Telling Strength from Power

A useful image occurred to me. Strength is what we use when we break free of a rut. Power runs us harder along the same old trail, bouncing through the ruts until we destroy ourselves.

Strength is a capacity. Power is an external source of energy.

Power seduces. It gets “results.” It’s just that they tend not to really achieve our aims, let alone what might be a best outcome.

Remember, an aim is a guess. The more power we out behind that guess the more likely it will backfire. The more we rely on power the harder it gets to be a better guesser.

Strength is what we call on to dig into the reality we confront and find what can be done. What we can do as we remain responsive to our best contact with our situation.

Its work is primarily to suspend our reliance on projections and keep our attention clear. To avoid the traps of stereotypical behaviors, conditioned responses.

Mental conditioning can be described as the creation of pathways and loops of thought and habit. These are the neurological equivalent to ruts on a road. The less strength we have to resist this process the deeper they become. The farther they veer away from any actual contact with our situations. Adding power is then just like driving faster on a bad road. The effects of the ruts only getting more and more exaggerated and dangerous.

Strength is what it takes to break free. Physical strength is a component. Emotional and mental strength build on that foundation. Seen in this light, strength is the capacity for proprioception. To be able to see the way our conditioned reactions are making us hurt our selves while hiding their function behind projections.

This can be a simple test. How do we know when we are acting through strength instead of leaning on power?

Quieting the ego and listening to our organism, it knows the difference. Strength flows. It calms. Its actions are not escalating.

Power? We know what that feels like. Fear repressed through an intoxication. A bargain made against our own good faith. We tumble away from equilibrium.

There is always a component of shame, no matter how deeply buried.

Anger and justifications abound.

Published by Antonio Dias

My work is centered on attending to the intersection of perception and creativity. Complexity cannot be reduced to any given certainty. Learning is Central: Sharing our gifts, Working together, Teaching and learning in reciprocity. Entering into shared Inquiry, Maintaining these practices as a way of life. Let’s work together to build practices, strengthen dialogue, and discover and develop community. Let me know how we might work together.

6 thoughts on “Telling Strength from Power

  1. Tony,

    This goes to explain why the poor, powerless, and humble peoples of the world can be so joyous. The simplicity of life without power means one can just live and enjoy the smallest of pleasures life offers them. Maybe the meek WILL inherit the earth.



    1. John,

      Meek is the term used by the abusers who “won” back then. I’d say gentle might be a better term.

      This is a significant point. Power isn’t “bad.” It is not useful. It leads us into error and once there makes sure we fling about a lot of destruction, including our own.

      This has so often been seen as a moral issue. That made sense when moral meant something. Today, that just sidelines it as some “nice-to-have.”


      1. Tony,

        I had to ponder your response for some time. I have to say that I agreed for a while. But I sense strength in meekness. To acknowledge ones lack of power is a major part in finding strength and resilience. With that knowledge one is free to live exceptionally, to create purely, and to embrace every moment. Small things can be ever more important and humility becomes huge.

        I was caught in a fierce storm off the coast of Ventura ,California, in a rickety old O’day sailboat. I was fighting for every inch trying to make my mark. I kept loosing more than I gained.

        A crazy sight came to me in the form of a small seabird on the surface of that tumultuous sea. The little bird was far too involved in feeding on the tiny bits floating on the surface to be bothered by all the fuss going on around him. It was powerless against the wind, so it feasted on what the wind delivered.

        So, I hove to. I still lost ground, but I stopped stressing about it. I let it all blow over me, and put my faith in the strength of lesser things. I am still here to write about it.

        Recent events have caused me to look deeply within myself. My vision was, for a while, no longer binocular. I had a temporary gift of having two perspectives. Granted, it was scary, but I now realize that what we see with one eye can be very different with that which we see with the other, and that which we see with both eyes, is in part,an illusion.




      2. John,

        Good to have you back!

        I don’t disagree. Meek is a perfectly good word for it. It does capture the strength that comes from acknowledging our vulnerability. It provides a power that is not power. A power that is not available to take us off on agendas with less and less contact with reality no matter what confronts us.

        I do like to distinguish this force as strength and not power, to avoid this confusion.

        Some strength appears to be power. Stronger bodies make it possible to be more intimidating, for example. But strength, perspective, give us a capacity to see through the illusions of powering on.

        We see this around us. As you saw in the sea bird.

        One eye, two eyes, all perception is entangled in illusions. We don’t see well without understanding this. Sometimes it takes a loss to bring this out.

        It appears as meekness to move slowly, wondering if we recognize what is in front of us. It’s also a sign of strength to have given up the momentum of some powerful agenda and to recognize how little we know for certain.

        So glad you’re back.

        Be well,



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