As we’ve watched the political debates over the last few weeks we’ve encountered, whether consciously or unconsciously, this ageless debate between power and truth. I’m not saying any one candidate owned more power or truth than the other—though, like each of you, I have my own opinion. No, what I’m referring to goes much deeper than a political opinion.
I’m speaking of the internal conflict each of us has between power and truth. Power is that thing we are always trying to gain over ourselves and others. Power is that thing we think we must have in order to duke it out with life itself. Power is seductive and can be used both consciously and unconsciously to accomplish a given conscious or unconscious goal.
Truth on the other hand sits us down for a conversation with reality. And while truth can definitely be relegated to the unconscious and can even operate from there without our knowledge, once conscious it stuns on silent mode. The contemplation of truth is singularly the most dumbfounding overwhelm there is. It stops us dead in our tracks along the way to whatever our latest power trip happens to be.
But power is what most of us are working on, not truth. In fact the more philosophical among us might say that truth cannot ever really be found. But I say that that philosophy is an exercise in denial that is nothing short of another seductive power trip. If a person can say and believe that truth cannot be found then he cannot and does not need to bother with knowing himself. Nor can he become empowered with the truth of his own self-knowledge. None of us could ever really become conscious, nor could we make decisions about which we could have some degree of certainty, if truth cannot be found.
Truth is found every day, albeit, often denied and relegated yet again to the unconscious. Power on the other hand is the foundation upon which we are all building our lives. Anytime we scheme to make sure that someone doesn’t know we’ve lied, every time we lie, every time we try to prove something to ourselves or someone else, every time we do something as simple as try to get a job or engage in a negotiation, we are thinking in terms of power. The drive for power is all about survival—emotional, psychological, spiritual, and physical survival. We believe that we must have power to overcome and overcome we must or we simply will not survive.
According to that principle, we must be on guard against the powers of others over us, we must stay alert to the strategy we’ve devised, we must do what we have to do to get what we have to get. And if we are honest, i.e., if we can tell ourselves the truth, we know that each one of us has lived based in this power principle most of our lives in some form or another.
But what if the power principle actually keeps us from living fully, from living most alive, from having the very things we wish we had and have tried to get by living in the power principle. For example, if my strategy is to get a good job, and I’m preparing for the interview, I’m rarely thinking in terms of how I can present my truest self and gather the truest information about the company’s culture and management. No, I’m usually thinking in terms of how I can present the best image of myself, in order to get that job. But then if I get that job, I might later figure out all the realities of the culture and management of that job and may wish that I’d paid better attention up front. Yet, we can easily dismiss that 20/20 back glance by saying to ourselves “Well, you gotta eat, so this job is as good as any other.” Thusly, we talk ourselves out of the truth, by reasserting the power principle.
The same is very often true of relationships. We are so busy putting forth the best face and not paying attention to the truth of the dynamics of the interchange that we cannot see what we got ourselves into until much later when we’ve already been pretty seriously hurt. We are trying to get something we think we must have in order to be okay, instead of operating from truth.
There’s more on this yet to come, so stay tuned.
Picture by Tracy Love Lee