Because we think in a fragmentary way, we see fragments. And this way of seeing leads us to make actual fragments of the world.

Susan Griffin, A Chorus of Stones.

The Power Differential

Part of the problem here was the natural “power differential” that exists between an adult and a child. In every person-to-person interaction there are complex calculations going on in each person’s brain:

  • Is this person safe?
  • Are they an ally or enemy?
  • Will they hurt me or help me?
  • What are they planning to do?
  • What are they trying to do?
  • What do they want?

This relational calculus helps define where we are in a power differential. We are equal: I don’t feel threatened. I am dominant: I am safe. They are dominant: I am vulnerable. If we feel vulnerable, there will be a state-dependent shift in our stress-response systems—and therefore in how we feel, think, and interpret the interaction.

(Extract from: What Happened To You, Bruce D Perry, MD, PHD)