Power Struggles in Families

Nancy Ferrell

Former CRS Mediator, Dallas Office; Private Mediator and Trainer

Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003

This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

Q: What other elements... you mentioned the elements of not communicating fears... but are there elements that lead to intractability in family conflicts?

A: It usually is based in some sort of power struggle where one party or the other has had the power and the other one decides they don't want to be subservient to that anymore. And it could be violence power, where there's abuse involved, and the power's been imposed through the abuse and at some point the abused person says I can't live in this anymore. But even at that, when did it start? When did the first bowl of corn flakes get put on the table and you didn't say I don't like corn flakes. When was the first, "you're stupid, sad", and you didn't say, "I'm not willing for you to call me that."

And so ten years later you're not just saying, "you're stupid", you're knocking me to the floor, and I don't want in any way to say that the victim in any way causes this, but certainly there is some mutual energy around people who get into situations where they are being taken advantage of, whether it's in an employee situation or a family situation. What was the first instance? How did this begin and how did it escalate?

Q: That reminds me of an old saying in Mexico, which is that it takes two hands to clap. Which is not to say, as you said, that the victim is to blame, but that everybody has choices and they could have done things differently at some point.

A: And I think holding people accountable and being willing to take responsibility for yourself is important. If I challenge you and you don't want to be with me, then I've got to go on my own and take care of myself. Sometimes the payoff of staying together is greater than the risk of being alone.