Psychological Self-Help

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A good relationship grants behavioral freedoms—Does your partner reduce
your freedom? Examples: Does he/she criticize your religious beliefs or activities?
Does he/she prefer that you not express some of your opinions in public? Does
he/she influence you choice of friends? Does he/she express (subtly or bluntly) what
you should wear, where you work, who you see? Does he/she discourage you from
doing certain new things? 
A good relationship allows lots of interpersonal freedoms—Does your
partner discourage you or play down your successes? Does he/she dismiss or ridicule
your strengths? Does he/she make you feel dumb or unattractive? Does he/she
cause you to feel less important than himself/herself? Does he/she disapprove your
life goals? Does he/she seem to like it when you are insecure or don’t do well? Does
he/she tend to avoid sharing intimate thoughts or resolving problems? Does he/she
talk about having sex as though it centers around him/her satisfaction? Does he/she
arrange the house, the food, the thermostat, the bed to please him/her?
A good relationship allows existential freedoms so both guide their own
lives—Does your partner disapprove your taking on responsibilities, going into debt,
working late? Does he/she discourage your spending time with hobbies, your reading
material, and volunteer work? Does he/she resent you having your own free time?
Does he/she seem grumpy when you don’t feel well or want help doing some chores?
A good relationship avoids manipulation, subtle pressuring or threats,
blatant bargaining, deceit, coercion, intimidation, putting down and other
controls. Do you and your partner grant each other about the same degree of
freedom? Does he/she agree? Does he/she realize the freedoms you would like to
increase? Do you know his/her wants? Does he/she protect his/her freedoms more
vigorously than you do? Why? Can both of you share those wants? Do you want to
negotiate these matters with him/her? Can you get your freedoms without unduly
encroaching on his/her freedoms? Would you like to work on these issues with a
The closest Berg-Cross comes to giving self-help advice (beyond the questions
above) is when she describes four methods for preventing psychological abuse: (1)
Accept the separateness of both parties in an intimate relationship, although there is
a tendency to “become one.” When we get too tight or have been together a long
time, we tend to forget our partner’s freedoms and when he/she decides to seek
more freedoms it may seem like a “breach of contract.” We take them for granted.
Be aware of this and avoid being too controlling. (2) Be aware of the defense
mechanism of projection, e.g. if you have some urges to build a relationship with
another attractive person, instead of becoming uncomfortably aware of your own
temptations, you might start worrying that your partner is “looking.” Other traits and
needs can be projected by you to your significant other, such as carelessness with
money, lack of organization, procrastination, and so on. (3) Learn as much as you
can about changing yourself. Keep a close watch on your most important
relationships, then start early and work hard to correct any problems, especially
psychological or emotional abuse. This kind of abuse is not always easy to recognize;
we can always deny our inner thoughts and motivations. In contrast, serious physical
abuse is undeniable by the perpetrators and often visible to everyone. (4) There is so
much anger and unhappiness in the world, which often comes from our early family
lives. By confronting the current psychological abuse in your life, you are taking a
small step towards improving your part of the world and the future.
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