The Power of the Other by Henry Cloud

So I came across this book and thought it would be about how much we give power to others, how we can be dragged down or unmoored by negative influences. About holding our own individuality, setting good boundaries, standing up for ourselves, NOT letting the power of others control or overwhelm us.

And it is kind of the opposite.

It’s all about how much we need others to help us grow. How we can do our best to reach a new level, to push forward, on our own—but we are limited. Alone, self-dependent, there’s only so much we can do, only so far we can go without support. We need new insight, new information, new energy coming in.

The power to grow, to change, to overcome, to see new options, to reach a new land doesn’t come from inside of us. Yes, we contribute. Yes, we have to choose. Yes, we have to act. But we can’t make ourselves more than we are without new resources coming in from outside of us. And these resources— this energy, this help—comes from others.

“For centuries, philosophers, psychologists, theologians, and spiritual thinkers have struggled with something called the mind-body problem, the fact that the invisible has a real effect on the visible, and vice versa. …the neglected truth is that the invisible attributes of relationship, the connection between people, have real, tangible, and measurable power.

The undeniable reality is that how well you do in life and in business depends not only on what you do and how you do it, your skills and competencies, but also on who is doing it with you or to you.

Who is helping you? Who is fighting you? Who is strengthening you or resisting and diminishing you? These people are literally making you who you are.”

This is a big shift in thinking from the philosophical approach which I’ve previously held, the way I tend to approach goals and growth, which is something like: Get your shit together, because your life depends entirely on your choices and your actions.

And that’s not… untrue. It is true. But responsibility, even radical responsibility—while important—is but one step in a bigger process.

Maybe it’s the first step. Maybe it’s the fifteenth. I don’t know. I do know it’s like I’ve been repeating this one step, over and over again, wondering why I’m not moving forward, why I feel stuck.

Move on to the next step, dummy.

So let’s say that this concept is the next step: recognize the power of the other. Acknowledge the need for relationship.

“… it is in relationships that our minds are actually built.

To get to the next level of performance, you certainly do have to think differently, but to think differently, you have to have a different mind, and your brain has to fire differently. To develop these differences in your mind and brain, the equipment in which thoughts and feelings and behaviors are embodied, you need to connect in ways that rewire you.”

Ah, now I see why I’ve been hesitating, stuck, trying to avoid this step.

It’s almost certainly going to lead to something I don’t like: Moving from caretaker to cared-for.

Opening enough to be vulnerable, truly. Not in some preplanned, I will reveal a limited amount of a somewhat vulnerable thing kind of way. This sounds more demanding and intense than that. Uncontrolled and uncontrolling. Revealing need. Admitting I need help and then—maybe—asking for it.

Yuck. Gross. Ugh. Ew.

How about… I just go for a run and take a cold shower instead?

Or read 15 more books? Or (I KNOW!) write about it.

Oh. Guess I went with option 3.

Honestly, I’m not real sure how to approach the relational angle. Not in the sense of I’m afraid to reach out (although I probably am) but more in the sense of: what exactly am I asking for? What do I want? What am I looking for?

What is this whole relational supporting-each-other thing supposed to look like? How do you “connect in ways that rewire you”? How do you identify and grow the relationships that help you grow? Is it just about having trustworthy people you can talk to? Do you need to find relationships with a specific angle, expertise, or mentor-like quality?

“Whatever we hope to achieve, our success depends on relationships with others. Without the help of others or with negative dynamics from destructive others, we will usually fail. There is no standing still. We are either thriving in relational energy and growth or we are going backward, slowly or quickly.”

Well, no pressure then.

Honestly, I have felt discouraged by this whole concept, this others-dependent approach. Not that I don’t value relationships. I do. Probably more than I ever have before in my life, I am seeing how important they are. How they can destroy you or hold you together. How different relationships with different people give you different things. How opening up to who you are may start with going in, going deep, focusing on yourself, but it can’t stay there. Relationships help us see ourselves, and accept ourselves, and grow, in ways we can’t all by ourselves.

I think the discouragement comes from not knowing how.

Our society has very few relational models and most of them suck. They’re tired and limited, stuck in patterns and roles that aren’t healthy or fulfilling.

Breaking out of those roles and patterns in my primary relationships—with myself, as a woman, a wife and a mother, has been most of my work for the last year or so.

And it’s been a lot of work. Rewarding. Immensely worth it, a dozen times over. But, at times, confusing and painful and kind of awful. It’s ongoing. Old habits are tough to break. Lifelong roles create a deep rut, and it’s always easy to fall back in those ruts.

So thinking of how to move out of roles and patterns, how to rethink friendships new and old, build them in different, better ways, let go of old, limiting norms, gain the courage to say screw it to expectations and go forward with what feels right… Well, it feels like a lot. Maybe it is a lot.

If it’s anything like all the other demolishing and rebuilding, it’s worth the effort.

I guess this is just one more piece of the puzzle, but it’s a puzzle that still feels confusing, or incomplete. Maybe I have all the pieces, maybe I don’t: but I don’t know how to put the damn thing together. Or even begin trying.

Maybe… maybe I’ll call a friend. And ask. You know… for help.

‘“As long as you are alive, your heart and mind and soul will be searching for a connection. An “other.” Several others. A community that will bring life, all the ingredients of life that you need to get past the limit of your present existence and performance.”