I’m going to hazard a guess and suggest that most of us probably grew up under a power-over paradigm – ie there were people in your life who had authority over you, and you basically had to submit to them (or defy them), until you eventually became powerful enough that other people had to submit to you.
It’s pretty endemic in the world we live in – it’s baked into almost all our systems, this idea of authority, of climbing ladders, growing power, exerting it over people… as the measure of your own power as being pretty directly tied with how many people you could control or direct or tell what to do.
Riane Eisler really exposed this in her book The Chalice and the Blade, and has developed a lens that is helpful… the big “battle” in our world is not us vs them, but these systems of power. It’s a battle between power-over thinking vs power-with. Between systems of domination versus systems of partnership.
“The struggle for our future is not between East and West or North and South, but everywhere between those who believe our only alternatives are dominating or being dominated and those working for partnership relations of mutual respect, accountability, and caring.”
-Riane Eisler’s Cultural Transformation Course
I’ve been in love with this reframe since I first encountered it, with the idea that the essential battle at play in our lives and society is supremacy versus sovereignty (ie your power comes from how many people you control vs your power is inherent, as is every single being’s)… but didn’t really know how to apply it to every day life, except by stepping out of as many power-over structures as I could and trying to honour the sovereignty and innate wholeness and worthiness of people around me (and plants and beasts.)
This graphic makes it tangible and practical and inserts the rethink of power directly into the place most of us battle it the hardest – within our intimate relationships and families.
How do you parent in a way that is power-with, not power-over (especially when you were parented in a power-over way, have very few models of power-with done anywhere, and feel as though the measure of your effectiveness as a parent is that your kid listens to your requests in public and complies with them, earning the silent nods of approval from people around you…)???
It starts with this… which I love. “Power is like a candle. You can give a child power without giving away any of your own power.”
via The Kid Should See This