How do you see power, abuse, and abuse of power?

ruborcoraxxx

MyPTSD Pro
I think the concept of agency would be useful here. Agency as the collection of options in front of you, depending on your situation and personal capacity.

All humans and animals have a form of agency. What is available for some might not be available for others. And there is a self perception of agency that goes from helplessness to total control.

Power imbalances are difficult to manage in relationships and they depend of endless factors. Power imbalances can be okay if both parts are aware of what they are and how they operate.

However, many people confuse power, which is the potential of doing something, with coercion and control. Testing your power against someone, even if your power is small, to see if you can influence, impact, ultimately count. Have a concrete effect.

Everyone does the power play from time to time. It’s "Oh, can you make me a coffee?" with a silly voice, and the other person being capable of counteracting "Look, you can perfectly do it yourself," responding to the need of attention but not to the pressure. Then you make your coffee yourself with good heart. If you’re balanced, you know that your demand is somewhat abusive, but know it’s not going to be taken into account because you explored exits to that many times.

In my pathological relationships, I never dared to ask him "Oh, can you make me a coffee?" with this poking/complicit tone. He would have done it and feel furious for having had to do that. Then resentful. Then I’d try to anticipate his needs and this makes him overpowering me because he refuses to expose his needs and vulnerabilities, and also to express limits without having to hammer them on the other person as if a small crossing was going to destroy all his system. This is what happens to people who are used to be abused; can’t stand anything that looks like it and actually are incapable to respond to anything that feels like a demand. It’s feeling overpowered by normal accountability. Then retaliating. And here we go.

Now I’m my life I’m trying to steer away of people who need to control and am looking for fluidity. I do struggle with control in certain situations where I do feel insecure. In very precise settings, that would be triggered and I’m willing to work on it before it triggers again. I avoided power for a long time but am very conscious how "powerlessness" can be weaponized as a way of not being accountable for the real exertion of power that has been done. Because no matter what we do, we do have agency over things and the responsibility that goes with it. We all have power and what is difficult is to identify where it is and what can be done with it.

I don’t know if I’m very clear. It’s an interesting topic. It’s been a question I had for myself for a long time.
 

Mach123

MyPTSD Pro
Hi thank you. Most of my writing is on this theme. The problem with trying to sort it out with others is it makes them have to think about themselves. It’s easier to blame others. That’s simplistic. You being willing to try and understand shows a real courage. I don’t pretend to know any better. But I’ve been trying for a long time.
 

PreciousChild

MyPTSD Pro
I thought that was a really great post @ruborcoraxxx. I particularly liked these two quotes:
However, many people confuse power, which is the potential of doing something, with coercion and control.
In a way, exerting agency (maybe real power?) is a very different animal from coercion which comes from a place of weakness.

avoided power for a long time but am very conscious how "powerlessness" can be weaponized as a way of not being accountable for the real exertion of power that has been done. Because no matter what we do, we do have agency over things and the responsibility that goes with it. We all have power and what is difficult is to identify where it is and what can be done with it.
Nelson Mandela said something like, 'there is nothing great about passivity.' I remember the sentiment being along the lines of we need to use our power to get things done - the great things like justice and equity, though we all are too aware of the negative things that power can be used for too. Also, I think in this quote is the idea that we already do have power, and to be afraid of it sometimes makes us deny the responsibility we have. I know that my passive-aggressive ex would do all these atrocious things and still do, but would always turn around and blame me, even his son. He was always the victim. Maybe if he didn't associate power with abuse, he'd be able to embrace his own exertion of power more?
 

ruborcoraxxx

MyPTSD Pro
Also, I think in this quote is the idea that we already do have power, and to be afraid of it sometimes makes us deny the responsibility we have.
I think this really is the nerve of the war. Because there is something like a position that comes with it and it can be the one of a victim or of a nag. Circulating through positions, too.

What I do appreciate with the term "agency" is that it’s more driven towards options and less towards confrontations. But confrontations do exist, and it’s okay they exist as long as the two parts are heard and that interaction isn’t, over time, at the expense of the other. Agency also allows to wander in other actions than relationships, that is how we explore the world as an organism. Seeing this in that sense allows to have a positive vision of power, that is the capacity to adapt to situations or to change it, whatever the means.

Between relationships, the power imbalances can happen because of gender, which is the first big one, then different age and or experience, race, social and economic status and also mental health. A relationship (couple or friendship) has to take these realities into account and to negotiate them, rather than confront or pretend they do not exist in that precise setting. Because they do. Sometimes imbalances are okay and bearable, sometimes they’re too heavy and cause conflicts, sometimes it’s the special flavour of these imbalances that create stormy questions. But the key for getting there is to be blind to others realities and to our own capacity to change things. It’s one of the most difficult topics; especially in the case of PTSD where we’re so overclocked and anxious about abuse that we might have a very aggressive frame of reading and being rater aggressive even when not willing, or retaliating when you had enough. And it can be legitimate as it can be complete off the road. In the moment it’s difficult to make the difference. Something as well is to take the time to de-escalate, and both parts must be conscious that it’s the objective and give some sort of peace about it, instead of "freezing" the situation in place of a resolution. Because that "freezing" can be coercive too. And trying to go beyond that "freeze" also can be coercive.

I think coercion is unavoidable. You might do it without even seeing it. I don’t think it’s completely bad in all cases. There are magnitudes in it. If it’s something small that can be managed, okay, and then over time it becomes a joke or disappear. I think the worst thing in these power play situations is the oversensitivity towards it and the hyper response we give when we see it, be it freeze fight fawn flee.
 

enough

MyPTSD Pro
6', 300+/- lbs. I carry a lot of power with just that persona alone. I could use a gravely voice and swear a lot or just ignore people and maybe have more power just by adding a few well placed cues that I am the shit, don't f*ck with me. Abuse is easy.

More fun to throw out "yes maam" and "yes sir' and be visibly curious, courteous and willing to laugh at myself. It still isn't enough to get into the space reserved by people that have had power brought down on their heads (like me) and will not trust again. Maybe a little closer next time, but thats on them (and me, working on it).

Is that a positive use of power? In a world where power is everything, I can be the threat to be dealt with or the large slow unassuming guy at your service just by using the right words in the right way (and a tie die t shirt base layer whenever possible). Yes, I am bigger and stronger, heres the keys. Need anything lifted?
 

ruborcoraxxx

MyPTSD Pro
This too, physical size. I weight 44 kg and aren’t very intimidating unless I do show the bit of craziness I have. Something in my eyes tells you that I’ll rip your eyes out of your face and bite until I die. Which is true. But the question is how one projects such a thing, how certain people have a "don’t mess with me" aura. I do have this and while it is useful, it also makes problems in normal situations. I think I have an overcompensating range of intimidation tactics that I don’t necessarily see but use almost automatically. Also, in settings where I feel overpowered, my power is to find the words that are the most painful possible.

It isn’t nice but from early childhood I understood that certain combination of truths could make someone withdraw in themselves or almost crying. I rarely do that now but it appears in heavy conflicts where I get fed up and just throw all that I have and leave. This can leave scars too. It’s possible to hurt deeply when you reach a core. This is a sort of power one must be conscious of, because really it can lead to blatant verbal abuse. Very difficult to manage when you’re forced and cornered in that kind of situation.
 

enough

MyPTSD Pro
Want to project that certain undistinguishable "move along, nothing to see here" aura? Look at people in the eye but through them, like you want to see them and also whats behind them, please stop blocking my view. Really very hard to master, we all give up what is called a miro flash of emotion on our faces and if you cant meet eyes without giving up a little fear handle to them, I don't recommend it. I believe that just seeing someone looking someone else in the eyes is enough to make the predators look elsewhere for prey, you are either singular and strong or have companions.

The exact opposite? look down without ever looking up. fidget. look anywhere but in the eyes and you will be seen as a prey animal, you might as well have eyes on the sides of your head and a neck long enough to reach the ground and forage. Abusers of power know what they are looking for- don't be it!

This is pretty commonly taught in all kinds of defense and law enforcement training, there are volumes written on the subject.
 

PreciousChild

MyPTSD Pro
Tell me if I'm totally off on this, @ruborcoraxxx and @enough. It seems to me that your observations come from a male perspective. I think men inhabit a world that is more aggressive than women do, where bullying is more common and you have to learn to handle yourself. I did have to deal with some of that of course in my life, but I frequently observe men, however old, show egregious displays of agression with each other in a way that I don't quite understand. I would think that would complicate one's relationship with power if abuse is in the background.

@ruborcoraxxx , I agree with what you say about agency and the fluidity of choice and self-determination. To me, that's the idea that if we are secure and confident, then we would be less likely to try and control and coerce others which maybe is a way of making up for inner chaos. I don't know if I agree that coercion is necessary. I do think it's a reality and so long as people try to be coercive, I do think something like power has to be used to defend oneself.
 

enough

MyPTSD Pro
It seems to me that your observations come from a male perspective. I think men inhabit a world that is more aggressive than women do, where bullying is more common and you have to learn to handle yourself.
In general yes. Another perspective that should be tied to this is how it has changed for men over the years, When I was 10 it was 1972 and bullying was just as popular then as it is now, except that real punches were thrown and received and you had to learn to temper your responses so as not to escalate a bully to a higher level, a bully with a broken nose is worse than a bully.
Nowadays, the bullies I meet are more likely to come at you as if no one has ever broken their noses and you had better not be guilty of a physical altercation, right or wrong. There is no accountability where in 1972, accountability was instant and expected.
todays twenty somethings trash talk like this is all just a video game and the reset button fixes all.
More to tolerate now than there ever was, less to truly fear by a longshot.
 

ruborcoraxxx

MyPTSD Pro
It seems to me that your observations come from a male perspective.
In my case I’m a woman. My mother has been violently sexually assaulted with a gun when young. Dangerous country with dangerous streets. She is regularly assaulted and robbed, because indeed when she walks she presents the pattern that @enough has spoken about. And I’ve been bullied in school. It stopped when I responded with violence.

I am very unpleased to see how little people respond to dialogue and solutions and how much they do respond when you finally blow up. In my case I cannot be physically very intimidating, it’s my psychic coat that is at play. I don’t get cat called, no one annoys me in the streets. Once a guy said something and I asked: "What did you say?!" and the guy sheepishly went away. I do know that to be dangerous with my size and my height, all I do has to be increased in lethality. Kill or avoid. I don’t have much flexibility in close contact combat.

I perhaps am more stuck than others in fight responses than in freeze responses. There is so much rage in me, I try to defuse that as I can. But I’m sorry to see that my capacity for aggression, verbal or physical, has always had a payoff. It’s something I do in last resort. But I need to know I can do it if necessary otherwise I can easily fall in the control of someone else.
 

Rani G2

MyPTSD Pro
Throwing in these words inelegantly with a pinch of ignorance and my parasympathetic nervous system nowhere to be found.. so I understand if it’s pushed to the side.

Currently I’m moving in spheres where power struggles are taking up more and more space, internally and externally. Having similar experiences as @ruborcoraxxx, when aggressive behavior (Im aware of the fact that I’m ignoring many other aspects) led to a solution once a upon a time. Due to relational/developmental trauma the strategy chosen by a part of me was to fight and radiate dominance. In this mind state I’ve taken up selfdefense courses and weight training because when I fall into the mode of „Fight or die“.. I must be ready for the battle.
Still thriving to find another level beyond power vs submission dynamics.. for me all of this is a jungle where parts are at play which means there is a deep inner fragmentation, suppressed vulnerability, painful moral validations, bodily experiences and so on.

Not the easiest place for me to be in, especially today.
Thanks for the thread Warrior Chicken!
 
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