In my psychotherapy practice, I have worked with a number of couples where this discrepancy in perception becomes quickly obvious. One partner will feel “steamrolled” or overpowered by the other, especially during fights.
The curious thing is that very often neither partner feels particularly powerful. They actually feel quite the opposite; at a loss for how to bring their message across.
Both partners feel that they aren’t being heard, and often feel overwhelmed and intimidated by the onslaught of blame or demands from the other side.
We might feel powerless in the face of stubborn resistance, but underestimate that our own demands may come across as equally forceful and hard to be met.
It is this sense of powerlessness, of not getting through to the other, that is at the root of many conflicts. We harden our stance and feel the need to defend our vulnerable selves, for fear that we won’t be seen or accepted.
What’s really happening from the outside is that two wounded opponents go to war, equipped with swords and armor, but feel deathly afraid that they will lose.
On the outside, they are strong and willful, but on the inside they are vulnerable creatures who are in need of support.
Try to become aware of the power you have in the relationship. Ponder your strong sides, and where the other depends on you and your judgement.
If we can feel more secure and important to the whole relationship, there is less of a need to defend and resist and conflicts can be worked through more effectively.
We need to become aware of our tendency to prioritize the negative when we feel threatened, and remember the balance that is already established.
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Giant Comfort » How We Underestimate Our Own Power (July 19, 2012)
Last reviewed: 6 May 2012