Power Abused, Power Healed combines fairy tale and life events, using Hans Christian Andersen’s fable, “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” to illustrate various abuses of authority and the consequences of each in the lives of individuals. Utilizing fairy tale and current life events, this life-changing book explores a variety of potential outcomes of a child’s revelation, introducing us to characters in search of deeper healing for their childhood wounds suffered at the hands of an emperor whose own wounds had never been addressed.
While most of the specific stories in Power Abused, Power Healed are about individuals, the larger context of the wrap around story is that of an empire – government, politics, and a whole citizenry – and about an emperor who is the head of government – even a dictator – who threatens anyone who doesn’t see the clothes. Those affected include his advisors, other government officials, and ordinary citizens. Their response mirrors a possible response of any citizenry in similar situations … a mirror that reflects much of what we see in our national and international political scene today.
Each chapter divides into three sections:
- Each chapter begins with a different ending to the classic fairy tale, with a different consequence for the child who voices the truth about the naked emperor. Most of these sixteen endings illustrate a particular form of abuse, some subtle, some blatant, perpetrated upon the child by parents, neighbors, and the emperor himself.
- The scene then flashes forward to modern times, to reveal the adult self of each child, as he or she unconsciously reenacts his or her childhood role, undergoing similar abuse at the hands of therapists, spiritual and group leaders, and others in the healing professions, and in one chapter, at the hands of a Governor. Through intervention by a stranger of some sort (usually also in the healing professions), the now-grownup child is exposed to the ways in which he or she was abused, past and present, and is set on a course of self-discovery and deep healing.
- The third and final section of each chapter, entitled “Here and Now,” offers a brief summary of the preceding chapter and soul-searching questions aimed at helping the reader to examine him- or herself, as well as those around him or her, to find examples of ways in which power can be and has been abused in the fashion discussed in the preceding chapter, and to stimulate conscious awareness of the reader’s own behaviors, motivations, and wounds, as well as those of others.
Readers learn, through these stories of wounding and healing, about the ways in which power was misused with them, and the ways in which they themselves have misused their power…and will begin to explore how to heal and transform these deep inner wounds…to help reach their full potential and use their power magnificently!
What others are saying about
Using Hans Andersen’s fairy tale about the emperor whose vanity lands him naked on parade, Judith Barr explores the stories of many kinds of power. While her accounts are mainly focused on power abuse in families and the helping professions, we know only too well how the same dynamics surround us. In politics, in the corporate world, in church institutions, even in our news sources, we can see many forms of abuse that distort reality, silence questioning, crush empathy, and build empires based on greed, power, and righteous self-aggrandizement.
Because Judith Barr’s parables are enjoyable and deceptively simple, they help to raise consciousness in non-threatening ways. They creep under our defenses to wake us up. Thus they can be used by parents, family therapists, pastoral counselors, and group leaders in their work. They can also be used for self-reflection, for it is not hard to find aspects of ourselves mirrored in them.
I would also like to see this book as mandatory reading for politicians and CEOs. Everyone claiming authority needs to know the dire consequences to self and to others of the power shadow. When we are not aware, we may find ourselves parading our grandeur and goodness as foolishly as the naked emperor, or as cruelly as any tyrant.
SYLVIA BRINTON PERERA
Jungian analyst, author of "Descent to the Goddess: A Way of Initiation for Women"
This is the best book on power and its abuse by therapists and spiritual leaders since Guggenbuhl-Craig's trenchant Power in the Helping Professions. Anyone whose therapy or discipleship has gone rotten through no fault of their own will find wisdom and comfort here. It should be required reading for all therapists and healers in training.