Implicit Disempower



I find our obstacles to experiencing a sense of shared humanity to be some of the most potent illuminations of our mental prisons. I believe the illusion of power, and the structures we've created to support this collective imagining, are the most fascinating. 

"A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality." - Yoko Ono

Where it takes on new meaning, for me, is considering how much of our resignation to authority and power comes from the "inner child" in all of us. As neuroscientists repeatedly demonstrate, the core of our brain structure is that of child survival. One could say, much of our suffering is from this principle brain function not evolving much as we transition into adulthood. 

"Our brains don't give a shit about our happiness." - Unknown  

And, as far as self-preservation goes, I think we can all agree the mechanisms that bond us to our parents are inexorably penetrating. I frequently find myself preparing clients for the "parental-hijacking" of their thoughts. I regularly watch brilliant human beings collapse in response to a person they wouldn't otherwise give the time of day.  

I bring all this up in relation to societal power structures because I don't believe the parent/child power differential fits neatly into the confines of that attachment. One could argue there are other survival templates that drive the need to respect and serve those in "power", but that is not what I've observed. 

This subject became of great interest to me when I began a dual role as director and therapist of a residential program. I had the unique opportunity to witness reactions to me and then process in individual sessions. Knowing the backstories of these clients, it became immediately evident they were responding to me in the director role the way they respond to their more demanding parent. 

When I say I'm as egalitarian a leader as they come, that might be an understatement. It became almost comical to watch my messages of  non-judgment, validation, nurturance, and anti-perfectionism be met with desperate attempts to complete "perfect" therapy assignments, spotless cleaning, cries of having "failed" or "disappointed" me, and general overachievement. I'd watch freeze responses when I'd say the words "Can we talk now?" in response to their earlier requests to talk. All this within a system where, in fact, I work for them. 

After endless examples of this type of projection, and later always confirming that it was mirroring a relationship with a parent, I started power watching. I began observing these patterns in everyone around me, and most startlingly, in myself. 

For example, I feel a general discomfort when I haven't heard from a female supervisor in a while. In childhood, my mother would often go silent for some time before letting me know what I had done wrong. 

The parallels to my childhood's emotional dynamics were uncanny. The mismatch of my anxious reactivity was all the more conspicuous due to having such incredibly supportive supervisors. How could I have been so oblivious? I, like my clients, felt I was truly responding to the present conditions.

As usual, my examination quickly expanded exponentially into our greater power structures. Is it just me or do we forget a "powerful" person's humanity just as much, if not more so, than in cases of prejudice? From celebrities to politicians, is this glorification some stale iteration of a child's impulse to resign themselves to an authority? 

Now more than ever, I wonder what mass delusions allow absolute idiots to control nations of millions. What unconscious agreement are billions of people making to allow power structures that fail us all? 

What is the hypnotism? 

Where is the paralysis? 

How does the failings of the human brain influence nations? 

- Samsara

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