Power vs. Control

Darlene Lancer
Relationships 101
Published in
6 min readSep 23, 2019

Power exists in all relationships. Having power means to have a sense of control, to have choices and the ability to influence our environment and others. It’s a natural and healthy instinct to exert our power to get our wants and needs met. When we feel empowered, we can manage our emotions, we believe that we matter and that we can affect outcomes. We have a sense of efficacy rather than being at the effect of others and circumstances. Instead of reacting, we can act because we have an internal locus-of-control.

Impaired Power

In contrast, many people may feel powerless and victims of outside forces. We can feel like our destiny is out of our hands. Some of us voluntarily give up our power to others. We may feel uncomfortable with exercising our own power, and believe that we will alienate others. Instead, we might react to others, defer to their wants and need, and have trouble making decisions and initiating independent action. We might feel like we’re being mean or raising our voice when we merely state what we want or don’t like. This impaired sense of power stems from:

1. A habitual external focus

2. Shame and low self-esteem–not feeling worthy

3. Dependence and lack of autonomy–excessive need for a relationship

4. Lack of assertiveness and deference to others’ decisions

5. Discomfort with power and a belief that it harms relationships

6. Fear of rejection and abandonment

7. Need for others’ love and approval to feel content and happy

8. Denial of needs, wants, and feelings

9. Having unreasonable expectations of others

10.Lack of self-responsibility (victim-blame mentality)

Power Imbalances in Relationships

Many relationships have power imbalances. If we’ve denied our power and don’t express ourselves for any of the above reasons, it’s natural for someone else to fill the vacuum. Often in codependent relationships, one partner — sometimes an addict, narcissist, or abuser — wields power over the other. Usually the acquiescent partner attempts to exert influence in indirect or passive-aggressive ways, such as withholding. Chronic…

Darlene Lancer
Relationships 101

Therapist-Author of “Codependency for Dummies,” relationship expert. Get a FREE 14 Tips on Letting Go http://bit.ly/MN2jSG. Join me on FB http://on.fb.me/WnMQMH