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What is control?

Involvement by the inner selves is understandable, since feeling in control means feeling less vulnerable, that is if you agree with the common definition of ‘control’ as  ‘making things happen’ or ‘getting things done’.  To be more accurate, this definition needs to be extended to recognise that if someone has real control over a situation, whatever they intend to ‘get done’ is also done when and where and how and usually by who ever they wanted it done as well.

This raises the question of who controls whom. This is significant because the selves are also vitally concerned with this issue. Stronger selves in particular want us to be in control of others. Less powerful or emotionally younger selves are forever trying to deal with feeling controlled.

So power and control issues are often critical factors for the selves trying to look after a relationship, at least until the aware grown-up parts can take over.


What  is ‘power’?

Power is not quite the same as control, it is your ability to exercise control (if you want to) in a particular situation, your potential or capacity for solving a specific problem, your capacity or ability to make things happen or getting things done to resolve that problem but only if you want to use that power. The choice is yours.

You can ‘have’ power without actually using it at the time. Your power means you can take control if you choose to. It is only effective if you can apply it despite opposing forces or influences (such as computer breakdowns, weather or financial difficulties). If you fail to deal with these problems, your power as well as your control is reduced.

The kind of power each person has is also an important aspect of persuading, negotiating or bargaining between adults particularly in a partnership.

Unless you can make other people aware of your power it remains locked away like a battery in a cupboard. No one can see it so they will assume you don’t have any power.

Why look at power and control issues?

One reason for looking at power and control in this section is that the more you understand about them and the more accurately you can identify each kind and where it comes from, the better use you can make of it to gain cooperation and make effective decisions. But provided you use your own power in a fair, honest and positive way it’s a sensible approach for encouraging win-win solutions and  adult co-operation.

The other reason is that it helps you to be aware of the ways others may be trying to use or abuse their power to control you. Simply put, that means you will be less likely to get triggered or over-react when this happens, as it does about a hundred times a day.

Different kinds of power

Reward-penalty power

Most forms of power carry with them a capacity for meeting people’s needs and desires. One common source of power is the direct ability to hand out rewards and benefits. Money provides this kind of power since it offers an easy way of giving rewards. Punishment or  penalty is simply using power in the opposite way  by withholding rewards, thus making life less rewarding for someone, hence the term ‘reward-penalty power’.

Authority (or position) power

Authority power is based on official position in an organisation or rank in a system.  Authority is the least personal of all powers  so it has little place in personal relationships. However I am listing it here because your relationship will be affected by pressure applied by other people who have authority. It helps to know exactly the sort of power you are up against in these cases so you can identify the real problem .

Expert power

Anyone skilled in a particular technique holds a special kind of power. You might have expertise in partnering, driving, writing, finance or romance, or a reputation for being a valuable friend. Any skills, knowledge or expertise in short supply such as health or the ability to handle family finances, are also sources of expert power and control. Expert power can also be connected to more personal qualities, strength, charm, height or physical fitness. It plays a major part in deciding who controls what in a relationship.

Seniority or referent power

A grandparent - in fact, any group elder (or someone who has been a member far longer than anyone else) is often consulted by those with less experience. The senior person is seen as a ‘point of reference’, allowing them to wield more power in addition to any other powers they  might have.

Shared power

In many adult relationships, more by friendly  agreement rather than negotiation, specific areas of power can be allocated to one person who might for example control the household budget. The other partner is given more power to settle disputes between children (‘ask your  father’). One organises household clean-ups the other holidays. By common agreement each person holds decision making power over other in some particular areas, but not all aspects.

To work well, this requires strong adult boundaries and high self esteem. If the selves get involved, shared power systems usually collapse.

See Charismatic power and manipulation





Power and control issues

Persuasion, pressure and  manipulation in relationships


In every relationship, personal or impersonal, partnership or conditional, close or distant, there are background issues that are hard to escape. One of the most basic of these is the question of who controls each aspect of that relationship and how this affects each person’s vulnerability. This just happens to be one of the areas of constant worry for the  inner selves.

Power can only be totally turned off when you are in the closest and safest of connections, such as intimate linkage. This is, of course, one of the reasons this kind of connection feels so good. It’s also why intimacy stops at the very moment that either partner starts even to think about power, control  or vulnerability

Power and control issues

Persuasion, pressure and  manipulation in relationships






Power and control issues

Persuasion, pressure and  manipulation in relationships


In each relationship, personal or impersonal, partnership or conditional, close or distant, there are background issues that are hard to escape. One of the most basic of these is the question of who controls each aspect of that relationship and how this affects each person’s vulnerability. This, of course, just happens to be one of the areas of constant worry for the  inner selves.

Power can only be totally turned off when you are in the closest and safest of  connections, such as intimate linkage. This is, of course, one of the reasons why this kind of connection feels so good. It’s  also why intimacy stops at the very moment that either partner starts even to think about power or vulnerabilityWhat is control?


Involvement by the selves is understandable, since feeling in control means feeling less vulnerable, that is if you agree with the common definition of ‘control’ as  ‘making things happen’ or ‘getting things done’.  To be more accurate, this definition needs to be extended to recognise that if someone has real control over a situation, whatever they intend to ‘get done’  is also done when and where and how and by whom they wanted it done.

This raises the question of who controls whom. This is significant because the selves are also vitally concerned with this issue. One-above selves in particular want to be in control of others. One-below selves are forever trying to deal with feeling controlled.

So power and control issues are often critical factors for the selves trying to look after a relationship, at least until the aware adult can take over.

What  is ‘power’?

Power is not quite the same as control, it is your ability to exercise control (if you want to) in a particular situation, your potential or capacity for solving a specific problem, for making things happen or getting things done to resolve that problem.

You can ‘have’ power without actually using it at the time, but you and others are aware of it. Power means you can take control if you choose to. It is only effective if you can apply it despite opposing forces or influences (such as computer breakdowns, weather or financial difficulties). If you fail to deal with these problems, your power as well as your control is reduced.

The kind of power each person has is also an important aspect of persuading, negotiating or bargaining between adults particularly in a partnership.

Why look at power and control issues?

One reason for looking at power and control in this section is that the more you understand about them and the more accurately you can identify each kind and where it comes from, the better use you can make of it to gain cooperation and make effective decisions. But provided you use your own power in a fair, honest and positive way it’s a sensible approach for encouraging win-win solutions and  adult co-operation.

The other reason is that it helps you to be aware of the ways others may be trying to use or abuse their power to control you. Simply put, that means you will be less likely to get triggered or over-react when this happens, as it does about a hundred times a day.

Different kinds of power

Reward-penalty power

Most forms of power carry with them a capacity for meeting people’s needs and desires. One common source of power is the direct ability to hand out rewards and benefits. Money provides this kind of power since it offers an easy way of giving rewards. Punishment or  penalty is simply using power in the opposite way  by withholding rewards, thus making life less rewarding for someone, hence the term ‘reward-penalty power’.

Authority (or position) power

Authority power is based on official position in an organisation or rank in a system.  Authority is the least personal of all powers  so it has little place in personal relationships. However I am listing it here because your relationship will be affected by pressure applied by other people who have authority. It helps to know exactly the sort of power you are up against in these cases so you can identify the real problem .

Expert power

Anyone skilled in a particular technique holds a special kind of power. You might have expertise in partnering, driving, writing, finance or romance, or a general reputation for being a valuable friend. Any skills, knowledge or expertise in short supply such as health training, or the ability to handle family finances, are also sources of expert power and control. Expert power can also be connected to more personal qualities, strength, charm, height or physical fitness. It plays a major part in deciding who controls what in a relationship.

Seniority or referent power

A grandparent - in fact, any group elder (or someone who has been a member far longer than anyone else) is often consulted by those with less experience. The senior person is seen as a ‘point of reference’, allowing them to wield more power in addition to any other powers they  might have.

Shared power

In many adult relationships, more by friendly  agreement rather than negotiation, specific areas of power can be allocated to one person who might for example control the household budget. The other partner is given more power to settle disputes between children (‘ask your  father’). One organises household clean-ups the other holidays. By common agreement each person holds decision making power over other in some particular areas, but not all aspects.

To work well, this requires strong adult boundaries and high self esteem. If the selves get involved, shared power systems usually collapse.

Charismatic power and manipulation