Power Struggles

We are now through the second meso-cycle, a mini strength cycle that was intended to end in a competition in Charlotte, my weight is down some, body fat is down 7% from the last time we measured, and my strength hasn’t moved. Like most of life, last month’s effort has brought mixed results and mixed emotions. I’m on the road for a week, visiting family and friends before starting a new job, sliding workouts between day-long driving marathons and being with people I don’t see often. In my bag is Yalom’s book, The Gift of Therapy.

Last night I was reading a vignette on pp 58 – 61 in the paperback edition. Yalom describes an interaction with a patient to illustrate how to work with the process of the therapeutic relationship to draw out themes from “back home” relationships and issues. The patient’s frame equated improvement with losing, she would lose and Yalom would win, and being positive about and in the relationship with vulnerability. She was critical and negative as a protective mechanism. Yalom’s curiosity about the roots of the power struggle kill it. Yalom’s text convicted me. In my own past, I’ve used power struggles to assure myself of the other person’s ability to take care of me. What’s the lesson?

July and August have been awful. There has been no training routine and I’m not lifting well in the new gym even though my anxiety has been slowly declining for a couple of weeks. How has that shown up in training? I’m regularly 15 minutes late for appointments, less aggressive with effort, afraid of engaging with soreness and discomfort, generally more negative and a pain in the ass to be around. This is a power struggle and my coach hates power struggles. To cure my struggle, it is essential I be honest with myself about the root of the struggle. If I allow myself to be positive and enthusiastic about this relationship and even about my own improvement, I leave myself vulnerable to a loss. I will lose. Yalom’s patient said she could feel the sharks circling.

According to Merriam-Webster, loss has six definitions. Number 4a is

failure to gain, win, obtain, or utilize – loss of a game

and 2b is

the harm or privation resulting from loss or separation – bore up bravely under the loss of both parents

My natural language is that of a game, of the power struggle, and it would be easy for a coach to stop at this level and attempt to win. He could call me out for being late, reduce or cancel my workout time, push through all my resistance, show me I can do more, call out my complaining, or even let it all go. The subtext is the “harm or privation resulting from loss or separation” and this is where we have to go. I feel vulnerable to the loss of a valuable ally and the uncertainty is affecting my training and our relationship. I am retreating behind a wall of power struggle. This wasn’t an efficient communication strategy when I was four, and it certainly isn’t helping now.

The difficult-difficult task is to say out loud “I am scared, I have been rude,” give him a case of San Pellegrino sparkling water to make amends for breaking social norms, and have a conversation about how I feel and what I need.

 

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