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Making Molehills Out of  Mountains/Reclaiming Your Personal
Power in Your Relationships

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Reclaiming Your Personal Power

By Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D.

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Getting Beyond Good Intentions

All worthwhile men have good thoughts, good ideas, and good intentions, but precious few of them ever translate those into action.
-John Hancock Field

What are the circumstances in your relationship that bring you to your knees? Those circumstances that never seem to change, in fact many times, trying to change them only makes matters worse. Does the word powerless come to mind--a feeling so pervasive it overloads your emotional circuits? Feeling totally ineffectual. Anything you do or say has no impact. Nothing seems to make a dent. The spirit of cooperation that once existed between you and your partner has been replaced by the corrosive cycle of blame/defend, accuse/justify, attack/retaliate, and finally, withdraw/punish.

Is there anyone who hasn’t experienced that familiar feeling of frustration over and over again--frustrated that you and your partner just can’t seem to get beyond what keeps the two of you bound in knots. You’ve talked it to death. Ignoring it only makes you feel worse. You’ve tried to convince yourself that you just won’t care about it anymore, but that’s like seeing how long you can go without inhaling.

How well does any of that work for you? It’s unlikely that any of those strategies are very rewarding in the long run. Why? It’s likely that you aren’t using the relationship skills that can easily enable you and your partner to stop hurting each other.

It’s my most fervent belief that much of the pain that you experience in your relationships can be alleviated if you master a few simple skills. Quite simply, there are specific skills that you can learn that will make relationships less conflictual, if, you’re willing to use them.

Let me emphasize that last point. You must be willing to create relationships with people that are dedicated to resolving rather than perpetuating conflict. Sadly, not all people are willing to surrender the emotional benefits they experience from being in a conflict-filled relationship. But I can tell you this much. Even if you’re willing to be in a conflict-free relationship, if you don’t know and use the skills necessary to keep a relationship open and growing, you’ll find your best intentions undermined.

So the first point I want to make is that you need more than good intentions to create relationships that are nourishing. There’s a very simple saying I have, “You must work differently at your relationships, not harder at them.” If all you do is continue to try and solve the challenges in your relationships the same way you always have, then you will continually get the same results.

For many of you, the skills that I’m going to discuss with you will create different outcomes than those of your old strategies. Learning these skills can change the way you and your partner respond to each other. By changing the way you respond to each other, you can insure a different outcome than you are currently experiencing.

So the first step towards ending the discord in your relationship is resolving to do things differently. It’s likely that some of your old ways aren’t working. But I promise you, there are new skills that can get you over the hump.

Now it’s not enough that I believe this. It’s not enough that I can see the benefits of mastering these simple skills. You need to be able to see what’s in it for you. So let’s stop and think about this for a moment. How will you benefit by learning a different way of responding to your partner when the two of you are stuck in familiar patterns of conflict? Can you envision using these familiar patterns as opportunities to understand each other rather than to defeat each other?

Let’s stop here for a moment. Try to focus on exactly what is to be gained by stopping the fighting and bickering. Do more than think about it. Take the time to put it on paper. The reason for this is simple. You’ll refer to these pages time and time again when your resolve wavers. Seeing is believing. Being able to reference why you’re doing all of this hard work when you feel frustrated, will inspire you to stay on your path. Use the space below to write down how you’ll benefit by learning how to resolve your misunderstandings differently with a few new relationship skills.

I know how challenging this work is. Maintaining your optimism for change, your hopefulness for well-being, and your belief that you can effectively use these new skills is essential to your success. Whenever you feel your spirit wavering, refer back to these pages. Knowing how you’ll benefit by creating different ways of solving problems in your relationship will buoy your spirits when you’re feeling paralyzed by discouragement.

I know you possess the necessary courage to weather the dark storms. There are times when you’re going to feel awkward. From time-to-time your partner may not be as supportive as you would like them to be. Moving out of the familiar and into the unknown is enough to make anybody take pause.

Fear has the same effect on us all. We stop dead in our tracks. Looking for a way to retreat, self-protection becomes our number one goal. And eventually we’ll reach for ol’ faithful--our old habits. Not because those old habits are effective, simply because they’re familiar.

I’m proposing a new standard. From here on out, commit to using skills that are effective rather than merely familiar. Don’t settle for the comfort of what you know best, venture into the realm of the new and unknown. I realize what I’m asking of you. But if you can just hang on to your belief in the benefits that you listed above, you’ll feel less unsure of yourself and more encouraged to venture forward.

As you embrace the formula I’ve just suggested, you’ll begin to notice subtle changes. Your fear will lessen. Your confidence will increase. Those old ways will be less seductive as you discover you have more and more choices. Ultimately, you’ll discover that the more choices you have to resolve the conflicts in your relationship, the more empowered you’ll feel. And believe me, there isn’t a better gift in the world that you can give yourself.



Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in
Chicago, Illinois and Northfield, Illinois.

You can contact Dr. Frisch, Psy.D. at drfrisch@aliveandwellnews.com  or at
(847) 604-3290.

Recover from chemical dependency and its toxic impact on family members. Raise your children to choose to be alcohol and other drugs free. Learn how to in Dr. Frisch’s, Psy.D. Recovery book series.


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