Understanding Power Dynamics

Esther Perel

Lesson time 14:19 min

Power dynamics are intrinsic to all relationships. In this lesson, Esther reframes “power” and gives members the tools to identify its various forms.

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Topics include: Demystify “Power” • Understand “Power Over” vs. “Power To” Understand the Power Structures in Place • Understand Interpersonal Power Dynamics • Negotiate Power Dynamics • Determine Who Has the Power • Try This Essential Practice: Reflect on Power Dynamics


[MUSIC PLAYING] - Power is intrinsic to all relationships, whether at work or at home. And interestingly, these days, we talk more about expectations, boundaries, trust. We don't talk enough about power. And when we do talk about power in relationships, we tend to emphasize abuses of power. I would like to simply invite you to understand that all relationships imply dynamics of power. It's neutral. It's not, in and of itself, good or bad. So power, I want to demystify the word, first and foremost. Because instantly, I feel that often people cringe when you say power in relation-- yes, power. When a child needs their parent, the parent has power over the child. You know, we are the most helpless creature that comes into the world for a good year, before two, before we can talk, we can feed ourselves, we can clothe ourselves. So we depend on caregivers. And that gives these caregivers power. At the same time, if we have a two-year-old who says, no, and doesn't want to do what we ask them, everybody understands that power doesn't always come from the top-down. It also can come from the bottom-up. So how do we handle power in relationships? And how do we understand what we can do with the power, the generative power, but also what can be done destructively with power is the big question that all relationships ask themselves. Power comes with the fact that when people need each other, rely on each other, have expectations from each other, depend on each other, it gives them power. It gives the other person power. But the question always is, is it power over or is it power to? Power over you can be oppressive, can be dominant, can be exploitative. But power to can be generative, can be inviting, can be active and collaborative. People often will say the person that makes more money has power in a relationship. That is possible. But then it can be, therefore, that person who makes more money, makes more decisions, gets to decide where we live, what we spend the money on, et cetera. Or that person may say, you know, you've been wanting to go back to school for a long time, I can make that happen for you. Go ahead. Or you've been wanting to go back and do your artwork, or you would like to take some time to take care of your ailing parent at this point. I can make that possible for you. That is power to. The other thing is I use my power to create an imbalance, rather than I use my power to create a collaborative or generative experience together. Power is an organizational feature of relationships. So in some situations, there needs to be leadership. Leadership is power to. It provides hierarchy. Hierarchy provides structure. Parents who don't assume their position, their role, their authority, their power, leave a vacuum. That vacuum often creates a reversal of power where the child has to become the parent of the parents. These are inverse hierarchies. Those become problematic. Employees that don't have a boss...

About the Instructor

Known for her innovative approach to love and relationships, Esther Perel is sharing her methods for building deeper connections with every person in your life. Whether it’s with your partner or project manager, you’ll learn how rethinking the basic principles of intimacy, communication, and trust can improve the quality of your life in the bedroom, boardroom, and beyond.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Esther Perel

Renowned psychotherapist Esther Perel teaches you the power—and the art—of connecting with others.

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