What is a power struggle?
A power struggle is an argument, or disagreement between two people or groups trying to obtain power or should I say; perceived “power.” In reality many power struggles or not about power at all. Power struggles in relationships and with children or about fear, fear of losing a piece of their ego. In essence a power struggle is a struggle to voice fear of loss, a fear of losing a sense of self. When children are around two, we begin to see power struggles occur over their wants. At this age it is not around fear of loss as much as it is a basic want and not knowing the dangers, and not understanding delayed gratification. Children at this age want it and want it now. This is the time to distract and empower the child. With adults power struggles can be avoided with a skilled ability to recognize what is happening, assessing how important the issue is compared with the closeness of the relationship. If I am in a retail store and the cashier will insist the return is not valid or will stand firm on an issue where I feel I am in the right I might push the issue further then someone I am very close to. One must weigh all these factors when becoming involved in a power struggle. Have you ever known someone who feels they are an expert in every aspect of life? They are knowledgeable in issues of weather, clothes, food, health care, hobbies, relationships etc. and readily voice their opinion. These individuals will invariably get into conflicts and power struggles. On the other end of the continuum we have the individual who is so undecided, so unsure that they have difficulty in making decisions on clothes, paint color, purchases, trips, and practically all decision making processes. Ironically both of these personality types stem from a wounded self. A person who was NOT listened to or was emotionally or verbally abused during their younger years or their young adult life. Put these two individuals together and you could sell tickets, pop the popcorn and sit back and enjoy. We now have unnecessary drama with difficulty in resolution. A power struggle usually has a large absence of HUMILITY. If one recognizes the importance and the benefit of giving up a piece of their emotional property to salvage the relationship and make peace, power struggles will dissipate.
How do power struggles originate?
The vast majority of power struggles in relationships originate from a wounded sense of self. In companies this is not always the case. The power struggle is usually about financial gain which is indirectly actually related to a distorted sense of power. Children in their adolescent and teen age years that are harshly wounded, put down, yelled at, emotionally abused and not supported will find power struggles all too frequent. These individuals will grow up seeking emotional revenge. I guarantee it. These teenagers must find their true self, dump their false bravado and realize they are a beneficial and talented human beings and can make major contributions. It is an up hill battle to teach them to avoid power struggles and find humility. You cannot find humility if you do not think highly of yourself, (confidence not arrogance.)
Power struggles originate out of becoming emotionally wounded, usually by someone we trusted or loved. We begin to internalize and believe the injurious brainwashing that occurs. This then leads to a major defensive stance in future relationships. As I researched this topic for any updates in studies one point remained universal. Power struggles are filled with defensive posture, not backing down, and an inability to sacrifice a piece of their emotional real estate or in other words an inability to find humility. The topic or power struggle becomes more important than the relationship. This is how it appears, even though one will deny it, the perception is clear.
How do you resolve power struggles?
Power struggles are easily resolvable with practice. One must learn to see the struggle as it is occurring, acknowledge their wounded sense of self, and realize they can show humility and retain pride. The intensity of the relationship is very important and the dedication one has with that person. As previously stated there is a time and place to stop the power struggle cycle. So what must occur to stop a power struggle:
1. Introspect- Look at yourself, your past and your path of how and why you are either so dogmatic on issues, or so wounded and indecisive. Easier said then done, granted.
2. Open minded- Create a place within yourself of open mindedness. You can still have passion for your beliefs, but learn to be open to suggestions.
3. Trust- When one trusts their loved one and realizes their true intentions are not to convince, coerce, manipulate or hurt them that is a huge first step to decrease power struggles.
4. Humility-Realize that by compromising, selling a piece of your emotional property you can still retain pride. Pride is NOT about being right. Pride is knowing you have qualities and traits that are helpful to yourself and others.
5. Assess- If you are in an abusive relationship then assess it for what it is and bail or get therapy. You still should stop the power struggles as they could escalate to an unwanted area of concern.
In summation, one must look at their inner workings and dynamics of the how’s and why’s disagreements keep going. The frequency, the intensity, the content, and if and when it is resolved. Power struggles take two people. Own your part and they will decrease tremendously. The vast majority of all relationship issues begin from a foundation of a wounded self. Empower yourself, believe in you, love your family and show humility and a peaceful home is much, much easier then you ever thought. It takes practice and consistency.