Power and power relations play a part in all of our lives. However, there is a point where power or the desire for power gets out of control and can be damaging. Power could be affecting your life in ways you had never considered.

It is normal for many people to hold power over us, even if we do not regularly acknowledge this fact. For example, those in decision making positions, who create and change the laws in our countries, have significant power over our lives. As do the people who enforce the laws, although usually they are also subject to the power of the decision makers. Our bosses and superiors at work hold power over us, as do members of our families, and even possibly our friends. These power relations can be a good thing. For example, many laws are in place to prevent crime and to keep us safe. Therefore, they can be viewed as positive power. Another example of this is teachers in a school. It is important that teachers have a level of power over students so that classes can be kept under control and the children can learn in a peaceful environment. The power of a leader can encourage mass groups to organise and protest or create change. In this manner, power can be progressive. However, power relations are highly complex and do not always affect us all in a positive way. Power can be used purposefully to create negative effects. Or it can have, possibly unintended, side effects. If you have negative experiences of power, you may require help to overcome the issues involved.

When Power Becomes Unhealthy

We can see throughout history how dangerous power can be if it gets into the wrong hands politically, for example, Hitler, Mao, and other brutal dictators. Such power has massively damaging effects on many people, particularly minority groups. It can lead to numerous deaths and undeserved suffering. Power also creates situations of slavery, exploitation, and the implementation of racist policies. These issues still affect us today, although some argue that they are less frequent in present times. Power harms us when it is abused. This can take place in many different situations, from the large scale as we have discussed, but also on a smaller scale in everyday life. For example, in the workplace, a boss might abuse their power by forcing someone to work extra hours or not giving enough pay. This can grow to seriously affect employees. They may feel exploited, frustrated, and have low self-esteem. If the problems persist it can develop into a situation of workplace bullying, and have serious effects on the psychological health of the worker; they may become depressed or have anxiety issues. Some argue that power warps the minds of individuals, and causes them to do things that are out of character. People can become power hungry; obsessed by gaining and maintaining power. This causes high levels of stress and anxiety, and can be very unhealthy. If you have been affected in a harmful way by power, you might need help.

How Power Affects Other Relationships

Power relations affect our marital relationships. Some couples manage to find a healthy sharing of power. This can involve each taking responsibility for different tasks and reaching compromises over decisions. It is possible that one spouse can hold more power than the other; this may be related to financial power or simply being the more dominant personality. Again, this is very common and marriages can still be healthy. However, power can sadly be abused in marriages and this is likely to harm the relationship. It can lead to the exploitation of good will, and cause tensions and arguments. Such issues can lead to the breakup of marriages if they are not resolved. In extreme cases, the abuse of power within a marriage can lead to domestic violence. Most commonly, this is carried out by the husband upon the wife. This show of physical power can be very damaging; it may cause physical injury and on-going psychological problems. The trust and confidence of the victim are likely to be destroyed and they may suffer from anxiety disorders or depression. Victims of on-going violence might consider running away, self-harm or even suicide. People in violent marriages or marriages where power is abused in other ways may need help. This applies to both the abuser and the victim.

How Therapy Can Help

If you have been affected negatively by power, there is easily accessible support to help you overcome the issues. Maybe you are the victim of bullying at work, violence in a marriage, or any other abuse of power. Or perhaps you have found yourself in a situation where you are overly concerned with holding power over others, you are anxious about losing power, or you are feeling out of control. Whatever the cause of the psychological issues you are facing, it is time to seek help. Therapists and counselors support everyone who requires assistance. They will not be judgemental or advise you on what course of action to take. They are simply there to give you an impartial place to share your concerns. If you are feeling desperate or overwhelmed because of power, get help and regain control of your life.

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