Sunday, September 13, 2015

Practice tip: random thoughts on power and relationship

Persona A has power over person B only if A can make life difficult for the B. Power operates only in situations when there is a contract (voluntary or involuntary, explicit or implicit, social or individual) which allows or enables person A to make life difficult for person B.

Power usually runs in both directions. If A can make life difficult for B, B can make life difficult for A.

When either party can do without the other, no power relationship exists. Yet people often continue to behave as if a power relationship is still operating, that is, they can coerce or can be coerced. Person A may employ coercive methods even when it is clear that they have no effect on B. In such cases, A will often escalate coercive actions out of all proportion to the issue at hand in a destructive yet futile effort to maintain their illusion of connection. Conversely, Person B may feel and act as if coerced even when there is nothing that Person A can do to make life difficult for B, again to maintain the illusion of connection.

two people sitting at long tableTo question whether A can do without B, or B can do without A, usually threatens fundamental assumptions about the relationship. 

Anger is frequently employed as a defense against such questioning. It reduces the questioning to a single emotionally charged issue while polarizing the relationship so that the questioner backs down. Another defense is to marginalize the questions ("That's not important" or "That doesn't count" ) or to reframe the situation so that the questions cannot even be thought, let alone asked. Still another approach is to get the questioner to believe that their own interests will be secured or enhanced if they drop the questioning and threatened if they don't.
All these are forms of mind-killing, methods in which person A uses person B's emotional reactions (pride, greed, desire, anger, jealousy, fear, guilt, etc.) to get B to act in person A's interests. The polite word for this is social engineering, a term that glosses over the coercion and power dynamics that are operating.

  • Stand in your own experience and touch what is vitally important for you. Everything else can be let go.
  • Do not pick up what isn't yours except as an intentional decision on your part.
  • Authority or obligation is something that you choose to give to others -- for your own reasons. They are not imposed from outside. When you recall those reasons, you reconnect with your own agency and any feeling of coercion or powerlessness disappears.

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