Personal Dreams and the Abuse of Power

Have You Ever Wanted to Be Powerful?
Have you every wanted to be powerful beyond measure?
Or, are you afraid of being too powerful, and abusing that power?
Or, do you simply feel unworthy of being powerful?

Marianne Williamson, in A Return to Love writes:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of G-d. Your playing small does not serve the world…We are all meant to shine as children do.

What are we looking for when we search for power?

Is it the ability to get others to do what we want?
Yeah. That sounds right.

Varieties of Power
Let’s identify some of the ways that people exercise power/influence over others:

  1. Coercion. I force you to do what I want. There are a few varieties of this:
    • Physical force: Do this or I’ll hurt you
    • Social, Political, or Religious Authority: Do this or I’ll punish you; Do this or society will collapse; Do this or society will reject you;
    • Self-defense: Do this to prevent some future danger
  2. Exchange. You agree to do what I want in exchange for a promise of money, love, friendship, sex, honor, power, health, knowledge, spiritual growth
  3. Leadership. I act according to principle and set an example. You are inspired, and wish to follow me, and copy what I’ve done. (And…maybe honor me a bit on the side)

Do you imagine acting with such power that you can force others to do what you want?

Do you imagine having so much wealth, etc that you can give others what they need so they will listen to you?

Do you imagine being such an extraordinary person that others will want to listen to you?

We readily imagine power as doing, having, or being. But all of these are focused on what others will do for us.

It’s no wonder that having this sort of power results in arrogance, corruption, and abuse of power. We started out pursuing this power to get people to do what we want them to do.

Oh, I may have great reasons why my thoughts and beliefs should be followed. My ideas might even result in a better world for everyone.

But if I’m really honest with myself, what I want is for people to do what I say.
The details are ultimately unimportant.

Leaders Who Don’t Want Power
In Plato’s Republic, he suggests that the only kind of leaders that we should seek are the ones who don’t want to rule. Men and women who aren’t desperately seeking power and attention will recognize the difficulties in serving a diverse society. Such people will try to avoid positions of leadership.

We want leaders who act according to principle, and inspire people to follow them. This is the third flavor of power detailed above. But in addition, these leaders must be people who don’t need to be justified through others following them and showering them with attention.

Inner Leadership
We love to pretend that our inner lives are whole and balanced, and that we’re moving steadily in the direction of our most important dreams.

Well. It just isn’t that way.

We’re full of contradictions, with a multitude of aspects with different desires and goals.
Sounds like society, right?

Let’s say that the “me” of the moment has a great idea, a great dream for how my life should be. He thinks “I need to get everyone (all the little “me’s”) to follow.” He makes great plans how it’ll happen. He’s going to force the other parts through willpower, or offer rewards, or just be so right, that the other parts can’t help but follow along.

It’s politics all over again. The inner voice that is running for office is primarily interested in feeling good, feeling justified, feeling strong.

If I want to remake my inner world, I’d better recognize that it’s a thankless job. My dozens of competing little me’s won’t instantly stand up to worship me. Instead, the parts of me that can should focus on my deepest dreams, the ones that make my heart sing. We’ll focus on the inner greatness of those dreams and feel their truth, because they’re wonderful, not to convince anyone else on the inside, or the outside.

Paradoxically, following my own dreams, without arrogance, will change the world within me, and the world outside of me, as well.

6 comments to Personal Dreams and the Abuse of Power

  • Thank you for clarifying about the many ‘me’s’ and ‘I’s’ that people have. The world is really a reflection of the world inside. If we are not to be of this world then we are to change.
    however, please tell us the books that you used. preferably e-books

  • If only it were possible to elect someone who wasn’t seeking personal power. But in today’s campaign frenzies, only egomaniacs can willingly choose to undergo the slings-and-arrows of modern campaigns and media free-for-alls.

  • Your blog is great, just found it. I will be back often….

    Peace – John

  • Wow Joel…. this is fantastic!

    You are so right on here!

    Can I nominate you for president? LOL!



  • This is a fascinating article, Joel. And brilliant. Maybe you should run for President!

    I have met Marianne Williamson on many occasions and although she has accumulated power, she does not use it for her advantage. She actually looks out for the little guy and gives her all to her audience. Never makes someone feel stupid by asking a question. She walks the walk she talks.

    We all want power.

    But I think Power takes different forms according to the stage of life you are in.

    In high school, it is being associated with the right crowd. Being popular. Getting on the cheerleader squad.

    As we age, it is the right degree, job, the nicest car and house and the most brilliant children.

    In middle age, it is the Power to keep the job you have in spite of the new MBA’s who come and shake up your company.

    In retirement, it is having enough money.

    And in elder years, Power is the physical ability to take of yourself so you are not too dependent on others.

    Thanks for jolting our brains with your post!

    Corinne Edwards

  • Hi

    Very interesting information! Thanks!


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