Power is an influential tool, but in the wrong hands it can cause damage and destruction. Some people who seek out powerful positions, only wish to exploit others. We all have examples of how people have used their power to cause harm. These people can be found in any level of society and in any occupation. Some well known abuses of power occur in politics, medical, religion, military and the police. Many of my clients, would say their own families have been the biggest source of a misuse of power.
Who are the power seekers?
In the mental health world, we see that certain mental disorders seek power. Two such personalities are narcissistic and sociopathic. The problem is that these are the exact people who resist treatment. Often they show up in the therapy office because they are court mandated or someone has told them to come (a family member). In either case, these types of personalities rarely take responsibility or are here to do the work of therapy.
What exactly do they do and why?
Having power over someone else makes them feel good. Some suggest these types of people are wired differently, while others say the behavior is learned. Whether someone has a certain brain chemistry or modeling, it comes down to motivation. Do they really want to change or live another way? Most often the answer is no because there are too many benefits to their behavior.
People who seek power over others often feel entitled to special treatment and think they are superior to others. Their motivation is to dominate and control. Outwardly they appear confident but deep down they are insecure. If you talk to them long enough, you will seek cracks in the veneer showing a fragile ego. They suffer from low self esteem and self worth. In order to compensate, their personalities are often bigger than life. Being ego driven, they are aggressive, pushy, impatient and controlling. They will resort to threats and intimidation to get their way.
How they get away with it
Once these types of personalities get a powerful position, they seek out others who will protect and enable them. Through their charismatic personalities, they receive much attention and are very good with social relationships. You may find they have a cognitive empathy, meaning they say the right words but they lack an affective empathy meaning there is no feeling behind those words. Instead of coming from a place of caring for others, they manipulate.
Once a personality like this feels threatened, they will do everything in their power to try and tear you down. This means they will devalue you. It is the person who speaks the truth who often becomes a skapegoat or gaslighted. Interestingly, it becomes the truth teller’s reputation who is at stake, as the perpetrator gets away with a variety of crimes.
Institutions are often unwilling to make changes unless there is a mountain of evidence against a person. Even in these cases, the rigidity of the system sets in. Rather than make healthy changes, such as a firing or suspension, the matter gets swept under the rug. Unless, these systems change, often there will be no change.
What can you do?
The best protection is through education and awareness. It is up to each of us as individuals to broaden our awareness and heal. For some of us it is going public, others it is telling their stories to professionals like me, some write about it and others chose to keep these evils locked deep inside. Do not judge others, for we all are surviving and dealing with trauma in our own way. If you must judge, judge the wrong doings of others.
How can you heal from power imbalances?
Lisa Hutchison LMHC is a licensed psychotherapist and writing coach. She works for caring professionals, who want to prevent or treat compassion fatigue. Her specialty is teaching stress management, assertiveness and boundary setting. Lisa is the Amazon bestselling author of I Fill My Cup: A Journal for Compassionate Helpers and the kindle book Setting Ethical Limits for Caring & Competent Professionals. Get a FREE 10 page E-book; Why Compassionate People Run Out of Energy and What You Can Do About It at http://www.lisahutchison.net