Several Ways You Might Be Disempowering Yourself

It is commonly assumed that everyone desires power, but this is not always true. Power aversion may be related to fearing responsibility and causing harm, leading to negative feelings like guilt. Power avoidance is also related to a negative view of powerful people and the belief that power can change us for the worse.

The scientific study of the mind and how it dictates and influences our behaviour, from communication and memory to thought and emotion, is known as psychology. It’s about figuring out what makes people tick and how that knowledge can help us solve many of society’s problems and issues.

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Power is a great motivator and is often associated with better mental health and well-being. Indeed, empowerment is a primary goal of helping professions (e.g., psychotherapy, social work).

But is the assumption that everybody wants more power true? Might some be uncomfortable with more power or afraid of it? Might they say no to opportunities for empowerment, or even behave in ways that disempower themselves?

Before discussing the author’s theory of power aversion, let me clarify what is meant by power.

In social relationships, power refers to unequal control over important resources (e.g., status, wealth). For instance, in the A–B relationship, Person A holds power if he/she can give (or take away from) Person B something of value.

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Avoidance of Power and Responsibility

It is natural to assume we all want more power, particularly when the goal is controlling one’s own outcomes. Simply put, almost everybody wants personal power and autonomy—to fulfill goals, become happier, or maximize pleasure.

Avoidance of Power and Coercion

Another reason for power aversion involves people’s lay theories about the nature of power.

One lay theory assumes power is inherently collaborative (e.g., supports common goals, protects public welfare), but another lay theory assumes power is coercive, meaning it is associated with domination, aggression, deceit, threats, exploitation, and forceful imposition of one’s will.

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Simon Costanza
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