Power. What feelings does that word evoke in you? Think about that for a moment. Is it something positive, negative, or neutral? Does it frighten you? Excite you? Do you want it? And if so, what is it about it that makes you want it? Do you say you don’t want it but secretly covet it?
People have died for the acquisition of it. Have murdered for the acquisition of it. Have sold their souls for it. How many wars have been started simply because someone wanted power, or had it and wanted to keep it? All of them?
For those who consider themselves on the spiritual path, this word and concept is particularly complex and full of pitfalls. On the one hand, there’s the concept of being in one’s personal power, in which you claim sovereignty over yourself, your soul, your energy, and without which, you can find yourself unable to achieve your goals, or constantly under attack. On the other, there’s the trap of the guru, the spiritual teacher, who either outright demands his students/disciples give up their personal power to him, living their lives through him and for him, not making any decisions for themselves, or, on a more subtle level, says all the right words about how important it is NOT to do that, yet feels threatened by any student who asserts his or her own, maintaining that teacher-student dynamic and hierarchy and not allowing the student to do what the goal of teaching should be: become a teacher. .
Recently, I was coming into contact with this theme a lot, hence, my need to write about it. I was in a state where, on the surface, I had little power. What I noticed was that I was encountering people, good people, who felt in some way they were out of control of their lives, or victims, or downtrodden, or who had allowed themselves to be used by their loved ones. These were people who were givers by nature, but who had been giving without being in their personal power, and therefore without boundaries. Those who had been feeding off this giving had been given the role of the one with power, whether this role wass given from love, from the woundedness of the giver, or from a martyr complex. There are so many who have been taught they need to please people, or be a “good person,” or who grew up without the unconditional love and acceptance that are so important in the formation of the psyche of a child. So, I think what happens is that the desire to give then comes, not from the heart or from a space of alignment and abundance and unconditional love, but from a wound.
What happens next is that this person with all good intentions feels burdened, taken advantage of, and starts to embrace the negative aspects of the Martyr archetype. This is extremely common among mothers, but not limited to them, not by a long shot. Then, the feeling of loss of control and loss of power becomes unbearable, and they begin to take measures to get it back, so they find someone whom they perceive to have even less power than they do, and they begin to assert their power over that person. It’s an act of substitution: find someone who can be the surrogate for the one or ones you have given your power away to, and find a way to exert your power over him.
In my personal experience, this has happened more than once, which tells me it’s something I must look at in myself. In one recent experience, a person who had made an offer to me and an agreement decided to revoke it at the last minute, resulting in chaos in my life, as the plans I had thought were set fell through, and I was left scrambling at the last minute to find an alternative. I knew, on an intuitive level, that this action was coming from an old wound in her, and that I had sort of set myself up to be the scapegoat. She had been feeling very out of control and stressed about her life, and then, meeting me, perceived that I was in a position of even less power, and made an offer, which she then withdrew. She had the satisfaction of feeling she had exerted control over some aspect of her life, while not addressing the actual root cause of why she was out of control of her life, which is what I could have helped her figure out if she hadn’t revoked the agreement; I believe that on some subconscious level she wasn’t ready to “go there,” and so took this way out. I understand this, and have compassion for it, though it doesn’t make it healthy behavior. I have also been on the other end of this. I have been in a situation in which I was doing a “good deed” for a friend, which should have come from a place of unconditional love and generosity, and which I hoped was, but, in truth, didn’t really turn out to be that way. I knew I was the one in power, and, in subtle ways, I made sure she knew it. I wanted to give without strings attached, but was finding myself feeling taken advantage of, and so took opportunities to assert my power, and let the person know I was the one who had it. I was somewhat aware of it at the time, but after having some time to reflect more deeply on it, I am much more aware of what was going on in our dynamic.
On a more spiritual level, I have learned over the years that I have a fear of my own power on some level. I am aware that I am extremely powerful, powerful enough that I can be very intimidating so some, when I show it. I have had large, initially threatening, probably crazy men in the rougher spots of NYC back away from me with their hands up when I let it out. I’m less than 5 feet tall. I have also had too many experiences of spiritual teachers trying to cut me down because they felt threatened by my power in some way. My self-doubt was usually their way in, as there was still a part of me that didn’t believe in myself and thought I was a fraud or not good enough. What I have been trying to do, though not always that successfully, is to be solid in my personal power, in a neutral way, and without fear of it. Where does this fear come from? Why are so many afraid of their power? I believe that this originates for many or most of us from past lives, in which we were beings with great power, and it got us killed or tortured for having it, or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, was power we abused, causing suffering for many. I know I have both in my Soul’s history, many, many times over. The result of my soul-searching has been essentially doing a fine dance with power, to get to that point where it comes not at all from ego and woundedness, but only from a strong sense of Self and wholeness. Am I there yet? No. I’m not going to lie. However, I think I’m getting closer, and learning more about myself.
I see what is happening in the United States now, with a president- elect with such a blatant greed for power over others that it’s almost cartoonish in its extremity. However, it’s not a cartoon, it’s not funny, and he has made many suffer in his lust for power over them. His former opponent also lusts for power, in a more covert but no less extreme way.
We need to start looking at what power really means, for ourselves, our countries, and our world. We need to start looking at who’s in control and has the power and really ask ourselves if they deserve this power and why we have given it to them. We choose to give power to people. Without our agreement on some level, the person has no power. We can choose to take back our power and let those who are abusing it know that we will no longer accept their abuse of it. We can fire them.