The Abuse of Power
Perhaps nothing is as troubling as the abuse of power. But in the age of widespread character dysfunction, such abuse is frighteningly common. Moreover, the disturbed characters I call the Aggressive Personalities are particularly prone to abusing power egregiously. (See also: Chapter 3 Character Disturbance.) Such folks tend to seek power rabidly, and for its own sake. That’s why you can count on them to abuse it when they get it. That’s also why it’s so important to consider and to properly vet a person’s character before affording them any measure of power.
Sometimes the abuse of power is so egregious it makes news. Such is the case when public officials, sworn to protect and defend those over whom they have power, victimize instead. But the more subtle abuses of power that occur in relationships every day are a big problem, too. And some would say an epidemic one.
Abusive Power Dynamics
Disturbed characters are often adept at coralling power within a relationship. They know just what to say and do to entice you to surrender power. And once they feel they have enough power, you can count on them to abuse it. That’s why it’s so important that you make yourself aware early on of the power dynamics within your relationship. There are simply too many character-deficient people out there. And you can’t afford the risk of being in a one-down position with any of them.
Wanting power and control over things in your life is not an inherently bad thing. But the unscrupulous ways some characters go about this can devastate a relationship. Some folks can’t stand the thought of losing or ceding control. They always have to be right, feel victorious, and be in charge. Such attitudes are toxic for any relationship.
Power and the Ways We Fight
My book In Sheep’s Clothing was groundbreaking for many reasons. But perhaps one of it’s biggest contributions was to increase awareness of the myriad of ways we humans fight. Fighting is a huge part of life, and necessarily so. Some things in life are worth fighting for. And some things simply must be fought for. But why we fight and how we fight makes all the difference in our relationships. In the end, our fighting will be principled and disciplined, and inherently constructive (the definition of assertiveness), or unscrupulous and inherently destructive.
Too many relationships end in disaster because of unfair and destructive fighting. And I have more to say on the topic on the current installment of Character Matters.