By Jennifer Griffiths | June 2, 2012
Humans are addicted to pulling rank on each other and no-one willingly gives up rank. Usually its this unspoken privilege or elitism that’s the real source of conflict between individuals or groups.
The person who explains this best and what to do is Arnold Mindell. In his book “Sitting in the Fire”, Mindell says “Rank is a drug. The more you have, the less aware you are of how it effects others negatively.”
People who have a high rank don’t see what the fuss is all about. They expect others to conform and behave and this causes antagonism. The way round is to be conscious of your rank and use it to help others.
There are lots of different types of rank such as social status, class, wealth, intellect, education, spiritual, emotional, moral, sexual, gender, marital status, beauty, age, ethnicity, creativity, speed, strength, popularity …..even battle scars or wounded-ness. You might have high rank on some of these scales and low rank on others. In some circles it’s the victims who are top dog.
Naturally, in any given situation people try to make the qualities they have the ones that count most.
For example, if someone is low on wealth or intellect they might more forcefully try to pull rank on the basis of their gender or ethnicity instead. (eg. white male). Or say you’re a black female in a white male dominated society, you might focus on education or beauty or creativity or spiritual rank instead.
Rank comes with being a social animal. It’s not something we can get rid of. The trick is to bring it to consciousness with compassion instead of allowing it to turn into oneupmanship or to coagulate into darker shades of sexism, racism, elitism or any other ism or schism.
What to do?
Think of the various types of rank mentioned above. Which ones do you score high on and which ones low?
Can you have compassion and understanding for the people who score lower than you?
Perhaps even more importantly, can you have compassion for people who are pulling rank on you? Perhaps they’re using rank to mask some other deep seated feeling of inferiority?
Can you use your rank to help others who are less fortunate?
Interestingly, Mindell says that sometimes people take on a charge from the environment. There might be a spacespirit or a timespirit that needs voicing and people step into the role.
If you have a conflict brewing, whether on a world scale or in a teacup, perhaps seek out someone trained in Process Work or Worldwork to help you work with both parties to find a resolution. This applies equally well to family issues as it does in the workplace.
How to improve your status?
There are long term and short term solutions. It’s difficult to change your scenario when the cards are stacked against you. For example you’re the wrong gender or color or you’re not a billionaire. But what you can do is go for situational status or what Oren Klaff calls “local star status”. Be brilliant in at least one area above.
In his book Pitch Anything Oren analyses the mastery of this skill by French waiters. This is a book well worth reading. About why you should never come across as needy, his work is mainly about how you can’t sell if you have low status and how to do presentations that improve your status.
Long term, one of the most effective ways to improve your situation in any society is by mastering the local language. I’m guilty of not doing this as are most English speaking people living in foreign countries. If I can give you one piece of advice wherever you live in the world, it’s learn to be competent in the language of your country of choice.
Mindell is the father of Process Orientated Psychology – this combines physics (Field theory) with Taoism and Jungian psychology. Process work is the basis of a very powerful form of conflict resolution developed by Mindell called “Worldwork”.
Arnold and his wife Amy have both written several books and teach worldwide.