I am a certified therapist who helps expats facing difficulties in everyday life abroad. I graduated...
Too much or too little: the dynamics of personal power26 February 2014, by Somesh Valentino Curti
› "I have no power"
› "I don’t know if I can do it"
› "I cannot make decisions"
› "I am afraid to expose myself"
› "I don’t know how to deal with this situation"
› "I don’t love myself"
These are some of the phrases that my clients frequently repeat during their sessions. Many of their difficulties are connected to the issue of "personal power:"
› Can I do it?
› Can I express myself?
› Can I decide?
People who start therapy usually have this kind of questions, and feel stuck and powerless. This position of "not enough power" cannot be understood and overcome if we don’t connect it to its counterpart, "too much power" - they go together.
Too much or too little
When people have too much power, they have the tendency to abuse others both directly, in a dictatorial way, and indirectly, in a manipulative way. They do this in order to compensate for what is really a sense of impotence.
When people, instead, feel powerless or without the right to express their power, they are actually repressing themselves so as to keep everything under control, and are letting others abuse or manipulate them.
Too much or too little power are two dangerous extremes. In both cases, there is no contact with real inner power, and external power is used to compensate for this lack.
External power: abuse and manipulation
What is external power? It is a feeling of security, satisfaction and recognition that comes from an external source. We are part of a society, and society is made of social roles that identify our function and contribution: job, relationships, economic and social conditions.
If we don’t feel good within ourselves, we sometimes start looking to the outside world to compensate for this pain. While forgetting about our inner world, we subconsciously try to make others feel as bad as we do. We can exercise power in a direct way, by abusing others, or in an indirect way, by manipulating them.
This is the case, for example, if we invest our whole life in holding on to prestige and high social status. It happens when we crave a fast-paced career and "powerful" positions, like those of politicians, police, army officers and managers, etc. We can also become bossy in social groups or in our relationships: with family and friends, or at work, in sports clubs or artistic environments.
External power: victimisation and repression
Someone who exercises external power needs someone who suffers it, and vice versa. The latter is what is happening when we look for social roles that make us feel a victim or dependent on others.
When we are trying to compensate for a lack of self-esteem, we might have external power in an active way, but also in a passive way.
We absorb external power from "powerful" people who have a strong attitude and personality; at the same time, we exercise our own external power by keeping them hooked through a manipulative attitude. We need each other to exist.
There is nothing bad in performing social roles. What is important is not to let them define us completely, narrowing our life down to the dynamics of external power.
When this happens, we completely move away from our inner self and unconsciously become prisoners of our behaviour.
What is inner power? It is a feeling of security, satisfaction and recognition that comes from within. It is a force that has no need to find external confirmations, it simply "is." Inner power does not need to prove itself, neither by oppressing others nor by being oppressed by others.
If we feel trapped in external roles or behaviour, we might start to experience psychological suffering. This is an expression of our inner power. Suffering takes the form of physical symptoms or emotional problems, as this is the only way that consciousness can "be heard."
These problems are the outcome of the friction of our consciousness against the bars of external power. Inner power wakes up our mind to put something in action for a positive change.
An example of inner power expression
Let’s say that you are in a relationship with someone who, even if he/she is manipulative, abusive or controlling, gives you a sense of security and being loved. In this case, you are in the role of the victim. You beg for love and accept whatever is coming, even if it is mixed with negative feelings.
If you start suffering because of this situation and feel the urge for a change, it means you are hearing the wake-up call of your consciousness. In fact, self-love cannot really be compensated for by external sources; it needs you to convert your energy from outward-going to inward-going.
What scares us about this process is that we need to go through our pain and learn how to produce love without asking someone else to give it to us.
From external power to inner power
Here are some tips if you feel the urge to move from a position of being overpowering or powerless to a position of inner power:
› Your suffering is the door towards healthy change; let it manifest and have the courage to face your fears and your pain.
› There is nothing bad about having a social role and external power. What is important is to balance them with a good connection with your inner power. The more we are in touch with our inner world, the less we feel the need to use external power.
› If you usually behave in a way that ends up making you suffer, do a reality check:
- "Why do I do that?"
- "Why do I invest so much in this way of being?"
- "What can I do to change what makes me suffer?"
Following the change
It's up to us to be honest with ourselves and not to deny the change coming from our consciousness, but rather to follow and facilitate it. Even if it conflicts with the way we are used to living.
Being conscious about ourselves is the only thing to which we must give priority. All the rest will follow!