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Card #300 – One-Upsmanship

It is easy to fall into power games and struggles for dominance. Many species are hierarchical with alpha and omega positions and competition for status. Where love is present the power principle recedes. Where love is absent the power principle ascends. This is a propitious time to recognize and work on the ever-shifting ratio of these two competing principles.

Elements of power and dominance games color almost all relationships. But this does not mean that love and compassion are not also present. Relationships are complex; all sorts of forces compete for ascendancy, and the power principle wins out more than most people realize. It is beyond the scope of an oracle card to even glance at the myriad variety of human power struggles. When people used to talk about psychoanalysis, they would mention three giant figures — Freud, Jung and the one you hear the least about these days — Alfred Adler. Adler’s theory of personality and his whole school of psychology were based on the human will to power.

Human beings are not equal in their attributes and control over resources. There can be huge disparities amongst people in key aspects such as size, strength, beauty, intelligence, talent, wealth, status, access to sexual partners, etc. People are frequently comparing their ranking in many of these aspects to others, usually people of their own gender. If we compare ourselves to others, feelings of inferiority are inevitable because there are always going to people who outrank us in particular attributes. Feelings of inferiority, as Adler observed, can paradoxically turn into a “superiority complex” where an insecure person attempts to display superiority and dominance over others to compensate for feelings of inferiority.

If we take a penetrating look at our relationships, we will probably discover many ways that we compare ourselves to others, and attempt to elevate our status by subtly and unsubtly competing with those who arouse our power complexes. If we are able to develop ourselves enough that we do not compare and compete very much, that will arouse the uneasy envy of those who still do, setting up yet another type of power struggle. Even people who seem very superficial will often unconsciously pick up on the core level of development of another. If you are more developed, it may be perceived as a challenge to their level of personality, and they will seek to test you, to throw you off your high horse, etc. If they can cause you to lose your center, then they can feel satisfied that you are not really more developed, and that relieves them of the anxiety that they need to develop more. From the I Ching point of view, when someone is coming toward you with power games, you lovingly withdraw your energy from them. You come forward again when they are more modest and sincere. There are some cases, however, where you may need to stand up to a bully and withdrawal might not be effective. Power dynamics are complex, and no formula can tell you how to handle all of them.

Consider this a propitious time to see how you are influenced by power games, the ones that others bring to you, and the ones that you may sometimes bring to others.

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