What’s the Difference between Power + Force?

Fill in the blank:

Power is ____________.

Sexy? A dirty word? Easily abused? The way things get done? The natural order of the universe?

Generally, my clients fall into one of two camps in their relationship to Power:

  • Comfortable with how Power is expressed through them. Confident and direct in their expression. May sometimes be perceived as forceful, or may actually be more forceful than is necessary. Sometimes aware of that, sometimes not.
  • Uncomfortable about how Power is expressed through them. Ambivalent about fully embodying Power. Worry about being perceived as forceful or taking advantage of others causes them to suppress their Power.

One of the key learnings from my yoga studies is that Power does not have a moral dimension; it is not inherently good or bad. We do yoga to cultivate the Power that wants to flow through us, to create “virtuosity in being ourselves.”

How we choose to use our power, on behalf of what, is what creates the distinction between authentic Power and force. A black belt karate master can create calm with her powerful presence, or might use her skills to defend herself or others. She can just as easily take those same skills and wreak havoc by randomly picking on people or provoking fights.

Power that is attuned to the needs of ourselves and others — power that is in relationship — generally strikes us as authentic Power. Power that is about “power over someone” is force.

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