Populism, global warming, culture wars, fake news, open any newspaper and it is easy to find someone writing about one or several of these as symptoms of a general crisis. COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter protests are challenges to systems that leave many people feeling helpless. The left blames a resurgence of the right, the right blames a conspiracy of the left, the people in the middle can happily blame both sides. But all that blaming is perhaps expressing a sense of helplessness.
As a counsellor and psychotherapist, I am confronted with people with many different mental health concerns at the core of which seems to be one unifying aspect: helplessness, being overwhelmed, and having no power.
It feels to me like all of this shows that our society needs an open and clear discussion about power. But, it also feels the more we talk about power the further away we seem to be getting from talking together to find solutions for the problems of power.
Actual talking and exchanging of ideas requires common ground and there seem to be many reasons for why this is hard to find.
This conversation is part of a series titled:
Deconstructing power: What are we talking about when we talk about power?
A lot of people might have heard about a book by Reni Eddo-Lodge called:
"Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race"
Intriguingly, this could easily be extended to a whole series:
- Why I'm no longer talking to men about sexism
- Why I'm no longer talking to cis people about gender
- Why I'm no longer talking to young/old people about age
- Why I'm no longer talking to rich people about money
Why do all these titles sound plausible? To me, it seems the underlying issue is that it is hard to talk to people who experience power differently. This is because I am a white, middle class, middle aged, educated man, i.e the typical person no-one wants to talk with about power. And, for a long time the way people talked about power just made no sense to me.
So, why is it so hard to talk about power? Starting from my personal struggle with understanding power, I came to see three main stumbling blocks: the way power is experienced, the kind of stories we tell about power, and the way how challenging these stories challenges the way we think about ourselves.
The rough plan for the sessions is:
- Session 1: The devil and the detail - Why do we need to talk about power and what seems so hard about it
- Session 2: Jackboot meets hand - The asymmetrical & paradoxical experience of power
- Session 3: The power of narratives and the narratives of power
- Session 4: The chemistry of power - how its different aspects work together
The sessions are being recorded live as part of the onlinevents interview programme and will be able to view in the onlinevents CPD Library.