There are two distinctly different forms of power—force and presence. One will get you want you want, but you’ll leave behind a mess. The other will get you what you want—if you want a life without drama or struggle.
How we use power affects all of our personal relationships. Lovers, parents, teachers, leaders use the power of force much more often than the power of presence because it’s what we see modeled in our culture. But there is an alternative and I’ll discuss that in a minute (also in this free i-Workshop). First, I want to give you an example of what we see modeled every day, especially during election season.
In the US elections this year we see two people demonstrating the power of force, trying to scare voters into voting for them. The power of force is exercised when people lie, deceive, manipulate, exaggerate and use fear—all as ways to try and influence people.
The power of force is exemplified by Donald Trump. His message is one of force—forcing immigrants to leave the US, forcing Muslims to stay out of the US, and forcing himself on women.
Force creates resentment
When one uses the power of force to get people to do things, those people often become resentful. They also often respond with force. Force begets force. Power struggles ensue. People stake out their positions and hold on. Do you ever do that, stake out your position and hold on? By holding on too tightly we limit our growth and evolution.
Force appeals to people who feel as if their voices are not being heard. It looks satisfying. It helps people who feel powerless feel powerful. This is part of Donald Trump’s appeal—he appears to be powerful . . . but is he really?
I’m not suggesting that the power of force is never appropriate. There are times when it is necessary. When a parent forces a child to take medication, that’s appropriate. When the US intervened militarily in the Bosnian war, one could argue that it was appropriate and resulted in a negotiated settlement. When police appropriately use force it creates peace, when they inappropriately use force it fosters violence.
An alternative to force is presence
Presence offers us power without doing harm. When we learn to replace the power of force with the power of presence, we create respect instead of creating resentment. First, respect for ourselves and then respect from those with whom we relate.
Presence requires willingness and an ability to be in the moment, to know one’s self and to reveal one’s self in an appropriate manner. When we use the power of presence we stop reacting to other people because we don’t feel threatened by them. We don’t feel threatened because the power of presence is an inalienable right—it cannot be taken away.
As soon as we access the power of presence we are fully present in the moment, no longer encumbered by the past—who said what or who did what. That isn’t our focus. We are no longer anxious about the future—what might happen, how he or she will react to what we are saying. That isn’t our focus. What matters is being present now and fully witnessing the person we’re relating with.
The future will take care of itself
When we use the power of presence, we are living as Rollo May suggested in this beautiful quote:
Does not the uncertainty of our time teach us the most important lesson of all—that the ultimate criteria are the honesty, integrity, courage and love of a given moment of relatedness? If we do not have that, we are not building for the future anyway; if we do have it, we can trust the future to itself.
We can trust the future to itself when we use the power of presence, because all things will unfold naturally and elegantly. This is truly a different way of relating. You can learn about it in this free i-Workshop. And it is worth learning and practicing because until we do so we will live within the limitations that are created when we practice the power of force.
And regardless of the results of this election, we all get to choose how to use our power. Do we want to emulate Donald Trump’s use of force, or be more like Gandhi?