So, due to the inherent level of power disparity between teachers and students in a MA/SD setting, abusive or cult-like situations can arise. I’m not saying they always DO, just that they CAN – and if you don’t believe me, check this book out.
I think (entering Hypothesis Land, buyers beware ) that the problem is compounded by the students being either willfully or unwittingly unaware of the nature of the relationship they are building with their instructors. If you don’t know that you’re entering a relationship with an inherent uneven power distribution, you may not be on the lookout for the potential problems that may arise from that. If you don’t know you’re getting a leader, you may not be evaluating your instructor on their leadership qualities. If you refuse to admit to yourself what’s happening because it clashes with your stated intentions, your self-image, your beliefs, or anything else likely to give you a bad case of cognitive dissonance, not only you won’t be on your guard to avoid problems as they arise, but you may also try to dissemble them when they do come up.
What you don’t know and don’t want to know can really mess you up.
Much of the problem could tie back to our love-hate relationship with power:
- “Power is bad.” You shouldn’t want it because it corrupts.
- “Not having power is badder.” You have to be in control, or other people will naturally exploit you.
- “Giving up power is baddest.” It means that there’s something absolutely wrong with you, because you’re not an alpha.
…so this thing you shouldn’t want to get or keep, you also shouldn’t want to give away. That makes sense, doesn’t it.
“Oh, but we’re talking about power over ourselves and our situation, not power over others.”
…and if you live in a completely isolated situation, that makes perfect sense. In all other settings, affecting YOUR situation will affect others, directly or indirectly. We’re all inextricably interlinked. The closer we live, the more interlinked we get. That’s why we’ve ended up with so many bloody rules.
At the very bottom of this thought-pretzel is the idea that if you are not a dominant person, you will not be able to control who has power over you – that unless you are in control, everyfuckingbody else is. This always struck me as a huge crock of shit. I am not a dominant person. I prefer not to be in charge. This doesn’t mean that I am willing to accept anyone as leader. I will only concede authority to those I deem worthy of it. In fact, the more authority you request, the worthier you have to be. I might let a toddler ride a trike, but I sure as hell won’t let them drive the car, or commandeer a train.
Being willing to take a non-leading role doesn’t mean I will stop judging potential leaders on their leadership qualities. Blindly following someone who has not proven both their competence and their good intentions would both dangerous and stupid. However, the whole thing only works if I am willing to admit to myself that in this particular situation I am a follower.