Lust for Power
Some disturbed characters have a particular lust for power. They rabidly seek it. Moreover, they seek it for its own sake. Folks who regard power in this way will inevitably abuse any power they manage to come by. You can count on it. It’s a major aspect of their character dysfunction.
Many narcissists adore power. Some nearly worship it. They tend to see the power they might acquire over others as evidence of their special worthiness or greatness. And the more malignant their narcissism is, the more prone they are to abusing power in heinous ways.
Thoughts on Power Dynamics
There’s a famous quotation attributed to Lord Dalberg-Acton. It goes: “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Many regard this axiom as an undeniable truth. But is power really inherently corrupting of character? Or are corrupt characters inherently prone to abusing power?
Abraham Lincoln also spoke of character and power. He famously said: “Nearly all men can stand adversity. But if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” I think Lincoln showed some wiser insight here. There’s the kind of man (person) with the strength to weather difficulty. But it’s a very different character who has the strength to mindfully handle power.
I’ve written before on character and power. And I’ve written before on how some characters lust for power. (See, for example: Disturbed Characters Abuse Power.) Moreover, I’ve made the point in 3 books that if power itself were inherently corrupting no newborn child would ever have survived infancy. That’s because the power an infant’s caretaker has over them is infinite, absolute. Any mindful caretaker knows this all too well.
Thankfully, most caretakers are not just in awe of the incredible power they hold over a newborn. They also tremble in the face of the responsibility they intuitively understand comes with such power. The reason power doesn’t go to their heads is because their heart governs the whole encounter. And as you know, the problem with some disturbed characters has to do with what’s lacking in their heart, namely empathy.
Corrupt Characters and Power
I wrote a bit last week about sadistic characters. And I’ve written about them before. (See: The Sadistic Aggressive Personality.) (See also: pp. 120-121 in Character Disturbance and pp. 41-42 in In Sheep’s Clothing.) These are the folks who take delight in wielding power over others. They derive pleasure from witnessing others suffer or grovel. In some cases, the pleasure they derive can become sexualized.
All the aggressive personalities I’ve spent a lifetime writing about hurt people. But hurting people is generally not their aim. Simply getting what they want is mostly their aim. They may have no compunction about hurting others in the process. But their principal aim is to gratify themselves, not to hurt.
Sadistic characters are different. Very different. Like bullies, they relish in the pain they cause others. They like to torment. It makes them feel powerful. Moreover, seeing the “weak” quiver in their presence or suffer at their hands excites them. It bolsters their perverted sense of superiority. Their lust for power has a particular aim: the pure satisfaction of dominating those they perceive as inferior.
We used to think a lot of weird things about bullies and sadists. We imagined them inwardly cowards, picking on the weak only because they were afraid of the strong. And we also imagined them inwardly insecure and fearful, picking on the kinder-hearted to ensure feeling more powerful. In rare circumstances these old notions may hold some truth. But thankfully, we’ve come to know better about most bullies and sadists. (See: Why Narcissistic Bullies Really Taunt.) Sadistic characters may generally prey on the weak. It’s simply easier. But given enough power, they’ll prey on anyone.
The Sadistic Spectrum and Abuse
I’ve dealt with many cases of abusive relationships. And I found many abusers to be on the sadistic spectrum. Their lust for power took a particularly heinous form. And I’ll be talking more about this, giving examples, over the next few weeks.