With Control Over Other People Comes The Loss Of Intimacy
From slavery to personal power struggles, when there is an imbalance of power, we lose sight of ourselves.
Long ago, someone made an interesting observation about intimacy. He made this observation in a book, one of the first books I ever read about self-discovery:
Intimacy is me being me, and letting you see me.
That book was written by Bob Earll and it’s called, “I Got Tired Of Pretending”. It was all about how we lose sight of ourselves through addiction. Since that time, I’ve carried that observation, being careful to show people who I really am without pretense, and then I’d let the chips fall where they may. I want to be loved, and in order for me to receive that love, I must allow others to see me as I am. If I do not, then I must keep up appearances to be the person that I think other people want me to be.
So when I’m with others, I let them know, politely, what I’m thinking and feeling. I let them know that I’m behaving as I would want to be. I let them know that I value their time and that I value their part in my life. Along the way, I’ve also learned that efforts to control other people tend to limit opportunities for intimacy.
I’m reading an interesting history book, too: “…And Forgive Them Their Debts”, by Michael Hudson. Hudson is an economist and historian, and he’s plumbing the scrolls and tablets to see how economics grew manifest 5,000 years ago until now. I’m on the first of 3 books and I plan to read them all. I’m on chapter 6 now and a recurring theme is becoming evident. Bankers, loan sharks, and payday loan stores don’t loan money to grow the economy. They loan money to make more money and to control other people.
So I’m thinking about elements of control between people and groups of people. I’ve been imagining what it might have been like to have been one of those early bankers, writing contracts that allow a property to be foreclosed, holding the debtor in bondage to take advantage of cheap labor, and having control over others. They didn’t know what intimacy was then. I don’t think they had a word for it 5,000 years ago. But they knew about control.
I see the same thing happening now. I see economic forces at work, with one group vying for control over another. I imagine that when you have that much power, when you’re the one receiving the money from the loans with interest, and you know that if the borrower stops working, that you can take his home, his car, or levy his bank account, that you might not be a very popular person. It’s rather hard to find intimacy when you have power.
I see the same thing with our politicians. We have granted them so much power over us. We have given them the keys to the kingdom, and it’s hard to tell just who it is that they have in mind when they make campaign promises. They are famous to a degree. They have real power. They are often wealthy, far beyond the means of the common person. Can they have intimacy? Can they have intimacy with the rest of us? Probably not.
I can also see myself with the people I love. I have made a continuous effort to avoid asserting my power over other people. I have made this effort in the hopes of allowing them to see me for who I really am. I made this effort to allow them the freedom to show me who they really are. I want to know their hopes, their dreams, and their desires. I want the people who I see in my life, to know that in some way, I love them. So I avoid efforts to control them. I try to give them choices rather than directions.
I don’t believe that love and control can exist in the same room. If I can compel someone to be as I want them to be, then there is little room for them to show me who they are. There is no space for them to be who they are. I’m middle-aged and I’m still learning that love and control cannot exist in the same room. Either I allow people to be as they are or I forgo love. If I want to change you, then I don’t love you, anyway.
I’m even starting to think that in this system we’ve built, we call it “capitalism”, there is growing unease. There is growing tension. There is a sense among us that as we compete against each other for dwindling resources, that there is less and less room for intimacy.
Think about your coworkers and remember that in some way, you are competing against them for a finite set of resources. You are competing against them for compensation that comes from a budget, and the budget is allocated in such a way as to pit manager against worker and worker against his fellow worker. The budget is allocated to maximize profits, not to improve your lifestyle. And when money gets tight, intimacy is hard to find.
I have seen a few movies and read a few articles about the plight of the slaves that were brought here starting more than 400 years ago. I’ve seen depictions of the accounts of the abuses of the master upon the slave. I’ve seen in the movies the very real violence of master against the slave. There is no room for intimacy there. Even when the masters were “good” there was still a power imbalance. The master could never really know who his slaves were as people as long as he had any power over them.
So I’m thinking of the great polarization of our country. I’m thinking of the vast gulf between the rich and the poor. I’m also thinking about how we objectify the people who we deem as adversaries. Some people think that I hate Trump. I don’t. I don’t know him well enough to hate him. I don’t know what he’s like in person. He might actually be a very nice guy in person. But I don’t like most of the policies that he supports and promotes.
And I know well the problems with hate. Hate requires other people to change in order for me to be happy. Hate is a complete and total surrender of one’s personal power. Hate requires objectifying the other person that is the object of the hatred. And with objectification, comes a loss of intimacy, an inability to know the other person.
In the history that I’ve read, I have never seen an instance where social control by one group over another group led to greater intimacy. Once control is asserted and imposed, intimacy is impossible, empathy goes out the window.
Intimacy requires vulnerability, and when you have greater power than another, it is hard to be vulnerable to someone you wish to control.
Humans are designed to be vulnerable for the purpose of bonding. We are born sensitive, and if we’re lucky, as we grow up, we can keep that sensitivity, despite all that has happened to us and all the unhappiness in the world. To have real peace of mind, we must let go of any desire to control other people. To truly know the people in our lives, we must let go of any hate, and just see people for who they are.
When I think of the people in my life, when I’m with them, I am being me and letting them see me. If they’re still around after seeing me for a while, then I have reason to believe that in some small way, they love me as I love them.