How do you see power, abuse, and abuse of power?

Lionheart

Sponsor
Thanks for the topic...

During my childhood, my dad had the power, the power to hurt me and my mom. My mother and I went through a lot of emotional abuse and physical abuse until I got a little older then I became a survivor of sexual child abuse. After that, I developed the belief that men held all the power and women and children were simply victims and thus had no power. Then as I got older, I came to view both men and women as having power but not children and certainly not me. I lived with that belief for decades. Years after that I saw women as having all of the power....everyone it seemed but me.

So I grew up without any sense of my personal power until one day it dawned on me that people were looking in the wrong place for power. I learned about self-help books and self-empowerment and then things began to change. I began to seek power from within and this has been the course ever since.

I am not trying to conquer the world I am only trying to conquer myself. So I don't look to find power over other people, that is not my thing...when a person has power over another then the wielding of power can become corrupt and abusive. (but not always). I think what helped me most was accepting that I am powerless over a lot of things and that I do not have complete control, (nor do I really want it). I don't want the responsibility that comes with having a lot of control and power. and I try to ensure that I don't abuse what power I do have... it is important for me to separate myself from abusive people.

Anyway, I suppose I am rambling and should stop, but thanks for the topic. It took a long time for me to accept that it was even possible for me to have power...the power to protect myself, to direct my life in the way that I choose, etc. Yes, I will take "power from within" instead of "power over" any day!!!

(I hope something I have said is helpful to you)!!!

lionheart
 
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ruborcoraxxx

MyPTSD Pro
@Lionheart , this is so beautifully and simply put. It does help.

The strange thing is, when you do have this impression of power for yourself, you also don’t look after maximising it by other means. Or rather rarely. On this, I’m quite worried about the profile of certain people that are elected, because as politics are shaped in the world for now, it selects a certain profile of someone willing to make sacrifices in order to make changes, but also benefit from that position and abuse it. And actually not looking for the position with a will to serve, but with a will to dominate.

Also as the way things are, many people do display dominating tactics and strategies and it makes so difficult to evolve through it without adopting these techniques because at the end, force is the only language they know. I’m obsessed with this paradox. How many times I came expressing things nicely and trying do to it okay, just to be ignored or laughed at. When I adopted the coat of I’m Strong, If You Don’t Follow Me Then Fear Me!, then it worked.

There is a real response from people from perceived strength and the fear of being left behind. Also because it takes so long to develop the strength from within, most people, especially young ones but not necessarily, it is difficult to organise and look forward without having conflicts that degenerate in power play. I’ve seen that in so many places, it’s always the same scenarios that arise. Once that power play is triggered, it’s very difficult to get out of it and as opposed to interpersonal relationships where at least, the option to walk off is generally available, work is a space where we’re really dependent.

Overall I’m not discontent to have chosen the art world. It’s a phoney place with loads of fake people, but also very authentic ones and there is enough flexibility for you to pick the right side. You might not appear in Art Basel every year because it isn’t your goal anymore, but it’s possible to build yourself a life that has some form of purpose while being very tolerable socially. But what I described also keeps happening, but as the structures are more loosen it doesn’t become very critical. I’m trying to develop techniques, tactics and strategies to avoid it in the maximum, but for what I’ve found, it also relies on a lot of calculation, manipulation and withholding. It’s difficult to avoid power while being sincere. The sincerity has to be rather minimal, and it’s important not to assert yourself. In a sense, there is a form of perversion in not looking for power but then having to build a grey power under that to be able to achieve this.

I guess that humans are wired to be really hierarchic, in a certain way. What we can do is to find ways to defuse it. It’s really tricky.
 

Freida

Sponsor
Maybe this...

There is a differnce between power to do good and power to do bad.
Power to do good is based in knowledge, skills and ability. You see a challenge, you want to fix it, but to do that you have to accept the role of "control" and have others who willingly follow you in that role. Think surgeon, cop, military, firefighter, etc

Yes, one person has the power and the other doesn't - but both parties have willingly accepted those roles. No coercion, no fighting, no abuse. Instead it boils down to one person having the KSA to help the other.

I think that's the part you are struggling with -- the idea of voluntarily releasing your hold on your power because doing so benefits you. Or the reverse - someone voluntarily releases their power to you, so that you can help them.

Picture my recent ER scene (lol fresh in my mind y'know!)
Sis had to release her power over her body and submit to a series of tests done by another person.
Did they hurt? Yep. Was it necessary? Yep. Did she have a choice NOT to do it? Yep. She could have walked out at any time.

But instead she allowed someone to have power over her to do what needed to be done to try to help her.
Was there a power imbalance?
Yep
Was it a voluntary power imbalance by both involved parties?
Yep
Was she harmed by the person who had the power? Yep - the iv hurt like a beotch because they had to stick her several times.
Was the person with the power (nurse doing iv) enjoy that power of hurting her? Nope, because she had voluntarily taken that role - using her power to help. Which also meant they had to respect her right to allow that.

Having power doesn't always imply harm
Sometimes it can imply a benefit
Which is the hard part to wrap the mind around
 

enough

MyPTSD Pro
Was the person with the power (nurse doing iv) enjoy that power of hurting her? Nope, because she had voluntarily taken that role - using her power to help. Which also meant they had to respect her right to allow that.
just spent the better part of five days on a hospital floor and again last night in an ER and WOW! nurses are great! I truly do in reality owe them my life several times over and couldn't see my way to a place where I would ever doubt their power. It wasn't for me, it was for my wife and don't worry, things are actually looking up, she laughed today! Nurses are the best.
 

PreciousChild

MyPTSD Pro
I think the way we see power has changed generationally like you said, @enough. I heard a historian say we're getting more peaceful as a society. But maybe aggression is just transformed. Sorry to hear about your mom, @ruborcoraxxx. I understand what you're saying in your threads- pushing back against a bully is an example when it doesn't seem enough to say that power is just about "inner" empowerment. Though for the most part I agree with @Lionheart that self-empowerment should be the focus in our growth, I do think that the power we typically think of also has an external dimension. There's a philosopher Paul Ricoeur who believes that the very thing that makes us human is the vulnerability we experience at the mercy of others. I need the other to love and recognize me. I cannot do that for myself, so the other has power over me. We need each other, simply put. The narcissist is the one who says "No one affects me; I'm invulnerable." I think that's when power enters into the picture - to prove your strength, to defend against any sign of weakness. Also, "I want you to see how great I am, but you don't matter", which I think is ironic because doesn't wanting the other's respect acknowledge their power over you? But Ricoeur also understood the fragility of being open to the other - if you get abusive parents, that same vulnerability gets you totally screwed. As a grown up, I try to reclaim my vulnerability. To me, to open up without crumbling is strength.
 

mumstheword

MyPTSD Pro
I think victimhood is very much the language and manipulative ploy of narcissistic people. Particularly any of them who have "covert" or "vulnerable narcissistic traits".


It's the blame games and refusal to take personal responsibility that is a key feature of narcissistic behaviour. And it's used for manipulative purposes.

It's like, if they claim victimhood before the person who's actually been targeted speaks out, the actual target, their "narcissistic supply" victim just sounds and feels stupid saying anything, they sound much more non-credible, and like they are playing "tit for tat".

It works a treat, because the majority of folk are somewhat more empathetic and feel for the "underdog" (cough, clever, wiley, narssistic person) and believe the person who loudly proclaim their victimhood, rather than the shamed, gaslit, confidence- destroyed actual victim of the narcissist.

So I don't, in my experience any way, see that narcissistic people pretend to be invulnerable.

Although sometimes they do, it's whatever works to gain the upper hand. If they can elicit sympathy to take the focus off their own transgressions, they do, otherwise they are looking for admiration and unconditional approval, or to intimidate and humiliate.

Another narcy ploy is to pretend to care about the plight or condition of other's, to virtue signal about injustices. It's often just another ploy to gain power, via approval and admiration and influence.

Manipulation and misdirection and lies-laced-with-a-coating-of-truth are some of the most, insidious, effective and dangerous power ploys being employed, that I see.

Blatant power via brute force works on children and those of us who can't employ guile and wits to turn things around, but manipulation works soooo well on just about all of us, especially niave folk (Aspie me has been shocking for this to great detriment) who trust, at face value, what people say, without critically assessing and discerning and observing people's behaviour over time and whether their behaviour is congruent with their words over an ongoing course of time.

It should go without saying that some "victims" are just that, and they are honestly and bravely speaking out about genuine harm that has befallen them, but, beware the narsisistic manipulator, that is like an assassin beetle, who covers it's body with the dead of it's prey to lure in its next victim.

Covert power ploys are no less harmful than overt ones.
 

Sideways

Moderator
Words and their meaning get messed up with trauma. An easy example for me?
Sex: something violent

So, simplifying it for me?
Power: the ability to act or do something.

Anything I dump on top of that? Is my trauma brain interfering.

Seeing Power as something that necessarily involves an abuse of that power? Is my trauma brain interpreting power as it applies to other people. It also gives me the heads up that I have a cognitive distortion going on when it comes to issues around 'power', and that's going to play out in my relationships for sure.

But my skewed interpretation of Power also applies to my concept of self. If I have no power? I'm not much more than an object - someone that has things done to them. Not with them. Not because of them.

Eek! That's not healthy.

So yeah, I need to disassemble my view of 'power'. I need to claim it for myself. Recognise my free will. And my agency to act on that free will.

That's pretty terrifying. And it's the exact opposite of fight, flight, freeze, fawn and flop. And since I have PTSD? That ain't something my over-active amygdala is going to accept easily or quickly.

But, power is nothing more, and nothing less, than the ability to act in a certain way. Having control of that? Is independence, being a fully fledged member of the human community, choosing for yourself, and taking responsibility for yourself too. All good things.
 

PreciousChild

MyPTSD Pro
I think victimhood is very much the language and manipulative ploy of narcissistic people. Particularly any of them who have "covert" or "vulnerable narcissistic traits".


It's the blame games and refusal to take personal responsibility that is a key feature of narcissistic behaviour. And it's used for manipulative purposes.

It's like, if they claim victimhood before the person who's actually been targeted speaks out, the actual target, their "narcissistic supply" victim just sounds and feels stupid saying anything, they sound much more non-credible, and like they are playing "tit for tat".

It works a treat, because the majority of folk are somewhat more empathetic and feel for the "underdog" (cough, clever, wiley, narssistic person) and believe the person who loudly proclaim their victimhood, rather than the shamed, gaslit, confidence- destroyed actual victim of the narcissist.

So I don't, in my experience any way, see that narcissistic people pretend to be invulnerable.

Although sometimes they do, it's whatever works to gain the upper hand. If they can elicit sympathy to take the focus off their own transgressions, they do, otherwise they are looking for admiration and unconditional approval, or to intimidate and humiliate.

Another narcy ploy is to pretend to care about the plight or condition of other's, to virtue signal about injustices. It's often just another ploy to gain power, via approval and admiration and influence.

Manipulation and misdirection and lies-laced-with-a-coating-of-truth are some of the most, insidious, effective and dangerous power ploys being employed, that I see.

Blatant power via brute force works on children and those of us who can't employ guile and wits to turn things around, but manipulation works soooo well on just about all of us, especially niave folk (Aspie me has been shocking for this to great detriment) who trust, at face value, what people say, without critically assessing and discerning and observing people's behaviour over time and whether their behaviour is congruent with their words over an ongoing course of time.

It should go without saying that some "victims" are just that, and they are honestly and bravely speaking out about genuine harm that has befallen them, but, beware the narsisistic manipulator, that is like an assassin beetle, who covers it's body with the dead of it's prey to lure in its next victim.

Covert power ploys are no less harmful than overt ones.
I agree that covert or communal narcissists can use appearing sensitive and being victimized as ploys for supply. I think both my ex husband and ex bf are covert narcissists. They both left me feeling like I was an awful human being because they both needed a fall guy. I bought into that because my dad primed me for denying my feelings and needs and for taking the blame for others' anger and unhappiness. It seems to me part of their motivations was to rigidly protect their view of themselves as "good" and "nice". My ex bf saw himself as a kind of beautiful soul who "loved" people (at least as a concept) and animals, and was the epitome of empathy and care. He was absolutely incensed by any indication that he wasn't. He couldn't stand it when I had any feelings that weren't pleasing or if I expressed my needs because it implied that he wasn't perfect. Simply by having a negative feeling, I was ruining his image as the caring soul who could make anyone happy with his contrivances (that he controlled and gave him power). He saw assaults on his ego everywhere, and so he often felt victimized. Feeling victimized made him feel justified in hitting back at the aggressor which was me or anyone who got too close. But I don't ever think he truly allowed himself to be vulnerable. I don't think he's able to say 'This is how I truly feel: hurt, ugly, sad, bad. Can you still love me?'
 

Rosebud

MyPTSD Pro
Oddly, I don't really understand power, though I can obviously see it, or experience it, especially when used negatively (leaving one victimized, resourceless, or voiceless). In terms of people, i see it instead more as a compilation of their talents, and desire for leadership roles, sometimes for recognition, sometimes very humbly for the good of others (even others one-at-a-time, and without a desire for recognition).

I do not have power, and do not want it. I would like security, and that would include the ability/ resources/ or power to protect myself, and others. Or at least have the option to remove myself when I cannot.
 

enough

MyPTSD Pro
In terms of people, i see it instead more as a compilation of their talents, and desire for leadership roles, sometimes for recognition, sometimes very humbly for the good of others
This is what I think society should aspire to. If people lived this, and made examples for children to follow along these lines, life would be better for all of us.
Don't get me wrong, I think there are people like this or I would never leave the house.
You have very succinctly described the exact opposite of the people I react so strongly to. Like I posted earlier, people in power that abuse it for self provoke my condition immediately and unstoppably. especially those that ignore my right to drive in a safe manner and not have my life threatened by someones power and selfishness. I live in a world of loose cannons, rolling this way and that, threatening everyone with their unpredictable un aimed firepower.
 

ruborcoraxxx

MyPTSD Pro
It’s quite poignant to see how power can be held by reversing roles; really, it is about how you can influence someone’s feelings. As I’m getting older and navigating with more awareness of emotions and mental states, I can see that many beliefs are held not for themselves, but for the position they give to you in society. People merge in these beliefs and act accordingly, because it provides a frame as not to feel discomfort. And it’s okay to a certain point. But it can also lead to a real blindness to anything that doesn’t comfort that model, be it your sad girlfriend or the person of color you just made a comment about, or someone struggling with mental health.

In terms of hurt and abuse, it is striking to see how typically abusers report feeling threatened by things that aren’t threatening. A comment from their wife, or something completely unrelated. They also rely on narratives they built as to allow themselves to abuse and cross people’s boundaries. I did this, but…! There is a form of a means justified by the end.

My ex also did see himself as someone considerate but I have to say I never had a single moment of real consideration in the sense of respect towards my person unless myself I became aggressive. He did care though, but doesn’t compute the difference between assertion and aggression. All these aggressions are based on a very fragile sense of self and these narratives people build for themselves. As they’re unstable fictions, they’re both fragile and powerful in the sense you can bring someone into believing you own fiction as to gain control. This happens in interpersonal scales and also global scales, with religions, beliefs, nationalism, conservatism, liberalism, states, wars.

What is tricky is that at the end we judge the adequacy of our behaviours according to the belief we have in the moment. Is that belief truly legitimate? For me, at the end it boils down to reducing suffering and harm. And this both on abusers and victims.

It’s sad to say, but I think it would be more effective to treat and deploy means and money into treating the abusers rather than the victims. Don’t get me wrong, women’s shelters are precious and hotlines for domestic violence extremely important. But once you get out of a situation, if the abuse wasn’t big enough to send the person in prison or that more typically you didn’t made a formal complaint and the case never got to trial, the person who harmed is still there in the wind, struggling with the same problems and not finding help. Then will land on someone and reproduce the same pattern, harming again.

Punishing isn’t enough for a real justice system. For what I’m seeing the policies now seem a bit more conscious of that and do assign reeducation against domestic violence, but the settings they are deploying apparently are of little effect. Duluth (feminist) methods and similar ones focus on moralizing the assaulter, while their reasons to assault aren’t based on not wanting to respect femininity, but to assert their masculinity or [place particular ego belief here]. In that sense, the core issue should be addressed with empathy and a lot of social work, and not just throwing the guys into classes where they’re told they’re wrong. I’m saying this thinking that of course, they’re wrong. And they might even know it. But actually it’s not the question when you want change.

My reflection of power has led me to position myself as a reformist anarchist. I do not agree with the state model and the way power is distributed in society, yet I do not wish anything like a revolution or brutal changes, and also I do think that we need to find models where everyone can reach the best level of autonomy possible while being conscious we are interdependent and acting accordingly, with accountability and good heart.

Often discourses speak of beautiful ideals and they are rather abstract or again, fictional. While reality is very much there and there is work to do. It’s not so difficult to grab what is in front of you, but it’s harsh and indifferent to your person. Speaking for the Western world and culture that I know well, we have a problem into letting go of hierarchical thinking and entrapping entire populations in fantasies that have nothing to do with the reality. However this isn’t necessarily an exclusivity of the Western world, when you read old Chinese reference texts such as the Yi Ching, the Tao and so and on, they’re written with the perspective of someone who manages power over other people, and that managing of government power, because that’s what it is, becomes a metaphor to manage personal agency. But overall there is a sense of quiet conformism in these old texts too, and it irks occidental readers. I cannot go as far as to say that the genocide/assimilation of the Uighurs is a direct effect of that kind of thought, but it’s not unrelated. Power boils down in how you can model a reality that follows your mental image, individually or collectively.

Just my two cents. 🙃 Sorry for making walls of texts, I guess it’s my signature now hihi.
 

enough

MyPTSD Pro
I agree^^^^ and have accepted that a truly free society with fair and just sharing of power isn't going to happen in my lifetime. They say communism is the best idea for a government that didn't work. Capitalism gives a head nod toward total equality but we all know that's not the same as truly immersing the system in equity. I am lucky to work in a place that offers what I would describe as a benevolent dictatorship, where the top powers that be do truly care for my well-being and do all they can for me and everyone else they affect. But that's rare and how would you ever assign that kind of philanthropy and altruism? My companies head rose there by building the business and being sure it would always be a place he would want to work, his kids to work, his grandkids to work. Would making him king work?
It is an impossible problem made worse by our own evolved traits of acquisition and dominance prevailing over sympathy and empathy.
Accepting that a "utopian society" is an impossibilty, just as being "mentally healthy" is a nice ideal but not really attainable when looked at too closely, I still have hope that someday education will be the catalyst that saves us from ourselves. Just as being able to fix a perceived problem with our own mental health relies on awareness of the problem and having a goal, I hope that someday society in general will be able to be aware of the problems of unfair power distribution and form a collective goal to work toward.
Sometimes it seems like getting powerful people to think of anything beyond their own noses (or other protrusion) is an impossibility. If absolute power corrupts absolutely, we are doomed to corrupt leaders. But if generation after generation shows our kids that there is a better way but we arent there yet, and then sends them out with a working moral compass and a goal to strive for, hell, we might have a shot.
 
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