also important to keep in mind what power is not.
Much of the misuse of our powers comes from
our inability to distinguish between what truly is
power and what is not power.
Sometimes we think that we can or should do
things that we neither need to do nor should do,
especially when it comes to our dealings with other
this tendency stems from a desire to control other
people's actions or thoughts, and sometimes it comes
from a desire to control a particular situation.
Often, it even comes about because we want to
help someone else by "making sure" that
something turns out well.
As a teacher, I often get papers that
obviously were written mostly by a student’s
parents—an effort to help, indeed, no matter how
misguided the motivation.
In these cases, though, we're talking about
influence and not true power.
The parent who wrote the paper may influence
the grade, but hasn’t used power to help teach
there are very few programs around that teach people
how to deal with other human beings and how to use
their powers effectively, so we tend to get our
ideas of what we're supposed to do from other people
who also haven't been taught how to effectively use
their own powers to deal with other people without
trying to control or manipulate them.
offers a perfect example of this phenomenon.
Many parents think that it's their duty to
make sure their kids know right from wrong and
behave in "socially acceptable" ways.
If they become too obsessed with this idea,
then they try to control their children's actions so
that they can't make any mistakes.
They often use their power, then, to try to
control and manipulate, as if their kids were
puppets on strings that can be controlled by a
really don't have any power over their children,
though—they're using their power to try to
influence the kids, who either accept their attempts
and acquiesce, or reject the attempts and rebel.
Heather drinks a beer when she's fifteen, then, her
parents may use their energy devising punishment for
her and trying to "force" her to see
things their way—she shouldn't be drinking beer
because it's against the law and because it can lead
only to worse problems.
Typical behaviors on the part of parents are
to tell Heather that she's wrong, that she's doing
something terrible, that her actions are very
using their energy, then, to say these things,
hoping that their influence
will affect Heather.
can't do so. When
punishment is involved, then they're using the
punishment to try to create fear of future
punishment that will influence Heather's future
punishment works the same way—people use their
energy to strike someone else, hoping that the fear
of more physical abuse in the future will influence
the other person’s decisions about what to do and
not to do.
Heather rebels against her parents' reactions, then
the parents will use even more energy, now for two
to convince her that they've been right all along,
and second to deal with the problem of rebellion.
Now the parents have to convince their
daughter that she's wrong to question their
judgment, and if they're unsuccessful in the
attempt, what will the final result be?
simply, there probably will be no final
result—this conflict probably will go on for quite
a while without any resolution at all.
And how much energy will the three people
have used against each other, only to fail to
convince the other side that they're in the right?
How much energy will have been spent in
anger, resentment, fretting, obsessing and worrying?
type of situation is quite understandable in
societies in which people tend to see life as a
series of conflicts.
In cultures in which many people have a
"you and me against the world" philosophy,
conflict is seen as the norm.
And while most people don't wish to be
involved in conflict, they nonetheless see it as the
most effective (and sometimes the only effective)
means of problem resolution.
while power definitely is not the control and
manipulation of others (which could be seen as using
power to try to influence), it also is not
necessarily the ability to function in conflict
fact, some of the people who have been the most
effective at conflict resolution have been those who
have approached conflict with the attitude that they
won't allow themselves to be drawn into it and
forced to deal with it on someone else's
level—Mohandas Gandhi and Mother Teresa are two
incredibly successful people who come to mind.
They knew that the best way to approach
conflict was to use their power being true to
themselves, who they were, and what they stood for
as human beings.
They weren't interested in emulating others
who thought that power was the implementation of
force in an attempt to resolve a conflict or to
influence the actions of others.
From Living Life Fully Publications!
spending, we lay waste our powers." This line—as
well as an experience with a counselor some 13 years
ago—has inspired me to examine the concept of how we use
our power in positive and negative ways, with the end goal
of helping people to be aware of the ways they use their
powers--effectively and ineffectively.