Rank and Economy

Alexandra Vassiliou, Lane Arye, Stanya Studentova and Lukas Hohler


Rank refers to the power we have relative to one another in relationship, groups, community and the world. Some kinds of rank are earned, while others are unearned.  Unearned rank we acquire through birth, or by membership in a particular race, class, gender, etc., while earned rank is acquired by dealing with our life circumstances and by following and working on our inner and outer life paths. Rank creates privilege. Privilege refers to the benefits and advantages that come from one’s rank.



Social rank is based on consensus reality factors like race, class, gender and gender identity, sexual orientation, language, nationality, ethnicity, religion, age, health, physical ability, body size and shape, religion, education, class and economics, to name a few. Some social rank can be global, e.g., in general men have higher social rank than women.

Structural rank is the power that belongs to your position in an established hierarchy, for instance in an organization, in a family, in a community, etc.

Situational/contextual rank – if you went to a party where you did not know anyone, and maybe didn’t speak the language, you would have low situational/contextual rank regardless of your social rank. Contextual/situational rank is fluid. We notice it when we move to another context and are seen differently. 

Psychological rank is personal power we acquire through life experience. It includes how we feel about ourselves. It comes from many sources including:

  • having your perceptions validated as a child; having a loving parent; overcoming obstacles or finding ways to deal with challenges in one’s life; surviving suffering and coming out stronger and more compassionate; having worked through abuses from childhood; self- awareness, knowing oneself; receiving love and positive feedback from friends, colleagues, community; living in a community that supports who you are; confronting your greatest fears.

Spiritual rank is independent of culture, family and the world. It comes from feeling connected to something divine or transcendent and from feeling supported by this.

Being part of an oppressed group can sometimes lead individuals to reach for something divine or transcendent, which can in turn lead them toward spiritual connection and higher spiritual rank.

Unconsciousness of rank and privilege

Generally those who have rank and privilege are often unconscious of it. Those who don’t have rank and privilege know very well that they don’t have it and that the other people have it.

One of the biggest privileges is not to have to suffer about an issue. Not to have to deal with it and think about it every day. Of course, those with the privilege do not realize this!

Unconscious privilege exacerbates conflicts. Having no idea why the others are complaining, or assuming that everyone has the same access to power inflames those with less privilege or less access to power.



One way conflict escalates is if the people involved only identify with their low rank and are unconscious of their high rank. If we want to resolve conflict, it can be helpful to be aware of where we have high rank. This means that we recognize our rank, as well as the power and privileges that come with it; we embody it, feel it, use it with awareness, and notice how it impacts other people.

It is also possible to escalate conflict by identifying only with our high rank, while also marginalizing our own vulnerability and weakness. In this situation, it can be helpful to notice the places we have low rank, and get in touch with the feelings we tend to push away. In either situation, awareness, fluidity, and openness to our wholeness are vital.



Rank is a fluid experience in relationship. One important thing to remember is that rank dynamics are complex: There is never a situation where only one side has higher rank in relation to another side. There is always high and low rank on both sides, although the intensity of the difference and the impact of rank differences varies. This can be true for social rank (e.g., a white man can also be poor or uneducated). And it can be true and for other types of rank as well (e.g., a street person can have a lot of inner freedom and communication skills).   As we explore ourselves in relationship, rank shifts. Working with rank enriches relationship; it is a way to learn about each other, and to bring out different parts of ourselves. 

The Dreaming Potential of all Rank Experiences

We tend to view power from the perspective of high and low—we have it or we don’t. Viewing rank from a consensus reality perspective only, has its limitations. Let’s begin to look at rank through a new lens. Rank is neutral, not high or low, good or bad. Every rank experience is a doorway into our dreaming process.  Every rank experience can help us access our deepest personal powers.

From this perspective, no one is only a victim. All of our interactions are opportunities. This viewpoint can help us get beyond the experience of blame, shame, guilt and victimization.



One possible view on economics is that, in addition to being about numbers and figures, it is also a relationship process. Economics deals with how the entities in a given field (people, businesses, countries) interact, exchange what they have, and value one another.

When we contextualize economy as a relationship process, we see that it links with all the different aspects and types of rank (as has been explained, above). Rank only has meaning and impact in relationship to someone else  – my rank relative to you. The same is true for money and economy. For instance, the Euro is only strong or weak relative to another currency.



Becoming Aware of your Rank

  1. Share with your partner some aspects of your rank experiences.
  2. What are you comfortable to share, or uncomfortable to share? What are you passionate about, or embarrassed to talk about? Take your time. Notice your subtle feelings too.
  3. Choose one experience. Perhaps you can choose one that is troubling to you or where you sometimes feel at a disadvantage, or embarrassed. Go into it a bit more. What is just beneath the surface?
  4. What is the earliest memory you have of the experience of that rank? What was that like for you?
  5. Is something incomplete in that memory or story? What would you need to do to complete that in your present life and relationships? What is the edge? What needs to be processed or completed in order to be more fluid around this rank experience in relationships? Try to complete this now.
  6. Try it out in a role-play; instruct your partner to play the role/person that typically triggers your upset or embarrassment and then try and apply your sense of completion to relate to the other side from a more centered place.
  7. Notice the changes you experience in your communication signals. How do you communicate differently now?