This article discusses effective and ineffective ways of gaining personal power and how that search impacts those around us. Note: I suggest you read “The Victim Tyrant Cycle” as it includes important concepts used in this article (

Children who had “secure attachment” naturally gain personal power—their needs were met as a child (they felt loved and secure), so as adults, they don’t worry about how to gain safety in the world. They feel comfortable about themselves; they are calm and centered. They are confident but not arrogant. Arrogance involves the ego and is a sign of insecurity—one is fighting to prove worth/lovability/power. Secure attachment results when a mother fulfills a child’s needs (safety, love, autonomy, hunger, etc). Children who don’t have their needs filled (they aren’t held when they need it or put down when they want) have a harder time accessing security and personal power (Lewis, Amini, and Lannon, 2000). One way people try to fill themselves up when secure attachment has been lacking is to prove they are worthy by doing things. They fight to be loveable and cared for and try to accomplish things in an effort to fill up and feel their personal power. When one has not felt secure attachment, it is also common to think that we need others to fill us up. Our relationships become a continual cycle of feeling let down because others don’t give us what we need, and then trying to prove we are worthy. Because we are in the fight to get love, we are stuck in the victim tyrant cycle.

If we assume that we need others in order to be strong or get love, and that others need us to help them feel love, our thinking is faulty. Healing doesn’t happen that way when we are adults. We must learn to fill up ourselves and then connect to others. When we are adults, it is too late to have others give us this secure attachment, and the attempt to get it is the result of an old pattern created in childhood in which we are stuck. Trying to get filled up just keeps us forever stuck in that pattern. The way out is to find the child inside that is so wounded, and have our adult provide secure attachment. Give her what parents couldn’t. Adopt the caring adult who can be strong and protect the scared part of us. When she learns to fill up this way, then she knows that we always have access to love; we just need to take the time to feel what is already there as opposed to fighting to get it. Then we have stepped out of the cycle and are in our personal power.

Bonding involves trying to sooth or take away the other’s pain by saying things like, “I am sorry you have this pain; it’s a terrible thing” and it often involves touching, hugging or holding while the person is feeling emotional. Trying to bond with others when we see them struggling interferes with their ability to contain their issues and work them through. This encourages others to be victims rather than stepping out of the cycle to be strong and fill themselves up with love. We learn to be strong by feeling our pain fully and understanding the impact that pain has on us, and then soothing ourselves. If we think we have to have other’s support or love to be strong, we are staying in a child/victim role. Using others to feel strong means we are still being a victim.

Bonding with others when they are having difficulty splits a system and makes it difficult for the leader to do her work. It diminishes the leader’s power in attempt to give yourself and others power. It is called “rescuing” in the therapy world and “splitting the group” (a form of group triangulation) in the group dynamics world. It is a passive aggressive way of fighting the tyrant, which ends in a power struggle that weakens the leader and entrenches the system further in the victim tyrant cycle—the victim is engaged in a fight (sometimes even disguised as love) to gain power so the cycle continues.

We don’t get personal power by bonding with others or taking it away from a leader.
We cannot take away other’s pain (though we may delay it by bonding with them); we cannot give personal power to others; we can only get it by doing our own work and giving ourselves secure attachment; and others get it by doing the same. Learning to stand in our pain, feel it and sooth ourselves is how we develop personal power. Everyone, including the leader, needs to do his or her own work. Our job is not to help others feel better or find their power by bonding with them. Doing so only keeps people feeling like a victim and gets them (and us) stuck. We can support others by witnessing.

People need to understand their pain and it’s impact in their life—where did it come from and how has it created a pattern that governs behavior? This is a part of the healing process. When we bond with others around their pain, trying to relieve their pain we are “rescuing,” and we interfere in them learning to carry & deal with their issues. If we bond when someone is feeling pain, we are giving the message that they need help, that they are a victim, and that the pain shouldn’t be there. Thus we are indirectly judging & blaming those who put the pain there, which means we are subtly blaming and thus stuck in the victim/tyrant cycle, which doesn’t change anything—it just keeps a fight going.

Some assumptions about effective leadership/membership:
• If you have a problem with something a leader is doing, go to the leader and deal directly with them. If you go to others to discuss the issues, it is triangulation and it splits the group. Splitting the group gets it stuck.
• If you feel sorry for others and what they are going through, don’t bond with those you believe are having trouble (that is rescuing); work on what makes the pain difficult for you. Don’t try to diminish other’s pain (or yours) by bonding. Bonding doesn’t help anyone and it gets a group stuck in the victim tyrant cycle. Others need to find their own way through their pain. This means you have to be aware of your patterns and if you are bonding to fill up, realize you are being a victim and step out of that cycle.
• Bonding is a mother’s job, not a leader’s, group member’s or therapist’s job. Once we are adults, it is too late to have this form of love help or heal another. Sooth yourself. Wanting others to fill us up keeps us forever stuck as the victim and by bonding you encourage others to be victims.
• If you do anything for another when they are in pain, witness, listen, be present and perhaps ask what is their experience; what are the feelings and what are the sensations of those feelings? Do not encourage acting on the feelings.
• Be brave enough to confront your issues and the leader and to bear another’s pain.
• And finally, remember that, compassion without honesty is not compassionate, it is avoidance of your own discomfort.


Lewis, Thomas, M.D., Amini, Fari, M.D., & Lannon, Richard, M.D., A General Theory of Love, New York, Random House, 2000

Author's Bio: 

Julie Roberts, Ph.D.
Julie Roberts lives in Pennsylvania one hour west of Philadelphia. She consults with groups, individuals and children to help them move into their full potential. She specializes in personal and professional change so individuals overcome obstacles to productivity. She utilizes energy psychology, muscle testing, counseling, and Family Constellation work to help individuals clear the blocks in their life. She conducts workshops that improve leadership skills, teaches CLEAR®, and guides individuals through a healing change process. She has taught CLEAR in Russia and Nigeria and she is certified by the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology (ACEP).