Life as I understand it is an ability to hold onto our own power to not feel powerless and to not over power the other. It’s a delicate balance of keeping our power topped up without needing to empty the power reserve of another. There is an ebb and flow of power between people, but how do we find the right balance?
We are largely unaware of how power operates, how we abuse it and are abused by it because we are simply immersed in it and are forced to accept its early uses and abuses from the earliest moment in our lives.
So many of us either feel disempowered or empowered even throughout the course of one single day. Feeling powerless can cause feelings of low self-esteem, feelings of inferiority, of having little value, feeling unworthy and not good enough.
There are some people who have power and make no bones about it and do not attempt to mystify the fact that they will use their power to crush anyone who oppose them. But this crude application of power is not nearly as effective as the more ‘civilized’ mystified abuse of power. It is when people are oppressed by power that is mystified, the one that comes ‘through the back door’ without you noticing, is where their alienation is the most severe.
Those that are oppressed in the crude way do not tend to become alienated from themselves/others initially, they usually feel extremely sad and angry at this oppression.
Both forms of an abuse of power leave us feeling diminished to a child state, where the other takes away our autonomy, our power and good feelings about self. When this happens at a more subtle level and the abuse of power is mystified, we can become even more alienated from the world – including ourselves, we can become our own oppressor.
This acceptance of power imbalances in society is drilled into us at a very early age through hierarchies and competition. We are told that ‘everyone is equal’, but the reality around us is quite different – there is a huge conflict, and it is a difficult conviction to achieve and maintain from what we feel and witness around us.
We have been trained to compete and accept hierarchies with the belief that competitiveness will lead to happiness and success in life. If we’re not successful, then we’re not competitive enough or compliant enough in playing the ‘game’. More importantly, when we lose, we feel like a failure and not ok.
Corporate organisational structure is a heightened and elevated level of these power games where as employees we are placed on a hierarchical ladder with people stepping on our heads whilst we step on the heads of others. Once in a while we climb to the top and feel triumphant but it’s not long before our position is threatened by the ones below and sometimes we are thrown to the bottom, powerless.
Usually we often find ourselves somewhere in the middle, desperately holding onto our place whilst preventing others from getting ahead of us. Corporate behaviour like this is often encouraged for the best interests of the company, but to the detriment of the human beings who work there.
This power play mirrors what goes on in society in general, there is a ladder we all live on and the experience of hierarchies is embedded so deeply in each and everyone of us that we think of this as a natural experience to be expected and one which we should react to and ‘get ahead’ when actually, we don’t need to.
This behaviour makes us power hungry and fuels the cycle of power in which we all live. It affects us in everyday life, in every moment, with every person and wherever we go.
Levelling power hierarchies however isn’t the answer, yes, we get rid of the abusive aspects of power, but we also prevent ourselves from being powerful and feeling liberated, we deserve power.
So how can we have power without oppressing another? I believe that really getting to observe and understand how power operates around and within us is key. We can benefit by identifying expressions of power that are harmful to ourselves and others and which are beneficial. Abuse of power can take two forms: psychological and physical, most of the oppression or abuse of power is psychological in nature.
I believe that by understanding the power plays of society, becoming curious about our own part in that and to develop our own individual power that withstands this strong force is a way to manage and gain a sense of mastery over this. By looking more closely at our own power, how do we use or not use it? Do we habitually take away another’s power to feel powerful? Do we easily give power away? How can we find a place where we accept another’s power alongside ours?
To understand this requires a deeper exploration into our patterns without judgement. The greatest antidote is to develop a power within us that remains intact and resilient in the face of oppression and one that allows the power to grow in another.