Step 1 ‘Who are you?’

I will attempt to explore all the avenues open to me in order to help you to uncover who you really are. I have often asked myself, ‘when did the change take place?’ I really can’t remember changing from a confident, articulate, independent person to a servile, frightened, inadequate, neurotic person. Perhaps you feel the same way? Or perhaps you have never changed and have always been the way you are now. If this suits you and you are happy then read no further. The burning questions to ask yourself is, ‘are you happy being who you are now?’ Let’s begin to explore who you are.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help you:

• Are you confident?
• Are you courageous?
• Are you over compromising most of the time?
• Are you in a healthy emotional relationship?
• Are you able to speak your mind?
• Are you experiencing intimidation?
• Are you being ignored?
• Are you fulfilled?
• Are you always putting other people’s needs before your own?
• Are you scared?

These are only some ideas to assist you in exploring how you became the person you are today. Let us now explore each of the above questions.

Are you confident?
People who have developed a new persona in order to camouflage who they really are and what they really think, do this so that the camouflage they have created can act as barrier to avoid being hurt, intimidated and rejected. Everyone reading this book could, in all probability, do with a little more confidence. Confidence incorporates self-awareness, body language, emotions (thoughts and feelings), strengths, self-belief.
Here are some examples of questions that will help you define if you are confident?
• Can you walk into a room alone and feel comfortable?
• Can you make small talk and network with new people?
• Can you relax in unfamiliar surroundings?
• Can you handle your emotions?
• Can you confront someone (your partner) should you need to?
• Can you take the lead as part of a team?
• Can you speak in front of a group of people?
• Is your body language that of someone who is confident?
• Are you proud of your accomplishments?
• Do you take everything to heart?
This list is exhaustive so please make your own list so that you can easily define if you are confident or unconfident? If you have answered no to most of these questions, perhaps you should identify how having more confidence could be good for you. In order to tackle this exercise I suggest that you make a list of three areas that would benefit and have a good impact on your life.
Here are some examples:
• More confident in my relationship with my partner
• More confident in myself
• More confident in acknowledging my instinct and perception
When you have completed this exercise ask yourself the following questions:
• In which way would more confidence help me with these three statements?
• Why am I unable to be more confident in these areas now?
• What do I need to do in order to gain confidence in these areas?
Tools to get you started in gaining confidence in these three areas of your life:
You already have the power, energy and tools to enable you to carry out this exercise. I know you have the power because everyone has power within themselves but some people don’t look inside themselves and trust their instincts enough to own their power and take action. I know you have the energy that you will need to drive you to gaining more confidence because you have decided to buy and read this book. I know you have the tools because you have managed to get this far in your life by some method or strategy that you have adopted. Why don’t you make a list of your strengths and weaknesses? This will be helpful for you to see for yourself that you have power in some areas of your life and less power in other areas of your life.
Here are some examples of strengths to help you find your own:
• You are caring
• You are helpful
• You are a good listener
• You are non-judgmental
• You are generous
• You are tolerant
• You have a good sense of humor
• You are a good communicator
• You are able to compromise
• You are decisive
• You are patient?
These are only some strengths. Please make your own list.
Remember, you all carry excess baggage around with you everyday. If you were going on a holiday you would only pack the necessary items that you need for your trip wouldn’t you? First of all you would make a list of all the items you need and would cross out unnecessary stuff so that you wouldn’t carry excess baggage that you would have to pay extra for at the airport. Why not apply this analogy in your life? Only take with you on your life’s journey what you need and discard those things that you don’t need anymore. I am sure that every so often you will de-clutter your home of unnecessary stuff. You throw away stuff that is no longer useful to you (or you take the stuff to a thrift shop). The stuff you get rid of is worn out, old fashioned, too big for you, too small for you, etc. When this task is completed, don’t you feel lighter and less weighed down than before you de-cluttered? Be circumspect and strict with yourself. Only think of what you need to take with you to learn to be more confident. Recognise the skills you have already acquired on your life’s journey and make a conscious effort to put these skills into action. Concentrate on your strengths and own them.
Body Language
Good posture and body language is important because it is the first thing someone sees when they meet you. Before you speak you will be judged by the way you stand, sit, your facial expressions, eye contact, hand gestures, etc. All these actions help people to form an opinion of you before they even speak to you.
You are observing and absorbing people’s body language all the time on a subconscious level. Even though you might not have recognised or accepted that you are doing this, it is a fact nonetheless. Take time out to look at your own body language.
Here are some examples to help you with this exercise:
• Do you sit upright?
• Do you slouch?
• Do you hunch your shoulders?
• Do you fidget?
• Do you fold your arms across your chest?
• Do you look someone in the eye when you speak to them?
• Do you look sad?
• Do you look tense?
• Do you look aloof (unapproachable)
If you try and relax your facial muscles you will look less tense and you will feel better. The one thing you can do which will endear and attract people to you is to smile. Do you smile often enough? If you smile at someone you will come across as warm, friendly and confident, even if your smile is a fake one. The saying, ‘act confident and you will become confident’ is true. Try it.
Eye Contact
Your eyes are the windows of your soul. It is very important to look at someone directly in the eyes if they are speaking to you. You eyes will provide clues to your emotions. For instance if you pointedly stare at someone this could be viewed either as aggressive (wilful stare) or romantic (a dreamy stare). If you hardly ever give good eye contact this will be interpreted as you being shy, showing a lack of interest, or superiority over the person who is talking to you. In order to be courteous and to appear confident it is important to have steady eye contact. If you are one of a group you should make sure that you make eye contact with each individual when you are speaking to them. Make eye contact with each person in the group and you will be listened to. Looking at each person will tell them that you are respecting each of them. If you avert your eyes this will be interpreted as you being nervous, trying to avoid answering a question or not interested in the speaker.
Your thoughts are the triggers to your emotions and are visible through your eye contact. Negative thoughts make you feel anxious and unconfident. Positive thoughts can make you feel happier, relaxed and confident.
Hand gestures
Next to your eye contact, your hand gestures can give away a lot about you. Hands can be very expressive and they are good tool to use. An open palm, face up wide hand gesture will give the impression that you are honest and not hiding anything. Moving your hands closer together will emphasise what you are saying. Care should be taken not to indulge in too many hand movements as the non verbal communication that this implies is that you are nervous, anxious and have no self control. Care should be taken with hand movements because your hands are the outside reflection of the person you are inside. If you wring your hands you will give a clear indication that you are tense, nervous and dishonest.
Body Posture
Your body language is a real give away. The way you hold yourself makes a big statement about your personality and character. If you slightly lean your body toward someone who is speaking to you, you will be showing that you are attentive and listening to what they are saying. On the other hand if you lean backwards you are showing a lack of interest. If you are unconfident, you will avoid eye contact and look downwards to avoid drawing any attention to you. It is therefore important to practice a relaxed body posture to appear comfortable and confident. A note to remember is that too much control of your body language can look contrived and fake.
It is hard to appear confident if you are lacking in motivation and interest in the discussion. Most people are good at identifying when someone lacks enthusiasm and is disinterested during a discussion. When this happens the conversation will be flat and will be void of energy and power. However, when you are passionate about a topic you will be motivated, lively and energetic and this will definitely come across during the conversation. Energy, passion, power and enthusiasm attract other people to you who are similar. Try this exercise. Write down a 100 words on selling yourself to a prospective employer.
When you have done this, read it out aloud in front of a mirror and ask yourself the following questions. (You could do this exercise with a partner or friend)
• Was the language you used positive? (did you use the words good, high standard, comfortable, knowledgeable, etc)
• Was the language you used negative? (did you use the words fair, mediocre, adequate, average)
• Did you look straight into your eyes?
• Is your body language upright and your shoulders relaxed?
• Did you smile?
• Did you make a good impression?
This exercise is a difficult one but try to overcome your embarrassment. Practice this exercise in order for you to clearly see how you come across to other people. The point of this exercise is to create and develop a new, positive way of being perceived by others.
Are you courageous?
Wikipedia: ‘Courage (fortitude) is the ability to confront fear, pain, danger, uncertainty or intimidation. There is physical courage (in the face of physical pain, hardship and a threat of death and moral courage in the face of shame, scandal and discouragement’.
If you imagine courage to be like a muscle, the more you exercise it, the stronger it will get. Everyone is courageous on some level. What identifies you as being courageous?
Here are some examples:
• Not afraid to face your fears
• Not afraid to try things out
• Not afraid to stand up for what you believe is right
Courage is being able to confront your fears and work through them to a positive outcome. Courage isn’t just a one off act, it is way of life. Courage is having the ability to not give in and give up. Courage is having a belief in yourself even though the odds are stacked against you. To be courageous is to have the ability to admit your mistakes and learn from them. We are all afraid some of the time.
Below are some examples of things you can say to yourself to step out and be courageous:
• I am calm and in control
• I refuse to be afraid
• I can say ‘no’
• I am happy with who I am
• I know what I am doing is right
Repeating these five lines (mantra) will have a positive effect on how you think and feel. In order to be courageous it is wise to be brave on small issues at first. Take baby steps and build up to bigger steps. Courage is not something you get automatically or is handed down to you from your role models. Courage comes to people who dare to try in the face of failure. Courage becomes a habit and a tool that you can use to forge ahead in whatever area you want to. Courage is only really recognised as such when someone does something particularly significant or battles courageously with a debilitating disease. Ordinary, everyday life requires a dose of courage to cope with the difficult situations that will crop up for us all.
Here are some examples of where you use ‘ordinary courage:’
• Going for a job interview
• Speaking up for yourself in a relationship
Learning to drive a car
• Doing anything that you are afraid of doing
• Having a baby
• Being a mother
• Being a father
• Taking on a mortgage
• Having a credit card
• Talking with your child’s teacher/lecturer
All these things require a modicum of courage. It is important to identify ‘ordinary courage’ for you to understand that you are already courageous.
Are you over compromising most of the time?
What is a compromise?
To compromise is a process that occurs in order to find a mutually beneficial conclusion to a conflict or disagreement. Compromise requires two people (or more) to give up something that they want in order to move on.
For the majority of you reading this book, the answer will be ‘yes’. These are some of the reasons you will over compromise:
• You will over compromise to avoid confrontation
• You will over compromise to have peace reign in the household
• You will over compromise to fit in
• You will over compromise to stay the same
• You will over compromise to be liked and loved
These are only some of the reasons that you will over compromise. Your list might be different.
Here are some examples of the disadvantages of over compromising in a relationship:
• You will feel powerless
• You will feel ignored
• You will feel controlled
• You will feel unhappy
• You will only feel satisfied for a short time
• Small compromises will expand to bigger compromises
• You will feel overshadowed
This list will be different to your list. Please make your own list to identify how many things you are over compromising over. Unfortunately you need to be courageous in order to be heard and get your own way and if you are in a controlling relationship this will be very difficult to achieve and overcome. It can be done, however, but start doing so very slowly over issues that are relatively unimportant and not close to your partner’s heart. You can tackle the bigger issues when you have gained experience and have had some small success.
Here are some examples on how to stop over compromising:
• Use assertive language (not aggressive language)
• Show your partner that you are listening to what he/she is saying and repeat back to them how you are hearing what is being said
• Don’t throw things up to your partner that has been said or done in the past
• Don’t resort to name calling
• Don’t play on your partner’s weaknesses or sensitive feelings
• If your partner’s suggestion is better than yours be prepared to admit and accept this
• Stay in the here and now and stop yourself remembering past mistakes
Are you in a healthy emotional relationship?
Let us take a look at the ingredients for a healthy emotional relationship
Here are some examples:
• A healthy relationship requires a couple to have mutual respect for each other
• A healthy relationship requires a couple to trust one another
• A health relationship requires a couple to be honest with one another
• A healthy relationship requires good communication skills
• A healthy relationship requires a good support system between a couple
• A healthy relationship is equal
• A healthy relationship is one where you are not afraid to speak up
• A healthy relationship is being able to be independent as well as part of a couple
• In a healthy relationship there is no control over each other
Are you in an unhealthy emotional relationship?
Here are some examples of an unhealthy emotional relationship
• In an unhealthy relationship there is little or no mutual respect for each other
• In an unhealthy relationship there is no good communication
• In an unhealthy relationship there is no honesty between a couple
• In an unhealthy relationship there is no equality
• In an unhealthy relationship there is no trust with each other
• In an unhealthy relationship you cannot be you
• In an unhealthy relationship there is no support system
• In an unhealthy relationship you are afraid to speak up for yourself
• In an unhealthy relationship there is no physical or emotional violence
• In an unhealthy relationship one partner controls the other
In a healthy emotional relationship you are acting and re-acting from the role of the adult you have become and not acting and reacting from the child you once were. In order to interact appropriately you must lay to rest your old negative repeating habits of from your early learning experiences. The mistakes made in unhealthy relationships is that your reactions come from your old hurt and pain of the past and instinctively your response to new situations in the here and now still comes from the way you have acted and reacted back then and there. You will be unable to have a healthy emotional relationship if you continue to behave in this way. Behaving in this way identifies that you are not capable of responding appropriately to what is happening in the here and now. You must remember that responding from your childhood scars of hurt and pain has no relation to the adult situation you are in as an adult.
Are you able to speak your mind?
To be able to speak your mind in an intimate relationship affords you the freedom to indulge in honest, trusting conversation. Most of the people I have counseled were not in the type of partnership that allowed them to speak freely. When you enter into a personal, intimate relationship with someone you want to be all that your new partner wants you to be. On an unconscious level this is the beginning of the process you undertake and the onset of putting barriers up by developing an extra skin. The reason this is done is because you want to accommodate your new lover in every possible way. It is done for, what you believe, are good reasons at the time so that the relationship can go deeper to a more intimate, committed level. Unfortunately by taking this first step you are, in effect, admitting to yourself albeit subconsciously, that you need to change your behavior in order to be accepted by your new love. If you had already learned to listen to your instinct and to stop fooling yourself, in all probability you would have recognized that the relationship with your new love was already being built on shifting ground. When you fall in love with someone, I think something happens to your brain and reasoning powers that completely obliterate any warning signs or caution that instinct throws at you. You fall into the trap of always saying ‘yes’ when you mean ‘no’. This is a treadmill you are designing for yourself that can have disastrous consequences for your future with your partner. I am going to suggest you try the following exercise on your own as a practice for changing your responses to your partner.
‘Sit in a comfortable chair and close your eyes. Think of a script that you and your partner discuss frequently with no positive result. A script that clearly shows that you agree with your partner when you know you want to and should disagree’. Now, re-run the script, but change your response to your partner by disagreeing with your partner. How do you feel? Are you anxious? Are you beginning to panic? Open your eyes and write down the feelings that are running through your mind and body. One of the main reasons that you continue to agree when you should disagree with your partner is that you are scared of your partner’s reaction. You should begin to accept and learn that it’s often the case that people treat us as we feel we deserve to be treated. What this means is that if you believe you are worthless and stupid other people will view you the same way and will treat you accordingly. In order to change your partner’s response you first of all need to accept yourself and value yourself for the caring sensitive, understanding person you really are inside. The person you have managed to hide under all those layers of camouflaged skin you have protected yourself with. There is no living without daring and courage is required to change from being a pathetic neurotic reactionary to a strong independent person with ideas and knowledge to impart. Start this process very slowly and practice beforehand so that your reaction will appear spontaneous. If you disagree with something your partner is suggesting, you could reply by saying that you need time to think the suggestion through and that you will let him/her know as soon as you have done this. Alternatively you could reply by saying that the suggestion is a good one but that you should both talk this suggestion through so that you both fully understand the situation to avoid taking a step in a direction that could cause conflict. If you do this in a calm, non-confrontational manner you might be surprised at your partner’s reaction. Remember that disagreeing with your partner doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t think his/her suggestion is a bad one. Another way to respond it to put forward your own suggestion (one that you have already thought out prior to the discussion) and see what your partner’s response is to that idea. Changing the way you respond to your partner should be, and is, a very slow process. Don’t give up continue to make small and seemingly inconsequential changes in your response to your partner.
Are you experiencing intimidation?
‘Intimidation is an attempt to frighten or overawe by speaking or acting in a dominating manner, often with the goal of making a person or people do what the intimidator wants’.
To intimidate your partner is to:
• Use force to get what you want from someone
• Making your partner feel you have power over them
• Use any type of behavior to make your partner stay in line
• Use body language to frighten your partner into submission
• Use any means to show that you are right
• Keep people loyal to you by using threats
• Use autocratic, authoritative behavior to get your partner to do what you want
• Use punishments to get what you want
Intimidation is a control issue because it:
• Gets people to do what you want them to do
• Uses anger to have power over someone to do something because they fear you
Being intimidated and using power will weaken your partner who will feel beaten down and abused.
Here are some examples of how to stop your partner intimidating you

• Learn to value yourself and decide to expect to be treated with respect
• Understand that any change in your behaviour will have consequences and accept that you will stick to your plan to stop the intimidation continuing
• Learn to spot the negative intimidating behaviour and decide not to respond and instead turn the negativity into a positive force for you
• Develop a reservoir of responses that are different from your present acquiescing responses
• Decide to take back the power of your own life

Are you being ignored?

If you are the victim of intimidation and being ignored you are being emotionally abused.

Here are some examples:

• If you are ridiculed in private or in public
• If you are insulted in private or in public
• If you partner regularly rejects
• If your partner humiliates you in private or in public
• If your partner withdraws affection
• If your partner regularly threatens to leave you or asked you to leave
• If your partner withholds money from you
• If your partner controls all the finances
• If your partner constantly criticises you
• If your partner punishes you
• If your partner manipulates you

Being ignored by your partner is a dreadful experience. You will feel as if you are nothing. Your confidence will be destroyed and you self esteem with vanish. Being ignored is a non-verbal way of rejecting you and tells you that you are being tolerated. In order to stop your partner ignoring you there are changes that you will have to make in your thinking and behaviour.

Do you feel fulfilled?

• When you think of your life and your partner do you smile?
• Do you look forward to spending time with your partner?
• Do you feel part of a team?
• Does your partner encourage you to take part in activities that you are interested in?
• Does your partner support you doing your own thing without reprisals?
• Is your relationship with your partner on equal ground?

The above is a gauge to help you ascertain whether or not you feel fulfilled in your relationship. I am sure you can add or subtract from this list. Everyone’s idea of a fulfilling relationship will be different.

Here are examples of some of the things most people expect in a fulfilling relationship:

• To be loved
• To have intimacy and sexual satisfaction
• To experience good communication
• To have loyalty and commitment
• To have equality and respect
• To be compatible
• To enjoy companionship

Do you put your partner’s needs before your own?

Identifying your Emotional Needs
Here is a list of emotional needs, tick the ones that are important to you:

approved of
clear (not confused)
forgiving free
in control
listened to
noticed productive / useful
safe / secure
treated fairly

The above example is from: ‘’Emotional Intelligence home page’

If you cannot identify that you are experiencing some of the above then you have unmet emotional needs.
Here are some examples of how you compensate for your unmet needs:
• By managing your partner
• By controlling your partner
• By manipulating your partner
• By feeling superior to your partner
• By competing with your partner on all levels
All of the above are ways of making it look that you are fulfilled and worthy. This method is successful to fill some of your needs but it is not satisfactory. This method of coping is basically emotionally unhealthy. When you use any of the above methods of interacting you are denying yourself of the basic emotional needs that are the cornerstone of a personal relationship.
Are you scared?
What are you scared of?
Here are some examples:
• You are scared that your partner will leave you
• You are scared that your partner will stop loving you
• You are scared of confronting your partner
• You are scared of displeasing your partner
• You are scared of your partner’s anger/hostility/humiliating/intimidating/ignoring methods
• You are scared that if you don’t comply with your partner’s demands that he/she will take it out on the children
• You are scared that you will be left without money for housekeeping
Etc, etc.
Woman’s perspective
Living in fear comes about from past history of negative experience in intimate relationships. A woman’s fears should be addressed by her partner. He should love her enough to help her accept that she is being loved for who she is. He should provide emotional security so as to eliminate her fears.
Man’s perspective
If you are a man reading this book and you can identify that your partner is scared of you and you want to make the relationship better. You should communicate your intention to your partner and make it easy for your partner to trust you. If there is fear in a relationship there is no trust or honesty. In order to regain trust and honesty you need to show through your actions that you are prepared to put your partner first and that you do care about her happiness. Next you should let her know that you are listening to her point of view and not just making a token gesture. Don’t expect too much too soon. Adopt a calm, controlled, amicable persona in order to convey to her that you are being considerate of her fears and feelings. Should you get something wrong or make a mistake, be ready to apologize and admit your error. In all your conversations with your partner be clear and concise about what you want.

Author's Bio: 

'Lynda Bevan lives in a picturesque village in South Wales, United Kingdom. She is 60 years
of age, married for the third time, with three (adult) children. During her teens and early twenties she pursued and enjoyed acting and taught at local Youth Centres.

Her 20 year career has involved working, in the area of mental health, with the two major care agencies in the UK, Social Services and the National Health Service.

After the birth of her third child, and with her second marriage ending, she became employed by Social Services and climbed through the ranks to senior management level with some speed.

During her career with Social Services she developed a passion for counselling and psychotherapy and worked extensively with mental health patients, within the organisation, setting up counselling projects in the Primary |Health-care Setting to tackle the issue of doctors who referred patients, inappropriately, to Psychiatric Hospitals for therapy for events that arise in normal everyday life, i.e. divorce, anxiety, depression, bereavement, stress, loss of role. It was during this time that she became involved in marital/relationship counselling and, coincidentally, was experiencing difficulties within her own relationship. The experience of working in this environment, and her own relationship issues, enabled Lynda to be innovative; creating methods of coping and developing strategies that enabled her and, consequently, patients to live within their difficult relationships. These strategies were devised and offered to patients who had clearly identified that they did not want to separate or proceed with the divorce process.

After taking early retirement from Social Services, she became employed by the National Health Service, as a Counsellor in the Primary Health-Care Setting. During this 10 year period in her career she began using the strategies, she had developed, with patients who were referred for relationship counselling and who did not want to end their partnership/marriage. This strategy (10 step guide) has been used extensively over a 10 year period with impressive results.

Lynda has lectured on the PGCE Course at Swansea Business Institute teaching counselling skills to post-graduate students. She has also run workshops on self-development and psychodrama at Swansea University.

Lynda is presently employed as a Manager of a charity that provides services and supports people who are HIV positive or who have AIDS. She is also the Resident Relationship Counsellor on Swansea Sound Radio.