PAGE IN PROGRESS What you see here is a page of my hypertext book POWER of meanings // MEANINGS of power. Initially empty, this page will slowly be filled with thoughts, notes, and quotes. One day, I will use them to write a coherent entry, similar to these completed pages. Thank you for your interest and patience!
When I talk about "having" power I refer to a potential - but not necessarily realized - ability to do something. A good example would be the power to change how we see things. I believe that most people have it, but many people do not use it consistently.
First of all, it is important to admit that when we talk about having or using power, we simplify something incredible complex (understanding this complexity is what this project is all ab0ut). Power is really not a thing that one can have or use, it is neither an object nor an entity. However, we are stuck with a certain language of talking about power. In a way, we can say that this language has power over us!
Anyhow, we have to work with the language we have.
The easiest way to understand having power is when we think about it in the first sense discussed here, as an ability. To be more specific, I will talk about mental abilities (as opposed to physical abilities, keeping in mind that the mental–physical division is another huge simplification).
Empathy is a great example for discussing power as mental abilities. Technically, we all have an ability to empathize (except rare cases when this ability is impaired in some individuals), in a sense that we can experience emotions similar to what another person is experiencing, or we can try to understand their experiences and actions (without necessarily excusing these actions). Granted, this is a limited ability, because we can empathize with others only to an extent (see Brené Brown's Atlas of the Heart).
Even keeping in mind the limitation pointed out by Brené Brown, there is potentially a range of empathy that we could use. There is a difference between having the ability to empathize and using it (to the extant that is available to us). To translate this into the language of the project explored on this website, it is one thing to have power of empathy and it is a very different thing to actually use it. My readers could try to recall a situation when they were upset about somebody's actions and did not feel like trying to understand why that other person acted the way they did. You probably told yourself, "I just don't have time for this right now".
As much as I care about empathy, I have found myself in such situations many times. Empathy requires an effort. Despite the fact that we could use it, we sometimes choose not, and often times in these cases it would be unfair to blame us for this choice. Despite the fact that empathy is an ability that we have –a kind of power– using it is not necessarily easy, especially when we are going through complex emotions ourselves.
Speaking of emotions, managing them can be also described as a kind of mental ability, a kind of power. For example, we have a power to manage our anxiety. Admittedly, some may struggle more than others trying to use this power. But many of us (most of us?) have it nonetheless. Not having this ability would put us at a serious evolutionary disadvantage. But using this power is not the same as having it. It requires an effort, and often also a certain knowledge (knowledge that that we have this power and knowledge about ways to use it).
most people have power to change their mood but they don’t use it. Being stick in bad mood (bluey episode)
using power is not necessarily easy, an action can put a very big strain on us even if we can do it, so we may choose not to do it, even if we can for example, a person can lift a certain weight, but they can be exchausted after doing that, they can even injure themselves in the process [image of a person lifting weights?] same is empathy
They say, one can do a lot of things, but some of them only ones. This means, one has more kinds of power that one is willing to use. In order to be able to do things more than ones (e.g., tell another person what you think about them), the power as ability (I can physically say it) should be complimented with power as influence (my influence on this person is such that, if I tell them what I think about them, they will not be able to or choose to not do something that may hurt me). Or it should be complimented with another power as ability: e.g., I can physically walk of a cliff but I choose not to because I do not have the ability to fly. Or it should be complimented with a property (e.g. if my body would be able to withstand the impact of the ground upon falling from a cliff - not that this is not a form of power, it's a trait).
if we need to apply more effort using our power, this does not necessarily say something about how much power we have. Instead, it may be saying something about what we are trying to do. In other words, we may be taking on something that requires a lot of power to begin with. The fact that we are grappling with us is an indicator that we have power, not that we lack it.
Having power vs using power. I may be able to lift a weight, but I will use a lot if energy to do that and I might not want to use this energy. Children telling each other: you are just scared to do that. Meaning, you can’t do that. But not doing something does not equal nor beibg able to do that. It just means I choose not do do that.
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