© Claude M. Steiner PhD

July 1, 2004

BOOK THREE; The Other Side of Power.

Chapter 16 Letting Go of Control

Chapter 17 When Men Give up Control

Chapter 18 How to Fill the Control Vacuum

Chapter 19 The Other Side of Power


                                         * ** *** ** *

(Back to home?)

Chapter 16:

Letting Go of Control

        So far I have given you an idea of how control works and what you can do to prevent people from controlling you. You may find difficulty in accepting that it is a good idea not to respond to power plays with bigger power plays. We are so steeped in the pleasures of control that it is hard to give up the joy of sandbagging and flattening somebody who, obviously, illegitimately and with malice aforethought, is trying to push us around. This book probably would do very well if it was called How to Stop People from Pushing You Around and Make Them Wish They Were Sorry for Trying, but that is not my aim.

     However, let us assume that you accepted the dignity of a self-defensive rather than a retaliatory attitude. Yet, it might still be difficult to accept the wisdom or practicality of searching for a cooperative resolution with a stubborn power player.

In a way, I am asking you to kiss your enemy and turn him into a friend, rather than kill him. And, as if that weren't enough, I am going to suggest, now that we know how to prevent others from controlling us, that we can and should give up trying to control others altogether.

     Assuming that you have agreed with most of what I have said so far, I am ready to press my case to convince you to take that leap of faith necessary for giving up control and making room for the other side of power. Giving up control and filling the power vacuum left behind is the topic of this section. 

      You might comment that in asking people to give up control, I am proposing to do away with centuries of tradition-a system which runs the "civilized" world-and replace it with some vaguely defined ideas which sound like a watery kettle of fish. After all, we are talking about rebelling against obedience, hierarchies, respect for authority, the leader-follower relationship, everything we respect.

My response is that you are right: I am asking for a great deal, but I am promising a great deal, too. I am promising you a form of power, which, like the other side of the moon, most of us cannot see and can only imagine. I am promising you the experience that comes with being a powerful individual living in harmony with yourself and with others as well as with your environment. I promise you the peace of mind and satisfaction that comes from the knowledge that to the best of your ability you are being a good and fair person. And at the same time I am promising that your overall power in the world will increase.

The way control holds sway of our lives affects many facets of our behavior. The way we use our bodies, the way we converse, the way we make love, the way we treat people who have less or more power than we have, the way we feel about women or men, about children, about old people, about people of color if we are white, about poor people if we are economically comfortable, about gay people if we are heterosexual and the way we feel about single people if we are in well-functioning couples are all affected by our power position and are all in need of scrutiny and possible change.

An experiment in power reversal.

  The first time that I became aware of the extreme subtlety and omnipresence of control was in 1969, when Hogie Wyckoff, wishing to give me a practical lesson on the subject, proposed that we go on a date in which we switched gender roles. She wanted me to get an understanding of how it feels to be at the receiving end of the subtle and not-so-subtle forms of control behavior which occur between men and women. She was to act as the "man" and I was to act as the "woman" for the whole evening. This experience was at first amusing, later alarming, and eventually mind-boggling.

     We had agreed that she was to pick me up in her car. As I waited for her, I approaching the date as a game, consciously exaggerated my concern for what I was wearing and how I looked. I peered in the mirror, looking for blemishes, and worried about whether she would be happy with my appearance.

     She was to have picked me up at 6:00. At 6:05, she called me up.

     "Sorry, but I was held up by an important phone call. I'm on my way right now."

     That meant that she was going to be about fifteen minutes late. At 6:15 I heard her car in the driveway, and the honk of her horn. I was ready to go and since we were late, I thought I should possibly go out to the street. But being a little irritated by her presumption, I stayed put. A minute later she ran up the stairs, two steps at a time, and loudly banged on the door. I took my time to get to the door, opened it, and there she stood, full of energy, as if nothing at all was wrong.

"Hiya, cutie. How ya doing?" she beamed. 

I, happy to see her, smiled back, and answered, "Fine. Do you want to come in?" 

     "No, let's get going." I went back inside to get my coat, and as we rushed down the stairs, she asked, "Well, where do you want to go tonight?"

Before I could answer, she continued, "I'll tell you what. I have a great idea. Let's go to Giovanni's."

I wasn't sure that I wanted to eat Italian food that night, but it did seem like a good idea, and since I had no other suggestions, I happily agreed. She walked me to the passenger side of the car, opened the door, and helped me in. I dimly appreciated the convenience of not having to open and close the door when getting into the car. She strutted around the front of the car, looking gorgeous, and flashed me a smile. Opening her door, she got in, and before starting the car, she leaned over, and with one hand high on my thigh, and the other on the back of my neck, pulled me toward her, giving me a kiss smack on the mouth.

As she drove I noticed, for the first time since I'd known her, that she was a good driver, expertly passing cars, and accurately turning corners. I was also slightly uncomfortable at her speed, occasionally pressing my feet against the floorboard. While she drove, she spoke animatedly, sometimes looking away from the road in order to gaze at me. We were in love and happy to be together. My slight discomfort at being in the passenger seat (I usually drove when we went out) was a very minor feeling, compared with my excitement and elation at being with her.    

As we walked to the restaurant, she held my arm above the elbow and, ever so slightly, guided me down the sidewalk. It was a crowded street, and she avoided collisions with other pedestrians by jogging slightly to the right and to the left, always indicating by a pressure on my arm, the direction she wanted to go. I complied. She opened the restaurant door, and as we got inside she stepped in front of me and signaled the maitre d'      

"A table for two, please, in the back of the restaurant.  We would prefer a booth. Thank you."  

We both noticed the host's puzzled look and were amused by the situation. She was definitely feeling happy and I was showing a good sense of humor as well.  

We ordered drinks while we waited, and when the host came toward us, attempting to ignore her, he said to me,  "Your table is ready sir." Hogie stepped between us and led the way. Slightly startled, the maitre d' led us to the table. I sat first, while she pushed the chair under me, and I thanked her.

Our role reversal was to be complete. As I looked at the menu, I thought to myself, "I can order anything I want ..."  But then, I reasoned, I shouldn't be greedy, and settled on a  reasonably priced dinner. When she saw what I ordered, she said.

  "You don't want to eat that. Listen." she purred, as she stroked my thigh under the table. "I recommend that you have the veal Parmigiana. It's really good here."

   I was getting a bit confused. For one thing, she seemed to be enjoying this charade immensely, while I was getting slightly uncomfortable. I couldn't tell exactly why I was getting uneasy, but something was not right in the situation. It was acquiring the proportions of a task rather than being a game, and was beginning to interfere with my pleasure.

      I said nothing and the rest of the meal went on uneventfully: both of us had a good time. After dessert and coffee, she asked for the check, ostentatiously paid for the dinner, left a tip, and led the way out of the restaurant with me following closely behind and feeling sheepish. Outside, we walked down the street.

        "Let's do some window-shopping. There are some nice stores around here."  I agreed.

     We went from window to window, as she stopped whenever she wanted to look at something. She moved on, stopped and moved on and stopped, while I tagged along. At some point, I wanted to linger at a window, and after giving me an indication of her wish to go on, which I ignored, she actually pulled me with some force. I resisted and pulled back. She gave me a somewhat startled look, let go and moved on to the next window.

     Confused, I stood still for a few seconds and then rejoined her down the street. Clearly, the tension between us was mounting. We came to a corner. As I was about to cross she stopped at a newspaper stand and looked at the headlines. I had one foot off the curb when I realized that she was not coming my way. In fact, having finished looking at the newspaper, she decided to cross the other street and was clearly indicating with her posture where she intended to go. I stepped back on the curb and joined her.

       At this point, I was definitely irritated. I was silently considering whether I should bring up my irritation, but it became plain to me that there was nothing really to complain about. I needed simply to say, "I want to cross the street this way, instead of that way. Let's cross this way," I said, and she answered, "Well, all right. What difference does it make?"

     "No difference. I just want to go this way." 

     "Sure. No problem." And from then on we went to the car with me in the lead.  

As we sat in the car, there was an uncomfortable silence between us. I was feeling guilty for being irritated and making an issue out of such a simple matter. She was silent and withdrawn. After a while, she started on a new topic of conversation. The ice broke, and we talked animatedly.  As she drove, she touched me with her right hand, stroked my hair, pulled on my moustache, caressed my thigh, and was clearly feeling tender and amorous. I was still concerned with my anxiety and irritation, and was not feeling very responsive. Nevertheless, I appreciated her gentle tenderness.

    "Your place or mine?" she asked.

    "Let's go to my place," I answered.

     "Okay, but I was wondering... I've got a great new record I want you to hear. Let's go to my place. What do you think?" I agreed.

     By now you are probably getting the idea of how this role reversal affected me. Not only was it startling to experience in how many ways the male role dominated my space and impaired my choices, but the complexity of emotions I felt was amazing as well.

   By the time we got to her place, I was in a definitely bad mood. She continued in our role reversal, undaunted. She became aggressive sexually; I became further confused. To make a long story short, for the first time in my relationship with her, I experienced a lack of sexual interest and when I tried to ignore this I was unable to my amazement and humiliation to muster the necessary erection.

     I hope this elaborate example will accomplish the following: For people who are habitually in a passive position (this often happens to women), this example might explain some of the feelings that you experience when you spend time with someone who puts out strong, controlling body language. It might help explain the nagging, confusing irritation that grows very gradually out of a series of little, almost insignificant power plays. Each little acquiescence doesn't seem worth noticing; but as they add up, the net result is that you wind up feeling angry, frustrated, turned off, and drained of energy without really knowing why.

     For the person who is habitually in control, this example can give you some idea of how your behavior affects others. You are not likely to really understand how it feels to be with you unless the shoe goes on the other foot, unless someone systematically succeeds in controlling you in a similar way. Voluntarily switching roles in this experimental manner will give you a very good beginning notion of what it is like to be in the company of a person who embodies control in every move toward you.

     In this example, Hogie's controlling behavior was accomplished primarily through body language. When we switched roles, her physical behavior changed from the usual. She leaned in my direction, towered over me, touched me, held me, pushed me, pulled me, and invaded my space in a way that I had literally never experienced before in my adult life. Because her invasion of my space was loving-that is, it was primarily affectionate and nurturing-it was also confusing. I had experienced that kind of pushiness minus nurturing from dominating and aggressive males, who, without touching me, invaded my space with their voice, their gestures, and their energy. In those cases, however, my feeling was one of clear resentment and rejection, but with Hogie, her intrusion was supposedly loving so why was it so disturbing?

     The answer to that question requires that we be able to separate different behaviors in our awareness.

     Control is one form of behavior. Love is another. I wanted to be loved by Hogie, but I did not want to be controlled. Her action mixed both types of transactions, and my reaction was therefore mixed. There is a certain temporary pleasure in being controlled at times; when someone else is in charge we can forget our responsibilities. Women are said to enjoy being controlled by strong men who believe women will behave accordingly when they try to please them. But even if a woman initially responds positively to male control, it is likely that in time she will lose her taste for the "Me Tarzan, You Jane" way of life. This may take years but it will happen; people don't like to be controlled for long even if they do at first.

 The Control of Personal Space.

         It is useful to realize that our bodies do not end at the surface of the skin. Our skin is the outside boundary of our body only in terms of what is visible to the human eye. But our body extends beyond our skin for at least a few inches, and some people will say for a much larger space than that. To illustrate this, let me revisit a familiar experiment involving a couple of  magnets, a nail, and a metal file. Set one of the magnets on the table. To the naked eye, it does not extend beyond the dark metallic bar that you can see. Lets call what you see the visible body of the magnet. However, a magnet has an invisible (but very real) magnetic field. This magnetic field can be made visible by taking some iron filings (made by rubbing the file over the nail). Put a piece of paper on the magnet and sprinkle the filings on the paper. You will see the filings arrange themselves in a pattern. Now that this demonstration has made the magnetic field of the magnet visible remove the paper and look at the magnet again. In addition to the metal bar that you see, there is a very real, though invisible, field of force that surrounds it. You may actually be able to visualize that field and "see" it whenever you see a magnet in the future. You will then be seeing the magnetic body of the magnet. The visible body pertains to one level of energy: light waves. The magnetic body pertains to another level: electromagnetic waves. Both are real and both affect what happens to the magnet.     

Hold one magnet between the thumb and forefinger of one hand and take the other between the thumb and forefinger of the other hand. Now visualize the fields of the two magnets as you move them slowly toward each other. If you pay attention to the forces in your fingers, you will experience how the two magnets interact with each other. You may feel a point, as they approach each other when there is a force pulling them together or you may feel a repelling force, depending on how you’re holding them.

I use this example to illustrate something that happens between people in quite a similar way. Each person has a field of energy that surrounds her visible body and extends beyond it, all around it. When another person approaches you, her energy impinges on yours. If you're tuned in to that level of energy, you can actually experience it. Two feet away, you might begin to feel a definite presence. At three feet away, the experience will probably be quite faint. One foot away the presence will be unmistakable. And as the person gets closer, your experience can become extraordinarily intense-especially if she strongly repels or attracts you, to begin with.

In our intimate human relationships, we spend a lot of time in each other's space, within that three-foot limit. How we use our energy with each other in that space is a very important fact of our everyday life.

      Have you ever had the experience of someone speaking to you and standing uncomfortably close? This sometimes happens with someone from another culture, where conventions about space differ from ours. But some people are simply accustomed to crowding others physically. If it made you uncomfortable, that person was probably trespassing on your personal space.

Have you ever gone camping and, looking for privacy, found an area on which to lie down that was just comfortably far enough from somebody else's campsite? And then has a third party come to lie down between that other person and you, causing you to feel invaded? Here again is an example of how we stake out a certain area beyond our body that we would like to keep private and free of intrusion.

     The subtleties of personal space and its boundaries have to do with the aura of energy that we carry with us, and body language is a way in which people relate to each other, through that unseen but very real energy field which surrounds each of us. Most of us want certain distance from most other people. If we become attracted to someone, we open our personal space up and include that other person in it. If someone we are not ready to accept in our space intrudes or pushes on it, we feel extremely uncomfortable, even violated.

Another instance of the problems of personal space is a common experience in intimate couples. Two people no matter how compatible may and often do have different comfort zones in their personal space. Usually one wants to be closer than the other would prefer. In such cases all of the control issues we have spoken about can assert themselves. If the person who wants more closeness happens to be dominant then the submissive person will be forced to accept more intrusion than he or she wants and may eventually feel suffocated, struggle and power play for space and eventually even bolt. Conversely if the dominant person wants more space, then the submissive partner will feel deprived and eventually starved for contact and once again engage in power plays and still fail to get what is needed, a condition that can lead to depression.

     Unfortunately in heterosexual couples the dominant person tends to be the man and the suffocated or depressed person, the woman (of course there are exceptions where the opposite is true). If you are a man who is trying to learn to give up control in relation to women, or a grown-up who is trying to treat children as equals, this discussion will have given you an awareness of the way in which your body language is a manifestation of your physical, though invisible, energy field, and how this energy field can be intrusive upon other people. If you are a controlling type of person you need to take responsibility for all of your physical energy as it extends several feet outside of you, and then recognize the effect that it has on others. You might discover as you do this that you have been, effectively, a bull in a china shop, pushing around, disrupting other people's spaces, knocking things over, and in general, creating a wake of disturbance as you go through life, while being completely unaware of it. You can read a great deal more about this topic in Nancy Henley's book, Body Politics.

      If you are submissive person you need to realize that your space is being invaded and that something should be done about it. Of course this is easier said than done if you are a indeed a submissive person but nothing short of assertiveness will solve your problem. Ultimately two people in this situation need to cooperatively explore their personal space requirements and negotiate an appropriate distance which will satisfy both equally.

Here are some other things to be aware of: if you're large, your very physical presence may be intimidating to others. You need to carefully evaluate how close you can get to people, how fast you can move, and what your physical behavior needs to be in order not to be intrusive. If you are an average-sized person but you are endowed with high energy and tend to move quickly, you will have a similar problem-not so much with the size and extension away from your energy field, but with its intensity. Your voice is an important aspect of your physical energy aura and projects beyond you. Is your voice loud and powerful? Do you speak quickly? If so you should be aware of what it does to people, when you can use our speech fully, and when you need to subdue it. Men especially are capable of terrifying children and women with their voices.

     If you are fond of touching others, you need to be especially careful, especially with minors, because touch is definitely an intrusion into someone else's space. Most people enjoy being touched-but what kind of touch, how often, and where, are important questions to ask yourself in order to avoid being intrusive. If you're interested in further subtleties, you can analyze the kinds of clothing you wear, in terms of how it affects others with its color. Intense colors like white, yellow, and red will affect people differently from blue, green, and brown.

     For people who are habitually controlled this information can be used as a hint on how they can take some power with their touch, voices, clothing, and movements to expand their area of influence in the world in order to take a fairer share of their space.

  Conversational Behavior.

Another way in which people control others is through their conversational behavior. Presumably, the actual purpose of any conversation is an exchange of points of view. We can disagree, work toward an agreement, or agree.  But very often conversations do not have that aim at all, and are in fact attempts to control others with words.  

      Under those circumstances, if I have a point of view, and see that yours differs, I will do everything I can to change your point of view to mine, with you presumably doing the same, so that our conversation goes from being an exchange of ideas to being a battleground for thought control. Unfortunately conversations between people are often a struggle for control, rather than a cooperative exchange of ideas. 

     Interruption is the basic power play in a conversation. We interrupt when (a) we think we know what the other person is going to say, or (b) we don't like what the other person is saying, or (c) can't wait to make our point. People who interrupt others often feel that they are expediting and simplifying the conversation. On the other hand, people who are in the habit of being interrupted feel quite different about it. Here's a vivid account, by a friend of mine, on the effect of an interruption:    

"Sometimes when I am interrupted in the middle of a sentence, I feel like a bird shot out of the sky. I literally feel like I hit the ground with a dull thud, head first, and I see sparks flying in my brain. My feelings are a combination of rage and hopelessness. I feel like I want to cry, and that I want to grab the interrupter by the neck and choke him until he is quiet. I want to give up. I have to fight tears. I feel drained of energy. The task of regaining my train of thought and going back to what I was trying to say seems utterly hopeless. By that time, I have usually forgotten what I was talking about, and couldn't care less."

        The opposite of interruption is listening, of course. Listening is a fine and difficult art. True listening involves attempting to understand not only the words spoken but how the other person is experiencing the situation. Not necessarily to agree with it, but to become fully aware of how that other person sees whatever it is that she is talking about. It is then possible to respond in a way that is not an attempt to control, but to add our point of view to the conversation.

      Very often women experience things differently from men. The same differences happen between grown-ups and children, white and black, poor and rich, and it is a natural outcome of the extraordinarily disparate ways in which these different groups of people have experienced the world. Often women's experiences (or grown-ups', or children's, or whites', or people's of color or of young people's or old people's) are discounted because they are deemed incomplete, one sided, emotional, irrelevant, and/or irreverent. Or, their views are considered "cute," exciting, or childlike. Views that don't fit into the mainstream of ideas are rarely seen as valid and worthy of being adopted by "sensible" people.

     When in a conversation one disagrees, the first assumption should be that there is something about what is being said that isn't being understood. For instance, Mr. and Ms. Smith are discussing the best spot for their long awaited vacation. Ms Smith wants to go to the mountains. Mr. Smith fails to hear why Ms. Smith thinks that the mountains are healthier, cheaper, and more fun. He doesn't stop to try to understand why she sees it that way. He simply disagrees and tries to push his views on her. He wants to go to the beach.

He should start out by assuming that her view has merit and needs to be taken seriously. If nothing that a woman (if you are a man) or a child (if you are a grown-up) or a person of color (if you are white) is saying has any merit in your eyes, you can assume that you are forcing your perspective onto hers and taking for granted (on a purely sexist or ageist or racist basis) that you are correct when she is not.

Another way in which it is possible to dominate someone else in a conversation is to over-agree. Here the listener shakes his head up and down and makes various noises of agreement all with the purpose of saying in effect, "What you are saying is absolutely true-in fact it's perfectly obvious-and I knew it all the time, so you can skip it. Now here is how I feel about it."

One area in which I had the opportunity to give up control was in conversational behavior. I have had the repeated experienced of becoming the center of a conversation, with everyone looking at me and apparently interested in what I was saying. I assumed, at those times that I was being enjoyed by the others. Otherwise, why the rapt attention? Personally, I felt uncomfortable by the one-sidedness of the dialogue, yet flattered at the same time. In any case, I felt that I could not stop talking even if I wanted to. Every time I tried to stop, someone asked me a question or disagreed with me and I was off and running again.     

One time I found myself quietly listening to another fellow who had taken over a conversation. Leon seemed pompous, self-satisfied, and, frankly, obnoxious. The more he talked, the more uncomfortable and annoyed I got. I listened to him in fascination, silent and unhappy. Suddenly I realized that this was a familiar event, with me in Leon’s place. He was enjoying his position of control but he was also being led into a controlling mode by our passivity.

     I realized that if I gave up control behavior, I would likely discover opportunities to exercise other forms of power. Because I have given up control in conversations, I have been in a position to experience a whole set of new possibilities. I have had the opportunity to listen, empathize, learn non-controlling communication, make occasional well thought out comments and to help boring, one-sided conversations become more interesting by involving everyone-not just a few verbally skillful people.

 Giving Up Control Over Children

      The area in which giving up control seems most radical and risky and at the same time most desirable is with children. My children grew up in a quasy-communal setting in which because one of the guidelines of the community was that no power plays among the adults were permitted, children also were largely exempted from being manipulated into doing things that they would not otherwise do. No attempt was made to force a feeding, sleeping or toilet-training schedule on them. While everyone was very conscious of power plays and whether they are used on children, there were a variety of points of view on the subject. Theoretically, commanding a child, physically removing it, spanking it, hitting it, or in any way punishing it is a form of power play. Bruce Carroll, one of the ranch residents, for instance, had successfully raised a number of children to adulthood and held the most radical point of view with respect to power plays with children: he believed that absolutely no power plays should ever be used with them.

       Children will do what is right for them, given the freedom to choose and circumstances in which the choices can be made without stress or pressure. Power plays are not necessary to cause or help children to do what is good for them: they will as a rule, in time, do it on their own accord.

      Take, for instance Maria, an eight-year-old who wants to stay up late on a weekday to watch television. Parents know that a child needs about ten hours of sleep to be able to function adequately, and most parents would be inclined to set a bedtime and insist that it be kept.  Suppose now that Maria, who has to get up at 7:00 in the morning, wants to stay up beyond 9:00 in the evening. What are her parents' choices in this matter? Should they enforce a 9:00 bedtime by insisting on it and using power plays such as commanding, yelling, turning off the television, spanking, or maybe even forcibly undressing the child and putting her to bed if necessary? The parents in this situation are up against their own faith in human nature. If we assume that Maria is an intelligent human being capable of making valid decisions in the affairs that concern her, I would like her to exercise this capacity and trust her to choose well. As far as I'm concerned, Maria has the right to stay up as late as she wants, to get as little sleep as she will, and to be cranky all the next day if she so chooses.

     You may ask, "What if she oversleeps and misses her bus and therefore has to be either driven to school or even to stay at home the next day?" Maria's selfishness of the night before might result in creating a large inconvenience for her parents the morning after.

     Fair enough. Suppose that Maria stayed up late and overslept. Now she wants to stay up late once again. Her parents notice this and ask her to go to bed.

     "Maria, I would like you to go to bed. It's past nine o'clock."

     "But I want to watch this program, and it ends at eleven o'clock."

"I don't think that's a good idea, Maria, because last time you stayed up, you overslept, and I had to drive you to school."

"I won't oversleep this time. I'll set the alarm."

Mother could now power-play Maria and force her to go to bed, or she could negotiate reasonable, cooperatively arrived at conditions.

      "Okay, Maria, I still don't think it's a good idea. I believe you're going to have trouble getting up. But I think you should do what you think is best for you. However, I'm not going to try and get you out of bed tomorrow morning or drive you to school; and if you oversleep I want you to agree to go to bed at 8:30 tomorrow. And if you are late for school again tomorrow, I am going to be very upset. Okay?"

      "Okay, Mom. Will you help me get ready if I am too sleepy?"

        "Fine. Enjoy your program. I love you!"

      Chances are that Maria will wake up and go to school in time. If she doesn't she will probably grudgingly agree to go to bed early next evening rather than take a chance on being too sleepy in the morning. That’s what most grown-ups do, so why not trust and give her the chance to learn just like we did? I have noticed that the main effect of this approach is that our children learn the same things we learned, in about half the time. It took me twenty-five years to develop the cleanliness and good study habits my children had by age twelve, and thirty years to learn the social skills they had by age eighteen. Now that they are in their twenties and thirties I am convinced that I was right in my approach. They are definitely upstanding citizens.

       This example shows how it is possible to allow Maria to choose what she wants to do, to allow her to experience the consequences of her choice, without, at the same time, allowing her to interfere with other people's well-being. When Maria is given this kind of freedom in a host of situations, beginning as soon as she is able to make such choices, she will grow accustomed to making decisions which are based on her own judgment. Her judgment will eventually include her responsibilities toward others and their feelings.  Children who are obedient and follow orders become accustomed to doing things as they are told without understanding why. Children raised under this kind of control program are mysteriously expected, once they are emancipated, to suddenly be able to make decisions and choices on their own.  The fact is that most children's upbringing gives them no opportunity to choose, gives them no opportunity to experience the consequences of their choices, and gives them no opportunity to make cooperative choices which respect the needs and feelings of others.

      But suppose now that the reason why Maria stays up late at night has something to do with the fact that she really doesn’t want to go to school and that she would rather watch television than ready herself for school the next morning. She may even secretly hope that if she stays up late she will oversleep and not have to go to school. What are parents to do-since at this point Maria would not only welcome missing the bus and perhaps even not being driven to school? This is a more complicated situation. What are parents to do about the fact that some children don't like to go to school and that they'll do anything to avoid it? Let me answer this question with another question. What interests you more: freedom, or school attendance? Do you want to bring up children to do things they don't enjoy and which are not likely to be good for them? If a child does not enjoy school, chances are that the school is not a good place for the child. Faith in our children demands that we assume that they will be interested in learning when learning is interesting, that children want to go to school when school is a good place for them. It stands to reason that if school is a nasty, upright, competitive place filled with social and racial strife, authoritarianism, power plays, and injunctions against spontaneity, awareness, and intimacy, children might want to stay away from it. But the law says children have to go to school. So what are parents to do?

      Clearly, the problems now proliferate. Parents who want to raise children who are independent and powerful may have a great deal more to do than to avoid power-playing them at home. It is not conducive to autonomy to force a child to go to a bad school no matter how cooperative the home situation. As a consequence, parents may have to choose between not sending children to the school (which means sending them to a better school which they may not be able to afford, or keeping them out of school altogether and home schooling them), or putting demands on the school, organizing, and becoming social activists in behalf of their children so that school becomes a better place and the child may want to go to it.    

When parents have to work excessively hard or do not have the means to provide reasonable environments for their children, when families live in isolated, competitive units, each fending for its own, each desperately struggling to eat, sleep, and stay alive from day to day, there is very little opportunity to create the conditions for cooperation. If you add to that the presence of drugs which tend to disorganize and bring chaos into an already unstable situation you have a situation which may require special measures. This book does not pretend to have solutions for such special situations.

     Let us imagine now a home situation that has a certain measure of ease. The parents are not overworked and underpaid. The schools are reasonable. There is enough room, food, and leisure, so that cooperation and childrearing for autonomy can be given a try. In such a situation, the parents can work cooperatively with the children. Children can be raised reasonably free of power plays.

    Children will generally conform to the wishes of their parents. They will do this out of a wish to cooperate with them because they love them, rather than out of a wish to avoid punishment or to obtain rewards. They will not always do as their parents wish and, at times, they will to do or not do what they, rather than their parents, want but this will be accepted and understood by the parents as a reasonable price to pay in he hope that these children will grow up autonomous and self-sufficient, rather than dependent, passive, and powerless.

     One thing is very clear, however. In a situation of sort, children will definitely not do things that they experience as painful, obnoxious, or holding no benefit for them. Under such circumstances, children will refuse to go to schools, they will refuse to follow oppressive rules, they will demand to be heard when they speak, they will ask for everything that they want 100 percent of the time and demand that their wishes be considered on an equal footing with the grown-ups in the household. Difficult as this may sound, the parents of such children have a number of rewards. First of all, they will be living with fully participating human beings. They will see the results of this in the way in which children will use their capacities to the fullest extent as they express their innate wish to cooperate. When these children grow up, they will be truly self-sufficient and autonomous and much more likely to fend for themselves and to do a good job of it; they will not tolerate injustice, oppression, lies, and exploitation. Finally, parents who choose this childrearing approach will know that their children are shaping their own destinies and following their cooperative nature, provided as they are with the freedom to choose and the tools with which to choose wisely.

      Raising children in this manner is a project that cannot be undertaken in isolation. When everything in the community is decided on the basis of competitiveness and power plays it is very difficult for a specific household in that community to operate on a totally different basis. It is therefore important that people congregate in larger numbers, teach each other the principle of cooperation, attend PTA meetings and lobby for change, start alternative schools for their children, if necessary, and support each other in their struggles to achieve a life free of control.

      What I write here is borne out in my experiences with my three children, Mimi, Eric and Denali, who are now thirty nine thirty six and twenty two. For many years now, I have followed the outlined above with extraordinary success, as anyone who knows them will attest to. 

Naturally, the theoretical position that power plays should never be used with children has its exceptions. For instance if a baby bites its mother's nipple she has almost no alternative but to power-play the child in response unless she wants to stop nursing altogether. One reasonable response might be to scream loudly; this will scare the child and cause it to not bite. Screaming is a power play, but it is also a manifestation of the mother's feelings. When done with intent of stopping the baby from biting the nipple, it is power play but one which would be hard to argue against.

  Children are exposed to dangerous situations, whether it be hot stoves or electrical wall sockets or busy drug infested streets. There are a few things in the child's world that the child needs to stay away from-no ifs, buts or maybes. Once again, scaring the child when it comes close to these dangerous situations might be the best approach-and it is a power play; this only proves that every rule has its exceptions. But with respect to everyday matters such as when and where children sleep, where and when they eat, and when they get older when and where and how long they go out and whom (within limits) they associate with, power plays should be avoided and replaced with the expressions of our opinions, desires, and feelings.

     It takes more time to deal with a child without power plays but I believe that in the long run, children who are power-played take less effort, less work, and stay dependent on their parents for a shorter period of time, and become self-sufficient, loving, supportive, and helpful, eventually contributing their own energy to the family. While any situation may be more expediently dealt with by a power play, I believe that we pay dearly for every time we violate a child's rights and control it. There is no reward greater for a parent than the love of one's children and there is no better way to guarantee that children will love us than if we allow them the freedom of their choice while we provide them with our best advice, nurturing, and candid expression our wishes and feelings.

 (Back to home?)

Chapter 17:

When Men Give Up Control    

Sexist Control.

       Sexism is the system of domination of women by men. It is deeply rooted in both men and women, who after systematic indoctrination by schools, media, and parents, often accept that men's role is to control and dominate women. Giving up sexism is a sub-agenda for men and women of the larger program of giving up the control mode in general.

     True, it isn't always the case that men wield control. Women are sometimes in the place of power as owners of businesses, inheritors of their dead husband's or father's power, and as overbearing wives and mothers. Some women have great power; but, let's be honest about it, they are still the exception rather than the rule. When women have control power, it has usually been ceded, inherited from, or allowed by men. The fact is that the lion's share of the power to control, dominate, manipulate, destroy, give, and take away is in the hands of men.

      The control experience is typically the male experience, even though some women have recently been allowed to share in it. Patriarchy rules, men make the decisions, have the power, and hang onto the privilege. In the lowest rungs of power, where both men and women have practically none, the hold of men over women seems to relax a bit and that is because he absents himself-loses interest, becomes disabled, goes to jail, or dies. Among the poor, very old, and Third World people, women have a stronger role and place than among the white middle-aged, middle-class, and rich. But even where a woman's role is stronger and allows her considerable control over significant issues, such as child-raising and economic matters, the man has the ability to use his greater physical strength to establish his ultimate mastery. Nowhere is the fact of male supremacy more evident than among poor peasants and working people, where both men and women alike have to struggle daily to survive. And when the day's work is done, the woman waits on the man and takes care of the children.  She works a full day alongside the man and another day serving her family.

      Michael Korda, who, in my estimation, understood a great deal about the subject of patriarchy, made it plain that men have all but a tiny portion of the power in this world and that "every effort will be made to prevent [women] from having real power." Anyone who questions this assertion should read his chapter on women in his book Power, in which, so far as the business world is concerned, he proves the point overwhelmingly. To be sure the book was written almost thirty years ago and women have made progress in this area, but the fact is that male dominance continues unabated, and will for some time to come.

      Power plays-competition-control--patriarchy: all four, are intimately tied together. It is because of this that, when I speak of giving up control, male chauvinism becomes an important practical example with which to work. The way men overpower women-and women's reactions to this-is central to many people's lives and a source of the day-to-day difficulties between the sexes. The process of giving up sexism takes time, patience, a dogged commitment on the part of both the man and the woman.

Women often perceive their relationship with a man who wants to give up his sexism and become a practicing feminist as a mixture of enjoyment and hard work. A man who knows a woman who is willing to walk alongside him while he stumbles and falls in his struggle to give up control (after repeatedly knocking her down in the process) is indeed lucky. Such a woman is a gift from the Goddess and should be appreciated and thanked, generously and often.

Likewise, a man who is willing to give up his control and to share with women his powerful skills is also to be appreciated. It is not easy fighting sexism, for women or men; all those who do deserve praise and recognition. For women, giving up sexism implies taking power, refusing to go along with the comforts of being taken care of by men, and relinquishing the fantasy of being under a strong man's wing. It means planning to learn a number of skills which have become men's domain and to "go it alone" whether in opening reluctant jars, learning about cars, being self supported, or becoming physically strong and agile. It means giving up the obedient-cute-mother-housewife image in favor of a self-sufficient, independent, powerful self-image. This can be scary since the world is inhospitable to independent women-especially if they are feminist, aggressive, powerful, and not exactly thrilled with men.

     For women, giving up sexism has a clear goal: get out from under, be strong. Men's goals aren't as clear or attractive. Why should any man willingly abandon the privilege of being a man? Why should he give up his advantage as a wage earner, his superior strength, his sexual preferences, his rights in marriage (to be looked after, laundered and cooked for), his privilege to have the first and last word? In short, why should he give up the upper hand in the power to control his relationships? What's in it for men? Let me give you some reasons: 

Would you (I am speaking to men now) like to live longer, work less hard, feel less burdensome responsibilities in your life? Giving up control will help you to love and nurture yourself. It will make you more aware of your health and teach you how to ask for and accept help to share your burdens.

Would you like to be able to love more fully and reliably? Giving up control will help you contact your feelings and teach you how to be a loving person. Would you like to be able to think more creatively, solve problems more effectively? Giving up control will teach you less rigid (black-or-white, all-or-nothing) ways of thinking. It will help bring the creative solutions to your mind.

      Would you like to have better friendships (with men as well as women) and work relationships? Would you like to have more fun? Again, giving up control will help. Would you like to contribute to a world in which men no longer make all the basic decisions and in which women share responsibilities and are able to influence events and have power? Your individual decision to give up control over women-to embrace feminism-will help bring about that goal.

If we want the ruling men to give up control of world resources and money, government, science, healing and spirituality it is necessary that we, all of us who are their unwitting followers and servants, reject that system of control which dominates our lives. And in our individual lives that system is reflected in sexism and patriarchal hierarchies, not just as practiced by men upon women but as practiced, it seems, by all of us, men and women, who have any power over the less powerful. 

As women become more powerful and men wish to relate to them as equals, men don't always make the transition to feminism very smoothly. Men aren't trained to be equals with women, and our tendency to be controlling is deeply ingrained in us. So, as we try to give up active control, we often simply switch into a more passive but still basically controlling mode of behavior.

Wanting to give up control, they freeze in their tracks, and they withdraw from the fray. Now they sit on their energy. This process is rather like sitting on a stiffly coiled spring and keeping it compressed through great effort. The obvious outcome is that ultimately we must let go, exhausted, and the coil will burst and open to its full extension. In real life, a man who goes into this kind of strategic withdrawal of power behavior is like a time bomb. Women who relate to men in that phase are initially 'attracted by their apparent desire to be non-controlling but find that these men's control needs gradually surface in subtle (or eventually, crude) power plays.

     One obviously bitter woman provided this scenario:   

"There are a lot of guys hanging around these days who are real laid-back and 'groovy' even to the point of talking a good feminist line. But get close to them and somehow, sooner or later, they wind up on top; in control, hanging on, and pushing hard. It's an uncanny, seemingly irresistible tendency not to be denied. I'll take a 'macho' man any day. At least you know what he wants and what you are dealing with."  

         To be a man in this situation is like being under the influence of an irresistible reflex. We watch ourselves respond automatically to situations that push our control buttons and spoil situation after situation. If you are in this phase of development, take heart! If you stay with it, it will pass, and you'll be able to anticipate and eventually give up those automatically competitive reactions. It's part of the process of change. But don't stop at that point where you just look good enough to "pass" as a considerate, respectful, cooperative man. That alone is hardly an improvement over your old self.

     Giving up control doesn't mean giving up. It means establishing an exquisite balance of equality which requires everyone's involvement; those who are habitually one-down have to work just as hard as those who are habitually one up, and constant, ongoing vigilance is needed to keep the will to control or be controlled at bay.


         A very important area in which control manifests itself is in the sexual relationships between men and women. We know that big business, government, the military, the media, and all the major institutions of this country are dominated by men, but we fail to recognize how complete male domination is in sexual relations. Men dominate in every sphere of our lives, to an extent that is usually not obvious. Nowhere is this as hidden as in sexuality even as the illusion that it is women who are in Control.

     This illusion is promoted by the fact that, by and large men are much more eager to have sexual intercourse than women. There are, probably, times when women may avoid having intercourse with men because this can be an effective way to control the man. A woman may feel that her control over the decision to have intercourse is the only power that she has and she may use her power in this way. It seems to some men that this is the main reason why women refuse sex. A man who holds to this point of view has few, if any, chances of endearing himself to a woman. He will ignore all the other reasons (pregnancy, infection, inept lovers) for her reluctance and deal with it as if it were a contest of wills. She will then feel that she is in the hands of a subtle or crude rapist.

      So yes, women do, by and large, control whether the exchange of sexual and emotional energy, which men so badly need, will actually take place, and they do at times use their power to withdraw their favors to manipulate men. Sometimes women will lead men into the tender trap and saddle them with responsibility and children by the device of withholding their sexuality. Men who feel that women hunt them as "meal tickets" are as justified as women who complain of being hunted as sex objects.

      But every other aspect of sexuality is male dominated. Women can control sex only by not having it. Once they decide to go along they lose their position of power unless they withhold sex once again and that is not always effective since many men are only looking for one fast score-"Wham-Bam, thank you ma'am," or for a quick ball game-"Three strikes and you're out." But even when the man’s approach is respectful and sensitive the sexual trajectory of their relationship will be the familiar, kiss, kiss, caress, caress, penetrate, thrust and orgasm hopefully simultaneously. This trajectory is so ingrained in men’s and women’s minds that men can’t conceive of an alternative and women can’t figure out how to get what they want.

 Relationships Between Men 

          Men generally hold on to their power through control and competition. For a man, one of the inevitable consequences of giving up control is that his relationships with other men will change. The relationships between men, though they may seem to vary considerably among different individuals, all seem to have one quality in common. Regardless of the amount of cordiality and friendliness that may be exchanged among them, the impervious layer, the rock bottom, the impenetrable barrier seems to be that men do not touch each other. Sure, men will allow their hands to make contact with another man's body, especially through clothing, or if the touch is quick and more like a pat or a hit. Men will squeeze each other's hands in a handshake, and men will appear to touch each other on occasion, and some even frequently. But this physical contact is compared in duration and intensity with the kinds of physical contact that men pursue and maintain with women, it will be seen that men simply do not feel comfortable with each other's physical touch. They will keep a wider gap between themselves and other men than they will between themselves and women, and they will make actual physical contact shorter and less frequent; there are large barriers to warmth and intimacy between men. (Obviously, I am speaking here of heterosexual men.)  

       One of the exercises which was effective in making men aware of their sexism developed early in the feminist consciousness movement consisted of having men reverse roles with women, as I described earlier in Chapter 12. But, if one wants to understand how sexism affects men's relationships to other men, then the exercise to do is one in which a group of men all pretend to be women. Through this exercise, men become intensely aware of the obstacles in their relationships with other men. Yet it also becomes clear, as the exercise progresses, that these obstacles are not based on some inherent emotional lack, but on the prohibitions and fears that are so universally maintained by men.    

    What are the benefits of relating to men? Men have qualities that other men like and which women don't have. Men are different from women. Perhaps this is due only to their upbringing, their sex-role training-but it could also be that they are different for more fundamental, biologically based reasons. Men are usually stronger, harder. Their interests run along certain lines. Their emotions are channeled in certain ways. The satisfaction that is felt when relating to a person who in his total overall response presents a hard, strong surface, steadier, less vulnerable, easier to lean and rely on is different from what is experienced when relating to a woman. It is not a better feeling- just different, and satisfying in its own way.     

It is good to relate to one who is like oneself and who under stands, as no women really can, what it is like to be a man. This will be true as long as men and women are as different as they are, for whatever reason. It is difficult for me to paint a picture of what it is like since the experience is one that creates strong emotions in me, but I know that men find it profoundly satisfying when they can share their kinship with men. In a way, we have to take it on faith that our relationships with each other are worthy of pursuit. It's a fearful, dark mystery, what we have for each other, yet my heart leaps with anticipation when I let myself think about it. The development of brotherhood among men is one of the hidden premises of feminism. I look forward to a world where men can relate to each other lovingly and with trust instead of with competitive, coldness and fear.

It might be helpful, at this point, to share with you the definition of feminism that I accept. To me feminism is, above all, love of women. It is out of love that I write this chapter. To some feminism has come to mean nastiness, anger, and hatred of men. But true love for women must eventually include love of men.

 Back to home?

Chapter 18:

How to Fill the Control Vacuum

For me, writing a book about power seems a byproduct of a process that started thirty years ago. I was a Ph.D. in psychology and had written a successful first book, Games Alcoholics Play. I was involved in public service, working at a free clinic, running a thriving private practice. I was actively opposing the war in Vietnam, demonstrating, organizing and teaching. I felt righteous and just, capable and vigorous. I was, in short, a counterculture success story: respected, admired and alive. No one could have convinced me then that I was powerful at the expense of others and that regarded from a certain perspective, I was a social failure.

     True, I was aware of people's anger toward me (not enemies' but my friends'), all very low-key, but nevertheless very real. But after all, I would have argued, I was a man of unusual inclinations and ideas that often bring out the insecurities of people whose own ideas are threatened. People could have pointed out my occasional but very disruptive outbursts of temper, but I would have probably dismissed these as my problem, rather the problem of those who were weak and squeamish.

     I secretly knew that I was irrationally wedded to my ideas, that I was given to falsifying the truth (lying to be precise) and that I seldom felt love for anyone But had anyone pointed those truths out to me, I probably would have loosed a barrage of words sufficient to silence my critic and moved on to a different subject.

       It was a woman representing womanhood in general who first brought to my awareness the subtle, daily facts of the misuse of my power. "Men oppress women," she said, and to this I handily agreed-somehow managing to exclude myself from the group of men whom I saw abusing power. The startling part of the message was, "And you, Claude, are yourself an oppressive and abusive man." I was shocked and probably in order to disprove her assertion I became very interested in the study of sexism and the way in which men take advantage of women. I loved women rather uncritically, and I was not going to take lightly the accusation--which I suspected to be untrue--that I was an oppressive male. I was going to investigate this matter of male oppression and prove to myself and others that I was above power abuse. Once I had demonstrated that, I could then set the matter aside: a credentialed, liberated man, above suspicion.

     Becoming interested in this topic made me aware of the major tool of power abuse between human beings, the power play. It became clear that all human injustice could be easily analyzed in terms of transactional sequences that I called power plays. Sexism was one area in which injustice became very clear to me. Men discounted women, interrupted them in the middle of their sentences, dominated them physically, manipulated them with verbal and mental tricks. I saw, more and more, to my dismay, how I myself was involved in every one of those activities. The plot thickened.

     I realized that I was in fact a pain in the neck not only to some women, but to other people as well. As a middle-aged person, I abused my power with children and older people. I was racist, I was unfair to fat people, short people. I realized that as a well-to-do professional, I oppressed, with my language and demeanor, people who had a working-class background. I began to suspect that I, a person proud to be a humanist, nevertheless had a very deep-seated and complicated inclination to use my power in ways that were not necessarily beneficial to others, and ultimately not even beneficial to myself. I saw that being powerful is one thing, and how we use power is another. I soon saw, for the first time, through the urgings of others, that I was a privileged male, who was further privileged to be white, and further privileged to be educated, and further privileged to be in my middle age, and further privileged to be in a couple with a powerful woman. I also saw that all of the power I had by virtue of these privileges created responsibility, and that I was failing to act responsibly much oftener than I would have liked to admit.

      I realized that my efforts at self-vindication were pointless. Power abuse was everywhere. No one was free of power abuse or sexism-no man and no woman. The point I realized, wasn't to prove myself innocent of sexism, but to understand it, find it in myself and others, and struggle against it. It was a lifetime job for myself and all the others who felt the same way.

    It has been a long, arduous, joyful, at times extremely painful and bitter path. I have learned a great deal, much of it from men, most of it from women, and also from my children and old folks of my acquaintance. A great deal more remains to be learned. I have come to understand power to a sophisticated enough degree to write a book about it. I can offer myself as an example of a person who is familiar with power abuses, has used them, has had them used on himself, and has become conscious of how they harm other people, has relinquished a large number of them, and intends to continue to do so-probably for the rest of his life.

     Every power abuse, except for a few bloody, violent ones, described in this book, has been part of my behavior. I interrupted, corrected, overrode, ignored, judged, evaluated, insulted, attacked, patronized, discounted, and lied to people. I justified this by assuming that they needed my gentle, authoritative, sometimes devious, parental attitude, in order to improve their lives. Luckily, I had enough talent and charm going for myself so that they tolerated me and when I began relinquishing my power abuses, they came after me with gusto. People began to complain about my tone, my superior   attitude, my curt stiffness, my dogmatic pronouncements. They challenged my ideas, disagreed with me openly. They were much more often than not   correct in their criticism, and I listened. The machine could   not be stopped.

      I opened myself up to these attacks and their challenge of my power abuses became an accepted part of my life, which not only improved the effectiveness as a therapist but all my relationships, as I learned one valuable lesson after another. I stopped wearing ties and uncomfortable suits, I relaxed and smiled more, took more vacations. With my clients I failed to raise my fees as everyone else raised them, and noticed that they actually seemed to love me; that they were concerned with my welfare, and at the same time, claimed that I was a great therapist.

     To my great surprise, I seemed to gain by giving up my power abuses, whether in my work, in my love relationships, or in my relationships with friends, strangers, or even with my enemies. My healing powers actually improved as the upright, controlling male power attitudes learned in my training were given up, one by one, and as I learned to communicate, feel and think in new ways. Finally, I felt in love in a way I never experienced before; fully, with complete commitment, without reservations, control set aside, as my heart drank thirstily from Love's magic waters. 

 Putting Your Heart Back on Your Sleeve 

  In the previous chapter, I discussed the process whereby people who might be so inclined can give up control power in their lives. Even for those who consider such a giving up as essential, regardless of the consequences, the question may still come up: "Now that I've given up control, is there anything left of me?" (This is a valid question. In fact, as a people give up, one after another, aspects of their controlling behavior they may find that they feel weak, small, worthless, and, in general, powerless; a feeling which can cause a great deal of alarm. This is especially true of men, who are trained to feel good only when they are in control.) We may not want to dominate other living beings, but we also don't want to be without any power whatsoever.

     For some, the feeling of being small and powerless actually brings about some relief. Relief from responsibility, from guilt when we don't discharge our responsibilities, relief from having to give an impression of being powerful, in control, and successful at all times. But relief is temporary. In time, when we get used to the benefits of giving up power, the question really does come: "If not Control power, then what is there?"

     The answer is that what else there is, is limitless, really. The fact that people, men especially, have focused on control has also blinded them to other forms of power—The Other Side of Power. 

Back to home? 

Chapter 19:

The Other Side of Power  

I will now describe seven sources of non-abusive power. Perhaps surprisingly one of them is control, which is a valuable source if not used abusively or out of context with the other six. Students of Eastern religions will recognize the origin of these ideas in the ancient theory of the chakras of Kundalini yoga: Earth, Sex, Power, Heart, Throat, Third Eye, and Cosmos. 

 I call these seven power sources Balance, Passion, Control, Love, Communication, Information, and Transcendence. 

No one of these powers should be valued over another. Instead, they should be used together, for each has its own unique capacity to bring about change. When you use them in combination, you will find that this rainbow of options is much more powerful than the blunt, often brutal forms of control power that dominate so many of us. 

Insert Figure "Seven Sources"


       BALANCE. Balance or grounding, as it is also called, is the capacity to be rooted and comfortable while standing, climbing, walking, or running.

When you have a well-developed capacity for balance, you "know where you stand." Because you know where you stand, you will not be easily pushed out of your physical or personal position. Your body will be firmly planted, and your mind will be steady. 

As with all the power sources, you should try to reach a "happy medium" in regard to balance. If you are deficient in balance, you will be too obedient, easily frightened, and timid. But if you overdevelop balance, you will be stubborn, stony, dense, unmovable, and dull. 

Balance is a particularly valuable power source for women. Patriarchy discourages women from attaining a strong sense of physical balance. Women's fashions designed to please men--tight clothes, miniskirts, high heels--interfere with physical sta­bility. So do the requirements of modesty--limited and careful motion--for women of "breeding." 

Men, on the other hand, are free to be as physically comfortable as they desire, wear roomy clothing and shoes, and have minimal requirements for grooming and modesty. 

In the United States, as women move slowly toward equal status with men, they are casting aside many of the dictates of dress and grooming that have been required for them. As a result, they are feeling more powerful--more rooted, grounded, and balanced. 

PASSION: The power of passion can invigorate you like nothing else can. Passion can create or destroy. Passion brings opposites together, forces confrontation and change. 

In the absence of sexual passion, there would be no Romeo and Juliet, few marriages, no unrequited love. But passion is not only sexual. It also fuels missionary zeal, quixotic quests, and revolution. 

If your passion is underdeveloped, you will be tepid, boring, and gutless. If your passion boils over, you will explode with unbridled energy. 

CONTROL: Control has been badly used but it is an essential form of power. Control allows you to manipulate your environment and the objects, machines, animals, and people in it. 

Such control, which is both physical and psychological, also gives you power over yourself. Control is especially important when, in the form of self-discipline, it lets you regulate your other powers, such as passion, information, communication, and, very importantly, your emotions. This control is vital when events around you run amok and threaten your survival. Emotional Literacy is partially a matter of controlling emotions; expressing them or holding them back for a powerful personal approach. 

If you lack in control power, you can be victimized by your inner turmoil and become addicted, depressed, sleepless, and slothful. Or you may be victimized by the outer world, becom­ing unemployed, homeless, battered, persecuted, mentally ill, or sickened by pollution. You will be seen as lacking discipline, unable to control what you feel, say, and do, and what you put in your mouth, up your nose, or into your veins. On the op­posite end of the spectrum when obsessed by control you be­come preoccupied with absolute control of every situation and soul. 

LOVE: Everyone wants to love and to be loved, knowing how good it feels when it happens. But few people look be­yond love's obvious pleasures to see its power. Fewer yet fully develop that power. 

Love is more than just Valentine's Day cards, the thrill that you get when you see or touch your beloved, or the warm hug of a mother’s child. Love has the power to bind people together, enabling them to work tirelessly side by side on the hardest tasks, instilling hope that can propel them out of the most hell­ish situations; floods, famines, wars, plane wrecks. 

If your power of love is underdeveloped, you will be cold, lacking in warmth or empathy for other people, unable to nur­ture or to be nurtured, unable even to love yourself. If this power is overdeveloped, you will be a habitual Res­cuer, driven to excessive sacrifices for others while neglecting yourself. 

Love and Control are often confused with each other. People whose power is invested in control characteristically are lacking in the capacity to love. Their feelings about others have their origins in control rather than love issues. Jealousy is a case in point.  

Many people believe that jealousy is an emotion associated with love and that being jealous is an indication of how much a person loves another. The fact that a person wants another does not necessarily mean that there is any love involved. People often want others in the same way they want a car, a house, or any other kind of property. Yet, the confusion is real and the differences are difficult to ascertain. Feelings of Love and Control can be mixed together so that any one object or person can bring out both in someone, so that it isn't clear just what is going on. It is in the case of jealousy, when the object or person is taken away from us, that we sometimes get a very clear-cut basis for the difference.    

     When jealousy has to do with possessiveness-the desire to dominate the other person's movements-it is connected to primitive, territorial possessive instincts that are applied to objects as well as people. The desire that some people have to define their private property and to exercise controls over it manifest itself in this form of jealousy. In feeling this kind of jealousy, we don't care about the circumstances or details or consider the other person's emotional needs. We simply are unwilling and incapable of accepting the loss of control over an object. We may not even love or care about that person. We may be ourselves involved with second, third, and fourth lovers, but we regard that person as our property and, just as I wouldn't accept a stranger's driving away in my truck, we are unable to accept our partners' freedom and right to their own choices. Control jealousy has nothing to do with Love, though it is often mistaken for it.

If there was such a thing as pure Love, it would completely exclude Control. The ultimate reward for giving up Control is the rediscovery of Love.  

Jealousy is not always based on control. It can also be the result of a stroke deficit and imbalance. When one of the members of a couple withholds strokes from his or her partner and gives them to another person the jealousy felt is far more legitimate and can’t be shaken unless the imbalance is corrected.  

When love is at the center of the seven sources of the other side of power a loving attitude coordinates the application of the other six so that it will empower both its owner and those around her or him.  

COMMUNICATION:  The power of communication depends on the capacity to reproduce one’s thoughts and feelings in others. Two operations are involved: sending and receiv­ing, speaking and listening. You need two-way communication to transmit knowledge, to solve problems with others, to build sat­isfying relationships. 

If you are lacking in communication power, you will be unable to learn much or to enjoy people. If you stress com­munication too much, you could become a compulsive, careless talker, paying too little attention to what you are saying or its effect on others. 

All the sources of power work with each other. A very powerful combination of powers, used by great teachers is made of communication, infor­mation, and love. Their communication is inspired by the love of truth and the love of people. They do not browbeat or use control to persuade. Instead they explain, and try to understand if they are not understood; their students are free to compare what they are learning with what they already know, thus forming their own well grounded opinions. 

INFORMATION:  The power of information is that it reduces your uncertainty. When you have information, you can anticipate events and you can make things happen or prevent them from happening. If you are lacking the power of information, you suffer from ignorance. If this power is overdeveloped, you become hyper-intellectual and lacking heart. 

Information comes in four forms: science, intuition, history and vision.

Science gathers facts methodically, by taking a careful look at things and noting how they work. Science is like a camera taking focused and sharp pictures of reality. It is a powerful source of certainty. 

Intuition grasps the flow of things. It produces "educated guesses" about the way things are. Intuition is fuzzy, not exact like science, but it is a powerful guide toward what is probably true. Because of this, intuition is often vital in the early stages of important scientific discoveries. Intuition and its extension empathy is an especially powerful aspect of the Other Side of Power so let me elaborate.

Intuition is our capacity to know beyond what our senses tell us. We know the world through our eyes and ears, touch and smell. But we have what is called a "sixth sense"-intuition-through which knowledge about the world is available as well. Intuition-the capacity of knowing without identifiable information is often underdeveloped in people though it is available to all. Without it we can't really know how other people feel. Without intuition, mutuality is most difficult and enduring love impossible. Intuition is particularly underdeveloped in people who pride themselves on being rational and who want to know what they know based on discrete observable facts. The vague, unformed, inexplicable way in which intuition makes itself manifest is not attended to by most men, who often think of it as a form of feminine irrationality. The fact is, however, that intuition combined with reason gives a person access to expanded knowledge, which is a great improvement over reason (or intuition) alone.

      In A Separate Reality, Carlos Castaneda quite rationally argues against Don Juan's claim that it is possible to avoid dangerous situations, really: 


"It is not possible to live strategically all the time. Imagine that someone is waiting for you with a powerful rifle with a telescopic sight: he could spot you accurately five hundred yards away. What would you do?" 

Don Juan looked at me with an air of disbelief and then broke into laughter.

"What would you do?" I urged him.

"If someone is waiting for me with a rifle with a telescopic sight?" he said, obviously mocking me.

"If someone is hiding out of sight, waiting for you. You won't have a chance. You can't stop a bullet."

"No, I can't. But I still don't understand your point."

"My point is that all your strategy cannot be of any help in a situation like that."

"Oh, but it can. If someone is waiting for me with a powerful rifle with a telescopic sight, I simply will not come around."

          Interestingly, the development of intuition is effectively pursued through the validation of paranoia. The reason for this is that paranoia is the result of the suppression of intuition. In The Politics of the Family, R. D. Laing points out that people's experiences of the world are continually being invalidated and forcibly replaced by the "official" view of events. He speaks of a woman whose experience is that, though she is officially married (with a certificate and a wedding ceremony to prove the fact), her "husband" is in fact not married to her at all; his behavior belies any marital agreement. He shows no love, respect, or interest in her. When she claims that he is not her husband, she is whisked to a psychiatrist; her experience (he is not her husband) is labeled insane and invalidated.

Ironically, invalidation, when it takes an extreme form, sometimes turns people into mental invalids gone mad with what the psychiatric establishment calls paranoid schizophrenia. When we notice what goes on with other people, and these perceptions are denied or discounted, we are basically squelching our intuitive powers. When the unpleasant facts of life are denied, the result (for most of us who don't go mad) is that we develop the kinds of nagging and repetitive suspicions and misgivings that are our common, garden-variety, everyday paranoid fantasies.

“Paranoia is heightened awareness.” This statement, which I first made in 1969 in the Radical Psychiatry Manifesto, was at the time seen as an outrageous notion even by myself. It was designed to reassure myself and others in the antiwar movement that our paranoia about Nixon, the FBI, and the CIA were valid. Today we all know that those suspicions were more than valid; in fact, what was really going on was far worse than some of us ever imagined and probably remains undiscovered. Recent partial disclosures from the FBI files, as an example, corroborate that Edgar Hoover had undercover agents infiltrating and agitating virtually every women’s consciousness raising group in the country at the time.

Paranoia is the last vestige of our intuition, denied. Some of us have been so browbeaten by the scientific way of thinking and have taken so seriously the denials of all of what we experience intuitively, that we do not even have any paranoia left. There are two kinds of truly insane people: those who think everyone is after them, and those who think no one is after them. Both of these are relatively rare most of us harbor occasional notions of persecution which we largely discount. It is to this last remaining glimmer of our lost intuition that we need to attach ourselves; it will be the touchstone, the first building step of our intuitive powers.

To repeat, knowledge has four sources, science intuition, history and vision.  

Historical knowledge comes from knowledge of past events, either through personal experience or through the study of history. Historical perspective can be a powerful tool to help you forecast events.  

Vision is the ability to see what lies ahead directly, through dreams and visions. We all have visions of the future but it takes great self-confidence to be a visionary. Vision when recognized is a highly valued for of information. 

Ordinarily, our society considers science the only valid source of knowledge; history is for old people, intuition for women, and vision for lunatics. Still, each of these forms of information has validity and can add to your charisma.  

Information has been badly misused over the ages. It has been used in the service of control, to wage war, to seize land, and to impose political and religious views. Today, in the Information Age, the misuse of information comes in the form of disinformation, false advertising, negative political ads and other forms of modem propaganda. They are used to manipulate millions of people through television and other mass media and to persuade people to live certain life styles and buy the products that go with them.  

Information in the service of love would be starkly different. It would be used to build people's power; their health through medical and psychological knowledge, their wisdom through education, their relationships through emotional literacy.  

TRANSCENDENCE: When viewed as a source of power, Transcendence is the power of equanimity, of letting events take their course without getting upset or letting your ego get involved. It lets you find calm and see clearly, in the midst, even, of earthshaking events. You find transcendence by realizing how insignificant you are in the universe-how brief life is before you return to cosmic dust, how ephemeral your successes and failures, how relatively unimportant your pains and joys. Whatever your situation may be, you can deal with it when you see it as a speck in the immensity of time and space. With this understanding, there is no fear of the future or even death because one’s existence cannot be disrupted by ordinary events. The power of transcendence gives one hope and faith that there is a meaning to life even if one's limited intelligence can't grasp it. With it we can "rise above" a particular situation and trust and feel our power in spite of material conditions.  

If your capacity for transcendence is underdeveloped, you will see yourself at the very center of things and cling desperately to your beliefs and desires, aversions and cravings, successes and failures, no matter the cost. You will fail to see the effect that you have on other human beings and the environment, because all that matters to you, is you. On the other hand if transcendence becomes an overused method of coping, you will become detached from earthly matters, so that you will "float away" oblivious of events around you, unwilling and unable to touch the ground.  

Giving Up Control Adds Life 

Giving up Control affects the whole person, psychologically as well as physically. The state of body and mind accompanying fixation on control power is one of tension. The person has to be constantly vigilant not to lose control over him or others and generally assumes a great deal of responsibility for far too many things. The concentration on specific issues of control will manifest itself in an overall disconnection from bodily feelings and sensations. The constant stress due to the vigilance that control requires will make it literally impossible to notice what she is experiencing internally. She will neglect the signals of impending disease, of overexertion, of chronic fatigue, of malnutrition, whether it be from eating too much, or too little. Stress will blank out all the subtle internal cues coming from her body; it will make her unaware of both the pleasures and the pain that she is feeling throughout her life. Giving up control brings about an intensification of one's awareness of the internal processes of the body. As a person gives up control, he is likely to become more interested in what he eats, how he feels, whether he is doing an inadequate amount of exercise, and whether he is holding a painful amount of tension anywhere in his body.  

    A whole new set of concerns will develop related to his physical integrity. His diet, sleeping, and exercise habits are likely to change and readjust to more healthy patterns. In turn, this will affect how he relates to other people. People who are in control tend to avoid situations in which they experience feelings of powerlessness, loss, hurt, impotent anger, jealousy, and in general all of the feelings which accompany situations in which one is one-down and not in control.

      When I began to give up control, I felt, for the first time in my life, jealousy of an incredibly intense sort (I had thought I was not jealous), loneliness, incapacity to "manage" my feelings, and the rage that controlling people feel when they can't get what they want from another person. I experienced all of these in connection with a relationship that did not go in the direction in which I wanted it to go, an unusual experience for me until that time. I went through a prolonged period of unpleasant feelings of inferiority. The shoe was, as it were, on the other foot, and I confronted experiences that I had never allowed myself to have before, because I had always kept control of myself in relationships.

         This was an important aspect of learning empathy. Right alongside the negative emotions that I brought upon myself by giving up control, there was a set of positive feelings that were also new to me. I became more loving, more capable of communicating with people, softer, more compassionate, more thoughtful and meditative-a more pleasant and pleasurable human being. At the same time, my attachment to material things diminished, and my life was less dominated and driven by sexual considerations as well. I noticed an increased amount of affection and loving feelings coming to me from other people wherever I went, and a capacity to respond to similar feelings of my own. 

Giving up Control and embarking into the Other Side of Power is equivalent to joining the human race. As we do, we discover that we are not alone, that there are countless others, wherever we go, who are themselves intensely involved in the race for the survival of our humanness. We need only lift our heads to see somebody always within reach whose sparkle will meet our eye to affirm our commonality as human beings.     

Click here for Coda and Bibliography                                 

                    Back to home