One of the red flags of the patriarchy — men misusing and abusing their power.
But, remember! Women are part of the patriarchy, too. As women start claiming more power in our public world, let’s not make the mistake of thinking it’s only the men. We women misuse and abuse our power, too. Sometimes in public life. Sometimes in private.
In my favorite TV interview after I wrote my book, Power Abused, Power Healed,* I talked with Steve Adubato about women and power.
In essence, I confirmed that men have misused and abused their power – in government, in families, and elsewhere. And that their abuse of power has been more “out there” than women’s abuse of power. But what seemed most important to tell him: if women are at home with the children after the father goes to work, or whenever the mother is with the children alone … it is the women who are in power. They have all the power. And whatever they, the mothers, experienced in childhood, whatever the mothers decided in childhood … all that can be acted out with the children—in the nursery, in the bathroom, in the kitchen, in the playroom.
Steve’s response: A lot of power!
My elaboration: That one mother’s child may grow up to be a president or a dictator. That one mother can have more power – as much if not more power, if you think of the child’s formative years – than Hitler. In other words, one mother can contribute or co-contribute to a child’s becoming a terrifyingly destructive adult – citizen or leader.
This means that not only the fathers but – sometimes equally and sometimes even more – the mothers and their childhood experiences in the face of power have an extraordinary impact on how power is used by leaders and by citizens in our country and our world. Both the acting out and the impact can be conscious and unconscious.
As a result, we each need to explore within and heal to the roots … whatever misuse and abuse of power we are prone or programmed to re-enact within and without, as a result of our experiencing the same with our parents and other elders in our youth.
If we don’t do that healing work, we will re-enact our own experiences and collude communally – with our families, our companies, our organizations, our communities, our world – to co-create misuse and abuse of power in our world today and tomorrow.
Mothers will act out with their children their own childhood experiences with people who were in power with them. This is exactly what we’ve seen with the men . . . who act out with their children as well as in their other relationships, personal and public, their experiences with those in power with them, when they themselves were children.
So … how many men do you know who have done their own inner healing work with their experiences with people in power and with their own resulting relationships with power? How many men who are fathers, husbands, employers, politicians, government officials, and more?
And how many women do you know who have done their own inner healing work with power? How many women who are mothers, wives, employers, politicians, government officials, and more?
If we women want to take a larger, more active part in the healing of our country and our world, we need to do it differently than men … not only in the outer world, but also in our inner worlds. We need to do our own inner work with the experiences we had as children with those in power … and with the resultant relationships with power that we have created in our lives – inside and out.
If we women fail to do our inner work … whatever we do in the outer world, we will be unable to make the changes we claim we want to make and sustain them. That can only be done from the inside out.
© Judith Barr, 2019
* Power Abused, Power Healed, Judith Barr, Mysteries of Life, 2007.
Note: Not all people misuse and abuse their power as obviously as others. Not all people misuse and abuse their power as much as others, or as obviously impactfully as others. But there is a current of misuse and abuse of power in each of us. In some, that current is huge, like a huge flooding river. In others, that current is not as large, but however large it is … it has an impact on us and on our world, inside and out. That means we all need to do this work! And just to be clear . . . there are both men and women who do this inner healing work… just not nearly enough of either.