Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Power and the Loss of Ideals

How many times have we seen it? You're best friends with someone at work when suddenly they get promoted. After this move upstairs, they don't want to know you. They become aloof and unapproachable - almost like they've become somebody else. What's actually happening is that the new power has liberated the pathology that always existed. They've started the very self-destructive process of selling out.

Today on Thinking with Somebody Else's Head, Power and the Loss of Ideals.

"Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely," was how Lord Acton supposedly put it back in the 19th century. But like Shakespeare's famous "To be or not to be," most have never heard what the insightful Lord Acton said next. It was, "Great men are almost always bad men."

Of course, this last would depend on how you define great men. If you limit that definition to men or women of material accomplishments only, perhaps. But it's difficult to ascribe the word "bad" to those of a more altruistic and benevolent nature. Gandhi, Mozart, Puccine, Da Vinci, Mother Theresa, Jesus - it would be difficult to accuse them of evil.

But there appears to be something that happens to those who are linked too much to power. And this is something Dr. Norberto Keppe has explored substantially in his writing - particularly in his book, Liberation of the People: the Pathology of Power, where Keppe turns his keen psychoanalytic mind on what goes on in power situations. He goes so far as to say, "The well balanced individual is not interested in having power. Only those who are extremely sick become attached to positions of power and command so as to counterbalance their psychological shortcomings."

In this sense, Keppe is going a huge step beyond the usual, "Oh, he's crazy," which is normally how we denominate those in power who do ridiculous things. Keppe is analyzing this psychologically, and is therefore providing a scientific view that goes well beyond the typical ideological divisions that govern whether we see a political or business move as positive or negative. And he points to this pathology of power as being the fundamental factor in our inverted and disturbed social life as well. In his book, Sociopathology, he puts it this way: "The core of sociopathology is the desire for power. Any individual who has unlimited power inevitably creates serious disorder because he is able to give free rein to all of his psychopathology."

This really moves the debate to an area more linked to reason and analysis, rather than just the usual emotional venting that occurs when talking about societal leadership.

This is leading edge psychological work that Keppe is developing here. We put up some interesting stuff about the pathology of power on our site at www.healingthroughconsciousness.com. Check it out and let me know what you think. rich@richjonesvoice.com

Dr. Claudia Bernhardt Pacheco from Keppe's International Society of Analytical Trilogy is here today to continue our discussion on power - particularly as linked to the loss of idealism and romanticism.

Click here to listen to this episode.