Distribution of Authority

August 31, 2009 | Leave a Comment

Category: Society, Web

A pattern I’ve noticed among professionals I know is the tendency to share the benefits of one’s expertise by actually imparting knowledge on how to engage in that professional’s profession.  A psychotherapist has at her or his disposal a host of interventions to bridge the client to the client’s desired state.  The intervention often chosen is the one where the client is invited to view and feel about himself or herself in a similar fashion to the way the therapist views and feels about the client.  The client is invited to experience the world psychodynamically.  The practitioner guides the client to share the practitioner’s model as a strategy to achieve the desired change.

I’ve noticed this in several contexts.  Outstanding teachers often are not only communicating information, they are sharing how the information is communicated.  There is sometimes a tendency to teach by making the student a teacher.

Outstanding political organizers are not just engaging in the step-by-step process of achieving goals, they are at the same time training and guiding the activists that they are working with to emulate the organizer’s behavior.

Excellence in communication may not just be about nurturing an environment that supports the exchange of information but may have no small amount to do with making it possible for the target audience, client or companion to fully enter the world of the information-imparter so that the receiver of information emerges with a brand new frame of reference, a new world view.

Think of it as a shaman not just performing rituals to compel change in the patient, but the shaman teaching his ritual interventions to all that he or she works with as part of the transformation that is sought.

The extreme of this paradigm might be going to the doctor to be diagnosed and being taught diagnosis, eating out for supper while watching the chef teach you how he or she prepares the food, meeting with the accountant to be taught bookkeeping, going to church to hear the minister preach by describing the steps necessary to become a minister.

Context is being shared in addition to information.  Often, professionals practicing in this way are able to offer a deeper level of communication.  There is an invitation to share the presuppositions of the practitioner.

There is a second piece to this, one I find particularly interesting.  There are a host of professionals that make their living traveling the country conducting workshops, preparing videos, writing books and running practitioner trainings.  The practitioners’ world view, their presuppositional context, is constantly reinforced by the fact that their professional success, self esteem and income are all tied to their achievements.  Those professionals whose job it is to model a specific paradigm such as success, high self esteem, spiritual achievement, calm or some specific positive outcome are themselves extremely reinforced by their position as model to maintain the target outcome.

The folks that they are teaching or guiding don’t have this leverage position.  Their relationship with their environment does not compel them in this ongoing fashion to model the target state.

Some practitioners engage in the extra step of seeking to teach the student to become a practitioner.  At the most basic level, one is being guided to experience changes in presuppositions, changes required to share the alternative world view.  A new matrix of assumptions are donned and explored for compatibility.  Then, wearing this new cloak of many colors, the students can be invited to practice, slipping into a position of authority, perhaps finding it easier to experience transformation because they become an example of the process.

Perhaps it is easier to become enlightened if you become a guru.

Cults are often accused of engaging in this process.  I’ve heard a “cult” defined as either a new religion or a religion unfamiliar to a particular culture.  The process of healing by requiring a shift in presuppositions is a classic religious strategy for change.  As noted here, it is common in other healing professions such as psychotherapy.

I’ve noticed that blogging, writing to a largely imaginary audience, offers some of the same effect I’m describing above.  My imagined skill at drawing together and communicating the various principles I find interesting is reinforced by my estimation that someone is benefiting from my insights.  I am at the center of a tiny cult, seeking students interested in embracing my world view.  This medium of blogging encourages my staying centered in a positive state as I model the benefits of being me.

Observing the effects of blogging, Facebook and Twitter on people I know and don’t know but just “follow,” I observe people feeling embraced by larger communities, putting them in hub positions where they are modeling their particular points of view.  At the same time that there is this profound amateurization of society with the deconstruction of a number of professions (for example, mainstream media), there is this balancing of amateur demeanor whereby amateurs are also models of behavior representing their own unique and particular world view.  There is this paradoxical professionalization of the nonprofessional as each person becomes the center of a larger community, modeling his or her own personal frame of reference.  Each becomes an acolyte to his or her personal message, responsible for imparting a particular point of view.

Professionals encourage clients to share the professional’s point of view.  Often, the particular way the professional engages in the profession becomes much of what is communicated.  The professionals’ self esteem or capabilities often become closely tied to their modeling successfully the sought-after target experience or behavior.  Authority to practice reinforces practitioner success.  With the proliferation of online communities placing many more individuals at the center of a matrix of like-minded people, the experience of authority is now offered to a greatly expanded number of online practitioners.  We feel part of a community, and it is not uncommon that we feel reinforced to model aspects of experience not easily accessible until now.

The dawning of the age of the amateur suggests an emerging ubiquitous sharing of authority.  With authority comes responsibility.  Perhaps we are each becoming responsible for the way we feel.


Name (required)

Email (required)


Share your wisdom