Issues Treated in Therapy:
Power, like lightning, is a raw vibrant force of nature, with the potential for great harm...and the possibility for magnificent good. And each of us chooses, whether consciously or unconsciously, how we will use our power...
Overview of Power: Healing to the Root: Every form of power can be used well or misused. The law has been used to manipulate as well as to serve justice. Parenthood has been used as a means of captivity, and it has been used to nourish a soul, helping it grow into fullness. Sexuality has been used as a weapon to rape and dominate, as a substitute for unmet childhood bonding and physical touch, and as an exquisite, sacred expression of love and union. Even God's name has been used both to destroy and to heal. Zealots have committed acts of violence all over the world in the name of religion. In contrast, people of many religions pray for peace. *
Whatever we learn about power and powerlessness, the use of power and its misuse or abuse comes from our earliest times in this world. Whatever we decide about power and powerlessness, the use of power and its misuse or abuse, and what we are going to do with our power, comes from our earliest times in this world. The times when we have no thoughts in our minds and no words to express them. The times when our body holds our experiences and is our body/mind/heart all wrapped into one. It is in our infancy, our babyhood, and our childhood that we are most powerless, and it is that time in our lives where we can find the deepest roots of our relationship with power.
We can change abuse of power in our lives and in our world: by committing to doing the inner work needed to heal, dissolve, and transform the roots of power abuse in our relationships with power and our own lives...and in doing so, help to heal the abuse of power in our nation and our world.
*Adapted from p iii Prologue, Power Abused, Power Healed by Judith Barr, 2007.
Therapeutic Model: Although some, sadly, offer "quick fixes" to help people manage, control or repress painful emotions, thoughts, and behaviors that stem from wounds to our selves and our relationships with power, therapeutic "band aids" serve only to bury these emotions, thoughts and behaviors once again and even deeper into our unconscious, where they rise again and again. However, if we commit to healing to the root, to deep, long-lasting therapeutic healing, we can heal not only abuse of power in our own lives, but abuse of power in our world as well.
Regardless of the type of therapy, there are some generally agreed upon elements of "good therapy" which should be universal to all forms of therapy that are committed to helping people heal to the core from the inside out, rather than manage on the surface. Before beginning therapy for power issues or any other issue, it is helpful to familiarize oneself with these elements.
The therapy we engage in needs to be based on the truth that our wounds and the pain from them do still live within us. Until we find, meet, feel and heal those wounds and that pain, they will drive us in our lives, beneath our awareness. Without even realizing it, we will keep burying the pain, building defenses against it, and coping with the buried pain in dysfunctional and destructive ways. Without our being conscious of it, the pain and our defenses against it will cause us to repeat the same things in our lives again and again. This is known as re-enacting the original wound in some way, however obvious or subtle. Our therapist needs to know these truths.
Our therapist needs to not be afraid of his/her own feelings or ours. S/he needs to be committed to helping us identify our re-enactments and trace them back to their roots in our original wounds and pains safely. S/he needs to know that means the pace needs to be our own pace and one that unfolds from within us. Here are some other aspects to look for in a therapist that are elements of the kind of therapy we're discussing.
1. Does his or her own personal healing work.
2. Receives ongoing supervision from another professional about the work he or she is doing with clients.
3. Knows how to utilize feelings healthily: knows which ones are here and now feelings to follow into right action and which ones are ancient feelings, from early in life - primal feelings that are calling for healing.
4. Knows this work is not and cannot be quick fix work; someone who does quick-fix work will only repress the roots of the problem further and delude everyone into a false perception of what is going on.
5. Honors the shadow - the dark unknown within us that holds our strengths and weaknesses, meanness and lovingness, wounds to be healed and gifts to be birthed into the world.
6. Holds together light and dark, positive and negative, joy and pain - for the sake of everyone's wholeness.
7. Has a passionate, ferocious commitment to his/her own healing and consciousness and to that of his/her clients.
8. Welcomes the Divine, as the client knows it, into the work.
9. Knows the truth, that as a therapist/healer s/he has a lot of power, and is committed to using that power well. Knows that it is a healing professional's sacred responsibility to be committed to discerning how s/he is really using his/her power, and to heal whatever is in him/her that might lead to abuse of power.
10. Is delighted to have perspective clients carry out their search for a right match in a therapist with intention, purpose and great care.
Case Example: Many people talk about power and don't even know what they mean. What I mean by power is this: If you imagine you have lightning at your disposal, you know you can use it to create electricity for warming homes, offices, schools, places of worship - or you can use it for starting fires that would burn down these same buildings. You can have that power at your disposal.It can be also called authority, charisma, control, and influence. It can be used for or against people. It can be used over or with them.
So how do we form our relationships with power?
When we are young, and experiencing pain, you bury that pain and make unconscious decisions to be a certain way. Here's an example:
Let's say your mother or father was domineering. Let's say you were made to do things you shouldn't have had to do - beyond your years and ability. Let's say you were yelled at and sent to your room for what seemed like hours because you didn't do things up to their standards.
Imagine one night you're lying in bed after being sent to your room. You're crying yourself to sleep. And without even realizing it, you make an early decision that will last a lifetime: You have the power now Mommy, Daddy...but when I grow up, I'll have all the power.
Now imagine you grow up and become a parent, teacher, clergy person, president of a corporation, chief of police, legislator, a Supreme Court justice, a president.
It doesn't matter whether you are a republican, democrat, or independent. It doesn't matter whether you are rich, middle class, or poor. It doesn't matter whether you are male or female. It doesn't matter what color your skin is. This is not about politics, class, gender or race. It's about being human and happens with us all.
Just imagine: you grow up and have a position of power and you think you're using your power well. But you're not. It may appear you are. In some parts of your being, you may be. But in some corner of your self, you are really using your power to have power your Mom or Dad. In some place within you, you are utilizing your power to win the power struggle with your Mom or Dad that you said "yes" to that night when you cried yourself to sleep and made the early decision You have the power now, Mommy, Daddy...but when I grow up, I'll have all the power.
Most importantly, you are not aware of this. It was an unconscious decision. You are not aware of how it drives your life. You are not aware that you experience anyone who wants power as Mom or Dad. You are not aware that a child within you is running the family, the corporation, the police force, the legislature, the court, the country. And you are not aware that you're holding onto your early decision for dear life because if you let it go, you will feel once again what you felt as you were crying yourself to sleep...which is exactly what needs to purposely, consciously, safely happen for healing.
You could have made any number of different early decisions in that very same situation. For example, you could have decided while crying yourself to sleep...If that's power, I don't ever want any. The dynamics of early decisions are the same, regardless of the specific decision.
We're looking at how you use your power and what's driving the power as you use it. If you trace it to childhood, the decisions you made and the feelings beneath them. We're seeing that feelings repressed feed the abuse of power.
Because early decisions are core defenses that keep our feelings buried, and because they are core defenses that offer such clear understanding of how feelings repressed end up feeding the abuse of power, it's crucial to explore, discover, and heal the relationship between early decisions, feelings and the misuse and abuse of power. It is crucial to dissolve the early decision and the other defenses, to feel the original feelings, and to live in such a way that you no longer have to defend against the pain of that night. Instead you can call upon your energy and other resources, inside and out, to utilize your power well.
Last updated: 05-14-2013
Power: Healing to the Root Articles