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Posted on April 20, 2010 by Christine Crosby in 

The Foundations of Abuse

How Do We Form Our Relationships With Power?

By: Judith Barr

When you are young, and experiencing pain, that pain is too much for a little child to bear, especially if that pain is the response to being wounded emotionally, mentally, physically, spiritually. In order to deal with the unbearable pain, you reflexively bury it and create defenses to keep it far, far at bay.One of those defenses is unconscious decisions to be a certain way.

Here’s an example.

Let’s say … your mother was controlling. As part of her control, she made you do things you shouldn’t have had to do – beyond your years and ability. She yelled at you and sent you to your room for hours because you didn’t do things up to her standards, the way she wanted.

One night, lying in bed after being sent to your room, crying yourself to sleep, you make an early decision you are not even be aware of making: You have the power now mommy, but when I grow up, I’ll have all the power.*

Let’s say … you grow up and become a teacher, a clergyperson, the president of a corporation, a chief of police, a legislator, a supreme court justice, a dictator. It doesn’t matter whether you are republican, democrat, or independent. Conservative or Liberal. Wealthy, financially stable, or poverty stricken. Masculine or feminine. This is not about politics, philosophy, economics, or gender. This is about being human. It happens with us all.

So let’s say … you grow up and are in a position of power. You think you’re using your power well. You may even appear to be using it well. But somewhere inside you, the way you are using your power is being driven by your defense against your pain with your mother, depicted that night, when you were in your room, crying yourself to sleep, and making that early decision: You have the power now mommy, but when I grow up, I’ll have all the power. So in essence, once you grow up, you are really using your power to have power over your Mom.In other words, you are using your power for the purpose of winning the power struggle with your mom that began that night when you cried yourself to sleep.

Most important … you are not aware of this! It was an unconscious decision then, and it remains an unconscious decision today, driving your life still. You are not aware that you experience anyone who wants power as Mom. You are not aware that a child still alive and active within you is running the classroom, the church, the corporation, the police force, the legislature, the court cases, the country. And you are not aware that you’re holding onto your early decision for dear life . . . because when you let it go, you will feel once again what you felt as you were crying yourself to sleep.

That is exactly what we need to do for healing . . . to stop defending against those feelings from long ago that we repressed and buried with layers and layers of defense; to stop misusing and abusing our power under the guise of defending ourselves, without even realizing it;to feel those feelings at long last and to come through the experience able to use our power with more integrity and truly for magnificent good.

Now . . . let’s look back at what we’ve been doing together. We’ve looked at how you use your power, and what’s driving the power as you use it. And we’ve seen that if you trace it to childhood, we’re looking at the decisions you made about power and the feelings that are still within you beneath those decisions . . . feelings that were born of the way in which others used their power with you when you were young, vulnerable, and powerless.

In essence, we’ve seen that you formed your relationship with power:

  • in the young times in your life, when you were powerless.
  • in response to how others used their power with you back then.
  • as a result of your repressing your feelings and burying them with defenses.

And all of this feeds the misuse and abuse of power.

This is true for you, for me, for everyone.

Next week, we’ll see how universal this misuse and abuse of power is, how the individual’s relationship with power affects the national and global experience with power, and why we need to heal our relationships with power.

* There are limitless possibilities for early decisions a child can make. The very same child who above made the decision. You may have the power now, but when I grow up I’m going to have all the power, might have also decided If this is power, I don’t ever want any. And this child, once grown, will not be aware of, acknowledge, or act upon his or her power. Perhaps he won’t stand up for his wife when her own father yells at her. Or perhaps she won’t protect her child from her husband’s sexual abuse.

© Judith Barr, 2010


Judith Barr has been a depth psychotherapist in private practice for over 30  years, helping people to heal their own inner wounding through therapy, and  also to make a connection between our own individual inner relationships with  power, money, national and world events and more, and the state of our nation  and our world. She offers her healing expertise in many formats: working with  individuals, couples groups, workshops, consultations, and training and supervision  for healing professionals. Through her book Power Abused, Power Healed, articles for both professionals and the general public, her blog PoliPsych, and her speaking engagements, media appearances and teleconferences,  Judith teaches about how we can help heal the abuse of power in all arenas of  life -from the inside out — and how we can help to create sustainable safety  in our world. To learn more, please visit https://www.PowerAbusedPowerHealed.com or email  Judith at JudithBarr@PowerAbusedPowerHealed.com.

Christine Crosby

About the author

Christine is the co-founder and editorial director for GRAND Magazine. She is the grandmother of five and great-grandmom (aka Grandmere) to one. She makes her home in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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