Be mindful - it is possible to control through weakness as well as power

I have discussed Gaslighting on The Chrissy B Show and LBC.

I have previously written articles on control through an abuse of power eg. gaslighting. The main reason for this, aside from wanting to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of unhealthy coercive relationships was to emphasise that there is no "victim" personality, but being compassionate may result in your being trapped within the relationship for longer. That is not to say one must avoid kindness, but to be mindful that compassion may lead to you excuse behaviours that to others may look abusive. Therefore I advocated the importance of having friends and family you can trust whose concern, when shown, is not likely to be misplaced.

While gaslighting is a long-term form of bullying - and for more subtle, it often roots in the abuse of power one person has over another. Grooming of a more naive person, especially when you have perceived status is commonly seen as a means to achieve a sense of "ownership" over a person, as is the simple act of threats held over you or your loved ones.

Weakness can yield as much mastery over others

However, at the other extreme, perceived weakness can be as (counter-intuitively), domineering. The partner who'd rather you stayed home because they would struggle coping; the passive aggressive suggestion that if you were to leave, who else would care; many a client with a phobia has reported affecting those around them with their fear (my own husband now has to look twice in any new building for stained glass - and I am not proud of that).

While I am again not saying that compassion is wrong, it is open to abuse through this approach too. While I am also not saying that people do not deserve support at a time of need, there is always a fine line between helping empowering them, and increasing their dependency.

The fantabulous emancipation of...YOU!

As a coach I insist on a break after a series of 4 - 6 sessions. Why? Because it is important for you to put all your work into practice. I have after all not been advising you, but helping you unlock the power you hold. While I will be there to help you as you explore, I cannot do the work for you.

Even then I have considered a charging system whereby if you don't put in the effort in your own time, my price goes up, if you do there's a discount. Of course it isn't ethical, but inner strength, autonomy and even personal emancipation is always my goal.

Three tips:

There is of course a balance to strike between help and "enabling" in an unhealthy way. So, if there is someone who you think may be taking advantage of your kindness, I suggest the following:

1. Take them at their word. If they say "I'm ok" or "I'll be fine" - don't push - tell them you respect their decision and they know where you are if they change their mind.

2. Don't take the "fishing" bait. Instead of responding to lines such as "I'm so awful" [insert negative word here] with reassurance, as the question "Why do you say that?" - this opens a dialogue which can be very helpful if there was a truth to the statement.

3. Finally try this affirmation for yourself "My time and energy are valuable resources and I spend them wisely."

Audrey is a Chartered Psychologist (CPsychol), and the author of "The Leader's Guide to Mindfulness" (Pearson & FT series) and "Be A Great Manager - Now" (Pub Pearson, 2016, Book of the Month in WH Smith Travel Stores). She is a CPD Accredited speaker, trainer, and qualified FIRO-B and NLP Practitioner. She is the founding Development Coach and Training Consultant with her training consultancy CLICK Training, and the resident psychologist on The Chrissy B Show (Sky191), the UK's only TV programme dedicated to mental health and wellbeing. She often presents at National and International conferences in the fields of leadership and team cohesion, and is part of the Amity University conference panel. She currently lectures in Personal Development and Mindfulness and offers psychological consultancy in these areas to organisations.

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