“Alex, people, connect naturally,” a friend told me recently.
This got me thinking about the power dynamics of relationships. How do we define them? What makes us comfortable?
People think that in a relationship, both sides have equal strength. My experience hasn’t been like that. It’s rarely the case.
Power fluctuates between each side depending on the moment. There is always someone that leads, someone that sets the rhythm of the relationship. In this sense, some people are like rivers; others are like volcanos.
River people flow naturally. Imagine a small leaf that falls into the current. You’re free to float and drift in the river. Your speed will change, sometimes you’ll go slow, even standstill. Other times you’ll speed up and spin out of control. But no matter what, you’ll still be in flow with the river. You’ll be in the river, one with it, feeling it’s natural flux.
Other people are like volcanos. Their flow isn’t constant, but abrupt.
Eventually, the leaf and the river become one. The leaf sinks and you become the river. You become it’s current, twirling and interwinding with the powerful forces under the surface. It’s not scary for a simple reason; it feels natural, it’s what it should be.
Other people are like volcanos. Their flow isn’t constant, but abrupt. Most of the time they are silent and cold. They let you walk around them, but always giving warnings, always pushing strangers away. At some point, you can feel what’s burning inside, the sulfur, the trembles.
When least expected, they erupt and lava flows, scorching everything in its wake. You can feel the fire, you can even try to ride the current, but it will burn and consume you. The feeling, in the end, is of complete drainage, no matter what you do, it won’t be enough.
There is a certain natural flow to volcanos, but they’re unpredictable, dangerous and require extreme caution.
In a way, water flows predictably; the effort to ride the current is minimal, it’s temperature mostly constant. Volcanos are hard, they’re unpredictable, hot, brutal and crave massive amounts of energy.
You want someone to come to you because their flow takes them there, not because you pull them to you.
This translates to various power dynamics in a relationship. This is especially true if you mix rivers and volcanoes. The feeling isn’t of cooperation or natural flow but that of antagonists. Each natural flow is pulling in a different direction, competing and repelling each other.
For a relationship to work well, the flows need to be aligned, not opposite. You want someone to come to you because their flow takes them there, not because you pull them to you. You want to go to someone because it feels good too, not because they convinced you.
Sometimes one side pulls the other and vice-versa, but it’s a gentle reminder, it’s the push of that innocent hand that helps the leaf get unstuck, not the violent shakedown of an eruption.
Ask yourself how naturally do you flow in your relationships. Are you doing all the work? How much energy are you investing? Are you feeling drained? All this might point to opposing natural flows.
It’s not always easy to realize who is doing what. In some occasions, both sides are doing a quid pro quo, but eventually a flow will impose itself.
Try to find the natural balance of things; the flows should collaborate, not oppose. The giving should be free, and the following should be free too. One side will lead, but the other side should follow and merge. Both side should become indistinguishable from one another.
“Don’t swim against the current. Stay in the river, become the river; and the river is already going to the sea. This is the great teaching.” — Osho