From Insecurity to Empowerment by Peter Metzner

In the last post we talked about projection.  Below are other common defense strategies that often keep us unaware, hinder our relationships at work and home…. and keep us from growing.

Denial: Never underestimate the Power of Denial.  As long as I can deny my role in creating  what is around me,  I am protected against the pain that is necessary for growth and a healthier or more successful approach to dealing with an unpleasant or painful situation. Classic denial sounds like this:     “I am not controlling, my son would never do that!  If my co-workers weren’t so negative I would do better;  It is her/her fault’!   I do the drugs the drugs don’t do me!  I haven’t missed work – so I am not an alcoholic. etc…..

It is better to stung by reality than be comforted by an illusion.  (Chinese proverb)  We tend to fear what we think will cause us pain – so therefore;  if i can deny my role in the malaise around me I don’t have to change .  It takes strength and fortitude to be responsible for our actions and to own our role in what we are co-creating.  When we take responsibility for our feelings, our role in how our lives are that’s when we take a big step towards personal empowerment.

Displacement. A lot of our pent up emotions like, anger, anxiety or fear often gets displaced on to others. Lets say;  I had a bad day at work and am angry.  My wife asks me how I am doing and I snap at her.  Since we don’t like to experience  negative emotions like anger we easily displace them on to others. Temporarily we feel a respite by discharging them;  unfortunately they come back to haunt us in the pain inflicted on others close to us.  The pain we avoid and displace or misplace comes back to in many ways. If  we stay unaware then the cycle keeps on repeating and often escalates.    After the tragedy of  911,  many  psychologists noticed a spike in spousal abuse, child abuse, road rage and violence at sporting events.  Among the military the divorce rate for soldiers serving in combat zones  is around  90%!   The anger rage, pain and trauma that is held deep inside will come out in an awful vengeance – like lighting that is attracted by a tall tree or post.  Sadly the recipients of this rage also suffer tremendous pain as well.   We tend to see the world though our emotional wounds  and wound others through or by our emotional pain.

“An act of patience in place of anger will prevent one hundred hours of suffering”  (Chinese proverb)

Most of our behaviors are unconscious.  When conscious we have choices.  What we are unaware of will eat our lunch or as Carl Jung states “What we are unaware of will manifest as fate”

Below is a model  of how being unconscious can sabotage our personal authority.

Three are three types of games that Eric Berne has outlined in his book “Games People Play”:

Victim                        Persecutor


The victim games sounds something like this: Poor pitiful me – ain’t it awful!

People are not nice,  If I didn’t have this boss, husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, kids etc.  I would be happy, successful or feel better.   The pay off  from being a victim is: it is somebody else’s fault for my feeling bad, being stuck and not getting my needs met.   It is not unusual for a person who feels like a victim to become a persecutor.   Bullies on the play ground as well as in the office have often been victimized at some point in their lives.

The Persecutor games look something like this:  I am angry at you because:

You did this, or are this or I can’t trust you, you are incompetent or let me down. Thus I need to control you, can criticize you, demean you,  judge you and treat you badly. Because it is your fault!  – You deserve it!  It doesn’t take much of a judgment or reason to treat people with disrespect or try to control them.  A simple  belief“she is incompetent” is all it takes to start controlling, putting down, shutting down and justifying arrogant and demeaning behavior.    To Persecute – a victim is needed and one  seems to find the other or can even create the other in a work, personal or family relationship.  A Persecutor can create a victim out of an otherwise healthy person – if that person doesn’t set adequate boundaries or is not unassertive.    A victim can also make an otherwise “good”: person, boss, husband wife etc..  into a persecutor by ‘”acting in a way to make the other behave in order to justify how they already feel” . (Berne)

A Rescuer is someone who themselves needs nurturing, whose needs have not been fully addressed.  They often express  this by being driven to help others, rescue animals and inadvertently focus  so much on others needs and healing,  that their wounds – their needs often remain unmet.  Sometimes this can get out of control when there are not enough emotional, physical or financial resources to help the people or animals that are now dependent on the rescuer benevolence.

Sometimes we can be all three. In the case of domestic abuse, a person can feel powerless at work or victimized by life (I.e abused as a child).   Then at home can be abusive,  by taking out frustrations, anger, rage and pain on their wife or husband and kids.    After being abusive and seeing the pain that has been caused, the persecutor can  feel genuinely remorseful and then become a rescuer…   Saying I am so sorry, buying flowers or trying to make it up in some other way.       The cycle perpetuates often escalating to greater hurt, pain and violence.  When the persecutor wounds his (usually him) victim (usually her) he also wounds and shuts out that part of himself that needs love and wants intimacy.  The frustration, pain and loneliness becomes sometime too great a burden to carry.  It is easier to blame the other for our condition than to look at ourselves – When too insecure, it is very painful and it is  pain we try to avoid.  Sadly though what we resist – persists and the butcher’s bill eventually comes due.   This could be a separation,  job loss child running away, anxiety, addiction , etc.  This pain opens the door for healing to place.  For many, when the pain of not changing  becomes great than the fear or resistance to change change occurs.   It doesn’t have to take a crisis to start doing our work.     Once we take responsibility for the role in what are creating and see pain and suffering as a means towards growth we stop blaming others or the situation for our condition.  This is the foundation for psychological maturity.    By owning and accepting the discomfort and pain our behaviors have caused,  conflicted relationships can heal , marital discord can clear , anxiety diminishes,  simmering rage, depression can lighten. there will be less of a need to:  self medicate, escape through work holism, shop, the internet or TV to name but a few ways we escape from pain and negative emotions.  When we no longer need to keep malaise hidden behind a facade of self righteousness. accomplishment or a high powered role, we become more authentic and move in the direction of growth and healing.  The movement towards claiming personal authority is taking place.      Until we recognize these often unconscious dynamics and become more aware,  we can be driven and triggered to  automatically co-create the very things we don’t want,  fear and resist.

What could be a better definition of hell?  Or at least crazy.  Remember the crazy person is absolutely convinced that he or she is not crazy. If you are reading this and think you are crazy, then you are not crazy.  Thinking you are crazy isn’t going to hurt you.   Rather,  it allows you to be in the hunt for getting sane.

My next posting will cover the  four stages of change.


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