By: Thomas Lee Abshier, ND
Summary: This essay examines power from the perspective that men pursue power to satisfy a desire for power itself. Men love the feeling of power, and the pursuit of this feeling is a drug in the sense that it alters neurochemistry. Power produces a pleasure-inducing neurological response, which motivates men to desire to establish ever-greater control over others. And, as with all drugs, the end result of using abusing it is the devastation of the life of the addict, and those around him. Just like other addictive drugs, power produces a complex mixture of motivators including anesthesia, reduction of conscience, and induction of euphoria. As a result, men ignore the negative effects on self and others and increase its dosage to obtain or maintain the euphoric pleasure and pain relief.
The conversation began about the Woolsey Town Hall meeting. The politician appeared in front of the crowd and used the same denials and declarations we have heard from Obama about his Nationalized Healthcare plan. Research into the legislation by those dedicated to examining the legal implications of it have exposed the loopholes in the language which will allow for a severe incursion of the power of the Federal government into the private lives of citizens. This lead to the discussion of why people want power, and why they are willing to impose draconian restrictions on the lives of the people?
The thesis of the examination was that people enjoy the feeling of power, and are seduced its pleasurable sensation, and reduction of pain. Successfully using power to alleviate pain and produce pleasure provides the introductory experience that pulls the unsuspecting youth and adult into using control as a habitual strategy.
To: Thomas Lee Abshier
Sent: Friday, September 04, 2009 11:59 PM
Subject: Article about Woolsey town hall meeting
Here is an article about the Woolsey town hall meeting from the Libertarian Republican blog:
I am fascinated by the level of deception that people are willing to engage in. There must be something about power that makes people feel special or privileged that they are willing to create an oppressive world, and feel that they will not be subject to the same hell that they are creating.
To: Thomas Lee Abshier, ND
Sent: Saturday, September 05, 2009 1:26 PM
Subject: Re: Article about Woolsey town hall meeting
Now you have raised a question that leaves me speechless. I am as baffled as you are. Why indeed do some people need to control others in order to be happy? Can’t they see that they themselves lose when everyone else’s freedom is curtailed?
What makes Castro happy to be a dictator of a poverty-stricken populace instead of a beloved leader of a free and prosperous populace?
I can only speculate at the possible answers. The more charitable possibility is that he simply does not understand.
Your theory is indeed charitable. You have given people the benefit of the doubt by attributing to them benign motives for oppressing and/or imposing their ideas and patterns of life upon others. You have posited that possibly they simply did not understand the full consequence of their oppressive actions.
And, I believe you are right – there must be at least an element of not fully grasping the long-term consequences of their goals. The student of history, and the man of insight and foresight can see the diminishment of freedom, beauty, and spontaneity resulting from establishing a full top-down, centrally planned, authoritarian control of society in the name of security, prosperity, or longevity.
Thus, we must include “not understanding” as part of, or addition to, any theory of why people oppress others. But just as you, I don’t believe “not understanding” fully explains this behavior.
The Orwellian perspective on the motivation to use power:
“The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. Not wealth or luxury or long life or happiness: only power, pure power. … We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means, it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?” – George Orwell, “1984″
Edmund Burke, on the addiction to power:
“Those who have been intoxicated with power… Can never willingly abandon it.”
– Edmund Burke
Pursuing this issue further in an effort to find other factors which contribute to oppressive and dictatorial behavior, I am reminded of the addict population I have treated.
An examination of the phenomenon of addiction:
Over my many years of counseling, I have been impressed by the variety and intensity of passions that can overcome men. I have seen addicts to pornography, prostitutes, infidelity, eating, alcohol, smoking, nicotine, marijuana, heroin, gambling, shoplifting, TV, lying, etc… These people recognized the pain and dysfunction that the addiction brought and were seeking help in the release from the passions that gripped their hearts and minds. Even with the understanding of the error, and the desire to get free, they were unable to free themselves of the demons that tormented their souls. This says to me that a desire to quit and a conscious understanding of the error are inadequate forces to produce freedom. It also says that there are probably many people who are not seeking release, are controlled by these passions and are following the addictive forces with full participation.
I have helped many patients break free of their chains, and looking back at this population and their journey, I see people who have fallen into addiction in two major ways.
An exposure to an intensely pleasurable illicit experience, against which they exerted little willful resistance because of their lack of moral defense.
A painful experience, period, or pattern of life that was in some way unresolved.
Using moral power to resist addiction:
In the case of the man who just likes the feeling of using the addictive substance or behavior, the therapy includes educating him about the massive pain he will eventually experience at the end of the addictive path. This provides understanding, but this does not necessarily elicit the moral strength to resist. Addiction is always a moral problem.
Moral power, character, commitment, actually resisting, avoiding the temptation, replacing the temptation with positive behaviors, free will choice, and spiritual freedom are all part of the complex of character that free men from addiction. A man’s understanding of the laws of the moral universe must support his rationalization to resist and choose alternative behaviors. A man must use his God-given free will to resist temptation. If a man has not strongly connected the visceral experience of future pain with his present reality, he does not have the “understanding” to motivate evasive action. Thus, creating a clear reality about the future pain is one part of the strategy to motivate the commitment to stop. But ultimately, the end of all therapy must result in “just saying No” to the temptation.
Treatment of Addiction:
Saying “No” is the final and necessary act associated with freedom from addiction. But, there are a host of other supportive attitudes and behaviors that must be engaged to actually be free of the addiction.
Replace: Replace the addictive habit with positive, satisfying behaviors. A vacuum is created by avoiding a behavior, and something will fill that void. Unless something very positive is actively pursued, the old negative behavior will probably return to fill that psychic space.
Detoxification: In the process of stopping, the addict will go through a detox/withdrawal phase. Slow withdrawal of the substance or behavior allows accommodation to the new lower level of usage. But, some addictive substances and behaviors are so harmful, that weaning is not possible. Immediate and total withdrawal is the only acceptable therapy. In this case, replacement with weaker addictive substances and behaviors can help bridge the gap while the body is accommodating to the reduction of addictive toxin and its pleasure stimulating effect.
Spiritual Cleansing: And finally, the spiritual component must be addressed. The spirit associated with the addictive substance or behavior must be released, resisted, and removed from access to the control room of the heart and mind. Some people have a conversion experience, when they ask Jesus to be the Lord and Savior, and the demons associated with addiction leave instantly with dramatic and miraculous displays. Others must remain vigilant at the door of the soul to prevent addictive relapse at a moment of feeling good and invulnerable, or weak and helpless.
Vigilance: Feeling good, strong, and invulnerable is the time of greatest weakness to the temptation of addiction. Feeling naturally high is the best sensation we should experience, but by releasing our entire store of endorphins at once (such as with cocaine, heroin…) we can feel the orgasmic rush provided by no natural and holy physical, mental, emotional stimuli. The desire to feel even better motivates drug use. And, feeling strong enough to handle the “downside of the trip” is a type of myopia and seduction to the spirit of pride and god-like invulnerability. The temptation in times of strength is countered by the commitment to always say “No”, and the wisdom to look ahead, bring the future to the present, and know the ultimate outcome will be depression and a long joyless recovery.
Just Say No: Saying “No” is always the final defense. We all have free will – actions do not just happen, we choose to convert thoughts to action. Behaviors progress from thought, to speech, to action. If we stop every thought at the time of its inception and take control of the spirit behind the thought (using the power given to us as part of our inheritance as children of God), we can resist any temptation. If we know what is right, are committed to doing it, replace temptation with right action, and stand in a place of spiritual power, we will never act out the addictive pattern.
Addiction resulting from anesthesia to past pain:
This brings us to the second category of addicts: those who use addictive substances and behaviors, at least in part, to anesthetize the pain of past or present life. This is by far the most common category. The pure pleasure seeker exists in theory, but we all have some pain, and we all have errors in our moral structure that cause us to choose wrong and unGodly choices. The human nervous system feels pain of many types and from many sources. The pain of the soul is the most poignant. This pain may come from many sources including a guilty conscience, fear of repeated violation, flashbacks, strong disturbing memories, anger at past violation, or the pain of loss.
Men use various behaviors and substances to deaden the soul pain and restore peace in the heart. But, the anesthesia is only partially effective, and withdrawal produces even more pain than he felt before starting to use. And, drugs are inadequate to fully relieve the pain – they work for a period of time, then they wear off and the pain comes back. Or, the user becomes accommodated to the analgesia and he needs a greater quantity or different drug to produce the same effect. At some point, the dose and/or number of drugs needed to produce analgesia pushes the edge of death.
Power is one of the drugs that deaden pain. I haven’t treated anyone afflicted an addiction to political power, but I have seen many people who are addicted to “control” over people and events in their normal pedestrian lives. Taking control of life and its irritants is one of the most effective and natural ways of eliminating pain. Using personal power to stop people from doing harmful behaviors is a curative response to an unregulated and unrighteous environment.
The proper use of power:
Properly exercised power uses force to restrict people from engaging in wrong behaviors. Proper power should create correct boundaries with appropriate consequences. The result of properly using power is peace between self and others. Right behavior produces the optimum level of peace, activation, and freedom. Wisdom is required to properly judge the boundaries of acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Each person must make the judgment of Right action at every moment, and force must be applied to both self and others to restrict and propel movement in life. In the long term, properly applied force produces excellent results.
Bad behavior as addictive drug:
Those disciplined to stop their boundary-violating behavior may go into “withdrawal”, which is a normal detoxification response associated with suddenly stopping the use of an addictive substance or behavior. Bad behavior creates strong neurological stimulation, which entrains the nervous system in a particular set of actions and emotions – including pleasure center stimulation. When the behavior stops, the emotions and reinforcement stops.
Retaliation against discipline:
Disciplining a bad habit may produce a retaliation against the restriction because the withdrawal of it produces the withdrawal of the pleasure stimulation the bad behavior produced. But, the withdrawal symptoms will only last a short time if properly coached. The retaliation may include withdrawing love, depreciating comments, declaring victimization, claiming unfairness or unrighteousness, and showing anger.
The disciplined child may attempt to exploit every possible weakness in the heart/mind of the parent. But, this will pass. The badly behaved child/adult will eventually give thanks and show love for caring enough to exert the tough love needed to direct them onto the path of Right action. Right action and control require that we have the character and courage to transit this gauntlet of pain that we must walk to discipline the rebel. On the other side of the reaction to discipline is a lifetime of good and fair relationship.
The soul craves peace, pleasant tones and words, familiar and well-ordered actions, and I can use power, wealth, or love to move others to comply with my efforts to create an ideal environment. Making the money to buy peace requires a lot of effort, love requires a great deal of giving, so control and power are often the choices for the quick fix.
The proper use of power produces excellent long term results. Properly used power leaves no hangover in the morning, but the good results often require the temporary reaction against regulation.
Improper use of power:
Improperly used power includes exerting force on self and others to satisfy any illicit lust. And, since we can crave anything too much, there is no behavior or that can be the object of desire. When we use more than our fair share of time, space, attention, or resources, we cross the boundary of fair play, and the victim reacts to defend his territory. Thus, a power struggle ensues, with the aggressor and defender using their particular tools of personality, social position, physical presence, rationalization, and affect to seduce or intimidate and possess the territory in dispute.
No human control is eternal. All powers seek to maintain submission, but none can continue their rule indefinitely. Circumstances change, the dominated parties grow in moral courage and rebel against the domination, and the controller becomes more corrupt and morally weak. To maintain control against a rebellious victim, the master must exert even more control, which initiates the cycle of “pain, control, rebellion; pain, control, rebellion”.
The slave’s natural reaction to control is pain and reaction against the control. This causes the master pain, which causes him to exert more control over the slave. The natural, optimum, God-ordained state is a Godly domain of freedom. When a man grows to maturity, he recognizes his inalienable rights and will rebel against unrighteous control by the master. To maintain control of a rebellious slave, the master must continue exerting greater force to the point where the slave submits or dies. And if the master is unsuccessful, the slave will either remain in a state of agitated rebellion or break free.
The proper relationship between master and servant:
The roles of master and servant are natural stages in the progression of life maturity. Thus, we should not strive to eliminate the roles of master and servant, but rather sanctify them. There is a proper place for masters (boss, parent, state officials) and servants (employees, children, and citizens) – both are honorable stations of life. But, the master must act within the proper bounds of his role, just as the slave should likewise conduct himself with dignity while in his current social assignment. The roles of life change frequently, and we should attempt to perform our script rightly in each act of the play.
We all desire the sanctification of the roles. As a society, we wish to have masters over us who rule with wisdom and kindness and reward labor with its proper and just compensation. All men of good will desire government, business, and personal relationships that manifest the perfect balance of freedom and restriction. But, such balance will only appear in the context of the constitutional republic when the masses are sensitive to the boundaries of God’s Law. When the masses have those Laws embedded within the heart, they will discern and elect wise and moral men to govern as philosopher kings.
The corrupt politician, the shrewish housewife, the angry husband, the domineering boss, have all been seduced by the lure of resolving pain by administering suppressive control. This strategy appears successful, but in the long term, it produces rebellion, pain, and/or death. Godly control is a necessary expression of life but used wrongly it becomes an anesthetic or euphoric drug, and as such becomes addictive for those who wish to deaden the pain of life, or experience the short rush of intense pleasure (a level greater than the balanced life produces). Thus, the need to learn wisdom, restraint, and proper application of these strong tools of life.
The proper use of control:
When used correctly, control is the most effective drug to stop the pain of irritating life experiences. And at some level, we all know that control is right and good. We know it should be applied to stop bad behavior, but typically control is applied imperfectly. The result is a large reaction or the suppression of another person’s life energy.
The improper use of control:
Typically we continue to continue to use bad control, even in the face of retaliation and the sickness it produces. Bad control is seductive because it gives a degree of immediate relief in situations of acute environmental irritation. It takes very little time to realize that doing nothing, asking nicely, begging, or using empty threats produces little effect.
If I do nothing to control life, people will often take advantage of my passive presentation and invade my space, damage or steal my property, and disturb my peace. If I retaliate with an excessive force I may produce a reaction that is likewise excessive. If I discipline improperly, and then stop the discipline after finding this method ineffective or harmful, the rebound may be of even worse behavior.
Only the central path of perfect control produces excellent results. But, that path is almost invisible, and most are seduced by the short term benefits of excessive control. And, some become control addicts out of their desire for a placid world. Others become addicted to the wealth and comfort they receive from enslaving others with the iron chains of power.
We all desire to control other people to act in ways that do not bother us. But, that natural instinct to regulate the behaviors of others can easily be perverted to become full control of another’s life.
Some people are gifted with a public persona and influence, and such people can exercise their desire for control on a group, class, or nation. The tyrant mind-heart can spring from a random assemblage of seemingly minor traumas, pleasures, and pains. He may respond to his life traumas by using control, experience relief, and make the link between pain-relief and exerting control. Unless moral teaching moderates a man’s use of control, he will naturally engage in behaviors and strategies which produce pleasure and reduce pain.
If a man has the gift for public influence, he may attract hordes of admiring supporters who see their control-addicted leader as their agent for imposing control on their perceived oppressors. And, without validating the rational connection between the new legislation or philosophical system he proposes and the relief of their misery, they follow the leader, not recognizing that they follow the spirit that possesses him. The outcome of following lesser spirits is naturally unpleasant.
The most extreme examples of absolute control, such as Mao, Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, Caligula, Saddam, Castro, etc. may have been convinced of the truth of the demonic spell of their inner vision of the path to utopia for mankind. Or, they may have been addicted to the pleasure of absolute control itself.
Addiction and the path of righteousness:
All addictions are natural urges that have gone out of righteous regulation and/or application. Until a man returns his heart to the center of perfected moral rationality, he will always be pulled away by the strong urges of passion, and act upon them. Without a Right pattern of life upon which to regulate his passions, a man will naively step away from righteousness out of curiosity, ignorance, or temptation.
Steps along the path to addiction:
Usually, the first small steps away from Godly Righteousness are unremarkable in their consequence, and may even produce some pleasurable reward. This allows accommodation and comfort in standing outside of the Law. The successful relief of pain and experience of pleasure embolden the young rebel/criminal to take more steps, farther and farther from the center of Right thought, speech, and action. And, at each step, he readjusts his worldview to justify this new life paradigm.
Death as the end of addiction:
There is no end to this slide from the center of perfection, other than death – his own or others. The unsuccessful application of power tempts the man to use larger and larger doses of substance or behavior to completely drown the pain and re-experience the pleasure. The end of this progression of ever larger use of substance or behavior is death. Using a substance to pursue the complete relief of pain is fatal intoxication. And, using control, in its extreme forms, results in total suppression of the life force.
Next Essay: Power as Expression of Religious Ideology: