Understanding the Complexities of Power

In the ordinary lingua franca of the present day, the majority of us tend to think of power as a universal and/or unassailable capacity to do something; whatever that something may be. The universal comprehension of power, to most, suggests a sense of forceful movement or a physical brute manifestation of vigor that sanctions one individual to essentially outmode or marginalize another.

To state that there is a Freudian connotation intermingled with such a definition would be an underestimation to say the least. The deep-seeded principle of power is very much allied with the broader/visceral primeval thoughts and actions of our citizenry. This, according to most, is the way of the world. Power is correlated with societal potency, municipal strength, physical cogency, and the like. This is especially true in looking at the manner in which scores of us distinguish winning versus losing or succeeding versus failing. To prevail is to demonstrate power and to lose is to portray a lack of power.

I would further envisage that if one were to conduct an impromptu or anecdotal survey of sorts, it would be difficult to locate individuals who actually prefer losing. We neither treasure nor look forward to coming in last place, regardless of the palpable edification obtained from such occurrences. The fundamental idea, of course, is that there is no social escalation in losing. The further problem, however, is that there is no glory in losing and that problem, in and of itself, is what fatally sponsors the greed culture in which we currently dwell. Power, in this regard, seems to be a desirable commodity in today’s world. I propose, however, that both of the aforementioned ideals miss the mark. Power, in many ways, is both fleeting and circumstantial. Winning is not all it’s cracked up to be.

 When examining the concept from a more meticulous and prudent perspective, power is about much more than capacity and/or volume, and there have been many scholars who have tackled this issue. From Max Weber’s early 1900s studies in structural bureaucracy, much of which can be read in his Theory of Social & Economics, to the current writings of Professor Alvin Toffler’s Powershift, the concept has been viewed and reviewed. In keeping with the general flavor of such works, I have come to realize that power is too vast a topic to incarcerate within the confines of a single sentence. More importantly, power is a good deal more than bodily, pecuniary, or expressive strength. These projections merely scratch the recognizable surface.

To be powerful, in the true sense of the word, is to remain mentally and spiritually above the various tribulations and shadows provided by the friction-dominated pathway of life. Power is an interior reality. It simmers within the roasting blueness of our blood and courses through the complex patchwork of our veins, thus setting the stage for who we will one day become. As Maslow posits in many of his writings concerning motivation, true power falls under the guise of self-actualization and emotional fulfillment, which cannot be found on the “outside” of a man. It is a personal recognition, then, of what is inside and has yet to take form. Unknown to many, personal power is inward, and to look elsewhere for it is an unreserved misuse of time.

While I hate to recount a trite and verbose phrase, power is a state of mind. In fact, when one rummages deep into the soil of the word, one gamely realizes that there are numerous categories of power, and each manifests itself differently. Accordingly, one can only enjoy authentic personal power by first understanding the centrifuged elixir of power-typologies and distinguishing as to the real manifestations of each. For example, coercive power, as deemed by most behavioral scientists, focuses primarily on the propensity to foster change via physical punishment, mental castigation, and various other forms of force. It suggests, for instance, that the prime objective or utility of power is to heartily induce a new course of direction by way of thrusting, pulling, or pushing until the change occurs.

By Ava Wilson