The Power of Pilgrimage Starts With Identity.
Beloveds, I am inviting you on a pilgrimage. In the wise words of Dr. Bernard Lafayette, a Kingian (as in Martin Luther King, Jr.) non-violence trainer, there is a difference between a journey and a pilgrimage. A journey takes you from point A to point B physically. When you take a pilgrimage, you become transformed from an old person to a new person and you do not have to leave your physical location. Yet, you experience the expansion of consciousness that occurs during intentional travel.
This entire power series is a sacred pilgrimage where we embrace owning our power, engaging and respecting the power of others and changing social systems and structures by sharing power. Most of us have never really studied power or even given it much thought. Yet, too often, I find people mired in powerlessness because they are going with the “default” setting that they are on. They are not aware of it and they do not know how to change it.
My professional life has centered around practicing law and coaching/speaking/writing. With every single person I have worked with, I have come to realize the issue was power. Someone took the person’s power away, the person is feeling powerless, the person wants to figure out how to get more power or the person needs power shored up to move forward in life.
It is all about power! The quest for true power is a sacred pilgrimage.
Each week, we will explore The Three Faces of Power as expressed by English Economist Kenneth Boulding in his book by the same name:
- Power in– Economic Power. Rests largely on the power to produce and exchange. This is the seat of your personal power.
- Power with– Integrative Power. Based on such relationships as legitimacy, respect, affection, love, and community. This is how you share your “power in.”
- Power over– Threat Power. Destructive in nature and applied particularly to political life.
Please grab a notebook, open a document on your computer and begin to take notes each time you read this newsletter weekly. Each week will build on the previous week and there will be exercises and resources you can use. This is a working series and if you put the work into it, you will come out of the other side of it with a profoundly different but wonderful sense of your personhood and your ability to effect change in your life and in the world.
Among other things, Merriam Webster defines power as “The ability to act or produce an effect; legal or official authority, capacity, or right; possession of control, authority, or influence over others; one having such power; specifically: a sovereign state; a controlling group: establishment —often used in the phrase the powers that be; mental or moral efficacy; political control or influence.”
It is a Middle English word from Anglo-French poer, pouer, from poer: to be able, from Vulgar Latin *potēre, alteration of Latin posse.
Power speaks to “potency” and capacity. It is not strength. It is not “force.”
My basic definition of identity is this: It is your “isness,” your very being, your precence and how you show up in the world.
Emotional Intelligence Aspect:
In Emotional Intelligence (EQ-i) terms, power is the perspective that allows us to explore and grow. It is our ability to act or produce a desired effect. To grow, change and discover, you must also simultaneously develop your EQ-i which helps you navigate change.
EQ is not aptitude or personality, but it is made up of short-term, tactical dynamic skills which can be intentionally leveraged given a particular situation. We must use our Emotional Intelligence to navigate power. That are many different aspects of emotional intelligence, but each part relates to our journey along the lines of power.
In exploring identity, our theme this week, we are going to consider self-regard, the first building block of emotional intelligence.
Self-regard is the ability to respect and accept yourself. Basically, it is the way you are. To have healthy self-regard is to appreciate your perceived positive aspects and possibilities as well as to accept your negative aspects and limitations and still feel good about yourself. You feel secure, have inner strength, self-assuredness, self-confidence and self-adequacy.
Your self regard is directly tied in to your identity as social constructs shape our self regard.
How Identity Shows Up:
Orientation – Your Original Design:
We are designed to be brought into the world with a sense of belonging to our caregivers. Whether or not you had the best caregivers, this was our original design. Our caregivers were responsible for shaping us, feeding us, providing shelter and safety for us and this was designed as a safe playground to grow our personalities and allow us to flourish. William James, American Psychologist, tells us that we came wired for, regardless of what we experienced, a sense of belonging, self-esteem, a sense of control and a desire for a meaningful life.
How many of us got all this? How many of us have lived life out as we wanted or expected? Has your identity changed over the course of your life?
I live in Clarkston, Georgia. The most diverse one square mile in the US and some say the world. This small railway town is filled with people from over 70 countries. They have been displaced and they have lost one key component of their identity: The land upon which they were born, raised and felt responsible towards. If you talk to these refugees, they are trying to build a life in this country, but you find that in spite of the relief that comes with placement in the US, often, they become depressed after they have settled in because no one is helping them with reestablishing their core identity although they receive help in meeting the basic needs of shelter, employement and placement.
Lessons from the refugee community helps us ask ourselves questions.
Who are you when war breaks out on your home turf and you become displaced? Who are you if you can no longer speak your language as you navigate daily life? Who are you when you do not know the rules of engagement? Who are you without your stuff?
Life comes at us from different angles. It may be illness, death of a loved one, job loss, incarceration, or disappointments. We all experience loss and if it is big enough, it changes us. We often feel a sense of desperation as we cling to old models of our identity refusing to change and grow with the times.
Identity is fluid (a truth I learned from teacher, Fabeku Fatunmise). Yet, in spite of the vicissitudes of life impacting our identity, we always maintain human agency and have the choice to be intentional about how we want our identities to grow.
When you recognize that your identity is fluid, you realize that identity is not something you hold on to for dear life. You trust that any change is for your betterment and you recognize that there is a natural grief when you lose aspects of your identity that were once so familiar but are no longer available. Your ability to develop your power in is your resilience. This is how you grow and become more of who you are. The information you feed yourself is part of how you grow this power. Educating yourself stems from your power in. This power is infinite and there is no limit as to its expansiveness within you. It flows from a deep well in your soul and is connected to your spirituality.
Daily, the invitation comes to share who we are with others. In our familial relationships, we get to determine how we want to relate to others. Economically, we get to determine where we want to spend our dollars, our currency. This is how we share our power with others and build community. The people you chose to spend time with is part of the shared power equation. The news you listen to informs who you should share power with. This power goes wide with you in a wide way, meaning it influences and spreads. It is infinite, and it is synergistic. Here is where one plus one equals ten.
The problem starts, deepens and exacerbates when we try to exert our “power in” over others. “Power over” is appropriate in society as a form of governance or rulership, if you will. If you are speeding down the highway and the cops pull you over, “power over” has given the cop the ability to give you a ticket up to a certain amount. This is finite power. It ends as it has a limit. Abuses come into play when a person gets stopped for a ticket and ends up dead.
Power over is designed to create a lawful society where we all live together in harmony and we all share mutual expectations. It sets the standard. It is necessary to live in peace. However, the problem often comes when it is exercised in the wrong context or by the wrong person or over people.
Power over is abused when we use it to control other human beings and it becomes oppression.
Reorienting the Power of Identity:
There is a huge need to reorient the power of identity. On the planet today, most of the abuses we see, stem from people abusing their “power in” by making it “power over” other humans.
Where is the focus of your control? Is it over other people? How does your identity create difference that pushes other people away and puts them in a category that they cannot escape? Do you exert power over others?
To reorient your identity to your highest values, you must practice presence. Practicing presence requires us to step into our personal power and make sure we are living from our highest core values. From that place, we can see people as individuals – all people – who are entitled to the same things we want in our lives for ourselves.
Gender: Sometimes I think we women are our own worst enemies. We come from this system that has historically told us that our value is in our bodies, our virginity and our ability to carry babies. We often oppress other women with those expectations, spoken and unspoken. We value thinness and our physical appearance above our sacredness. We often harmfully evaluate each other based on our bodies functionality and appearance.
I came up against my own inherent issues around gender when I lost pregnancies and did not become a mother who birthed her own children. I had no problems adopting a child, but life circumstances eliminated that option for me. I went through a period of questioning my own humanity as I considered my female form useless. The loss of my ability to become a physical mother was extremely painful to me but I had to go through a process of grief and adjustment until I recognized that my core identity was still available to me and this aspect of my life only held the power to define me because I allowed it.
It was then that I realized that what I wanted in my life was the ability to express mothering including nurture and love to those younger than me, those I could say I “raised” as my own. Today, I have so many young people in my life that I love and spend time with me, I am “Mother.”
How has “power over” deconstructed the female body in your experience? What are some of the ways you can share power with members of the same sex, members of the opposite sex and members of more fluid gender definition? What is your understanding of gender based on? Why? How do you value male bodies versus female bodies? How do you perceive, respect or regard fluid gender bodies? How do we move from the function of our bodies to really appreciating the female form as an embodiment of a valuable soul? What are some of the ways you put bodily functionality based on gender differences ahead of the sacredness of the person? Write out some of your beliefs about gender and question them. Invite answers. Invite change.
Race and Culture:
Obviously, in the US, racial classification has been used to abuse “power over.” We have created this social construct called race and we do not understand it. Now, that it is here, it is difficult to unravel it and repair it. I prefer to speak in terms of culture because many call me “black” but I am a Yoruba woman from Nigeria which does not mean a hill of beans to most people in this country. I am not culturally African American even though I may appear to look like that is my ethnic group.
As a Woman of Color, I focus my work on cultural constructs as opposed to racial constructs which is a uniquely American thing.
As many of you know, I am bi-racial. My mother was an amazing half Irish American and half Polish Jew woman who was raised in New York City. My father was a Yoruba man who came to the US to study. He met and fell in love with my mother, married her and took her to Nigeria. My parents never told me I was white or black. Race was not really discussed in my home. In the streets of Lagos, people called me “white.” It was only when I came to America I discovered I was “black.” Yet, every time I mark that box that delineates race, or I say, “I am black,” I see myself putting a red X on my mother’s face. I have never felt a full sense of belonging towards any one race or culture.
How do you show up racially? Have you ever had any issues with your racial identity? How do you treat people that do not look like you racially? Do you have racially diverse friends? Do you experience racial or cultural diversity in your community, what you eat and even how you think? Do you read books by people from other cultures? Are you aware of the lens, or particular tint, of your world view?
The Poor Among Us:
I chose to feature “The Poor Among Us” because, more than race, or gender, we do not value poor people. We want to overlook them and exclude them when we attempt to repair society. I believe the greatest abuse of “power over” is to the poor. When we render women impotent in their earning capacity, we render them poor. When we create racial disparities that inordinately affect people of a different race, we render them poor. When we deny transgendered people the ability to work, we render them poor. When we deny access to differently abled bodies, we render them poor. When programs do not support our children, we birth them into endless life cycles of poverty.
If we do not pay attention to the poor, the gap between the haves and the have-nots will continue to increase exponentially and we might be surprised where we end up. We must begin to pay attention to the poor.
Who are the poor in your community? What is their demographic make up? How do you contribute to the poverty of others? Do you believe that if you are wealthy, you earned it? What are some of your beliefs about how poor people became poor? Do you turn a blind eye to the poor?
Your identity and how you show up in the world is directly related to your personal leadership style. What you believe influences who you are and your ability to influence others.
This week, I ask you to explore your social location. Don the hat of self-compassion and take a long loving look at yourself. Take a step back from your daily life and take the time to discover who you are. You will need this information to be able to be honest with yourself about who you are and how you show up in the world as we go through the other exercises. Your social location is the primary lens of your understanding of power.
Here is an image that can help you with determining your social location. Here is a New York Times article that will take you through a process of your social location.
Next, begin to explore what equity looks like in your social location and your relationships. This diagram shows a secondary aspect of identity. How is your identity conforming to unconscious standards in this secondary part? How is your identity fluid in this second sector? How is equity showing up in your relationships? Write down some core values. How is your identity showing up in relation to your values when it comes to dealing with people in this secondary sector?
How is your identity showing up in the larger community? Are you even present? What organizations, houses of worship and community centers do you belong to? What are their values? Do you espouse those values? What do you do daily that promotes justice (I define ‘justice’ as love in community)? How does your work impact and improve the world? Does it ultimately promote justice?
This week, I ask that you explore your social location as outlined above.
As you journey on this pilgrimage, my hope, invitation, and desire for you, dear reader, is that you will become more present to the significant power in your identity, embrace its fluidity, and begin to intentionally share power with those that are in a different social location than yourself. Become more confident in your identity. This previous post I wrote on confidence might help you. You are incredibly powerful. You are amazing. You have value and the world awaits you.
True Power is a birdsong. Tune into her and listen as she guides you on this pilgrimage. Don’t trust power that is loud. Listen for the birdsong.
If this has been helpful to you, please share this and tell others about your pilgrimage. Leave a comment below and let me know your thoughts.
Amazing hugs on the pilgrimage.