Power and Dependency

Power and Dependency

We often think of power as a possession rather than a function of the relationship between people.  The problem with this formulation is that it gives the impression that the person with less power is stuck with the raw end of the stick, so to speak.  That is, until such time as he or she wrests the power away from the one who has possession of it, often through conflict.


Sometimes that is how power relations change.  But much of the power we don’t have is because we’ve given it away freely.  We have chosen to depend on someone else for something of value.  Perhaps it’s praise, validation, love, support, or something more tangible.  If we are unaware of the extent to which we give away power, and insufficiently wary of the type of recipient, we foster our own powerlessness.

What does this mean?  It means that whenever we ask permission, for example, from someone who is not likely to provide it, we give that person power.  If he or she is the only person who can provide the thing we seek, then it’s not unusual feel that there is no hope.  Instead, we might ask whether (1) what we seek is truly as valuable as we think and/or (2) whether the recalcitrant source of it is actually the only one available.

If you seek validation for work from an immediate boss who is not inclined to provide it, you give him or her the power to make you miserable.  Why do that?  Is this validation really so important that you should expose yourself to repeated refusals?  Can you delay until another source option becomes available?

If the validation is crucial now, then consider exploring new avenues for obtaining it.  Can others where you work provide the encouragement you need?  Have you considered seeking similar validation through volunteer work, from friends, family or even from yourself?  To the extent that dependence on the person who refuses to provide what you want can be diminished or removed, power is as well.

Much of what makes us miserable in life comes from seeking what others won’t or can’t give us.  By continuing to let them determine our happiness, we give power to the wrong people.  When feeling deprived of something important, consider whether you’ve given power to the wrong person or people.  It may seem at first that there is no choice.  But it can be wonderfully freeing to discover that indeed there is and that choice puts power back in your hands.

Photo:  Michal Kowalski/Shutterstock.com

A historian identifies the worst year in human history

A Harvard professor's study discovers the worst year to be alive.

The Triumph of Death. 1562.

Credit: Pieter Bruegel the Elder. (Museo del Prado).
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Harvard professor Michael McCormick argues the worst year to be alive was 536 AD.
  • The year was terrible due to cataclysmic eruptions that blocked out the sun and the spread of the plague.
  • 536 ushered in the coldest decade in thousands of years and started a century of economic devastation.
Keep reading Show less

How to fool a shark using magnets

A simple trick allowed marine biologists to prove a long-held suspicion.

Credit: D Ross Robertson/Wikimedia/Big Think
Surprising Science
  • It's long been suspected that sharks navigate the oceans using Earth's magnetic field.
  • Sharks are, however, difficult to experiment with.
  • Using magnetism, marine biologists figured out a clever way to fool sharks into thinking they're somewhere that they're not.
Keep reading Show less

Google invents a new tool that can make you hear color

A machine learning system lets visitors at a Kandinsky exhibition hear the artwork.

Culture & Religion

Have you ever heard colors?

Keep reading Show less
Politics & Current Affairs

Study: You would spend 90 extra days in jail in a private prison

A new study suggests that private prisons hold prisoners for a longer period of time, wasting the cost savings that private prisons are supposed to provide over public ones.

Quantcast