Being a systemic therapist requires ongoing analysis of the ways in which power dynamics organize and shape the life-long relational dances in couples and families. Experiences of privilege and marginalization in the cultural landscape are critical to the daily lived experience of our clients, and impact their relationships in profound ways.
In working with our Psychiatry residents at Penn, I welcome writing that fosters clarity about the influence of these complex, often silenced, aspects of power.
Once again, my friend and colleague Ken Dolan-DelVecchio has provided a map. He distinguishes between two types of power: power over, which is the right to dominate, and power with, the responsibility for shared success.
Power with, the alternative to power over, sees power not as the opportunity to dominate and control but, instead, as the responsibility to bring about good things for everybody involved. It is the essence of great leadership, partnering, parenting, and friendship. Indeed, power with is the essence of love.
I invite you to read his article Radical Self Awareness #1: The Importance of Power.
In doing so, you’ll access this “essence of love,” and better, help couples and families learn to “bring about good things for everybody involved.”
After all, isn’t that, quite simply, what we’re all working toward?