Robin Stern Ph.D.

Power in Relationships

Revisiting Power in Our Relationships

Let's take another look at power dynamics in our relationships and world.

Posted Aug 14, 2019

Power. What comes to mind when you hear the word? Maybe you think of superpowers? The energy that fuels your home? You may think of certain political figures, events in history, or discrepancies in power between diverse groups, or even between you and someone else. Like the electricity that runs our devices, power is a critical resource that must be monitored and kept in check.    

Ten years ago, I started this blog called Power in Relationships: How You Get It, How You Keep it, How You Give It Away, with the goal of helping people understand and better deal with power dynamics in their personal relationships. I had recently written a book, The Gaslight Effect, for victims of the hidden manipulation known as “gaslighting,” whose stories I had heard time and again in private practice as a psychotherapist, but also from friends, colleagues, and loved ones. At the time, I wanted to shine a light on a fairly new concept that I believed revealed a timeless pattern of relationship challenges—and an opportunity to rise above them.

Ten years later, after releasing the second edition of my book, I am compelled to blog again, with a slight reconceptualization of “the gaslight effect,” with broader applications than just personal relationships, and including a sort of “gaslight culture” with political and societal players. Since my last post, I have continued my private practice and served on the advisory board for several organizations including UN Women for Peace, Crisis Text Line, I’ll Go First, Think Equal, and HerWisdom. Most notably in the last decade, I co-founded the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence with my colleague, Dr. Marc Brackett. As the Associate Director of the Center, I work regularly with leaders, educators, youth, and parents across the nation and across the globe to bring them the principles of RULER, our evidence-based approach to social and emotional learning that also is the acronym for the five key emotion skills of recognizing, understanding, labeling, expressing, and regulating emotions. 

On this page, I will draw upon the many stories I’ve collected in my work to explore the concept of power in relationships. We will unpack how power shows up in our personal relationships as well as how power dynamics operate in the context of our political and social worlds. We also will take a close look at emotional intelligence as a way to analyze and shift power imbalances so that we can be more effective in our relationships and our lives. Until next time, I ask you to consider this: What is one area of your life in which you could benefit from a “power analysis"?