By Diana Bernardo
I know a woman who completely pisses me off. This doesn’t happen often; I’m usually easy going and tend to see the better side of people. But I just can’t do that with this woman.
People mess up. They treat others wrongly. They lie, cheat and let others down. They do it for a million different reasons and I can understand most of them — after all, we’re complex beings with hundreds of underlying invisible forces that come from our biological constitution and from our individual experiences. Life is not black and white, it is grey and the sooner we understand that, the sooner we can all start being more compassionate with each other. And instead of seeing each other’s faults, we see the reasons behind them, and we feel empathy. We learn to let go. We realize everything is relative. And we find comfort in knowing that most people are just trying to do their best, even if they fail.
But there is a kind of fault that I still haven’t wrapped my head around: when people want to feel so high that they feel the need to step on you to get there. They work not on making themselves better but on making others seem worse. They don’t focus on being great by doing great things. They want to be great because nobody else is — “in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king”.
“There is a theory that differentiates between power as influence and power as autonomy”
They want power. But the way they find to get that power is by simply taking it, instead of earning it. They boss others around, they speak in rude ways and they demand instead of asking, as if that, somehow, made them more powerful. It doesn’t.
There are many theories as to why people want power, starting in biological reasons. But there is a theory, developed by the authors of this study, that differentiates between power as influence and power as autonomy. “Power as influence is expressed in having control over others, which could involve responsibility for others”, while “power as autonomy is a form of power that allows one person to ignore and resist the influence of others and thus to shape one’s own destiny”.
The conclusion of the study is that most people want power not to have influence over others but to earn autonomy from the influence of others. And this I can totally understand — after all, freedom is my utmost personal value.
Maybe this woman I know just doesn’t want to be controlled and that is why she wants to control me. But, somehow, I can’t believe that. I believe she falls in the small category of people who want power as influence, power for the sake of it, power to control others. I believe in this because I never tried to control her — why would she fear my influence?
I think she pisses me off so much because I can’t understand the concept of wanting to control others just to have influence. I believe in the individual power to “shape one’s own destiny”. My freedom ends where yours begins. I believe we, as society, can grow to make this possible. It depends on each and every one of us to make it so.
Before you go around trying to have power over others, learn to have power over yourself first. Learn to read yourself and understand the underlying forces that shape you. Maybe then you will realize that true power is to be free and let others be free too.