This week we have seen Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull wrestling in a power struggle over the "ute gate" affair. Jousting in the political arena seems to be acceptable behaviour, and at the end of the day is about winning, about getting one's party message out there. Ultimately it is about winning the next election. As part of this power struggle, they have used some of the verbal "power over" tactics that Patricia Evans describes in her book The Verbally Abusive Relationship:
1. Withholding: a purposeful, silent treatment.
2. Countering: a countering of ideas, feelings, and perceptions.
3. Discounting: a putdown of things held dear.
4. Blocking and diverting: a covert way of violating a person's dignity.
5. Accusation and blame.
6. Judging and criticising: negative, sometimes untrue, comments about the other's personal qualities and performance.
7. Trivialising and undermining: making light of an individual's work, efforts, interests, or concerns. Joking at the other's expense.
8. Name calling.
9. Ordering: Telling a person something, rather than asking, or making decisions for them without their input.
10. Forgetting and denial: Forgetting is a form of denial that shifts all responsibility from the "power over" person to some “weakness of mind.”
11. Abusive anger: Needing to “blow up,” to dominate, to control, to go one up, and to put down.
12. Threatening: Physical threats and sexual threats aside, verbal threats are an effort at manipulation. The threat of “pending disaster” is designed to shatter a person's serenity.
Whilst it may or may not be appropriate for politicians to behave in this way in the rough and tumble of the political ring, the challenge for us is how much we use these tactics in our relationships. Whilst we may not reach the extremes of some of these such as abusive anger, sometimes we will raise our voice or get more emphatic to make a point, to get the other to agree with us.
In our relationships, our challenge is to not be in the "power over" position, but to be coming from what Evans describes as "personal power";
" Power Over shows up as control and dominance. Personal Power shows up as mutuality and co creation."
When we approach our friends, colleagues, and partners from a place where we are more interested in creating together and working synergistically, we give up the need to control, dominate and manipulate in order to get things done "our way".
Acting from a "personal power" position, means there are not winners and losers, dominant and subordinate people, nor is one's sense of power dependent on having power over the other, inherent in a "power over" model. Instead each person in the relationship brings themselves to the other, is willing to share with the other, has concern for the other's well being, and is willing to work together with the other in a co-creative way that nourishes and sustains the relationship and living in general. The ability to be secure in oneself is only possible when we are in relationship with Christ, and not seeking to be fulfilled from our relationships with others.
Interestingly, Ms Evans finally comments:
"Christ was the last victim, the last scapegoat. He died for all humanity."
- suggesting that with Christ's death the need for "power over" was finished once and for all with His death and resurrection. Do we demonstrate that in all our dealings with others?