Posts Tagged ‘power’

I’ve been thinking about the nature of power a lot lately – researching, reflecting, observing. It’s largely been prompted by the US presidential elections however that is not the entire picture. I guess I’ve been reflecting on my experiences with power and equally with the loss of my power. What qualifies someone to hold power? How do you hold power when the nature of power is dynamic?

I’ve been wondering how people survive power given we’ve seen so many who gain it, lose it. I’ve also been looking at those that manage to hang onto it and have decided they are not the narcissistic that burn brightly only to either self destruct or fizzle out into irrelevance. Rather they are those with multiple power sources, in short the experienced and those smart enough to know about the real nature of power.

Sure there are the dictators who seize it, and the autocratic that suppress opposition but in a free system unless you have the majority onside most of the time, power will go to the next and the next, continually expressing itself through change and an opportunity to learn…about ourselves.

Power can be superficial and fickle. It’s can also be linked to survival, or at least that’s what we’ve been led to think. 

I’ve discovered that power is not an external thing. It’s not reliant on money, status, class or association (bless the people who believe this). Real power is self actualised. In other words understanding and being who you are will make you powerful. Knowledge which leads to self knowledge will make you powerful. Thinking critically and really stripping away the crap in society – taking a deeper, questioning look – will make you powerful. Curiosity and interaction, can lead to power. Love and compassion for others is also self actualising. Something as simple as being happy and tolerant, and secure within yourself is powerful. 

And so I return to those questions on power I’ve been considering. There is only one answer: knowing and believing in yourself and your own power. When you get to that point, you are very powerful.

I have long contemplated the nature of power, and why people so naturally and comfortably assume power over others. Power relationships are in everything we do; the way countries are governed, some workplaces run and they determine whether family relationships prosper, or wither.

What I call ‘blind’ power is the single most destructive force I have found in relationships, situations, politics and business. What I’ve found surprising, is that those who are blind with power will, inevitably, fall. And what a spectacular fall it is in the end.

All of us have grown up with the sayings that have found popularity in contemporary society. “You reap what you sow”, “Karma is real”, “Swings and roundabouts” and “Every dog has it’s day”. These sayings exist in modern thought because the people who use them and pass them on have witnessed the powerful fall from grace.

‘Grace’. An interesting word. We are all given power at some point in our lives and it is ‘grace’ that allows us to stay in this privileged position and not abuse power. But grace demands high standards. It demands that the powerful remain humble. But power by its nature is not prone to humility. Rather, it is prone to the intoxicating dance of the ego; and we all know what happens when ego makes the moves.

I was having a conversation with an old friend the other day about ‘blind’ power, and she asked me my opinion on something that was, what I considered, divisive and political. I replied that I had learned in my lifetime not to make snap, populist judgement, particularly when it came to taking one side over another. I quoted the Beatles song “All you need is love…” Since then, we have been emailing each other starting with that line…and having some fun, insightful exchanges with it.

But back to power. The right use of power is when people really listen and don’t take the naive and easy way out with a polarized opinion. It is true that everyone has an opinion. They are very common really. What is less true, is that everyone listens with humility.

Really, all you do need is love.

I hope that I’ve learned the right use of power in my lifetime – I certainly have experienced the ‘fall from grace’. But I picked myself up again, and I learned to hold power with extreme care, and to try my hardest to fill my heart, mind and soul with grace, grateful for my privileged, powerful position.

When in doubt about what abuse of power looks like, watch a bullfight and, as the crowds cheer for the blood of the bull, witness a matador being gored. I hope I’m never the matador. I hope to be humble, and I hope I do not make the pursuit of power over others a focus or goal, no matter what the justification might be.