People with Power and TBRs

Are people with power susceptible to TBRs? The quick answer is a resounding yes.

In fact, it’s quite possible that many of those with the most power are more susceptible to having TBRs. There are several reasons this might be true. But first, it’s important to differentiate between individuals like Dorothy Smith from Iowa who is a specific white woman, and the group called “white women, 50-65 years old”.

It is very clear that certain individuals with relatively more power are more susceptible to TBRs. This would be true of anyone who seeks positions of power because they are driven to want to be in control and have power.  That’s a straight line correlation.  Higher needs for power and control means we’ll fight harder to keep that power and control because it is so important to us.

It is less clear, but still likely that “groups” with more power are also more susceptible to TBRs. Before going further into why that might be a group response, let’s review some of the cultural contexts.

In our mainstream modern day cultures, power is conceived of in terms of having “power over” others. Win/lose mentalities are the norm in these cultures. That means not having power equals the possibility of being exploited or otherwise traumatized. There is a defined hierarchy where a perceived “loss” of power leads to a perceived increase in danger.

Might makes right is an underlying assumption, which means, the more accumulation of wealth or power, the better. Force has been, can be, and will be used to keep order. The use of force is seen as a legitimate means of keeping order.

Competition (and therefore self interest) is valued as a virtue as opposed to compassion and group wellbeing.

The hierarchal structure of “power over” is usually well understood by all participants because they’ve all been inundated with the same kinds of cultural messages. It is well understood that those with less power have the sh*t end of the stick.

It is a cliche and nonetheless true that people who have the most power (over) have the most to lose.

Time to pick on the straight, white, protestant, middle to upper class American males (sorry guys).  The majority of people in this group have historically had specific privileges that they didn’t necessarily recognize as such. They did not choose to have those privileges, it is simply how they grew up. Other groups can see the advantages they have, but they themselves often honestly cannot- at least at first. The rest of us say these are the people who were born on third base.

Okay, I’m gonna use my shrinky powers on you right now. Call it womansplaining if you want, just hear me out.  Part of what it means to be born on third base is that the “natural” order of things works out for you. Our (mainstream) cultural ideals revolve around things you already are or can (fairly) easily attain. You’re in the center of the culture’s bullseye. It may not feel like it because you still grew up with and still have human struggles, things like divorced parents, distant parents, memories of not fitting in, self esteem issues, bouts of uncertainty, pets that died, traumas, family secrets, etc. all the things that make us human. You still have to worry about gender norms, how you allow emotions to be expressed, how you have the pressures of living up to these ideals of what it means to be a successful man.

But whether you want to believe it or not, you’ve been (as a group) fawned over and your group still has it substantially easier than other groups. It may very well be that because of some of the ways you’ve been socialized, and buffeted  it’s sincerely more difficult for you to see others fully. [1] I do not mean that pejoratively.  I mean it as a simple fact.

Story has it that the Buddha’s father was a king, and he kept the young prince Buddha from witnessing miseries and suffering of the world; he sheltered him from knowledge human hardship. Buddha was shocked when he saw how others lived.  He simply had not known the extent of his luck.  You may believe you understand the extent of what other’s experience in terms of hardships.  But none of us knows another’s suffering, nor does it do any good to try to compare or rank our suffering, as if we’re grading each other, especially when that comes from a place of defensiveness.

This may seem an overstatement, but you still rule the nest and have advantages others can only dream about.

The people at the top of the hierarchy (please feel free to substitute the word sh*tpile for hierarchy anytime you feel like it) are safest because they are able to control so much more than others.

The people at the top of the hierarchy many not feel safe because the only real change available to them is a loss of power- which again is terrifying if you are in the grips of TBRs.

[1] From the World Health Organization:“Unequal gender norms develop in early in childhood, and intensify in early adolescence. Societal expectations of boys and girls differ, and so do their own gender attitudes – across all contexts, puberty is associated with an expansion of boys’ worlds and a shrinking of girls’ worlds. Boys don’t always recognize their own privilege and when they do challenge norms, they are punished. Girls recognize their own disadvantage and are more willing to challenge norms, but need support to exercise their agency.”