Personal Empowerment: Staying Focused and in the Here and Now

The most powerful aspect of staying focused on the relevant issues and remaining in the here and now is that the spotlight become centered where it ought to be: on the deficient character and his or her problematic behavior.

This is the third article in a series devoted to empowering oneself in relationships with persons of deficient or disturbed character. Empowerment tools we’ve already discussed include accepting no excuses; judging actions instead of intentions; and insisting on simple, direct communication:

Another important rule to observe when dealing with those who might otherwise manipulate or take advantage of you is to stay focused on the behavior(s) of concern and in the here and now.

When you confront a person of deficient or disturbed character about a behavior of concern, they’re quite likely to use tactics of evasion or diversion. They’d like to change the subject, divert attention to someone or something else, go back in time, talk about the future, or in some other way get you off track. It’s so important to stay focused on the issue(s) at hand despite the other person’s best attempts to turn your attention otherwise. It’s also important to stay in the here and now as opposed to getting lost in discussions of past events or anticipated future actions.

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I once counseled a couple whose stated purpose was to try and heal some wounds over several instances of marital infidelity by the husband. During the session, the woman brought up that just before the session began, the husband received a phone call from a female with whom he was supposed to have severed ties. When she brought up the issue, he began complaining that she has never forgiven him for the past and began reciting a litany of past “accusations” and his attempts to reassure her that his behavior had changed. He used a variety of other tactics as well but the result was the same: in a few moments the issue initially at hand appeared off the table. The issue was that he entertained a call from a person with whom he was supposed to have severed all relations as a way of rebuilding trust.

In my work with persons in relationships with disturbed characters, I’ve seen many similar scenarios over the years. Inevitably, those who would otherwise confront their abusers and manipulators end up “lost” somewhere in the diversionary and other tactics and lose sight of the cycle of abuse being perpetuated in the here and now. Only when they focused on the dynamics in play at the moment and their own role in enabling those dynamics did things begin to change.

The most powerful aspect of staying focused on the relevant issues and remaining in the here and now is that the spotlight become centered where it ought to be: on the deficient character and his or her problematic behavior. Then, there is no running room. And, it becomes clearer whether the person has any real motivation to change. If, when duly confronted, the one-time abuser accepts ownership of the behavior in question, expresses genuine remorse for it, and demonstrates over time a willingness not only to repair the damage but to rebuild trust by displaying much different behavior, then you know there is some cause for hope. But none of this is possible unless you’re willing to remain focused on behaviors over which you are legitimately concerned and to stay in the here and now when confronting those whose behavior needs to change.

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 Greg Mulhauser, Managing Editor on .

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