I have been thinking lately about the difference between power and force. I began thinking about the distinctions between them several days ago, and since then the idea has come up in my reading a handful of times. Like Jung’s Synchronicity.
Force is the way of the bully. Force is manipulation. Force is violence. It is lies and ultimatums. It is triangulation. It is malice and cruelty. And ultimately, force is about the ego.
This has been clear to me for many many years. Even before I got my eating under control.
But power? Power seemed more elusive. Hard to put a finger on. I could recognize when somebody had power. I could even recognize when I, myself, was being powerful. But there was a question in it too. Why was I powerful? What was the source of my power?
I have been mulling it over now and I can see something today. Power comes from peace. Power comes from letting what is be. Power comes from acceptance.
I am an incredibly powerful person. That is not a boast. I do not have power because I am special. Anyone can be powerful. But it’s scary. One has to give things up to be powerful.
My power comes from the containment of my ego. It comes from my willingness to put down the idea of what I want. It is about giving up any commitment to the way I think it “should be.”
You probably know the saying, “ a square peg won’t fit in a round hole.”
Force is when you take a hammer and you beat the peg into the hole. You might break the peg, you might break the hole, but dammit you are going to get that peg in where you want it.
Power is when you sit with the peg and the hole in front of you. You see them for what they are. You don’t expect them to be what they are not. You don’t expect them to do what they can’t. You don’t curse them for not being what you think they should be. You let it be what it is. And you wait. Patiently. Quietly. Because you know that life will turn up with a square hole for the peg you’ve got. Or a round peg for the hole you’ve got. Or both. Or sometimes, if you’re distracted, both the peg and the hole will just disappear.
The power that I have is the ability to see what is so, with clarity. Accept it with peace. And know what my options are for change.
It took power to stop eating compulsively.
What I wanted (ego) was to eat as much of whatever I wanted to eat whenever I wanted to eat it, and not be fat. And I wanted to eat chocolate cake every day all day.
I did a lot of things to myself in my mid 20’s to try to make this a reality. I abused laxatives. I made myself throw up. I ran excessively to the point of injuring myself. I used a lot of force. It didn’t work particularly well. And on top of not getting results, I was exhausted. Physically, emotionally and spiritually.
What I eventually had to do was look at the reality of the situation. I had this square peg. I was addicted to sugar and when I ate it, I was compelled to eat more and more and this was making me fat. The round hole was society telling me that I should be able to eat sugar in moderation. My peg didn’t fit. Period. And as soon as I accepted that, there was a new hole put in front of me. Boundaries for my eating. A way to control my eating disorders.
But first, I had to make peace with the fact that I had a square peg. That no amount of pounding it into that hole was going to make it round.
Over the past 9 years I am (slowly – very very slowly) learning to look at every aspect of my life in this way. To look at the peg and the hole. To see them for what they are, and not be blinded or misled by what I want them to be. And if they don’t fit, so be it.
This ability to accept, to let what is be, is untold freedom. And from a distance, if you don’t have these distinctions, it might look like I am forcing things. Or like I must have forced them. Like I must have hustled. Manipulated and triangulated. After all, how else does a woman get a beautiful life like mine? A life beyond my wildest dreams!
The truth is that I waited patiently for it. And it came to me. No, it did not come automatically. It did take a kind of work. I had to work on myself.
1) I had to get responsible. Part of seeing what is, is seeing what I created. Part of accepting is accepting my own mistakes. Admitting my part in the problem. And I also had to see what was not my responsibility. What was not my problem. What was not my mistake. I had to own what was mine, and reject what was not.
2) I had to get honest. If I am going to accept things as they are, my word has to reflect that. I can’t lie about something and accept the truth about it at the same time. The truth is the truth. Even if it’s not pretty, it’s mine. If it’s hard for me to deal with, then I had better deal with it quickly and efficiently so that I can move on and sleep at night.
3) I had to start trusting life. If I think life got it wrong, I need to check my ego. I often think back to the many examples I have of when I thought life got it wrong, because I wanted something and I didn’t get it. And when I look at it, I have always gotten better than I thought I wanted. My best friend tells a joke:
Human: God, I want that Volvo.
God: No, I don’t want you to have a Volvo.
Human: But God, I really want that Volvo. It will make me very happy.
God: But I would really rather not give you the Volvo.
Human: Please God? Please please please please please let me have the Volvo.
God: OK. Here’s your Volvo. But who am I gonna give this Porsche to now?
4) I had to start minding my own business. I had to let other people make their own life choices. And deal with the consequences of their own actions. I had to trust that life was always right for them too.
And 5) I had to learn to let go. I had to let go of people, places and things that didn’t fit anymore. I had to learn to let go of the way I thought it “should be.” And things that I had outgrown. And things that were broken. I had to let go of the round holes.
It seems rather contradictory, really. That power comes from peace. But fighting life is exhausting. Peace lets you keep your energy for the important stuff. Like cooking and making things. And love.