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 Part 11 – The Exercise of Power: Leveraging your assets

Sam’s reading of The Initial Laying Out of the Exercise of Power was still reverberating in his mind for several days. He found his thoughts going in a variety of directions, including the direction taking him toward the fear issue. Mr. Im’s ideas were clarifying that Sam had reasons to fear. But, he didn’t like that since Sam also thought that there was no out for him. The fear seemed to come with the job, a job which paid very well, thank you.

Sam’s mind was also going in another direction, one he didn’t ever expect. He was beginning to wonder if there were some people who feared him, yes, feared Sam!  On one hand, he wanted some people to fear him; Sam liked to be in control, and having underlings who feared him did have its perks. But, he was beginning to see that he wanted to control the control factor!! That was getting sticky, and Sam didn’t like sticky thinks. He liked it clean and direct, all on the table for all to see. But, could you have power without deceit??? Sam was wondering.

In any case, another section of Mr. Im’s material arrived, and Sam immediately began to wonder, “What am I getting myself into with today’s reading?” But, thought Sam, “No pain, no gain. Go for it, guy.” So, he opened the envelope, and began to read more about the elements in the Exercise of Power.

Element 3: Charisma (personally attractive)

Perhaps sociological studies have been done which indicate how frequently the threat of force is used when producing behavior change.   But, I haven’t seen any of those studies in published form.   Consequently, I can’t offer statistical evidence comparing the use of force to the use of charisma or personal attraction. What I can offer is the anecdotal evidence that a charismatic person, whom others find personally attractive beyond their physical features, can more easily effectuate changes than can the non-charismatic person. If the person is also deemed to be physically attractive, change is even more likely.

Centuries, perhaps millennia, ago, people were using the expression that a gentle answer can turn away wrath. The saying synchronized with what most people generally observed. Converting a turbulent scenario to a calm one may take longer than when using brute force. Nonetheless, it does appear that there was an optional approach!

Generally, we don’t want to disappoint the charismatic person. We tend to trust the charismatic person. We find it hard to think the charismatic person would betray us. We like the charismatic persons and assume they like us. We trust them and assume they trust us. So, doing what we think they want done seems natural to us; we want to please them. We assume pleasing them will be what is best for us.

Their character is such that when we know what they want, we will do everything we can to achieve it. In those cases we are not acting out of a sense of threat. Many times we have not even been told we should do something. Our attraction to the person is adequate motivation for us to act on behalf of what we understand is that person’s desire.

In this context, we can refer to the power that love has, or the power of the Gospel, the Word of God, or the Holy Spirit. This phenomenon is not limited only to Christianity. It is not even limited to the religious arena. It is seen in non Christian religions. It is seen in fields as diverse as education, medicine, politics, sports, and the arts. In these cases, changes are effectuated by something intangible. If the expression, “Imitation is the highest form of compliment” comes to your mind, you are tracking with the point being made.

Element 4: Controlling one’s access to items of value

Someone having power over me, in one way or another, controls my access to what I consider to be of value. This is a generalization that begs for an illustration. (Keep in mind that in real life many additional variables could be included in this illustration, but we’ll keep it to the point, ok?)

So, let’s suppose that the boy living next door is addicted to an illegal drug and receives the drug from a dealer. Let’s add that the particular dealer involved in this case is the only one to whom the addicted boy has access. At this point, we will ignore the intensity of the addict’s need for the drug and say simply that he wants, or needs, the particular drug very much. Since his supplier is the only one available to the boy, the dealer has exclusive control over the addict’s access to the drug.

One day, the supplier wants to obligate the boy to behave in a particular fashion. I allow the reader license at this instant; I can think of super many possibilities. You probably also can. The point is that the dealer can make this obligation because the boy cannot obtain the desired drug from anyone else.

With this example in mind, we can now identify some of the items that interplay when Person A (the drug dealer in this case) exercises power by controlling access to what will satisfy the need of Person B (the addicted boy in this case). The addicted boy “has to have” the drug. So that is the scenario.

The first item to note is the existence of a felt need. In the example just given, the drug addict has a felt need, want, or desire (the reader can substitute other terms that you deem more appropriate; it won’t change the dynamics of the case) for a particular experience or sensation.)

The second item is that this felt need is part of a dynamic value system in the addict. At one moment, the need for the drug may be the most valued item in the boy’s entire value system. At other moments, such as shortly after introducing the drug into his body, the boy’s need for the drug might be in third place or in fifth or ninth place among the things the boy considers valuable. But, there is a value system in play in the boy’s life, and somewhere in that system is the need to experience the drug induced sensation. The desire to experience the drug induced sensation can be stronger at some moments and weaker at other moments. As mentioned at the top of this paragraph, the value system is dynamic. As one need is met, it ceases to occupy its former level for a particular span of time.

For a moment, let’s change the illustration to one that all of us know – the need to sleep. Our need to sleep increases the longer we are awake and the more tired we become. Once my need for sleep is met, the intensity of meeting that need is lessened.

The third item (and returning to the drug addict case) is that the drug supplier’s power over the addict is related to how important the need is at the moment of attempting to obtain the drug. If the boy is desperate for the drug, with the need for the drug finally occupying the highest rung on the ladder of values at that moment, the supplier has access to whatever is of lesser value to the addict. Once the desire for the drug induced sensation finally is supreme over all other sensations and values, the supplier will have total power over the boy.

The fourth item is that up until now, I have been laying out what happens with the supplier who has exclusive control of the illegal substance. If the boy has unlimited access to the drug, there will not be a power issue. There will be no power struggle, at least related to the drug matter. There may still be some exercise of power, even among the same two individuals, but it will relate to some other need satisfaction scenario.

The fifth item is that the person who controls the drug also has a value system. The dispensing of the drug to the drug abuser is only one thing among many in the supplier’s value system. Most likely, the dispensing of the drug is only part of the means employed to achieve other values.

Keeping in mind the above mentioned elements, let’s return to the principle matter in the exercise of power. For someone to exercise power or authority over me (the person can force me to make a change of my behavior according to their agenda rather than my agenda), that person has to, in some way, control my access to the things I consider to be of value. That control over my access to what I want/need/desire permits the other person to make demands on any items or behaviors of lesser value in my value system. They can, thereby, obligate me to follow a certain course of action as my “payment” for what I value even more highly than what I am surrendering.

If I want to exercise power over my neighbor, my spouse, my children or anyone else, I have to control something they consider of greater value than what I want to do to them or get from them. Likewise if someone wants to have power over me, they will need to control what I consider more valuable than what they desire from me.

Let us now look at several other examples of interpersonal power struggles to further point out how various elements combine to produce the exercise of power. These examples are simplified for the sake of seeing the general situation of how power is exercises. In both cases, the issues will be much more nuanced with interwoven factors.

  1. Suppose a man is threatening to violate a woman, holding a pistol to her head. If she values survival more than not being raped, and the man controls whether she lives or dies, the man then has the power to rape her without other physical violence. Her submission to his demands shows that the man had power over her. If not being raped is higher in her value system than is survival, she will resist, allowing herself to be murdered, and thereby showing that the would-be rapist did not have the power he thought. He only had power to force his will over her while he controlled something the woman valued more dearly than not being raped
  1. Suppose an employer tells an office worker to falsify the books. If they are not falsified the office worker will lose his job. It is an attempt to exercise power. The employer assumes that in the office worker’s value system, employment is higher than honesty. If indeed this is the case, and the office worker values keeping the job more than being fired, the employer has the power to obligate the falsification of the books. On the other hand, if being honest is higher in the employee’s value system, the employer has no power at all to obligate the falsification of the books.


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