Rank is relative. It is in relation to a position in society or a hierarchical organisation, e.g. social class.
Rank is contextual. In differing contexts we have different, momentarily-fixed, roles. As adults, we hold the role of parent within the family, sometimes the role of teacher in a learning environment and, perhaps at work, we hold a managerial role.
Rank is complex. We have multiple ranks depending on the person in relation to whom we are momentarily positioned and the momentarily-fixed roles we have in a given context.
Rank is structural. It is an overall system of influence organising the relationship between any individual and every other individual within a group of people. Often, we are unaware of the structural rank between us. We frequently have a blind-spot to it, until it is pointed out by someone from outside the system.
As we manoeuvre in and out of different contexts and relationships, we might acquire rank from a different source or from the ways in which we negotiate our way between one rank and another, drawing on our life
Rank is spiritual. There is a rank that comes from a ‘radical opening’, a connection with a spiritual source that enables you to meet the moment free of social norms and expectations or desires for the future and unburdened by the memories and understandings of the past. It enables you to feel at ease and free in the moment.
Focusing on our high spiritual and psychological rank and gaining awareness of its impact is key because these two are the only ranks that afford us agency and the possibility to effect change.
Rank dynamics belong to a particular universe of privilege and subordination. In this universe, feelings are subordinated to power. Action and influence on others is more highly valued than the feelings that motivate such action. Feelings are in the shadows of power: they are marginalised. They are not allowed their full expression, out of fear. Let us notice what happens on the subordinate side of this equation:
Low rank. Often hands over its power to someone else:
Giving - never taking
Waiting - for or on others to be invited
Permission - granted by another
Feeling - dismissed
Withdrawing - when touching the edge, just before change, when this is unwelcome by another
Where fear trumps love, our inner wise one gets shut down. The longer the shutdown, the more likely that this wise one becomes absent and ghost-like. Where fear resonates and our wise one cannot be listened to, we sometimes focus on our rights.
Reframing the low rank or victim place as a limitation is one way we can take and integrate the authority that initially was on the outside within responsibility.
On the dominant side of the equation:
High rank. Often draws its power and influence from others:
Receiving and inviting
Defining the terms of relationship
Choosing the timing of things
Granting permission or entry into the intimate sphere
Entitled - to ‘this’ and ‘that’
Within the bind of dominance and subordination, the likelihood of abuse
increases - and even more so without awareness of the impact that power exerts.
Being Mindful of Rank
To be mindful of rank is to notice the rank that is between us:
To use our high rank with awareness, naming it and using it to enable a relatedness with another in a perceived lower rank.
To know that the low rank that we sometimes feel carries within it hidden powers: the high rank that comes from our most difficult life experiences.
When we move towards owning our high rank, we take responsibility for it.
Relatedness Beyond Rank
To relate beyond rank is to:
– relate beyond the desire or need to take something from the other that is not freely given
– be attentive to the relational field and, at the same time, stay connected to the self.