is always super anxious or frustrated? How are unhealthy power dynamics created and what should you do to move past them?
Of course we are attracted to power dynamics in the first place, by accessing relationships that seem to express power, we put ourselves at risk at forming an unhealthy power dynamic, we may support another by putting them on a pedestal and then continue to give them energy, not realising we are depleting ourselves and our own power supply. Naturally we engage with situations that might seem more powerful than our current situation. We may enjoy the validation of our own power by enjoying someone else’s respect, some one who puts us on a pedestal. How do we get back to ground zero and enjoy natural growth, development, mutual respect and freedom?
As Marianne Williamson points out -
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We should be evaluating ourselves from this place, dealing with our own power play within, by reflecting on how we feel about ourselves as we start to unravel this complex dynamic.
Recognising the nature of your attachment style when you move into a relationship, is very important in understanding the experience you are in. When you feel vulnerable, as you experience 'relationship feelings', as you are forming a connection; do you avoid, become anxious, become defensive, dismissive or in denial? Understanding this is key to confronting and finding presence in this 'gap' between you and the 'other'. Security is found by recognising the true nature of human attachment and really embracing it, finding ways to slowly nurture relationship and allow a true understanding of relating to find it's feet, by focusing on each other's needs in creating depth and understanding.
Looking back to our childhoods, our family dynamic, or our trauma, we may have fooled ourselves into thinking we are small, that we are unworthy, belittling ourselves and engaging at the same time with those we may ‘perceive’ to be more powerful than our vulnerabilities, this may have come though childhood dynamics, trauma, parental narcissism or different forms of avoidance. Doing this means we are hiding our power and underminding our sense of presence in the world.
Or we may be on a journey to reclaim respect or power after a significant relationship disempowerment. Power plays that disable and disempower are very common in dysfunctional relationships, they can destroy more than we imagined possible. This can come through legal processes, social media influences, public influencing and underminding activity, such as bullying.
Those persons expressing avoidance or narcissism, use those that feel small and vulnerable. The empaths or anxious types are typical 'hosts' in this dynamic, they make the narcissist or the avoidant feel great, make them feel their entitlement and authority is justified, so they may put them on a pedestal, whether through status, a job, their voice, playing a role in life, staging, to draw in and engage with many people, using socially engaging events, social communication, ways of bringing people together, bringing attention through social power strategies.
Yet whilst this is all going on we are in an illusion; we are deceiving ourselves about power through an inauthentic voice, justifying the actions and the nature of the dynamic we may be people pleasing, acting as a martyr, an entertainer, an image of perfection, without fully exploring the dynamics of the situation or the relationship, or our real experience of relationship, through an active development process with our vulnerabilities.
This dynamic can be especially experienced through the dynamic of the narcissist and the empath, both of which started their journeys with a certain level of emotional and physical neglect. This neglect is normally through a form of avoidance or narcissism. Avoidance arises through fear of confronting the true nature of a situation; to avoid the intimacy of emotional complexity. The avoidance of emotional intimacy leads to various forms of neglect and a sense of invisibility, the person experiencing this can feel pushed out of family dynamics or dismissed. Minimilising childhood trauma is a typical situation that leads to a vacuous life by the person growing up in this dynamic, the unravelling of these dynamics is very complex and hard to grasp, healing takes many years.
To be able to survive and understand the situation, the child develops a high level of empathy, as an adult this often leads to a focus on other people's lives. The adult becomes an 'empath', developing highly intelligent forms of extra sensory perception, using a very ‘present’ energy and focusing a lot of power on an ‘other’ individual, constantly supporting their needs, agenda and their vision of relationship.
When this energy is given to an avoidant, a person who avoids emotional intimacy, the relationship can lead to a vacuous experience of relationship and social power, so the person experiences a deep emptiness, the empath especially gives energy to the narcissist type who feeds off that support and gives them permission to dominate, to consider themselves more than the other. The empath feeds this until they burn out and realise there is no more to give, by latching on in this way they attach to higher status of power, but it is all an illusion, a theatrical performance without merit.
The burn out is seen by the narcissist as weakness, having fed and feeling full and fulfilled they look for other feeds. The empath can become consumed with anxiety, faced with abandonment and wanting a mutually respectful relationship, yet realising the dynamic with the narcissist will never serve in a healthy way.
To empower both individuals is to see where their power lies, to regulate emotions and to use empathy to bridge the gaps. However, often this insight is replaced by judgement, the narcissist seeks to look for the weaknesses so they can stay dominant, they believe they are entitled to this status and will do all they can to preserve it. The empath starts to believe they are weak and focuses more on external factors, people and environment, they start to loose their centre and act the role of the carer, supporter, people pleaser, becoming the scape goat.
When we look at power, we look at responsibility, science, presence, image, economic freedom, the values of a person, we look to see how well the person engages with the world at large. So you may have a nurse or a doctor who has a lot of responsibility, they have power to cure, to heal, to save, yet they may be disempowered by government authority, that seeks privilege through social power in agreement with their own power campaign, rather than that which serves humanity on a care level of primary concern, this is the same with economics.
We also see a power play in a model, or actor that has presence, a successful image is portrayed through photography, film and styling. We buy into this image of power until it becomes a reality, they succeed as a brand, with a lifestyle, that is celebrated through an act, a story, an illusion of living the dream that becomes the life. This image based power structure, has weak foundations, often the house of cards can tumble. If the person is disempowered, they have to learn to step down and rebuild from a place of authentic voice.
We as people, support narcissism as a part of our culture, it is our way of behaving in the western world, we want to believe it is possible to be accountable for these life choices, yet this behaviour is often empty, simply a story, a narrative of life, created by playing a role, illusions of living, story telling, some times with abusive stories of addiction. Often there are good stories to tell, but still a story. A person's presence is met, not with integrity of self but an image of self.
The narcissist can lure another in to their constellation through the 'other's' vulnerability, pulling a person in to an intimate experience, emotionally, physically. They are then in a strong position to disempower them, finding control through an upper hand of arrogance, using their power as a predator to take control, feeding off the loss of the ‘other’s’ energy maybe through the act of this detachment, judgement, entitlement, positioning of self, projecting limit and dysfunction.
An imbalance of power in any relationship dynamic struggles to sustain itself in to a self sustaining state. In work places, this is normally dealt with through 'legal rights' in growth and development, in stages, in pay scale, escalating the sense of achievement through a strategic way of development, enabling an expansion of power.
However in personal relationships there is no regulation, only self regulation, yet a great deal of unequal power dynamics lead to frustration, the most confusing element is in personal relationship. Power dynamics are illusionary in the first place. Turning a relationship in to an accounting system for power, using power to manipulate and control is not authentic to personal relationship, it is about judgement and manipulation, controlling the way another thinks and influencing thorugh persuasion.
People have skills, they have talents, those create inter personal relationships that should function through a respect to each other due to the nature of the whole experience met on a community and inter dependant level, this dynamic is bridged through empathy and healthy boundaries enabling unconditional love to play out at a safe distance and with safety, openness, in mind.
So how can we believe we are powerful and expansive, without having to enter into this complex relationship power plays?
We step back into the philosophy and psychology of power through consciousness, sensory perception, spiritual experience, knowledge, intelligence, physical experience, emotional intelligence, science, communication, unconditional love, emotional self regulation, with healthy boundaries with empathy.
Using intelligent relationship tools that enable us to expand in our power and share our truth; everyone is capable of expansion, we are all powerful beyond 'measure'. Often limit is unconsciously projected by someone wanting to create limit, because of economic gain, pain, unworthiness.
Imagine if the government didn’t need your tax money, would they still expect you to work up a pay scale in the same regard? Or would there be a different attribute dominating?
Claim back your science and knowledge in power, claim back your ability to be expansive, to contain yourself, to choose when and how to share this in the physical world, enabling the space you exist in, to centre. Be met through your own gifts of empowerment, in home, money, lifestyle.
Emotional regulation can get out of hand - when too many boundaries are crossed, maybe trauma is present in the person's life, hormones are in a complex situation, such as during puberty or the menopause, or there is too much stress in a person's life. When a person goes in to flight or fight and looses their ability to self regulate they sometimes make decisions that are simply to escape the situaiton and avoid the responsibilty of being accountable for the relationship. Developing a sense of safety is a conscious decision met by two persons. Further support can be found in self regulation through 'polyvagal therapy' which helps to work with the vagal nerve. Reducing stress, supporting the body through vitamins and minerals, excercise can make a big difference to the natural emotional response, making a person less reactive, less frustrated and able to regulate when in a reactive response.
Contain your energy, step back and work out some boundaries, so you can continue to love unconditionally but you don't get caught up with the parasite/host dynamic. Look at your values, making relationship decisions that serve your expansion, that serve you to express your power, that give you space to grow, giving you an ability to be present, to work with the universe, in making living a better experience for your self and all.
Helping you to see your own achievements, enrichment, abundance, beauty, sexual presence, physical life, emotional power, economic fruition, make sure you are being met on an equal level of connection, communication, understanding in which give and take enable life to be better with a sharing of values and living so that you can find your light and elevate in to your lightest presence.
The science and philosophy of power is about the identity of consciousness held in the central nervous system and expanded into the universe, the collective conscious, drawing on limitless energies from the 'Source'. There will always be ways to allow the expression of your lifestyle to develop, by opening doors in receiving, sharing, look within and express that without.
Revise, allow it to sink in...below I go over the above again from a slightly more direct angle...
The concepts are bought to awareness through understanding the dynamic of the empath and the narcissist feeding on an unhealthy dynamic, an anxious attachment style relates and attaches to the avoidant. What seems like a loving relationship in both these instances can lead to a sense of vacuum, with passive aggressive or aggressive behaviour.
The empath finds safety in giving from a young age, as an anxious attachment, the style of communication provided by the empath brings clarity and support to the avoidant attachment or the narcissist, both of whom struggle to take on the responsibility of their world, by having the support of the empath they are more likely to form a long term attachment. However the anxious empath, can easily burn out, finding a frustration in not being met on a deeper level. Or finding they are controlled through judgement, silence, silencing and undermining behaviour that is coving up deception.
The narcissist, has built up safety by encouraging others to support them in their dominant pursuits and in reframing their image in all knowing,. They claim a superiority, status, using deflection to cover up deception, judgements to others and avoidance of speaking about deeper emotional concerns.
This can be seen in simple experiences with lasting impact, such as simply judging the physical body; they may express sexual chemistry in a parasitic way. They may project their personal needs and fulfilment, feeding the ego, often leading to multiple partners. This then often leads to multiple forms of detachment. An avoidant style designed to disempower the host, enabling self service on an ego level. This activity supports upper handed arrogance and entitlement, without getting to know the values, or power of the other, or how they create harmony, joy, pleasure and peace.
The empath, often feels small inside from childhood or adolescent trauma, or avoidant parents, they buy into the falsehoods of being treated as small, reaching out for a dominant figure, to make up for the lack of a paternal figure or to help safe guard. However this unequal power dynamic, leads to huge let down and frustration, this is a huge hurdle to overcome, as all their life they believed they were small, this being fed through multiple relationships in this power dynamic.
The path forward to disengage with this host/parasite exchange through self value, containment, awareness and expansion though empath to empath relationships.
Narcissism and avoidant styles both need a lot of attention in counselling and therapy due to power games, projection and neglect. The interventions are through empathy and presence with the self, acknowledgement in the depth of vulnerability they carry, their fear and insecurity, empathy with the other. The main route out, is to confront the true nature of feelings, the true sense of vulnerability and to find ways of communicating feelings safely.
Other factors can play a part to do with needs and environment. Both persons feed off their environment one way or another, however it is important to establish healthy boundaries in containing energy, preserving the self, by recognising the energy going towards the ‘other’ and how that is received and how it feels, do you feel energised or depleted?
Their may be a lot of gratitude in these relationships - their maybe a sense of deep knowledge and an intention of care and peace, even a deep love, but this unequal power structure, may lead to pain, social or work impotence, it may lead to a strong sense of limit, feeding the idea that one is small, one is not powerful beyond 'measure'.
For an empath or anxious attachment to come in to one’s light and buoyancy, it is best to seek relationships with other empaths and anxious types, that lead to slow attachment and long term relationships, creating secure attachments that are able to bring comfort to vulnerability and stability to those feelings that create anxiety when in love and when expressing deep physical intimacy. An avoidant and narcissist has to be actively in a process of healing to be able to sustain a relationship with an empath, or an anxious attachment type, however they can develop a certain level of functionality with like minded persons, as the levels of emotional avoidance are met, avoidants with high levels of empathy can actively use their emotional intelligence to change their reality and to form deep and meaningful relationships, often avoidants simply dont realise they have the power to change their responses and their ways of evaluating what is happening.
For sure this simplifies a very complex area of human relationship, as all is complex on an individual level and often we move through cycles of each element of the power dynamic, we should see parts of ourselves in all forms, we all express ourselves in all areas of concern.
However becoming aware of these fundamental aspects can help create horizontal spaces for relationship to evolve and grow, developing constructive and fulfilling experiences that build in to life and living in a sustainable and energising way. The power of empathy is infinite especially when combined with self regulation, when relating to another using relationship tools, a fullfilling and life affirming experience can grow and materialise leading to life long love.
By Amanda McGregor www.amandamcgregor.com