Last spring in 2007, I took on the task of writing the advanced level material on the problem of Power and Control. Some of you are familiar with my original work on Master/Slave from 2002, and in the various articles on MasterTalk. Over a period of years, experience and reflection lead me to the article on the Power of Passivity. In it I try to ground the reader in the simple, but ubiquitous, logic of all those dysfunctional relationships that we find ourselves both surrounded by, and all too frequently, living in. The puzzle of codependency seemed solved.
Lately I made some additional steps in creating three charts to look more closely at the dilemma facing us all – the behavior of the Slave, the codependent. I presented these slides to a group of people who reacted so favorably that I want to share them even though the written material that surrounds them may not be complete yet. Here we go.
The Alternatives of Power-Over or Shared-Power
This is simply a more complete version of the chart I presented in the Power of Passivity. I stress the two sides of the chart:
and the three levels of the chart:
- Level A: Arrogant, Entitled, Superior;
- Level B: Equal, Fair, Collaborative, Respectful;
- Level C: Submissive, Subservient, Victim, Passive.
I believe the goals of raising children, forming and maintaining long-term relationships, and living together in communities all involve learning to reliably inhabit and preserve everyone’s membership in the right side (Functional/Mature) of the chart. And from that position, I think, we all work to support those on the left side (Dysfunctional/Immature) to come join us.
The Valley of the Masters
This new slide presents the dynamics of the left side, the dysfunctional, immature side. Each position is radically dependent on another. Connection between these voices is a matter of struggle for assured membership by contributing to the needs of others. Everyone participates fully. People can easily move between these voices – from Master to Slave to Passive Master and back. Each voice has its own etiology (how they are formed), its own logic, and its own remedies. This I have discussed in my previous paper, the Power of Passivity.
Note that on this chart are only Two Levels here: top and bottom. This set of three relational voices and only maintain their immaturity by either rising (Tyrant Factor) above or sliding under (Wus Factor). The fundamental lack of fairness and equity creates great instability in a culture that professes democracy. However, I fear that this chart represents the dominant form of relating in our culture,
In the slide I hope I have captured the critical essences of each posture. As you can see the needs of the Master and the Passive Master are being met by the aid of the Slave. The Slave fully engages in this activity. I believe this simple formulation contains both the components of Codependence and Victimicity that are so often spoken of in the self-help literature.
What this slide ends with is the question, “What does the Slave get out of all this?”
The Slave’s Solution – Codependency – the Codependent
This next slide is my current understanding of what is the motive of the Slave, and also represents a new look at the etiology of the Slave. It finally suggests two general types of Slave.
Following up on my work on the components of the Biological Dream, I believe the Slave is a creation of early childhood, primarily of sub-cortical impulses. This may be why the Slave is so resistant to recovery via Cognitive techniques. I think the Slave displays an early adaptation of the Lizard Brain to preference to Submitting as the primary (only?) survival tactic. My guess is that the child learns more or less completely that Fleeing, Freezing and expecially Fighting will not work in their caretaker home. The only thing that works is Submitting. (I think this would be supported by studies in Attachment Theory.) Thus the Slave creatively solves its trouble by Submitting as the way to Life. My experience is that most chronic Slaves I have met were preoccupied with “caretaking” of their parents before they were the age of three.
With the development of the mid-brain impulse of Reliable Membership, this leads more or less to two forms of Slave.
The Clinger form of Passivity seeks connection, with more or less panic, and when attachment is “achieved” begins to submit in order to survive.
The Avoider form of Passivity is passive about connection. When alone this person functions peacefully with no panic. When another appears they immediately begin to submit as a way to survive.
This slide ends with an anxious note. Since Submitting always generates Resentment, “What happens to all the Resentment that Slaves will develop over the years.” I recall a small note in the book Man in the Trap by Elsworth Baker MD. He noted that in doing deep therapy with these people, the therapist should remember that they have a “viper in them.” Hmm. My experience is that Slaves are usually struggling with either unexpected temper difficulties or passive aggressiveness.
Makes for interesting thinking. Where I want to go next is toward suggesting plans and techniques to apply if you are a Slave, or if you are partnered to a Slave, or if you have a Slave in your practice.