<![CDATA[Right Use of Power Institute - Blog]]>Tue, 24 Nov 2015 20:32:34 -0800EditMySite<![CDATA[A Tale of Two Cultures]]>Thu, 25 Jun 2015 18:42:02 GMThttp://www.rightuseofpower.org/blog/a-tale-of-two-culturesBy Cedar Barstow

This personal experience of mine in an outback station in Aboriginal land in Australia from about 15 years ago speaks to power misuse and healing between two very diverse races and cultures: white and aboriginal. We dozen “white fellas” had received the personal invitation needed to enter Aboriginal land to visit for ten days. We had driven several thousand miles inland to the river border. On one side of the river, motor boats with ice chests of food and technical fishing equipment, on the other side barefoot aboriginal children fishing with hand held fishing lines wading at the river bank. From the river, we had driven for several days on a rutted, powder dusted, single land road to get to our camp. We had been fishing, we had learned about Tea Tree medicine, we had hunted for bush food, and we had made click sticks. We knew it was a privilege to be there.

For some of us, it had been our third visit. We had been invited to witness ceremonial dances on the first two visits. This time we were invited to join the dance. We ochered our skin with lines of white outlining our bones. We did our best to learn the dance steps. We discovered that dancing involved not just learning the steps, but expanding our field of perception so that we were literally “danced” by our entrainment with the other dancers. We had felt the excitement and energy build as the lights and sounds of the truck entered the ceremonial ground. The truck bringing the boys seemed like a real living being. The boys’ bodies had been elaborately painted with ancestral stories over several days of teachings by their uncles in a sacred and secret enclave. These boys stood tall and proud, receiving the admiration of the entire community as they stepped into this ceremony of boys-becoming-men. We had watched the men accept these boys and the women wail over the loss of their boy children who would no longer be allowed to speak directly to their mothers.

The three day dance had ended in the wee hours of the morning and we had all returned to our sleeping bag “swags” for much needed sleep. The energy was high and sleep had been difficult for most of us.  My experience of the night had been quite strange, especially for one who has little access to liminal information.  I awoke in darkness to a feeling of being watched. I turned my head and saw what seemed like an aboriginal boy on his knees looking at me. Knowing this wasn’t a real person, but truly seeing something, I made up that there was a little bush next to my swag. Others came in for breakfast with their own similar stories. Our guide, James, had been up all night feeling as if a circus had been let out.

As we packed up that day, we got word that Rex, the Head Man, and Cookie, another elder, wanted to come talk with us. This was highly unusual behavior. No one from the community except our guide Audrey had come to our camp during our visit. We had gone to their camp instead.  We told them we would be honored.  They arrived with a painting of a sugar bag ant colony painted by another elder, Charlie. What ensued was a most remarkable conversation that gathered its meaning as it unfolded through our interactions energetically, through gestures and expressions, and through words these elders knew in English and the words our guide knew in their language. This is the best sense we could make of it. These elders had also felt some unusual unleashed energy during the night and were trying to understand it. They seemed to feel that there was some connection between their inviting us to dance with them and this strange energy. They were concerned. They brought out the painting to show us. They told us about someone had tried to copy this painting and done it imperfectly. Soon after he had died. They spoke of stories and pointed to our notebooks and journals. They repeated over and over, “You lawmen now. You lawmen now.” We began to understand that they had let us in on a level of experience and understanding that is beyond what they were used to sharing in their rare contacts with white people. They were now worried about how we would use what we had experienced. They wanted us to know that it was of enormous importance to them that we tell the truth about our experience and not make things up or be inaccurate. If we did, like the man who miscopied the painting, our lives would be in danger.

They began to talk about the “spirits” that were “loose” the night before. They didn’t seem to understand what this meant and wanted to know if we had experienced this energy as well. Assured that we did, they began pointing to each of us, saying, “You good dancer! You good dancer.” They then began to enact, as if on a stage, a horrific memory of an event that had happened at this station some 60 years ago. These two old men, as young boys, had hidden behind some trees in the bush and watched as bounty hunters had come and massacred their relatives. Pointing on his body to various places as if bullet holes, Rex cried, “Shoot ‘em here and shoot ‘em here, and here and here. Why you kill us? Why you kill us? Why you kill us?” We sat, listening, weeping. The Christian missionaries had saved the lives of many of the children by taking them away to mission schools where they were given new names and robbed of their aboriginal heritage by being taught English and Christian ways. A number of the women in this outpost had spent years in mission schools. Rex and Cookie and a handful of others had not been found by the bounty hunters and had stayed on the land.

“You good dancers. You dance with us. You good dancers.” We then began to understand that Rex and Cookie were thinking that the spirits of those who had been shot long ago had been “freed” by our willingness and interest in learning their dance and their culture. Perhaps what I had “seen” next to me in the night was a spirit now freed to be curious. It seemed that we had begun to redeem the past by embracing their culture rather than taking it away. We were different. We had used our power to understand and honor their culture.

<![CDATA[Prison]]>Thu, 30 Apr 2015 22:39:55 GMThttp://www.rightuseofpower.org/blog/prisonHonoring Anna Cox and her work with Compassion Works for All

When I was seven years old, Anna Cox became my best friend. We looked alike, our families were alike, our natures were similar.  Our teacher sometimes couldn't tell us apart.  Now, at 70 we are still dear friends.  About 25 years ago, each of us found our life purpose, I with developing right use of power as the heart of ethics, Anna in working with offering Buddhist meditation and teachings to prisoners, through her organization:  Compassion Works for All.  (www.compassionworksforall.org).

Recently, Compassion Works for All was the recipient of much-needed funds of ____ through a fundraising drive called Arkansas Gives.  As significant prison reform issues rise to national attention these days, I want to use this RUPI issue to give special honor to Anna for her years and years of compassionate, skillful, and effective service to prisoners through her newsletters and teachings.  Her website is a rich source of stories and video teachings for both children and adults.  Here's a very touching story about a gratefulness meditation that Anna did with some prisoners in Little Rock.   

Welcome to another meditation session down at the prison this month.  Many of us, the other 'free world' folks and I, and our Compassion Works for All members, had been all caught up in politics this month. Our state legislature is in session. We have all been advocating for numerous bills but most specifically those for prison reform. As we talk to those in decision-making positions, our efforts have been to 'humanize' the people in prison. We want to impress on those with power that those we advocate for are people. I tell them that you are people trying to grow and heal. I stress that you are quite remarkable.  You have become the change agents from within the prisons, helping each other, and especially helping the young gang members who need to grow up and who need mentors and father figures. It is the inmates who have found healing that offer the most effective rehabilitation in prison. I want you to be seen as valued community members. Instead, with all of our efforts, you are often swept down a black hole and disposed of without a thought.

While I have often pondered about how difficult it is to impress on those with power that these lives in prison matter, I wondered if the men themselves think that their lives have value. How do they see themselves? Do they know themselves as remarkable beings with great gifts?

Perhaps, it would be helpful to look at themselves through the mirror of their friends perceptions of them. So, we started with a meditation on gratefulness. 

Together, we remembered that the state of gratefulness brings us into harmony and balance and healing. I asked them to be grateful for who they are. To remember where they have come from, who they have become, and to feel grateful for who they are becoming. We rested in gratefulness for their unique gifts, their strengths, their skillfulness, and their resilience in growing beyond many very difficult life challenges. I asked them to experience a knowing of who they are today.

Then, I took each man individually by his hands and escorted him around the circle to have each member tell him personally of their gratefulness in having him in their life. Each person shared something felt in that moment, or something they experienced in the past or reflected on a quality. One by one, each person heard the appreciations of all the others for him.

As the men went around, those in the circle responded by standing up and hugging the one before them while they shared, or reaching out and taking his hands, or sharing and then giving him a hug. Nothing was scripted but each interaction was warm and tender and seriously offered. Sometimes they would crack jokes, followed by their loving offering. One man said to another, "I appreciate that you are the only one who eats as many food trays as I do." Or another, "If it were not for you, I would be the shortest guy in the room." But the teasing was with warmth.

Here are some of the other very touching connections that were shared. 

"You took me fishing for the first time when we were little boys." This was said by a man who was locked up at age 16.

"We were in elementary school together. We have known each other all our lives and I love you. You are my rock."

And another: "You were the first person to speak to me when I came to prison."

And: "When I was having such a hard time the other day, you were there for me and really helped me out of a bad time."

Often, they said to one another, "I am grateful that you are my brother. I love you."

One white man who is a devoted Christian said as he hugged an African American man who is Muslim, "You are my brother from another mother."

Another said, "We were in jail together when we were kids and you came back to find me and help me."

Near the end, one black man stood up when a white man making his way around reached out and took his hands. The black man said, "I appreciate you have always been kind to me. I killed your best friend. That is why I am here. But you have always been kind."

The other man said, "Yes, I know."  The 'grateful' man said, "You never held it against me. I am grateful for that."  And the first man said, "I forgive you. You are my friend.  They hugged for a long time.

And one more:  One man had completed making his way around the circle with many heartfelt appreciations shared and then he turned to the others before sitting back down. He said to the group, "When I first came to prison, I had been the ultimate red-neck. I only hung out with those that were like me. Now, I look at this circle of brothers and I am touched by how close I am to all of you. I am in a room with Muslims and Christians and Buddhists, black and white, gay and straight, and I love you all. I am proud to call all of you my brothers. I am grateful that all of you are in my life."

Compassion Works. As they sat down after their round of gratitude, each person was a little misty eyed and in an altered state. They sat still, taking in the comments. I kept saying, feel what was given to you. And they did, deeply. They saw that their lives do matter.         
<![CDATA[What is a Boundary?]]>Thu, 30 Apr 2015 22:24:35 GMThttp://www.rightuseofpower.org/blog/what-is-a-boundaryby Barbara Drummond

Everyone knows what a boundary is.  It’s a line that divides one state from another; or it’s what one uses to control unwanted behaviors.  A person might say, “That kid needs some limits.”  The trouble is, when you tell a child not to eat the cookie because dinner is in 15 minutes that does not always stop the behavior.  And there are no lines between the states when you see them from an airplane. These boundaries are imaginary (or symbolic, if you prefer).  We use them to make a complex world more manageable.  And all of us behave as if when we draw a line, we actually create separation. But a boundary is not a way to control the behavior of others.  It is simply a place for people to meet.

How do people meet?  Meeting is difficult for mammals, but not for the reasons you might imagine.   According to Thomas Lewis in A General Theory of Love, “Mammals have a bodily connection so… an individual does not direct all of his own functions.  A second person transmits regulatory information that can alter hormone levels, cardiovascular function, sleep rhythms, immune function and more inside the body of the first (italics added).  The reciprocal process occurs simultaneously: the first person regulates the physiology of the second, even as he himself is regulated.” We are all connected to the people around us, whether we want to be or not. They are already inside our skins. A boundary is for you, not others. It keeps you in one state, so you can meet others. That is what I call an Edge.

Think about the last time you set a limit.  Was it easy? Did you hesitate, or not set it at all, because “I’ve tried and tried but he doesn’t listen?” Or “Ah, it doesn’t really matter?” What this “limit” has just done is separated you from yourself.  It separated your thoughts from your feelings.  All it does is make you uncomfortable, and guarantees that whoever you were going to set this limit with will not respond the way you want them to. Much of the time, setting limits makes people feel out of control rather than in control- it has the complete opposite effect than the one that was intended.

If you note your internal state, you can study what kind of uncomfortable you are and take steps to correct it. And because setting limits feels disruptive to us inside, we think it will be disruptive to the individual on the other end. But what is really disruptive to the people on the outside is our own discomfort with setting limits in the first place. We hem and haw, use too many words, demonstrate a deferential posture.  Our words say “Listen to me” and our bodies say “You don’t really have to.” We are split, and can’t be met.

If all your parts are on the same page, then the boundary doesn’t exist within you, disrupting your physiology; it exists between you and the other person; in your extra-personal space; in your visible as opposed to invisible behavior. That is the place we are well and truly met.  Used well, a boundary is the physical expression of our right to exist, organizing us and the people around us at the same time.
<![CDATA[Using Power Well]]>Sat, 28 Feb 2015 02:04:31 GMThttp://www.rightuseofpower.org/blog/using-power-wellby Guest Columnist, Dr. Reynold Feldman Picture

This excerpt from Terranautics 101:  The Basics for Navigating an Uncertain Future  deals with one of the most important abilities—and issues—in the whole book: the right use of power and influence. To be honest, this skillset has as much to do with being ethical as it does with being effective.  In March 2013 my wife, Cedar Barstow, and I brought out a co-authored book entitled Living in the Power Zone: How Right Use of Power Can Transform Your Relationships (Many Realms Publishing). This work was a lay-readership-oriented version of Cedar’s earlier, longer book, The Right Use of Power—The Heart of Ethics (Many Realms Publishing, 2008), subtitled A Resource for the Helping Professional. Both books are based on her two-decades-old work assisting both helping professionals and lay people to use their personal and role power wisely and well—work now being carried forward by the nonprofit Right Use of Power Institute in Boulder, Colorado. In the next few pages I shall try to summarize Cedar’s and my thinking on how to use power sensitively and wisely.

The basic assumption of this body of work is that power is value neutral. The word itself means simply the ability to have an effect or have influence. I think of horse power, that motive energy that can transport people from place to place or even into space and that can also be lethal. The second assumption is that if people are willing—a big if, I admit—virtually anyone can learn to use their power with greater wisdom, sensitivity, and skill. Cedar has in fact developed workshops of various lengths to help participants do just that; has taught those workshops, sometimes with my assistance, around the world; and has also trained more than 250 facilitators to teach Right Use of Power as well.

According to Cedar there are four types of power: personal, professional or role, status, and collective. There’s not much an individual can do about status power, although collectively over time statuses can change. An example of the latter is the Women’s Movement, which has raised the general status and social power of women in many countries. Whereas several generations ago, women were restricted to the German Three Ks (Kinder, Kueche, and Kirche; children, kitchen, and church), the United States may be on the threshold of having a female president, something Germany has had in Chancellor Merkel for a decade. Collective power, as in the Women’s Movement, the Civil Rights Movement, and labor unionism, is based, meanwhile, on the united power of the many. As the Japanese proverb puts it, one stick is easily broken, but a dozen sticks bound together are not.

The Right Use of Power Program focuses primarily on personal and role power. The former is the birthright of everyone. Even a screaming baby has the ability to get others to do its bidding. When it comes to role power, we put on power vis à vis others when we gain the authority of a position. For example, the lowliest managers have power over those reporting to them, while a company’s CEO has power over all the managers, vice presidents, and even her or his Number Two. The question for Cedar is how one negotiates this power differential. Her conclusion is that to be both ethical and effective, we have to use whatever power we have with sensitivity to the feelings and humanity of those below us in the chain of command. Her point is that while an authoritarian boss who uses their up-power position without such sensitivity may get grudging, fear-based support from his or her staff, a leader adept at using power wisely will develop a team that enthusiastically helps achieve the company’s priority goals.

So what must up-power people keep in mind to work most effectively with those lower than them in the pecking order? First, there is the 150% Principle. In any lopsided relationship the boss must remember that whereas all parties to that relationship have 100% responsibility for its success, he or she as the up-power person has for better or worse an additional 50%. What this means in practice is that parents, for example, who are by definition up-power to their children, have to be especially careful about what they say or do. Why? Because a word of criticism or the breaking of a promise on their part can have a profound negative effect on their child. The same is true in the boss-employee relationship. A related idea is understanding that the impact of what we do doesn't necessarily equate with our intentions. Thinking back a generation or two, parents who spanked their children would routinely say things like “I’m doing this for your own good.” From the child’s perspective, however, this larger, stronger authority figure was simply acting like a bully. Often, in fact, the abused child ends up becoming an abuser him- or herself as a parent, and a vicious cycle (the impact) is created from the desire to be a good parent (the intent). Terranauts, especially as they come into leadership positions, therefore need to take into account the importance of implementing the 150% Principle and track when the desired impacts of what they do fail to line up with their intentions. At that point they must have the maturity to make mid-point corrections to insure a more favorable outcome.

A third important concept of the Right Use of Power work is that feedback is an investment in relationship. Often, people in power are screened off and protected from hearing bad news. Moreover, it is frequently dangerous for down-power individuals to suggest to the boss that he or she may be doing something that is self-defeating or wrong. This fear-of-losing-your-job syndrome is doubtless why, in Hans Christian Andersen’s famous fairy tale, none of the king’s courtiers dared to tell their majesty that he was naked. Instead, it took a child who wasn’t on the court payroll. Similarly, in the crash some years ago of an Asian commercial airliner, the co-pilot noticed, per the cockpit recorder, that the pilot had made a life-endangering mistake but was unwilling or unable to point out or correct that mistake of his superior. As a result, several hundred passengers and the entire crew lost their lives. Apparently, the co-pilot was unable to give this crucial feedback to his boss out of respect for the latter’s authority. Yet while providing timely feedback can be crucial, it also creates a stronger bond between the up- and down-power individuals provided the former has the capacity and humility to ask for, graciously accept, and—if appropriate—implement feedback from those in down-power positions.

Obviously, in three pages I am unable to do more than touch upon several of the important concepts and techniques in a body of work contained in 450+ pages of printed text. Nevertheless, Cedar’s overall recommendation can be summarized thus: While standing in our power, we should stay in our hearts. In other words, we need to remember how it feels when those in power treat us well or badly and behave towards those below us as we would want to be treated by our own supervisors. After all, even the mightiest CEO has a board of directors over him or her, and even the President of the United States when he (currently) goes in for his annual physical is down-power to his physician.

If this Golden Rule-style philosophy seems out of place in the corridors of power, this absence may be the cause of so much of the bad news we read about daily in our newspapers. Outstanding leaders rally and mentor their followers by good examples and fair treatment; bad ones do just the opposite. I thus encourage Terranauts to remember and internalize the principles and practices outlined above and to learn to exercise whatever power they have or may assume with wisdom, sensitivity, and skill.

<![CDATA[Acknowledging Those Who Have Lighted Our Way]]>Thu, 27 Nov 2014 04:54:30 GMThttp://www.rightuseofpower.org/blog/acknowledging-those-who-have-lighted-our-way
by Cedar Barstow, M.Ed.

A small boat river cruise up the Danube River and through the Balkan countries in Europe was a deeply nourishing and relaxing way to celebrate my 70th birthday and my husband Ren's 75th birthday.

It also put us in the crossroads of multiple cultures and multiple political powers. For eleven days we traveled up the Danube, river of trade and transportation, and of conquest and defense. Our warm and competent crew members were Romanian and Serbian, our food was local and authentic.  Outside Vidin, Bulgaria, we visited the excavation of a settlement begun 10,000 years ago. The river was their life-blood and they buried their dead heads down-stream and stretched out parallel to the river quite possibly to honor the river as carrier of souls. Indeed, the steady, smooth movement of the water carried our bodies and souls well, too.  

From Romania through Serbia, Croatia, Hungary, Slovakia, and Austria, we stopped in a port city every day and were treated to a tour by a well-informed and engaging local guide. Between times of peace, history records conquest, cruelty, oppression, and exploitation. Painful to hear and remember, these Balkan countries have over and over again been the battle-ground of not just armies, but cultures.  The Celts, the Romans, the Ottoman Turks, and the Communists have all left their indelible marks--forts, statues, ruins, bullet holes in walls and a racial mix.

Most of history describes uses of power based in the belief that power is defined by acquisition, wealth, and control and gained and maintained by force and exploitation. (Does this sound globally familiar?)

So, I was deeply moved by several stories of another belief about power--that it could be defined by the happiness and health of all the people and gained and maintained by treating people well. This paradigm of power is a more socially intelligent one and the one that Right Use of Power programs are aiming toward.

In 1331 "Stefan Dushan ascended the Serbian throne.  In the Serbian language, Dushan is an endearing diminutive of dusha, meaning "soul"--the cognomen one would expect for a kind under whom Serbia reached its zenith of glory.  Dushan sanctioned religious freedom and permitted foreign embassies to be attached to his court.  He established a taxation system and a rule of law--the Dushan code--that featured trials by jury." (Robert D. Kaplan: Balkan Ghosts:  A Journey Through History)

In 1740-1780 Austrian Queen Maria Theresa and then her son King Joseph II from 1780-1790 enacted some remarkable humanitarian changes. For the first time the church and nobility were taxed, there was six years of obligatory education for all children, free health-care was provided and a general hospital opened, the serfs were freed, there was enlightened treatment of the mentally ill, reusable coffins were mandated and no more than six candles could be used at funerals, and a royal park was opened to the public. These changes were not popular with the church, nobility, and other royals, but it pre-empted the revolutionary anger that raged elsewhere at that time.

Even earlier, in 1036, Saint Istvan (Steven), Ruler of Hungary, is recorded to have given some wise and enlightened advice to his son, Prince Imre. "Make the strangers welcome in this land. Let them keep their languages and customs. For weak and fragile is the realm that is based on a single language or on a single set of customs."  I found this quote on the wall in a local diamond factory and shop in Vienna.

The Ottoman Turks had great influence on the Balkans beginning in the 16th century when they invaded and brought their religion and culture. Although not found on this Danube cruise, these teachings are notable because the author was a Turk and a Muslim. Haci Bektas Veli (commonly Haji Bektashi), a Sufi master, taught his students:

Search and find.
Educate the women.
Even if you are hurt, don't hurt.
First stage of attainment is modesty.a Sufi teacher,
Whatever you look for, search in you.
Don't forget even your enemy is human.
Control your hand, your word, your lust.
Road that doesn't go through science is perilous.
How nice to ones who put light in the darkness of thought.
Don't do anything to anyone if you don't was it to be done to you.

We found these statements written on a wall at Haji Bektash's mosque in Anatolia, Turkey in 2011 while on our honeymoon. They were written in about 1280 and his vision is similar to the 1948 UN Charter on Human Rights, a remarkable and inspiring modern document.

At this Thanksgiving time, I am focusing my thanks toward those who in all times and all places, found the wisdom, compassion, and courage to speak out and take action for the health and empowerment of all. People like the ones quoted here who found ways to link their power with their hearts.  Some of the teachers I would like to honor are Elizabeth Cogburn, Ron Kurtz, Jean Haynes, Angeles Arrien, John Hunt, Jean Houston, Barney Aldrich, Robbins and Margaret Barstow. Perhaps you'd like to name some of those who have guided your way.

Bon Jovi was recently presented with the Marian Anderson Award for musical and philanthropic endeavors. Accepting this award, he encouraged the crowd:  "Let us draw from those that have come before us to do the work we are called to do."
<![CDATA[The Shadow Effects of Leadership Power]]>Thu, 18 Sep 2014 17:25:15 GMThttp://www.rightuseofpower.org/blog/the-shadow-effects-of-leadership-powerPicture
Power, the ability to have an effect or to have influence, is our birthright. We all have power and need it to survive, to have relationships, and to be productive. Think how much power a baby has when he or she cries or laughs.

Our lives are full of relationships where there are power differences, and we all move back and forth between being in what I call “up-power” and “down-power” roles. For example, there is a power differential between a CEO and the employees, a doctor and the patients, a clergyperson and the parishioners, a teacher and the students. Both sets of people in these relationships have their personal power, but the person in the up-power role has the additional power that accompanies his/her assigned, elected, or earned role. A therapist moves from up-power with a person in therapy to down-power with a supervisor. A CEO going to the dentist moves from up- to down-power. We make this shift more often than we notice.

Research (Google: Joris Lammers, power; Dacher Keltner, power paradox) is showing that people who have greater power act differently from people who have lesser power. Increased or decreased power has cognitive, behavioral, emotional, and somatic effects. “Good” people tend to have the idea that those who abuse their up-power do so because they are simply greedy, fearful, self-aggrandizing, or power-hungry. However, it turns out that the situation is more complicated. Power affects everyone, and unless it is understood and mediated, very often it results in abuses. In fact, the greater the power difference, the greater and more widespread the harm. The widely held idea (Lord Acton) that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” is largely true.

There are two ways to respond to this information. The first is to decide that power is bad; therefore, if you don’t want to cause harm, don’t have power, or if you have it, pretend you don’t. A teacher tries to be “just friends” with her students. A committee chair gives a committee member too many chances to get something done. A therapist fails to assess the effectiveness of the therapeutic process. A CEO doesn’t hold the employees accountable.

The second way is to learn about the effects of power so that you can notice and mediate them by using or responding to positional power with wisdom and skill, whether you are up-power or down-power.

So, what are these effects, and what kind of self-reinforcing loop do these effects create?

Read the rest of the article here

<![CDATA[The Power of Lamenting: An Alternative to Numbness and Rage]]>Wed, 02 Jul 2014 21:42:18 GMThttp://www.rightuseofpower.org/blog/the-power-of-lamenting-an-alternative-to-numbness-and-ragePicture
Here are a couple of questions for you. What happens inside you when you when you read or listen to the daily litany of abuse of power, suffering, injustice, murder, war, and destruction of the earth? What do you do when someone close to you has been hurt by unethical actions?

Asking around, these are the things I’ve heard.

“I just get numb because I don’t think I could bear the amount of pain I would feel.”

“Well, I get mad at the news companies because they just seem to look for the bad stuff and don’t give us a balance. There’s good stuff happening too, but I guess that doesn’t sell.”

“I find I can’t see violent movies anymore even if they are Academy Award winners. Hurts too much.”

“I glaze over so I can subdue my feelings.”

“I feel so upset and helpless that it turns to hopelessness. When it’s hopeless, I disempower myself because there’s nothing useful I can do anyway, so why bother?”

“When something gets to me, I can’t sleep at night.”

“I feel disappointed in people. We know better than what we do.”

“I just don’t read the paper or listen to the news anymore. I don’t want to support this kind of newscasting.”

“I try to offset the bad news with looking at the bright side. I think I do this too quickly in an effort to avoid feeling bad.”

Find a Therapist  1 Mile  3 Miles  5 Miles  10 Miles  25 Miles  50 Miles  100 Miles  Advanced Search
Do any or many of these responses feel familiar to you? Anything you want to add?

Of course, how we deal with human suffering is one of the universal core life questions that each of us must find an answer to. This question has two dimensions—how will you BE with suffering and what will you DO about it? This article speaks to the kinds of inner doing that can help you be with terrible and disturbing things.

Recently, I was singing in a chanting group. One of our songs was a lament. We were to let go in wailing sounds for some minutes, and then we sang the words of the lament. Stefan Waligur, the leader, reminded us that wailing and keening are an historic and current form of individual and group response to suffering, grief, and injustice. Wailing is often, though not always, the work of women on behalf of the whole community or the whole family. Wailing walls. Wailing in the streets. Wailing over the bodies of the dead. For many people and many cultures, this is the appropriate way to respond to terrible things.

For me, the lamenting sounds felt good and relieving. I was surprised because I tend toward stoically managing my feelings. Lamenting as a chant made it more acceptable for me. It felt good to let my whole body move and sound with the expression of deep grief. Stefan suggested we should make a place for group laments in response to a school shooting, flood, or insurrection.

Public or private lamenting, full of sound and movement, is a good antidote to the responses of fury, numbness, and hopelessness that have become our normal reactions.

My friend Robert said he noticed he regularly shut down about, as he called it, “news of the terrible.” He now has a practice of covering his eyes with his hands and taking a moment to let his grief travel through his body and soul after hearing something distressing. He says it helps him stay alive and real. When you numb yourself about bad stuff, you numb yourself about good stuff, too. Numbing is not selective.

A study comparing meditation masters and ordinary people in terms of how they respond to disturbing images found that the people in both groups responded to the disturbing images with an equal level of pain and upset. The only difference was that the meditation masters were more resilient and returned to their normal state of equanimity much sooner. Their emotions were quick spikes, whereas the non-meditators stayed in their distress for a significantly longer time. I think regular lamenting could have the same effect of increasing resilience.

Read the rest of the article here

<![CDATA[Saying You’re Sorry, Part II: Apology As High-Road Leadership]]>Tue, 29 Apr 2014 21:39:56 GMThttp://www.rightuseofpower.org/blog/saying-youre-sorry-part-ii-apology-as-high-road-leadershipWhen you are looking for good leadership, one of the most discerning things to ask about is whether the leader can apologize and take responsibility for repairingrelationships and situations. It seems, however, that the path to making an apology is strewn with obstructions. Here are a few: Leaders may fear that an apology will make them seem weak rather than powerful. Those in positions of power are often removed or even protected from hearing negative feedback and thus don’t know when an apology is needed. Leaders don’t understand the anatomy of apology and thus do it ineffectively. Leaders can over-identify with their up-power roles and forget their capacity to cause great harm. When given role power, leaders tend to lose touch with their natural empathy and compassion. Leaders can understand and use power as control, manipulation, force, and exploitation. In this understanding of power, an apology isn’t even on the screen of a leader’s awareness.

Just as increased responsibility accompanies increased power, so the power of apology increases when genuinely offered by a leader. By way of reassurance, it seems that in actual practice, making an apology reduces the likelihood of legal action. Effective leaders make genuine apologies. Effective apologizers model what could be called “high-road leadership.”

Find a Therapist  1 Mile  3 Miles  5 Miles  10 Miles  25 Miles  50 Miles  100 Miles  Advanced Search
Here’s an inspiring story from Canada as described by Jocelyn Orr.

“Sitting in the Hakomi training circle during the ‘right use of power’ segment taught by Cedar Barstow, we were instructed on the five aspects of a good apology (recognition, responsibility, remorse, restitution, repetition). I realized that the hearing I had attended as moral support to one of my clients had quite closely followed these guidelines.

“My client and I sat together in a small room with two other women; one a lawyer representing Canada (who referred to herself as ‘Canada’ throughout the hearing), and another who was the time and record keeper. The agenda was clearly outlined to my client and the process began by Canada’s opening remarks. Canada spoke in the first person and she gently and kindly articulated recognition of the terrible wrongs that she, Canada, had inflicted upon my client. She spoke in general terms but acknowledged that the meeting we were about to participate in was to recognize the specific injuries inflicted upon this woman. Canada took full responsibility for what my client had suffered, and she expressed remorse. We then went forward with the hearing, which required my client to speak of her personal abuse and suffering. Often Canada would stop the process to ask clarifying questions or to gently give the survivor whatever time she needed to gather herself and continue. Canada had specific questions, but my client was generally free to tell her story in her own way and time.

“Canada concluded the meeting with closing remarks which again expressed recognition, responsibility and remorse for the terrible experiences and loss of childhood my client suffered. She spoke of the inadequacy of this form of restitution, but stated that this was the best she, as a nation, could do at this point in our history. ‘No sum of money will ever fully compensate you for your suffering, and for that I am so very sorry,’ she repeated. I was brought to tears by the experience. As my client and I left the building, she expressed her feelings to me: ‘You know, the money is really of no consequence. Having this experience is what I really needed. I feel my country has apologized to me, and I feel a greater degree of healing as a result.’ “

For leaders—and we are all leaders in some aspects of our lives—who are dedicated to right uses of power, the practice of apology has proactive value. John Kador (pp. 223-224 and 239) describes three evolutionary shifts that accompany the practice of apology.

First, “practicing apology challenges ingrained attitudes about power and accountability.” As a leader you must come to see that power requires your accountability. Granting you executive immunity is simply a way of helping you avoid your responsibility.

“Dealing with emotions of apology” comes next. As a leader you must learn to recognize when you have caused harm, be willing to bear knowing the harm you have caused without getting lost in shame, and be capable of the ego vulnerability of offering an apology even when you don’t know how your apology will be received. Finally, you must be able to self-correct. This is true, nondefensive self-awareness.

The third requirement is cultivating “a disposition favorable to personal transparency.” Learning the emotional and practical aspects of apology serves more than the particular relationship it is attempting to repair. Apology also significantly shifts our understanding of power toward a new paradigm in which we use it with wisdom and skill to heal and repair harm, evolve situations and relationships, and promote the common good.

Apologies may be as simple as expressing remorse for stepping on someone’s foot or as deep and complex as apologizing for nationalabuses of power to minorities or other down-power groups: American Indians, blacks, military women who have been raped, aboriginal peoples, children who have been abused by the clergy, or victims of genocide. Apologies can be as interpersonal as between mother and daughter or as multipersonal as a representative of an organization apologizing for the offenses of many in the organization.

Read the rest of the article here]]>
<![CDATA[Saying You’re Sorry, Part I: Apologies that Heal]]>Fri, 28 Mar 2014 21:36:39 GMThttp://www.rightuseofpower.org/blog/saying-youre-sorry-part-i-apologies-that-healPicture
“David, tell Randy you’re sorry.”


The mother takes 7-year-old David to another part of the playground. By the sound of the “saaaaawry,” I’m guessing that David was being obedient, but he didn’t really know what he did, didn’t feel like it was his fault, and wasn’t sorry at all.

As adults, we hear (or even give) apologies such as, “I’m sorry you felt hurt.” “If I did something that hurt you, I’m sorry.” “I apologize, but I was really distracted by something else.” “I’m sorry, but you should know that I really love you and you shouldn’t take it so personally. It’s just the way I am.” “I’m sorry, but you are really making too big a deal of this. It is just a little thing.” “I apologize, but give me a break.” “I’m sorry for the problem you had. My assistant is normally on top of things.” When we give such apologies, we can say, as 7-year-old David did, “But I apologized!” However, when the apology (as in the examples above) is an inauthentic or inadequate apology, it doesn’t heal, doesn’t resolve, doesn’t soothe, and the hurt remains unmoved.

Find a Therapist for Relationships  1 Mile  3 Miles  5 Miles  10 Miles  25 Miles  50 Miles  100 Miles  Advanced Search
Authentic and effective apology is the very core of healing, clarifying, and restoring relationships, from interpersonal to organizational to cross-cultural ones. A real and well-thought-out apology can, likeforgiveness, cut the cycle of anger, revenge, and hatred. However, making a genuine apology causes the giver to be extremely vulnerable. You are admitting directly to another that you did something that caused harm. This is very humbling! Doing so is also challenging because it’s like leaping off a cliff into the unknown. You are not in charge of how your apology will be received. Your efforts could be harshly rejected, your hopes for healing thrown back in your face.

A client spent some months working with his shame about having abused his younger sister. From a most humble place, he wrote her an apology in the hope that this could be a first step in restoring their relationship. Several weeks later, the letter was returned to him, with “Rejected. You will not be forgiven.” written across his words. He was devastated. Over time he began to look at what he coulddo rather than grieving for the loss of his relationship with his sister.

His sister couldn’t accept his apology, but he could demonstrate that he had learned and changed by volunteering at a women’s crisis center. He also could be proud that he had broken many generations of family history by not abusing his own daughters. These actions, which he was proud of, had shifted his inner wound from the shame of feeling unforgivable to the fact of being unforgiven. He could now move on.

I asked a few of my friends to remember a time when they needed to and did offer someone an apology. Usually, we rightly focus on the feelings and needs of the hurt person, but I wondered what the apologizer got from the process. This is what I heard: “I got to let go of at least some of my guilt.” “The apology was accepted. It repaired the relationship, and the friendship actually got better.” “In the process of getting to being able to apologize, I went through all my defenses and finally got to see something about myself that I didn’t like and face the truth about a familiar and hurtful pattern I had been denying or at least had been unaware of. This was hard work. Once I got it, the apology was easy.” “Honestly, I don’t know if I got anything at all. It was really like just getting it out of the way.” “It was unbelievably relieving for me.” “It took such courage. I try so hard to be ‘good,’ and it was painful but freeing to be able not only to see but to take responsibility for doing a bad thing.” “I learned that it’s really OK to make mistakes. What isn’t OK is not to apologize for them and learn from them.”

Apologies open big doors. As John Kador puts it, “Apology is the bravest gesture we can make to the unknown. … Apologies unmask all the hopes, desires, and uncertainties that make us human because, at the moment of genuine apology, we confront our humanity most fully. At the point of apology we strip off a mask and face our limitations. No wonder we hesitate” (Kador, pp. 43-44).

What is the value of apology to the one who has been wounded? Opportunity for restoring relationship, deescalating conflict, rebalancing power, recovering dignity, letting go and moving on, stopping a cycle of resentment and revenge, and increasing trust in the human capacity for goodness and truth. This is a strong litany. From the biggest perspective, “quarrels often escalate into serious conflicts on the fulcrum of apology. … Throughout human history, endless cycles of revenge and untold suffering have resulted from the denial of effective apology. It’s a tragedy because apology has the power to defuse almost all human conflicts” (Kador, p. 45).

Read the rest of the article here

<![CDATA[Eyes with Heart, Eyes of Wisdom]]>Wed, 01 Jan 2014 23:50:18 GMThttp://www.rightuseofpower.org/blog/eyes-with-heart-eyes-of-wisdomPicture
 Lois Luckett wrote this Letter to the Editor of a newspaper in Louisville, Kentucky on November 24, 2013. “At the corner of Seventh and Main, outside 21C Museum Hotel, stands a golden replica of Michelangelo’s sculpture, The David.  It would appear that Louisville, our honorable city, has unwittingly chosen to host a true icon of Compassion.  A little known fact about this masterpiece came to light as I was studying a museum guide, published by Giunti*, which pictured close ups of different aspects of this magnificent work.  I was drawn to the face of Michelangelo’s David as he is portrayed facing Goliath.  Standing alone, naked, armed with very little, this young shepherd, and one day king, fixes his gaze on the Giant.  He pauses before casting the first stone.  His presence, to this day, commands the rapt attention of all who look upon him.  The close up picture in the guide revealed something, however, that astonished me.  There were hearts deftly carved into both pupils of his eyes!

So I ask, how do you find the courage to face a foe twice your size who intends to destroy you?  How do you stand in the face of extreme injustice and suffering, ready yourself, and choose the next, right thing?  The master, Michelangelo, seems to suggest that we pause for a moment and look upon “the other”, be it outside or inside ourselves, with our heart

 *Pictures from: Ciuccetti, Laura, Michelangelo David, Prato, Italy: Giunti Editore S.p.A., 2004.

( Also see: www.graphics.stanford.edu/projects/mich/head-of-david/head-of-david.html)

Reflections by Cedar:

Lois is a Social Worker and a Right Use of Power Facilitator.  Reading her letter, I, too, was amazed to see these hearts carved into David’s eyes!  It seems a perfect image for the idea of “power with heart” that is central to the Right Use of Power message.  I began reflecting on several questions.  The first one is Lois’ question:  “How do you find the courage to face someone bigger than you who intends to harm you?”  And the second is, “What happens to your vision when you clothe your eyes with compassion?”  (I would appreciate getting your response and will print it in the January Newsletter.)

What happens to your vision and your experience?

For me, looking with compassion broadens my perspective, slows me down, increases my ability to feel connected, and softens my judgments.  I am particularly aware when, as a psychotherapist, I sit down with a client and focus my attention on their concerns.  I sometimes am aware that I don’t think I would like this person if I met them on the street, but I genuinely care about and appreciate them in my therapeutic relationship, where I meet them in mindfulness and kindness.  Another time I notice:  while waiting– in line, in an airport, for something to begin–I try looking at one person after another and saying the Buddhist-inspired phrase, “May you be happy.  May you find peace.”  My whole body softens, the tension or anxiety of waiting drops away, I breathe deeply, and I feel warm and lightly connected.  It certainly works on ME!  I experience, in these instances, that my vision literally has softer edges and my field of vision literally expands.

What gives you the courage?

As for me, I have a long history of freezing when up against situations very much less dire than what faced David.  I feel scared, overwhelmed, and even skillful responses that are in my repertoire disappear like water down a drain.  This shutting down experience is one of the motivators for delving into the issues and dynamics of power.  Over time I’ve learned things.  I’ve learned that power, as the ability to have an effect or to have influence, is not bad or to be avoided.  It is, instead, essential for bringing forth what you have to offer.

Power can be used wisely and well or it can be used to cause egregious harm.  The news is full of the later and a poor representative and advocate of the former.  Of course, to be used wisely and well, one must actually acknowledge or “own” whatever personal power you have and positional power you have when you have it.  Not owning the power that is yours is in itself a misuse of power and causes harm, often particularly dangerous because it can be subtle and unintended.  I’ve learned that power, once owned, has understandable dynamics that can be skillfully used and/or avoided in difficult situations.  I’ve learned that using power for good brings emotional pleasure and satisfaction for the power-user and support and dignity to those who are affected.  And lastly, I’ve learned that you don’t have to choose between power as strength and power as heart.  You can use them together.  This is what I call “power with heart.”  David, with his heart in his eyes was doing what had to be done in the moment.  As we develop more wisdom about how to own and use power, we will learn more and more ways to be effective with less and less harm and more possibilities for using power for the good of all.

What gives me courage?  Some combination of owning my power,  hard-earned skills, simply growing older and having more experience, my passion for and belief in goodness, and my ability to be compassionate, clear and strong.