Replacing The Myth of Dominance With The Personal Power of Focusing
In his book,Beyond The Myth Of Dominance: An Alternative To A Violent Society, Father Ed McMahon, co-founder of the Biospiritual Focusing approach, makes the same point as Marshall Rosenberg's Non-Violent Communication: our greatest power in trying to persuade another is, not coercion, but personal power: sharing from our own inner experiencing.
McMahon makes the additional point that "personal power" comes from becoming congruent with our own inner Selves. We have to know our own Selves thoroughly in order to communicate honestly with the other and to take responsibility for moral action.
Trying To Dominate Ourselves, Our Familiars, Our Global Neighbors
McMahon questions the idea of dominance when applied at all levels:
Intrapsychically, we try to dominate our own inner selves, telling ourselves what we should feel, instead of turning a Caring Feeling Presence toward all the different aspects of ourselves, our conflicts, and using Focusing to let the "whole" story unfold from our body's intuitive knowing of the whole situation, being honest with ourselves.
Interpersonally, we try to dominate other people by telling them what they should feel, instead of vulnerably sharing our own perspective through Intuitive Focusing and using Focused Listening to hear the perspective of another until a mutually-acceptable solution arises.
As whole cultures and communities, we try to force people to conform, tell them what they should feel, invite them to "give their personal power over" to us and our institutions, instead of encouraging and facilitating "inner congruence with one's own truth," the root of conscience and personal power.
Dominance Erodes The Basis Of Civilization
In describing the rise and fall of great previous civilizations, McMahon says:
"However, the dark side of such a basically closed system of authority residing not in the people but in the preservation of ritual and in the absolute powers of the leader was that corruption and the abuse of people soon wormed their way into the system. Disintegration of the culture was inevitably not far behind. In all these civilizations, there was really no empowerment given to the ordinary person, and thus no lasting source for continuing growth and health in the society. When the power source became corrupt, the civilization fell to pieces" (p. vi)
Dominance Includes Trying To "Fix" Others
And in describing even the attempts of "social activists" to "fix" the world by telling people what they "should" do, he quotes a feminist learning about using Focusing to turn a Caring Feeling Presence toward the inner experiencing of herself and others:
"I have been active in working for women's rights for years, and I can see now what a difference it would make in our effectiveness if we were as committed to caring for and listening to our own anger and hurt as we are to this important cause. I think it would change the 'feel' people have when they encounter many of us, as well as our tactics in trying to bring justice and peace into the world." (p. 92)
Approaching people with confrontation and antagonism and blaming makes people defensive. Dominance disempowers the other. Sharing from your own "personal power," your own vulnerability and experience of being-you-in-the-world allows people to listen instead of arguing back. At the same time, it strengthens your own "congruence," your own capacity to take a stand for your own point of view. And refusing to dominate strengthens the personal power of the other.
The Interpersonal Focusing Protocol
Please read the entire Chapter Five: Interpersonal Focusing, in English and in Spanish, from my manual, Focusing in Community (Focusing en Comunidad) available as a free download through my blog. It gives explicit instructions and examples. Also, please read the Interpersonal Focusing Case Studies
However, here is the simple Interpersonal Focusing Protocol as summarized in that chapter:
HOW TO USE INTERPERSONAL FOCUSING
ALLOW TWO HOURS
FIRST STAGE: CLARIFICATION OF THE ISSUE
(several five or ten minute turns)
(a) Owning instead of blaming:
"I feel ---" instead of "You are ---"
(b) Behavioral specificity instead of
"When you ---" instead of "You are ---"
"When you do --- , I feel ---"
SECOND STAGE: GOING DEEPER
(one or more twenty minute turns for
(a) Use Focusing on your own hurt feeling:
"What's in this for me?"
(b) Honestly try to discover your own
part in the interaction:
"Why does this bother me so much?"
(c) The other person uses Focused Listening to respond
AN OPTION: USING A THIRD PERSON AS A LISTENING FACILITATOR
The Third Person uses Focused Listening to respond to each person in turn
(a) Allows for the expression of angry
feelings in a protected way
(c) Protects against issues of distortion
And mutual distrust
You can also see Mary McGuire and Janet Klein's similar model which they call Interactive Focusing
If you want a further Focusing Exercise for today, you could
- turn to the list you have made of up to five unresolved interpersonal situations and
- "sit with" each in a Focusing way, asking yourself if it would make sense to approach the person directly, instead of only working on your "felt sense" of the situation on your own.
- If "yes" for any of them, imagine how you might approach that person, suggesting the use of Interpersonal Focusing.
- Ask yourself whether a third person facilitator might be needed and who that might be.
- If you like, you could commit yourself to trying to resolve as many of these conflicts as possible over the coming year.
- You can join firstname.lastname@example.org for hands-on support during this endeavor. I'll be there to help.