Too much or too little: the dynamics of personal power

potere personale“I have no power”, “I don’t know if I can do it”, “I cannot make decisions”, “I am afraid to expose myself”, “I don’t know how to deal with this situation”, “I don’t love myself” etc.

These are some of the phrases that my clients frequently repeat during the sessions. Many of their difficulties are connected to the issue of “personal power”: Can I do it? Can I express myself? Can I decide?

People who start therapy usually have this kind of questions, and feel stuck and powerless. This position of “not enough power” cannot be understood and overcome if we don’t connect it to its counterpart, “too much power” – they go together.


Too much or too little

When people have too much power, they have the tendency to abuse others both directly, in a dictatorial way, and indirectly, in a manipulative way. They do this in order to compensate what is really a sense of impotence.

When people, instead, feel powerless or without the right to express their power, they are actually repressing themselves to keep everything under control and let others abuse or manipulate them.

Too much or too little power are two dangerous extremes. In both cases, there is no contact with real inner power, and external power is used to compensate this lack.


External power: abuse and manipulation

What is external power? It is a feeling of security, satisfaction and recognition that comes from an external source. We are part of a society, and society is made of social roles that identify our function and contribution: job, relationships, economic and social condition. If we don’t feel good within ourselves we can start looking for compensation in the outside world in order to bypass this pain. While forgetting about our inner world, we subconsciously try to make others feel as bad as we feel. We can exercise power in a direct way, abusing others, or in an indirect way, manipulating them.

This is the case, for example, if we invest all of our life in order to hold on to prestige and important social status. It happens when we crave for a career and “powerful” positions, like those of politicians, policemen, army officers, managers etc. We can also become bossy in social groups or in our relationships: family, work, friends, sports clubs or artistic environments etc.


External power: victimization and repression

Someone that exercises external power needs someone to suffer it, and vice versa. The latter is the case if we look for social roles that make us feel a victim or dependent on others. If we want to compensate a lack of self-esteem, we can have external power in an active way but also in a passive way. We absorb external power from “powerful” people who show a strong attitude and personality; at the same time we exercise our own external power by keeping them hooked through a manipulative attitude. We need each other to exist.

There is nothing bad in performing social roles. What is important is not to let them define us completely, narrowing our life down to the dynamics of external power. In this case, we completely move away from our inner self and unconsciously become prisoners of our behavior.


Inner power

What is inner power? It is a feeling of security, satisfaction and recognition that comes from within. It is a force that has no need to find external confirmations, it simply “is”. Inner power does not need to prove itself, neither by oppressing others nor by being oppressed by others.

If we feel trapped in external roles or behavior, we might start experiencing psychological suffering. This is an expression of our inner power. Suffering takes on the form of physical symptoms or emotional problems, as this is the only way that consciousness has to “be heard”. They are the outcome of the friction of our consciousness against the bars of external power. Inner power wakes up our mind to put something in action for a positive change.


An example of inner power expression

Let’s say that you are in a relationship with someone who, even if he/she is manipulative, abusive or controlling, gives you a sense of security and being loved. In this case you are in the role of the victim. You beg for love and accept whatever is coming, even if it is mixed with negative feelings.

If you start suffering because of this situation and feel the urge for a change, it means you are hearing the wake-up call of your consciousness. In fact, self-love cannot really be compensated from external sources, it needs you to convert your energy from outward-going to inward-going. What scares us about this process is that we need to go through our pain and learn how to produce love without asking someone else to give it to us.


From external power to inner power

Here are some tips if you feel the urge to move from a position of being overpowering or powerless to a position of inner power:

> Your suffering is the door towards a healthy change, let it manifest itself and have the courage to face your fears and your pain.

> There is nothing bad about having a social role and external power. What is important is to balance them with a good connection with your inner power. The more we are in touch with our inner world, the less we feel the necessity to use external power.

> If you usually behave in a way that ends up making you suffer, do a reality check: “Why do I do that?”, “Why do I invest so much in this way of being?”, “What can I do to change what makes me suffer?”.


Following the change

It’s up to us to be honest with ourselves and not to deny the change coming from our consciousness, but rather to follow and facilitate it. Even if it conflicts with the way we are used to living.

Being conscious about ourselves is the only thing we must give priority to. All the rest will follow.


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Author: Somesh Valentino Curti

“Beside my work as psychologist I like to write articles for my website and other online magazines like: and
In this way I can share my experience on valuable topics which might be useful for you if you are in a therapy process or if you are simply wondering about them. My wish is that these articles can add insights and a deeper understanding about your life”

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