The sense of powerlessness and not being in control is frightening. If you are powerless, you are vulnerable, which is, “a quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.” Being powerless is dangerous. Your sense of self contracts and you feel weak, diminished, helpless and exposed. How will you survive? Regaining your power and control is paramount. Your psyche constructs the “adaptive child” to protect you and defend against harm. When you are hurt, the first thing you want to do is stop the pain. It’s all about stopping the pain. Overarching instincts of survival kick in and you attempt to keep whatever is hurting you away or get others to give you what you want. You cannot be concerned about anyone else or their feelings. It is from this immature egoic child mind that the strategies of fight, flight, and freeze are formed and result in a conditioned stance.
Aggressive action to Regain a Sense of Power and Control
Passive action to Regain a Sense of Power and Control
Inaction to Regain a Sense of Power and Control
What Happens when you Use these Strategies in Your Adult Relationships?
The “adaptive child” strategies are useful when you are a child and are dependent on your caretakers. They also protect you in extreme danger. But how do these strategies work in your relationships as an adult? Remember, these strategies purposely disconnect you from others. They engage when you believe it necessary to separate and distance yourself from others so that your value, power and sense of self will remain intact and you will not be harmed.
There are times in relationship when someone says, does something or behaves in a manner that causes you harm, actual or perceived. It may be physical, emotional or offensive to your values. The wound to your identity may undermine your physical prowess or diminish your value and worth, or your self-esteem, which creates a sense of weakness. You counter this with power to reassert control and esteem.
Fight Mode is Boundaryless and Uncontained
Flight Mode is Walled Off and Contained
The Effect on Relationship being 1 Up and “Better Than"
1 Up Boundaryless meets 1 Up Boundaryless
1 Up Boundaryless meets 1 Up Walled Off
Instead of outwardly confronting the person or situation, if you are Walled Off your hurt and anger will come out in passive aggressive ways such as digs and subtle insults, backhanded compliments, giving the “cold shoulder,” silencing, being grumpy or sullen and unexpressive. You may ignore or stop doing joint tasks and responsibilities. Suppression of feelings can be so complete that there is no realization of the suppressed anger or cold aggressive attitude being projected onto your partner. At first, you may believe that you are taking care of yourself and your feelings by withdrawing or that you are centered and regulated and therefore “above” emotions, all of which advances your feelings of superiority. In fact, you are actively suppressing your emotions and so become unaware of them. You may know the effect distancing is having on your partner, but you do not care or you may even relish it.
The Effect on Relationship being 1 Down and “Less Than”
1 Up meets 1 Down “Less Than” and Boundaryless
When you are 1 Down and Boundaryless you actively seek regard and acceptance from your partner to affirm that you exist. There is a constant need for reassurance that your partner cares for and thinks about you. Jealousy arises surrounding their time and connection with others and so policing their interactions with others and knowing their whereabouts seems logical. You may nag or attack your partner with long pronouncements and “unbridled self expression” or have bouts of extreme emotional volatility. All is in an effort to win your partner back, to be seen, to be accepted, and to know you exist so that you will not face your ultimate fear of being left and alone.
Meeting the Frozen Mode of 1 Down and Walled Off
Control is a Losing Strategy
It is easy to see how both the strategy of aggressive unbounded physical or emotional volatility and the strategy of withdrawing and shutting down of your partner does not create trusting, caring, connected relationships.
Returning to Healthy Authentic Self-Esteem
You can’t get to courage without walking through vulnerability. ~ Brené Brown
Kindness and Compassion.