The Illusion Of Power

If you understand behaviorism and how it works you will have some insight on how to influence behaviours. Essentially, you’re able to influence/manipulate/direct behaviours of another person through coercion – hopefully for good purposes.

There are other situations where behaviours can be directed. I’m sure we’ve all had bosses who have struggled (or not even tried) to hide the fact that your income, and therefore the well-being of your family, is tied to their every whim. As such, you do as they say because being able to pay a mortgage is better than not being able to pay it.

Then there is authoritative power. Politicians, monarchs and such. Once again, they can compel behaviours through rewards and favour, or through threats and the law. And, I suppose if we’re being real, through bribery and dirty schemes, but that’s for a different discussion.

Ultimately, most of what we think is power is just an illusion. It’s not real. The power we think we have? Not real. The power others think they have over us? Also not real. The power we believe others have over us? Still not real. Some may seem more real than others, and yes, but in the overwhelming number of cases it’s not real. It’s all circumstantial and temporary. That jerk of a boss who thinks they control you – they have someone looking over their shoulder as well and their “power” could be ended at any moment as well.

This article was inspired by a line from Braveheart. Wallace is talking to Bruce and the other nobles, trying to inspire them to fight for freedom and their own country and brings a dose of reality with this statement:

“You’re so concerned with squabbling for the scraps from Longshanks’s table that you’ve missed your God-given right to something better.”

Harsh words. But true. The problem with the nobles is they believed their power to be from Edward I of England, who had the Scottish king under house arrest (you may be surprised to learn that Braveheart isn’t 100% historically accurate). The Scottish lords felt that they could have power from the English throne and instead of fighting. They were happy with the illusion of power. The illusion faded, and another illusion began in 1306 when Robert the Bruce became king of Scotland. In 1307 Edward I died. How much power did Edward really have? It is true that every single one of Longshanks’s enemies are dead now. So are his allies, and so are those Scottish lords who surrendered their integrity to him.

Here are the three takeaways for today:

1 – The biggest message in this article is that no matter what you are going through, it will pass. Kings, queens, rebels, and nobodies. We all travel through this world – we all leave ripples – and we all leave this world.

2 – We tend to confuse actual power with influence. Power is something that cannot be withstood – there is power in a tsunami. There is power in lightning. There is no power in a bully.

3 – We all have those people, events, and memories that are our King Edward I. It seems there is power over us, we can’t escape. It’s an illusion.

The majority of what we believe is power is in reality just influence. If we deny it nothing will change, at least nothing bad. It may take time to really shake off the cobwebs, but things will get better, and the idea of freedom becomes more than a wafting hope.

“No person is free who is not master of himself.” – Epictetus.

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