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Your Sense of Agency: Are You in Control of Your Life?

What do you bring to your relationship?

Your ability to take action, be effective, influence your own life, and assume responsibility for your behavior are important elements in what you bring to a relationship. This sense of agency is essential for you to feel in control of your life: to believe in your capacity to influence your own thoughts and behavior, and have faith in your ability to handle a wide range of tasks or situations. Having a sense of agency influences your stability as a separate person; it is your capacity to be psychologically stable, yet resilient or flexible, in the face of conflict or change.

As a white knight, there are various ways in which you consciously or unconsciously try to increase your own sense of agency through your relationship. Feeling needed and wanted by a partner can create a sense of power and control, but if the relationship fails, your old feelings of being ineffectual and weak will return. The nurturing, support, and resourcefulness of an overly empathic white knight initially enhance her feelings of agency, but such acts ultimately render her dependent on her partner's response in order to maintain her sense of being an effective person. The tarnished and terrorizing/terrified white knight may control his partner; however, his sense of agency depends on his maintaining that control.

Your efforts to increase your own sense of agency by increasing your partner's dependency on you will ultimately fail. Studies have found that the healthiest people strive to increase their sense of personal power by developing competence and autonomy and by decreasing their dependence on others. Increasing your sense of competence and autonomy involves, among other things, recognizing the ways in which you can influence your own life without needing to control your partner, and assuming responsibility for your behavior without needing to blame others. These are qualities found in the balanced rescuer.

You can begin to work on your sense of agency by increasing your ability to take action and be effective in your life. Here are some starting points.

Think about an area of your life in which you feel very successful and an area of your life in which you would like to be successful but are not. How can you apply the techniques that helped you to achieve success to the areas where you are not successful?

Imagine that your partner was less dependent on you. How does this thought make you feel? Although, initially, you may be uneasy with the concept, dependency does not necessarily equate with a strong relationship, and often leads to resentment.

Who are you dependent on, and what can you do to decrease your dependence on that person but still maintain your relationship?

Ask yourself if the interactions you have with your partner are designed to bring out her weaknesses, thus hiding your own, or if you can recognize and validate your partner's strength and power without fearing weakness in yourself. Think about simply telling your partner something that validates her strength and power. Does the idea frighten you or make you feel weak? Try it and see what happens.

In our next post, we will discuss other aspects of creating a strong sense of agency that have to do with influencing your own life, and assuming responsibility for your behavior.

Find more information about The White Knight Syndrome: Rescuing Yourself From Your Need to Rescue Others here.

We very much appreciate your comments and value your contribution. We regret that we are unable to respond. This post is in no way intended as a substitute for medical or psychological counseling. If expert assistance or counseling is needed, the services of a competent professional should be sought.

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