Footsteps in the SandIn social relationships, consciously and subconsciously, we are playing “tug-of-war” with others. Exchanges of energy occur at various levels; those with higher social power tend to “steal” energy from those with lower ranks.

By taking energy from those with less social power than us, we actually make them less secure and less trusting. Such abuse of power occurs in any direct and indirect subordination relationships, such as parents-children, governor-governed, manager-managed, employer-employee, etc.

In an ideal world, we all live with mutual respect and don’t “steal” each other’s energy, despite the direct and indirect subordination relationship. This explains the importance of good parenting, good management, and good governance.

The more respectful and equal our relationship with others, the more harmonious and peaceful world we live in. This contributes to the on-going evolution of the natural world.

In general, there are four stages in a relationship, according to Shippensburg University professor Toru Sato in The Ever-Transcending Spirit: The Psychology of Human Relationships, Consciousness, and Development.

First, mutual interest. It is an important stage, in which curiosity and mutual respect color the journey from the unifying point to the early “getting to know each other” stage. Exchanges of positive energy are expected in various “honeymoon” activities.

Second, power struggle. It is another important stage in which individuals try to find out “who has more power” between them. Conflicts and arguments tend to occur. In evolutionary psychology, various alert systems are turned on at this stage, allowing the individual to “fight for power,” which is necessary for “survival.”

The honeymoon phase has ended and negotiation, bargaining, and compromising occur to save or to continue with the relationship. If the individuals shared positive energies, they may take it to the next level and allow the relationship to flourish. If more negative energy was shared, the relationship may not survive.

Third, codependence. It is the stage where exchanges of energy occur in creating a balanced relationship. Giving and taking are necessary to make the relationship less insecure and more respectful. Negotiations are still apparent but an overall picture of mutual understanding has been laid as the foundation.

Fourth, mutual respect. Deep respect has been reached and no “stealing” energy is involved, or at least significantly minimized. The energy level between individuals is balanced and both are unified with the same or similar long-term goals in preserving the relationship.

We may not realize that as we become more powerful in the society, the more powerful we are in our capacity to “steal” other’s energy. Our employers and the government have the most power to “steal” our energy. When stolen energy has reached an extremely high level, we can expect to see catastrophe.

Keep an even level of energy exchanges and don’t let your energy get “stolen” by those with higher social power. Let’s create mutually respectful relationships.[]

Creative Commons License photo credit: irunandshoot



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    Last reviewed: 25 Apr 2012

APA Reference
S. Bev, J. (2012). Social Power and Stages of Relationship. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 28, 2015, from



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