When we hear words like “molester” and “abuser,” we typically think of sexual or brutal physical attacks. In a very broad sense, however, the psychological dynamics that underlie the molester’s and abuser’s actions can also come into play in everyday relationships. When they do, the relationship is probably doomed to become a source of discomfort for all involved.
What we’re suggesting is that some of the dynamics of the molester — insecurity, immaturity, narcissism, anxiety, fear of competition and losing that competition — are at work in many everyday relationships that are in trouble.
Think about your relationships that are causing you stress and anxiety. The problem could be with a friend, co-worker, spouse, parent, child, or whomever. As a first step in helping you begin to confront the coping challenge and find actions that might help you move toward a resolution of the conflict, ask yourself some specific questions. As always, focus on the issue and keep your questions within the boundaries of, “What parts of this situation are under my control?”
The most fundamental questions are, “Am I able to maintain my individuality, my sense of self, in my relationships with others? Can I share, cooperate, compromise, respect those who disagree with me, and even admit I’m wrong, but through it all remain myself? Am I secure in my own skin?” These are tough questions requiring some honest self-assessment. The premise, however, says if you want a truly meaningful relationship, you must be pretty firm in your sense of self.
Here are some other penetrating questions: “Do I subjugate myself to his/her will, or do I feel compelled to assert power and dominance? Do I feel in competition with him/her? Do I feel I will lose the competition? Does (s)he arouse anxiety and insecurities in me? Am I behaving in childish ways?” (If you can’t relate to “childish” simply ask yourself if you deal with the person like you’re on the playground during recess in the third grade!)
Asking such questions in the context of a specific relationship can lead you to broader questions: “In general, can I work with others as someone who is stable and self-assured, or do I look for relationships to compensate for my weaknesses, insecurities, and dependency needs? Do I constantly look for attention and approval from others? Do I suffocate them with demands, possessiveness, and jealousy, trying to make them meet my wants and needs? Do I deny responsibility for problems in a relationship, and simply see others as objects to manipulate for my self-glorification?”
Is that you? Do you see others as opponents to defeat and belittle so you can declare yourself dominant? Do you regularly and hypocritically cast blame on others while never considering your own role in causing problems?
These are important questions because you’re basically asking yourself, “Do I socially and emotionally molest others? Are my relationships mostly about me?” If you’re honest with yourself you can greatly improve your self-understanding, your coping skills, and the quality of your interactions by working to minimize yourself as the primary focus. In other words, some self-analysis, even if you don’t like what you see, is well worth the effort. An honest analysis will help you modify your actions by removing yourself as the primary ingredient in your relationship recipe.