Giving Your Power Away–And Getting It Back!

couples-counselingWe’ve all heard the idea of “giving your power away.” Most people assume that this also means that someone else has your power and using it against you. But that’s not quite right. Usually what happens is that people don’t speak up, don’t stand for what they need, or fall back in the face of someone else’s requests or actions

Relationship Counseling for Emotional Freedom

In my practice, I often do relationship counseling, both with individuals and couples counseling with two people together. Take, for example, Jordan, who feels he’s at the mercy of his girlfriend, Anne (names and biographical details have been changed to protect anonymity). Often, when on Monday he asks her out for the weekend, she tells him she doesn’t know what she’s doing over the weekend. When, midweek, he asks if she’s made up her mind, she gets angry at him and tells him he’s always hounding her. Then, 4:00pm Saturday she calls him up and says “come get me at 8:00—there’s a party at a friend’s house.” He’s angry because, after waiting for her to decide all week, he’s in the middle of catching up on work. With resentment in his voice he says, “All right” and heads off to her place. At the party, she barely spends any time with him and he wishes he had just stayed home. When he tries to tell her he’d like to leave now, she’s angry and yells that he’s no fun at all. This pattern of behavior shows how we can get stuck in relationship unhappiness and feel at the mercy of others when just a small but powerful change in behavior would create a sense of emotional freedom.

We Often “Teach” Others to be Inconsiderate

It would be easy to think Anne takes advantage of her boyfriend, and that she is selfish and inconsiderate. However, another way to look at it is that her Jordanhas “taught” her to be this way because he never requires anything of her overtly while inwardly resenting that she isn’t doing what he wanted to require. It looks like Anne has all the power and is using it against him. And this is true, to some extent. If she were a paragon of virtue, she would realize how considerate and generous and accommodating her boyfriend is and she would reciprocate.

In reality, hardly anybody does that; almost everyone takes what they get and, quite soon, becomes unaware that they’re even getting anything. It soon seems quite natural that this other person is giving and they just use what they are given.

What Can Jordan Do to Get His Power Back?

It’s like Jordanhas metaphorical feelers going outward, focusing on Anne. Imagine him pulling his feelers inward and noticing what he needs and wants and what he wants to offer and doesn’t want to offer, and acting from that. In other words, assertiveness. For instance, if he wants to go out with her on Saturday, he could ask her to do something specific with him. When she says that she doesn’t know yet, he could say, “OK. I’d love to go to the movies with you. If you can let me know by Wednesday afternoon, I’ll be available. After that, I’m going to make other plans.” And then, of course, he would need to stick by that and not give in to her at the last minute—or anytime after Wednesday.

Co-Dependence is Never Saying What You Want

The hard part about this is that, often, people are afraid that the other person will leave if they make a requirement. They become “co-dependent.”Jordanmay be afraid that he likes Anne more than she likes him and that if he doesn’t go along with whatever she does, she’ll go find another boyfriend. So he keeps on “giving his power away” and being miserable just to hold onto Anne.

Paradoxically, many people value people who make limits and stand by them more than people who don’t. In essence, people value those who value themselves more than those who don’t. It’s a risk, but it may be better than losing oneself and being unhappy.

For more on relationship counseling, see my Relationship Counseling page.

Wishing you a free and joyous life,


Freeing Ourselves From Negative Mind Loops

When I was a child, my father was always busy,  so it’s not too surprising that often his business came first, home came second—and children came a definite third.

Most of the time that didn’t bother me. I had my own life with my friends. I rarely thought about my parents. But one time, about middle-school age, I was part of some troop or other (I don’t even remember) and there was to be a father-daughter banquet. A very strange concept for me, because I had never really done anything alone with my dad. He was either at work or we’d do things together as a family.

So this was a very special event for me. Not so special for him. In fact, so unspecial that he totally forgot about it. It probably hadn’t even registered for him in the first place. There I was, in my pretty dress, waiting for him to come home to take me to the banquet. After a while, I figured out he wasn’t going to come home—he was at work.

Suddenly, an interesting thing happened inside of me. I realized that I could make a big deal out of his forgetting me. I could let it etch into my mind as “my father doesn’t think I’m important; my father doesn’t care about me; I’m not important.” It was, in fact, starting to etch itself in like that. But then I realized I didn’t need to do that, and I realized I was going to let it go, because I knew my father. Father-daughter banquets were not in his reality. I knew he loved me because he worked really hard and came home every evening and we all had dinner together. We always had a stable home where the kids played outside with their friends and the parents did whatever they did to make sure everyone was clothed, fed, and safe. My father was not “touchy-feely” with the kids. We all knew that; it was our life.

Mind Loops Cause Emotional Pain—Uneccesary Emotional Pain

In my private practice, I see a lot of people who get into mind loops where something that happens with another person seems to “mean” something, or represent something, and it gets etched in and petrifies—and causes a lot of emotional pain. Because of something a person said or did, the relationship becomes stuck in a loop and it can’t get out and breathe again.

This often happens when painful family relationship patterns develop in childhood.

When childhood family patterns become overlaid onto an interaction with the person in front of us in the present, the interaction might represent something in our minds that’s not actually there, or that’s there in only a homeopathic dose, so to speak. The current interaction becomes etched in and rigidified, and the relationship suffers because of it. Coupling together the two—past pattern and current event—can easily etch an emotional interpretation into the mind.

For instance, if I had not had the luck to realize I didn’t need to etch in the interpretation that my father didn’t care about me or that I’m unimportant to him, I could have started generalizing and feeling slights all around me. I could have imploded into myself and made myself more and more invisible, and increasingly hurt when people didn’t see me or ignored me.

Process Work and EFT Help

I’ve found that combining Process Work (ala Arnold Mindell) and EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) is wonderful for getting at the core of these patterns that affect current relationships and transforming them into self-acceptance. Check out my Families and Relationships pages for more on how I work with childhood family patterns, relationship counseling and more.

Wishing you a free and joyous life,


Ask Zoe: How Do You Work With Relationships?

Ann wrote, “I’m having problems in my relationship. How do you work with relationships? Can EFT help with relationships? 

When I’m working with couples or people in any other kind of relationship—siblings, parent/child, families, groups—I think the main thing is to be thorough and deep. I look at relationships in two ways: (1) they’re made up of individuals and (2) they are an entity or organism in themselves. One thing I do is to help each person express him/herself as thoroughly and deeply as possible, trying to help them get to the essence of what they’re thinking and feeling, or even to get underneath what they’re aware of at first. Second, I think of the relationship as “wanting” to be known in itself. Each relationship has a character, a personality, even a purpose in the world that I want to help express itself, too.

In addition to helping people get at the core of their thoughts and feelings, I often have each person authentically take the other person’s point of view. This is tricky, because it’s important that they are genuinely taking the other side and not being sarcastic or split (my side/your side) while they’re doing it. When they can genuinely take the other person’s side, the whole relationship grows, and relationship conflict is healed.

I also use EFT with couples and other relationships, by having one person speak their thoughts/feelings while both people tap at the same time. This is pretty amazing sometimes in how quickly and deeply it gets at issues and helps transform them.

If you’d like to find out more about my work with relationships and about EFT, check out my Relationship Counseling page!

Wishing you a free and joyous life,