Power, Threat and Meaning

A group of clinical psychologists have recently (2017/18) started a debate about the increasingly frail system of mental health assessment – processes used to label emotional and psychological ‘problems’. This  rather lengthy commentary can be found via:


I mention this work as I am suggesting they question, rather helpfully, the tendency to label behaviour and to see our responses as ‘problems’ at all.  I think this is similar to the challenge I am offering you here, in my blog, where I offer you an opportunity to review your life within the boundaries of your own SPACE-TIME, BODY and SPIRIT.

I would go as far as saying that the Framework improves on my own perspective by making the POWER issue explicit. The Framework highlights the social setting in which we are all obliged to operate. My own approach focuses on YOU and the safe experiments that you can design.

The Framework reminds us that we have to fit in to the world of other people, even if we only fight the pressure to do so.

Sometimes we are oppressed by those other people and sometimes we do the oppressing. It helps to be clear about this less comfortable aspect of the world in which we live. Whenever you review your Road Map and Genogram experiments, please keep in mind where you fit in to your community and how you are treated in that wider world.

However, any Framework  presents its own problems. It is still an attempt to explain what we do and where we fit in.  This blog has tried to reverse that process by asking:  do you want to change and, if so, in what direction and, if so, how?

Rather than assume ‘a one size fits all’, my own approach assumes that you may fit in with the majority, or you may be in the minority or indeed, be a minority of one. Other Frameworks and models seek to paint a picture of ‘Everyman’  That is an ambition that is destined to fail (and not simply because ‘Everyman’ is now a sexist word!).

That said, some people I know rather like a label as it can provides a starting point and become a focus for initiating change. Others have been known to use the label as an excuse for doing nothing and feel more secure because an ‘expert’ makes a pronouncement!

So, does this newish Framework link to my web site and foster safe experiments and story-telling? Try this, for instance:

EXPERIMENT:  take a bit of paper and identify something current in your life – preferably a minor obstacle – and consider:

‘What happened to you [as you faced the obstacle]?’ (This may show how has Power operated in or on your life, e.g by a parent, teacher, manager or friend.
‘How did it affect you?’ (Assuming the obstacle was a kind of Threat, what uncertainty did the outcome create in your life?).
What sense did you make of it?’  Elsewhere, I have said that humans may well be defined as ‘meaning-making creatures’. So what Meaning did you make out of the outcome you faced?

NB As a seemingly brief experiment, this may be more difficult to complete than is first obvious. Give yourself time, if needs be; put things down and come back to your results, if needs be.

When you review your notes and results, consider:
What did you do, or are you doing to survive [meeting that obstacle]?’ This identifies the responses you are making to the Threat?

It’s an experiment  that fits in to other elements in my main page. For instance, this framework picks up part of the SWOT analysis mentioned in the web site:

‘What are your strengths?’ (What access to Power resources do you have?)

…and asks if these questions help you know:

How do you deal with Threats? Can you turn them into Opportunities?

These questions, and your answers, may help you construct some aspect of the story of your life (often called your ‘narrative’). In this web site, this ‘story’ is connected to the Script you will have written for yourself on an unconscious level. So, continue the experiment by considering:

‘What is your broader life story?’ and what changes, if any, do you want to make to that story and the way it is unfolding?.

It may help to return to your Road Map described early on in How to Give Yourself a Nudge. This may help you develop your story from the various cross-roads emerging from the road map.

Note how the Framework fits rather well into the cognitive behavioural models of change and the Transactional Analytic (TA) model, in particular.

If you want to continue the experiment, return to the TA questions mentioned in my web site. Remind yourself about a current issue in your life, and ask:

What do you want (that is different)?

How will you get what you want (make it different)?

What stops you getting what you want?

Who or what do you need, in addition, now, to get what you want?

Such questions, in my view,  help us to move things forward, rather than simply label a condition. Too often health professionals spend time on what is known as ‘assessment’ in order to search out an appropriate label. It can do more than that: assessment collects ‘facts’ relevant to your life story so you can be  initiate change – get treatment, if you like.

Assessment, in my view,  is best regarded as helping YOU to tell your story. Change may not be possible until that story starts to be told.

The Framework – as adapted and summarised here – and well worth a more detailed examination – questions assessment in the traditional form, and seek to cast light on what you understand about your current circumstances. Most importantly, it is an approach that invites you to start formulating a way forward, rather than waiting to be ‘told’!

Ways to return to the main web site:

How to give yourself a nudge

Doing safe experiments

Welcome to Find Your Nudge