Inflexible Authority

I dreamt about a former partner this morning. In the dream, Keith was wandering around, seemingly lost in a downtown alleyway. I picked him up in my old VW station wagon and asked Keith where he wanted to go. He said he’d point out the place because it was somewhere nearby. Suddenly Keith ordered me to make a right turn into a driveway of a modern tract apartment complex.

I was instantly, next inside of a small apartment that Keith said was ours. Apparently, we were taking care of a foreign exchange student named Paul. Paul wore a cashmire sweater that felt soft to my touch, in the dream. Keith ordered Paul and me to climb downstairs to a neighbor’s apartment with rooms configured in an opposite construction to ours. I then introduced Paul to the woman who occupied the downstairs apartment. The unnamed neighbor snatched Paul’s hand and began twirling him around in the style of a waltz. Keith screamed, “no”. Then I awakened from the dream.

I don’t believe the dream meant anything particularly profound. It did remind me of my unequal partnership with Keith that ended a few years ago. Both of us could be domineering at times; however, Keith usually had the upper hand. Towards the end, it seemed that he had become more authoritarian, domineering, and possessive. A lot of my freedom and independence had been subjugated. That dynamic prevented the flow of harmonious emotional energy between us. This put immense strain on the relationship.

The time had come to stand up to my partner’s authoritarian disposition. The idea was to seek compromise so we could cultivate a more adaptive, flexible relationship beyond mere peaceful coexistence. It would be healthier to work beyond the confines of rigid structure in the way we related to each other. When presented with this idea, Keith vetoed every aspect of the proposal. In a nutshell, ending the hierarchichal relationship led to the end of the partnership.

In hindsight, I learned an important lesson about how power manifests in many people’s lives. Some partners over-assert dominance and power in a way that leaves other people feeling submissive and powerless. Meanwhile, other people surrender their personal power in order to please an authority figure, father-figure, or intimate partner. In healthy relationships, power is constructively and equitably distributed. There is no need to take power nor surrender power. In our case, I believed that we needed to assess our relationship that suffered from authority, control, and responsibility issues. Was there a serious imbalance in our lives? Were they helping or harming our relationship?

This dynamic is a reflection of what happens in society at large. There are leaders who demand authority and rigid obedience. Status, power, and recognition are essential to their institutional position. They are most comfortable when they command and order other people around. They rule with no tolerance for diversity. Such rulers punish dissenters with ridicule and threats of severe punishments. These rulers give no credence to advice from wiser minds. They demand the final say in everything. The most rigid leaders’ weakness is hubris.

Meanwhile, robust relationships, be they personal or institutional, do not use power in manipulative ways. There can be normal conflict, but that should never reach frightening levels. Power is used mutually to protect one another. In return, each partner is repaid with respect and loyalty. There is ample room to share leadership roles and equal opportunities to learn from each other’s influence.

People who find themselves in a parental role are in the position of defending, providing for, and protecting their loved ones. They might have the stronger role in a relationship or family. There will be mutually agreed upon regulations and rules that apply to specific situations. However, rigid, authoritarian rule is off the table of discussion. In the long run, highly organized, strategic, systematic approaches work out best. With some tweaking, this mindset works well in intimate partnerships and in nation-size institutions.

Each member of a relationship offers expertise and knowledge in different ways. Throughout the course of living, each person can offer advice, direction, and guidance to each other. This is one way to strive towards a harmonious, equitable relationship. In my opinion, the “my way or the highway” approach is flawed and troublesome. Healthy relationships imply reasonable give and take.


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes 20th century newspaper columnist, Walter Winchell. “Never above you. Never below you. Always beside you.”

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in Contemplation, philosophy, Politics and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Inflexible Authority

  1. Good you realized and were able to get out of the relationship, even though it likely didn’t feel it at the time. Maggie

  2. Glad you ended the relationship that wasn’t working

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