There’s a beautiful quote buried in James Hollis’s excellent Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life, describing those who seek excessive power, from petty dictators to insecure, abusive spouses:
“Their urgent desire for power is a measure of their inner powerlessness.”
This quote explains the seemingly paradoxical actions of so many who already are in positions of power:
- dictatorial regimes that show no end to their appetite to control every aspect of their citizens’ lives;
- micromanager or narcissistic bosses who throw a zinger precisely when you think you’ve met their unrealistic expectations (“Don’t rest too long!”, I heard in the law firm going home after an all-nighter);
- abusive partners or spouses, showing extreme love one moment, and hurtful malice the next.
The more power they have, the more they need — because they become even more acutely aware of their inability to control their inner disorder.
Seek power over yourself, not others.