Power is a five-letter word that often gets a bad rap. That’s because we think of it in only one way: power = oppression, or “power over.” Choice Theory teaches there are two other types: “power with” and “power within.”
For weeks, I’d been mulling over this third segment on the topic of Glasser’s basic needs. Then Maya Angelou died.
I thought about the woman -- the beloved author, poet, teacher -- whose death brought tears flooding from around the globe. One reason her loss is felt so profoundly is she gave people the opportunity to find and express their personal power -- the power within. She encouraged and enlightened, straightened countless backbones with her words. They changed lives, made individuals try and do and become.
"If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude." “We may encounter many defeats, but we must not be defeated….”
In addition to her words, her example inspired us. Rising from her humble and troubled childhood to professor and poet laureate, her whole life, she reinvented herself, struck out to find new talents and master worlds. "Each of us has that right, that possibility, to invent ourselves daily. If a person does not invent herself, she will be invented. So, to be bodacious enough to invent ourselves is wise."
Every person needs personal power -- a say, or control, over our own lives and a feeling of accomplishment. Powerlessness begets rebellion, resistance, bullying, dishonesty, and even death.
“Power with” means working together, recognizing and respecting each others’ gifts and making use of them. When power is shared, everyone works together for the common good. In families, sports teams, and workplace teams, individual strengths meld to achieve a goal.
In 2002, Maya Angelou collaborated with Wake Forest University School of Medicine to launch the Maya Angelou Research Center on Minority Health. Their mission is to enhance wellness, improve quality of life and reduce the burden of disease in underrepresented minorities through education and research.
And, that bad rap that power usually gets? Speaking at a recent campaign fundraiser in Oregon, Senator Eliabeth Warren said, “Those with power fight to make sure that every rule tilts in their favor. And everyone else just gets left behind.” This is what most think about power.
But power can be a positive thing, used for good works and good deeds. Maya Angelou’s powerful works paved the way for other Black female writers, defended African-American culture, and fought negative stereotypes. “Scholar Lynn Z. Bloom compares Angelou's works to the writings of Frederick Douglass, stating that both fulfilled the same purpose: to describe black culture and to interpret it for their wider, white audiences.” (Wikipedia)
Power is one of our innate needs. People’s levels vary. In relationships, the easiest combo is when one person has a lower need for power than the other.
We’ve all heard people say about siblings, parents, or children, “We can’t get along; we’re too much alike, both stubborn.” That sounds like they both have a high need for power. To recognize this and negotiate so everyone’s needs get met at some time will enhance the relationship. Better yet would be joining forces and focusing their power on accomplishing a common goal. Voila! Their needs are met and they experience a beautiful thing: “power with.”
~ xoA ~