Co-Dependency, Issues of Personal Power, Adler, and Soldiering in Our Time, Part 2

I am convinced there is something revealed when exploring how individual power plays out in in ‘public’ relationship once the individuals coalesce into groups. I suggest the groups reflect shared perspectives of “power” – the need for it, how it works, how it can be maintained. Groups claiming to be disinterested in “power” are either uncommonly mature, or support one another’s disinterest in such a way that they share a “victim” role.

There is nothing wrong with “power”. But there is a huge difference between an “inner, secure, “felt” personal power” and a “need to act out external power-over another/others” to experience a sense of power. The first is deep, and has no requirement to prove itself; the second is based on a ‘felt insecurity’ that must be overcome time and again by wielding power over another or others to “prove” power when it is not securely felt.

The first is often labeled “empowerment” (of self thereby of group); the second, as already noted, insists on “power-over” (by self and/or or group).

A study of martial arts that includes philosophy of the arts reveals the same distinction. A skilled martial artist has no need to demonstrate power to prove anything. Highly developed skill is calming, and the individual meets challenges in confidence. The skill, when/if it is used, meets the situation competently and effectively. Then the event is over. An assailant may not even be seriously harmed, depending on the level of the challenge. The skill is a physical way to say: “I don’t think your plan is a good one, and I won’t let you carry it out on me.” Not the least co-dependent; but also not the least of lasting importance. The skilled practitioner returns to whatever was happening prior to the assault.

Competence and confidence. No real need to prove power. No need to practice “power-over” as a way of life. No need to accumulate “proof” of power. Adler was onto all this in a big way.


About maggieannthoeni

A description once given of me was "rooted in the earth while roaming the stars" - and this has felt 'right'. I believe in something akin to this for each of us. I am a passionate supporter of discovering the autonomous self while serving the whole as primary intent. I believe in discovery of innate principles, clearing the overlay of socialization that obscures this from us. I believe it is our responsibility to leave no one behind - most particularly to respond to suffering as best we can whereever we find it, whenever we are made aware. I believe in this for the insect as well as the most magnificent form of humanity. I believe in brother/sisterhood without boundary. I believe in righteous indignation when it is appropriate, but do not believe in an enemy. I believe in consciousness, in intelligence, in logic, in rationality, in emotion, in transcendence - and am convinced until we generally practice explore and honor all this in ourselves, we remain profoundly immature. (I believe real maturity is known and practiced by many young children, and not enough adults!)
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4 Responses to Co-Dependency, Issues of Personal Power, Adler, and Soldiering in Our Time, Part 2

  1. clarkscottroger says:

    I am not sure I fully follow “This power is a verb, it is not a noun.”

    My thinking with this phrase is that it is how our acts are an aspect of our lives, as opposed to being a ‘by-product’.

    Not so much, ‘watch out for him, he has a lot of power’, but more ‘what is it about that person, everything about them has a quality (that is attractive).’

    Or something like that.
    Enjoy your blog, aerobics for the mind.


    • maggieannthoeni says:

      … thinking … a noun, when in motion, is a verb … think I’m catching your use … extending it seems to point to us, to individuals (and at times our groups) as ‘action’, ‘activity’ (forgive the nouns!) Lining up with the sometimes said “We are human doings, not human beings.” ?? But the ‘doing’ is not necessarily ‘this action, this moment’. We may notice, be attracted to, an individual ‘power’ that includes (subconsiously even) our awareness of confidence, “potential action”, that seems “right”, “comfortable”, “centered”, “self-trusting” and therefore “trustworthy”. (I may be bending your concept in my preferred direction!) Thanks for clarification – hope I’ve kept it straight – and also for general feedback! – MA

  2. clarkscottroger says:

    (regarding the above term ’empowerment’) I have a belief statement that I find useful which says;

    ‘power is never a gift, it can only be claimed/earned/assumed’.

    Unfortunately, it is not difficult to find people/groups who are happy to offer ’empowerment’, which is, in fact, the mortgage on the illusion of self-improvement they are selling to the disenfranchised individual.

    To believe that power can be given to one by another is one of the most insidious traps in our culture.

    “Personal’ power, which I read as being defined as self-development can only be claimed/learned. This power is a verb, it is not a noun.

    I agree comletely with the definition of the ‘power-over’ intrinsic in most groups.
    It is the trade of your personal power in exchange for power by membership. (Which of course in still subject to control by whatever internal structure there is in the group itself.)
    ‘Feel alone and powerless? We will stop the lonliness and you can become co-powerful in our group.’
    The only good thing about ‘power-over’ is that it requires co-operation; coerced, threaten or under duress, but the individual must consent to the terms of the group that is offering the ‘power’.

    • maggieannthoeni says:

      Thank you for these points. You have sent me to a dictionary. I have used “empowerment” for so many years in exploration of “personal development” questions, have spent so much time in a milieu that uses the word in the same way, that I carry that defintion as ‘the’ definition. offers only external source as ’cause’ for ‘power’. Interesting!

      I am not sure I fully follow “This power is a verb, it is not a noun.”

      A blogger at writes: When it comes to finding an empowerment definition, there seems to be … controversy about how to define it. According to, empowerment … “to invest with authority, authorize” …. (power ’caused by’ external source) … my idea of an empowerment definition is one that leans more toward personal growth and development. To me, the definition of empowerment starts with a thought process where you first of all feel very secure in yourself. … as if you have a sense of “power” over your life. A feeling that you aren’t at the mercy of events, but … have an impact on what happens to or around you.

      In my piece, I use “personal development” as definition of “empower/ment”. The individual may ‘feel’ without power, but once understanding ‘personal power’ ‘originates from within’ can (as you say) “claim, earn, assume” (develop) ‘personal power’. By this process, a definition of ’empowering by self’ can be argued, if the ‘source’ bestowing the power, is oneself, (not external – maybe dictionaries will add this ‘internal’ source in time!)

      In any case, individual felt ‘personalpower’ or lack of same, is, I believe, based in “universally true individual vulnerability at birth”. Individuals, without awareness, develop attitudes, beliefs, strategies to address this, based on formative experience (‘lessons’). We watch (and participate) across the board in social, political, economic relationships with this ‘power issue’ at our roots. But very few know we are doing this.

      You have given “power” a lot of thought. You make some to-the-point statements that would be good conversation starters. Among them: “To believe that power can be given to one by another is one of the most insidious traps in our culture.”, and “‘… power-over’ … requires co-operation; coerced, threaten or under duress, but the individual must consent to the terms of the group that is offering the ‘power’.”

      We focus on need to bring change to political and economic structures and policies. We do not realize “we” individually and socially carry a deeper ‘root cause’. We cannot help but repeat versions of “same old, same old” until we ask “How come human kind continues to repeat these patterns?”

      Significant new insights and ‘leaps forward’ occured as the 19th C rolled into the 20th. A different set of significant new insights accompanies us as we turn from the 20th to the 21st. One of these is: exploration of “individual autonomous being” – what prevents, what enhances, how autonomous being fits into social, political, economic (and spiritual) structures.

      There is wide-spread interest resulting in clamor and upheaval, some ‘awakening’, some ‘strengthening of same old, same old’, and lots of mistaken “it’s them, not me/us”. (I think we do not yet generally realize “autonomy” has “finally come into its own” as a human exploration.)
      Thanks for the discussion! – MA

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