Nurture Newsletter October 2022
Or are we powerless?
Power exchanges are happening constantly in our lives. Each situation, every relationship. How we use our words, our resources, whether we give or withhold. What we control, deny or permit.
Power is essentially our ability to exert our influence or control but how we do so can take many forms.
Let’s take a glimpse into the different power styles.
“Nearly all men can stand adversity,
but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
The power-over type is the authoritative power held by people, organisations and systems who provide rules and regulations for how we are supposed to conduct ourselves. Examples of this would be leaders, governments, work organisations, schooling systems, the police & justice system etc.
These organisations tend to lose power when the people’s needs within the organisations are not being met, offering power back to the people to exercise their voting rights or to even rebel & revolt. We can see examples of this in the UK government at the moment & also in Iran with the burning of the hijabs.
Power-over can also become “bad power” however, which tends to be dominating, manipulative and exploitative for ones own gain. Dictators can be examples of this, as are the controlling partners, the aggressive or violent sports coach and the passive-aggressive boss.
“A great man is one who can have power and not abuse it.”
Henry Latham Doherty
Power-to is the power type with more ability attached. This is an ascribed power. That which is assumed due to a role, expertise, position, knowledge, beauty, talent or even due to a certain stereotype or archetype. In Irish society, past examples of this would have been the doctor, teacher & priest.
However, in today’s world we see the rise of the “Influencer” as a new ascribed power type. This shift, from authoritative to ascribed power over the last decade, offers a more relatable influence & very achievable methods of gain, offering a sense of empowerment to the people.
“Power is only important as an instrument for service to the powerless.”
This leads nicely into power-with which resembles a “good power”. A constructive and supportive type which enables people to use their own power in order to have their personal needs met. Good power tends to have an altruistic objective or an objective to serve all. This goodness tends to be heart-centered & tends not to be for the benefit of the individual but for the other or the collective. Yes, the individual might actually gain in fulfillment from seeing the other or the team benefit. The good sports coach, the charitable one, the good teacher, the good parent are all examples of this style. The Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, characterises the “power-with” style as he presents in his simple army green T-shirt, offering a visual representation of humility & that of a man fighting with the people of Ukraine.
“You have power over your mind – not outside events.
Realize this, and you will find strength.”
Finally, we come to power-within, the power of the individual who is self-determined, rather than being too concerned with external validation or authority. An internal point of reference offers guidance for this power type, to navigate through challenge or towards their own vision. A wonderful example of this is Vicky Phelan, who may be powerless in her cancer diagnosis, yet has graced our cinema screens throughout the country this week. This is a powerful & defiant stance over the health system which has previously tried to silence her.
This brings us to the ultimate lesson and the paradox of power.
Power is but an illusion!
Yes! Ultimately we are powerless.
As the John Bradford proverb states,
“There but for the grace of God go I”
Any external influence we have is only valid for as long as another aligns with it.
When we realise how little influence & control we really have. When we understand the impermanence of any reign of power, we can approach it’s existence with more grace, gratitude & with a regard for those who offer us their trust, respect, love, energy or attention.
This week, an example of the power paradox, saw the “GOAT” Ronaldo with all of his ascribed power being sidelined. His football playing power was only relevant for as long as his manager chose to play him. Take him out of the game & his perceived power diminished, resulting in the frustrated footballer exit the stadium, rather than play a substitution role with 10 minutes to go.
His power move in that moment; A walk-out.
So powerful, yet so powerless.
“Do not get upset with people or situations,
both are powerless without your reaction.”
So now is your chance to reflect on which power type you most relate to?
Do you use different power types based on the situation or relationship?
Where & how does your power currently exist?
Where do you feel your powerlessness?
How can you embrace your powerlessness as another element of the human experience?
By doing so, does this offer a different appreciation & expression of your power?
“What we actually learn, from any given set of circumstances,
determines whether we become increasingly powerless or more powerful.”
These are my thoughts on the topic but I am open to hear yours & also interested in learning more.
Feel free to respond by email or connect through the social channels.