Book Content


Power + Identity | Refusing Powerless Identities

1   Effective Interactions

2  Interaction Patterns

3  Transmission of Affect

4  The Sources of Power Relations

5  Powerless and Powerful Identities

Power + Choice | Triggering Choice

6  Decision and Choice

7  The Social Aspects of Choice

8  Supreme Choice

Power + Thresholds | Creating the Self

9  Rites of Passage

10 Theater as Interaction and Identity Creation

Power + Games | Playing with Power

11 The Purpose of Play

12 The Structure of Games

13 The Party Game

14 The Stand, Sit, Kneel Game

15 The Tongue Twister Game

16 The Meisner Game

17 The Yes, But/Yes, And Game

18 The Circle Game

19 The Lane Game

20 The Body Language Game

21 The Switching Game

22 The Status Master Game

23 The Scene Study Game

24 The Character Study Game

About the Book

All social relations are laden with power. Getting out from under dominant power relationships and mastering power dynamics is perhaps the most essential skill for change agents across all sectors seeking to ignite positive change in the world.

This concise action manual explores major concepts of power, with a focus on the dynamics of domination and liberation, and presents methods for shifting power relations and enacting freedom. The Power Manual

  • Clearly distills the major theories of power from post-modern and feminist theory to business management and developmental psychology, and beyond
  • Examines key ways that power is deployed and transformed in society
  • Presents a new theory of power based on enactment—the bringing of something to life through one's actions
  • Differentiates between supremacist power and liberatory power
  • Demonstrates mastering the process of power expansion
  • Features workshop games for identifying and shifting power relations

What People Are Saying

"Cyndi Suarez has written a book for our time. The social movements of our day have a conflicted relationship with power, endlessly deconstructing its evils while actively yearning for it. We forget that in any conflict the tendency is to become the mirror image of your opponent. There is great confusion between the struggle for power and the quest for liberation. Cyndi has written a comprehensive operations manual for living into the tensions of these distinctions and quite literally enacting our way to freedom."

— Gibran Rivera, Master Facilitator

"This book is masterful. In The Power Manual, Cyndi Suarez refuses to accept the silos by which we organize our thinking and fields of knowledge. The result is an examination of power that honors the fullness of who we are as individual human beings and as social creatures. Moving across the political, spiritual, psychological, and gender self, she helps us understand power across our lived experience. The Power Manual is the handbook every person who considers themselves working to bring about a more just and compassionate world should read and carry with them throughout their journey."

— Ceasar McDowell, Professor of the Practice of Civic Design, MIT

"Think you know all about power? Think again! Drawing from a wide range of disciplines, Suarez gives practical guidance for cultivating individual consciousness and building social power. She reminds us that 'the state of being of the social change agent is the most powerful force for change. We can fight for freedom, or we can enact freedom.'"

— Cynthia Silva Parker, Senior Associate, Interaction Institute for Social Change

"Most discussions of power explore the intellectual, political and economic dynamics that generate imbalances in our society. Perhaps that's why power can seem so immutable: Our efforts to think or transact our way into a social reordering seem to result in little more than incremental change. In her book, The Power Manual, Cyndi Suarez brilliantly illuminates what's missing. To exercise and understand power is an embodied, creative, spiritual and at times even playful act."

— Deborah Frieze, Author, Walk Out Walk On and Founding President, Boston Impact Initiative

"We need to get comfortable talking about and wielding power. In this book, Cyndi Suarez does a great job of sharing theories about power — academic, literary, and spiritual. There are also several unique practical games to build people's capacity to understand and leverage power, which I'm looking forward to trying out."

— Susan Misra, Co-Director, Management Assistance Group

"Cyndi Suarez draws insights from a diverse array of intellectual and spiritual traditions and her own experience as a social change practitioner to show that the power for social change is already within us. But we must exercise it in a way that shifts from dominating power over to a liberating power with. The Power Manual is an accessible yet deep exploration into the complexity of power, as well as guide to group exercises for unleashing our collective power."

— Penn Loh, Senior Lecturer and Director of Community Practice, Tufts University

Book Excerpts

1 | Effective Interactions: Supremacist Power and Liberatory Power

2 | Interaction Patterns: Patterns of Domination and Patterns of Resistance

2 | Interaction Patterns: Patterns of Domination and Patterns of Resistance


2 | Interaction Patterns: Patterns of Domination and Patterns of Resistance

2 | Interaction Patterns: Patterns of Domination and Patterns of Resistance

2 | Interaction Patterns: Patterns of Domination and Patterns of Resistance


Effective interactors know how to cross thresholds of difference. One can deepen the practice of effective interactions by understanding and identifying key interaction patterns of domination and liberation.

3 | Transmission of Affect: Life Affirming and Life Draining Affects

2 | Interaction Patterns: Patterns of Domination and Patterns of Resistance

3 | Transmission of Affect: Life Affirming and Life Draining Affects


Affect is a major site of struggle. Resistance is always a choice. Resistance begins with the ability to recognize, engage, and redirect affect. This ability is a core source of power. It is an ability that can be learned.

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