Power is a proxy for love

Why do some people yearn for powerful positions? Why do some people seek out expensive cars? Diamonds? Exotic getaways? Why do some forge connections with influential people? Why do some people seek wealth at all costs?

In order to understand the origins of the desire for power, we need to realize that all seeking is based on a lack. We seek something only when we lack it. The need for power betrays a gaping hole in our sense of completion and well-being. The greater the vacuous hole, the greater the need to seek external things to complete oneself. Usually, people who seek wealth, fame, and power lack a secure sense of self. They lack love. This can usually be traced back to childhood when they did not develop a secure attachment with at least one parental figure. Bowlby’s attachment theory shows that an insecure attachment can have life-long repercussions. Love, which in simpler words translates to a sense of care, concern, nurture, and protection is one of the most essential ingredients in life.

A child that has not been loved, cannot reciprocate this feeling unto others. This emptiness carries forward into adulthood and manifests as the yearning to be loved through objects, positions, and achievements. Today’s overemphasis on being successful, especially at one’s vocation highlights a deep lack of love that everyone experiences. Unfortunately, unconditional love cannot be found in relationships – especially when most people around us are insecurely attached. The relationships of today have denigrated into something utilitarian. Marriages stick because of economic reasons or children. Relationships are casual and are often oriented toward getting sex, or company in order to escape boredom. True intimacy, depth of affection, care and concern, a spirit of sacrifice, and complementing each other are rare. In other words, love is rare.

What can we do?

We begin as always with ourselves. We need to address this gaping wound at the core of our being. Make your life an experiment. And see if true joy, peace, and love can be found in achieving objects, accolades, positions, and so on. As we all know by now, the joy derived from these objects is ephemeral. Next time you get the desired object, see how long the joy remains. By becoming aware of this phenomenon, we begin to change our behaviors very slowly. Where then, can love be found? And what is the experience of love in oneself?

Love is found in understanding who one truly is. By realizing that we are not finite – soon-to-die creatures, we connect to the deathless, causeless part of us. While the body changes, the mind changes, emotions change and the world certainly changes, the one who notices all these changing experiences is constant. In other words, the ability to know is always with us. And this is not subject to change. When we discover ourselves as this impersonal, unchanging ability to know or the ability to experience, a great self-comfort dawns upon us. Nothing can fulfill us, for we are already complete. Nothing can be taken away from us, as we are in all experiences. This certitude of experience brings enormous comfort to us.

When we relate to others and the world from this space, we ask nothing from people. We place no demands on life. For we need nothing to make us happy. We already are happy. When we relate to the world from this space, we share love. In fact, the sharing is an extension of our being – which is love. It is an indescribable feeling of unity with each particle in the world – whether person, animal, tree, insect, or stone. Such a person seeks not to control others. She seeks not powerful positions. She seeks no money. She just seeks to share this great discovery with others.

Only then can power be transformed into love.

A western meadow lark. Denver. May 2022.

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