The Secrets of Personal Empowerment: Applying Psychology to Avoid Letting Others Take Advantage of You

When someone engages in a behavior that’s a problem, the reason they do it is irrelevant. If we try too hard to “understand” the behavior, before long we’ll find ourselves excusing it and eventually enabling it.

I’ve recently completed a series of articles on the types of behavior frequently displayed by persons with disturbed characters. Those behaviors interfere with the process of healthy socialization and also frequently serve as mechanisms to manipulate and impression-manage others. (See “Understanding the Dysfunctional Tactics of Disturbed Characters”.)

In a new series of articles, we’ll be discussing the keys to empowering oneself not only in relationships with disturbed characters, but in all social interactions. The principal secrets of personal empowerment are twofold:

  • recognizing the pitfalls of traditionally-accepted explanations for why people do the things they do, and
  • adopting a new framework for understanding the underpinnings of behavior — especially the behavior of individuals of deficient or disturbed character.

Once the main principals are grasped, there are specific methods or “tools” a person can employ to keep from being taken advantage of in relationships with unscrupulous characters. Several articles to come will take a look at each of these “tools of empowerment” and how to apply them in everyday situations.

In previous articles, I’ve mentioned how one of the most problematic legacies of traditional psychology is the notion that people’s behavior is motivated most of the time by their fears and insecurities and that they are not often consciously aware of their emotional “issues.” Most of us are familiar with the tenets of traditional psychology. So, when somebody does something unnerving we almost always try to understand it by asking ourselves what need, fear, or insecurity underlies it. Worst of all, often the leap is made from “understanding” the behavior to inadvertently excusing it or “enabling” it.

The single most important empowerment tool is to “accept no excuses” for hurtful, harmful, or inappropriate behavior. Once a person stops trying to explain or understand a behavior and simply sets a limit to no no longer accept it, everything begins to change. Learning to correctly identify and label the various problem behaviors that disturbed characters frequently display as well as learning how to respond to those behaviors is equally empowering.

So, we begin the process of empowerment by accepting no excuses. When someone engages in a behavior that’s a problem, the reason they do it is irrelevant. If we try too hard to “understand” the behavior, before long we’ll find ourselves excusing it and eventually enabling it. If a behavior is wrong, it needs to be corrected, purely and simply. And we need to hold one another accountable. It’s the only way to stem the stunningly rising tide of character disturbance in our culture. We complete the process of empowerment by learning how to conduct ourselves in a wide variety of situations in which persons of deficient or disturbed characters may throw a host of problem behaviors at us. By recognizing their tactics, labeling them correctly, responding to them effectively, and holding the disturbed character accountable for change, anyone can learn the secrets of not being taken advantage of or exploited.

Accepting no excuses is the first and cardinal rule, but there are many others. We’ll explore them all in upcoming posts.

All clinical material on this site is peer reviewed by one or more clinical psychologists or other qualified mental health professionals. This specific article was originally published by on and was last reviewed or updated by Dr George Simon, PhD on .

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