“Power is required for communication. To stand before an indifferent or hostile group and have one’s say, or to speak honestly to a friend truths that go deep and hurt, these require self-affirmation, self-assertion, and even at times aggression.” ~Rollo May
This is your life. Not your parent’s. Not your teacher’s. Not your government’s. Not your president’s. It’s yours and yours alone. Nobody else can live it for you. Only you have the power to allow someone to influence your life or not.
Understand: power is not evil. Like with all things, it only becomes unhealthy when it becomes immoderate. It’s only when power becomes extreme, overreaching and entrenched that it tends to corrupt. Up until that point, power is a vital tool one can use to leverage health and love into a world where entrenched power smothers health, love, and the empowerment of others under its boot.
A person’s power only becomes corrupt if it is not questioned by the power of others. So, it is vital that you empower yourself to question the power of others. Here are five ways to empower yourself by turning the tables on entrenched power…
1.) Ignore the “infallible” legend and focus on the fallible human:
“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” – Abraham Lincoln
Power can mystify even the most circumspect of people. Whether that power is coming from a group of people or a single individual, it is important that you empower yourself to question their power by realizing that nobody is off the hook for being a fallible human being. Especially not those in positions of power.
Whether the person in power is the president of the United States, the Queen of England, or your shitty boss, turn the tables on their power by realizing that they are just another scared shitless human being who has fuckall figured out about anything at all. They are imperfect flesh and blood human beings who are probably wrong about a great many things. So be it.
Their power does not get them off the hook. If anything, it should put them even further on the hook. And it’s your responsibility as an empowered table-turning individual to make sure of it.
The same applies to groups of people with power. Whether the group is a government or a nation state, turn the tables on their power by realizing that no matter what system they have in place it will always be flawed in some way.
Just as no human is infallible, no system is infallible. The only “perfect” system is an imperfect system that is in a constant state of healthy change and progressive improvement. This requires people to brutally and fiercely question any systems in place.
2.) Diminish them by focusing on the scared child within them:
“You must see the frightened child within, terrified by anything unpredictable. In this way you cut them down to size, diminishing their ability to intimidate you.” – Robert Greene
Nobody is that far removed from the scared child they once were. Not you, not the queen, not the president, not your boss. We are all just a kid from somewhere propped up by a plethora of outdated myths and delusions that get us through the day.
Whether those delusions are religious, political, nationalistic, or even delusions of grandeur, the only people who are ahead of the curve are the ones who are questioning their own delusions first, and then doubling down on their empowerment by questioning the delusions of others second.
As Scott Adams wisely stated, “The human mind is a delusion generator, not a window to truth. The best any human can do is to pick a delusion that helps him get through the day.”
It is vital, as a courageous and audacious table-turner, that you keep the delusion-generating human condition in perspective by having a deep understanding of how much fear drives human action and opinion.
By realizing that those in power are just fearful kids beneath layers of “adulthood” and “authority” given to them by other fearful kids beneath layers of “adulthood,” you will have the advantage of a keen bird’s eye view, outside the box thinking, and an outside-looking-in perspective.
You stay ahead of the curve by realizing that we are all on the curve. No exceptions.
3.) Focus on their actions and your strategies, not on your emotions:
“Where there have been powerful governments, societies, religions, public opinions, in short wherever there has been tyranny, there the solitary philosopher has been hated; for philosophy offers an asylum to a man into which no tyranny can force its way, the inward cave, the labyrinth of the heart.” – Nietzsche
Don’t allow the powerful to play on your emotions. Break the spell. Turn the tables on their power by focusing on strategies of open-mindedness and emotional alchemy. Focus on their actions—past, present and future. Are they a decent human being? Is their moral compass off kilter? Do they have a history of shady deals and amoral one-upmanship?
Honor your emotions. Respect the information your emotions are giving you. But then rise above your emotions by focusing on healthy action. The first step to turning the tables on power is to turn the tables on your emotions. Transform kneejerk reactions to the whims of those in power by deeply analyzing why you feel the way you do and then act smartly.
Feel fear, act with courage. Feel envy, act with emulation. Feel insecure, act with confidence. Feel vengefulness, act with forgiveness. Feel anger, channel it into fierce art. Alchemize it until you actualize it.
Be proactive. Get out from underneath the puppeteer’s shadow by focusing your power on self-empowerment and self-improvement, despite their power.
4.) Be skeptically enigmatic not unquestioningly sycophantic:
“Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under.” – H. L. Mencken
Don’t be a puppet hanging on the strings of those you perceive to have power over you. Don’t be a lemming walking over cliffs with other lemmings. Don’t be a lamb being led to the slaughter by the entrenched power of wolves and overreaching sheepdogs. Turn the tables on puppets, lambs, lemmings, sheepdogs, and wolves by becoming a courageous lion among men.
The best way to show your lion-teeth is to speak truth to power by shoving the first amendment down everyone’s throat. Especially down the throats of those in power.
Do this by questioning authority to the nth degree. Take all “answers” from such questioning into deep consideration but never settle. Use the “answers” as steppingstones into higher states of questioning. Stay ahead of entrenched power by always questioning power and never settling upon any particular state of power.
On a long enough timeline, only the person who questions and forces moderation on all power (especially their own) will become more powerful.
5.) Make a mockery of their power through high humor and high art:
“Make noise for the love of noise and questioning.” – Stanley Moss
Be strategically insurgent through unexpected angles of nonviolent attack. The best nonviolent attacks are found in high humor (social leveling mechanisms) and high art.
There’s nothing those with too much power hate more than those with too little power questioning and checking their power. Especially if it’s done through satire, art with shock value, and strategic civil disobedience.
Think of it as an updated way of counting coup.
In healthy cultures, namely indigenous cultures, there is the vital role of the sacred clown. For example: the heyoka is a kind of sacred clown in the culture of the Lakota of the Great Plains of North America. Heyokas are contrarians, jesters, and satirists, who speak, move and react in an opposite fashion to the people around them.
The main function of a sacred clown is to deflate the ego of power by reminding those in power of their own fallibility, while also reminding those who are not in power that power has the potential to corrupt if not checked and balanced by other forces—namely with humor.
Sacred clowns are constant reminders of the contingency and arbitrariness of the social order, poking holes in anything taken too seriously, especially anything assuming the guise of power. They are a conduit to forces that defy comprehension, and by their absurd, backwards behavior, they are merely showing the ironic, mysterious dualities that exist within the universe itself.
As a courageous table-turner, it is vital that you assume the role of the sacred clown and poke holes in the inflated and obese power constructs entrenching themselves inside our “tribe.” The system cannot be fixed by the system. It can only be fixed by empowered and courageous individuals with the audacity to check entrenched and overreaching power constructs. No other force can do this for us. It is up to us.
It’s your life. It’s your culture. It’s your world. Don’t let it be destroyed by the corrupt power of others. Keep the powerful in check by becoming a relentless force that questions any and all systems that would ever allow power to corrupt.
Read more articles by Gary ‘Z’ McGee.
About the Author
Gary ‘Z’ McGee, a former Navy Intelligence Specialist turned philosopher, is the author of Birthday Suit of God and The Looking Glass Man. His works are inspired by the great philosophers of the ages and his wide awake view of the modern world.
This article (5 Ways to Empower Yourself in Any Situation) was originally created for The Mind Unleashed and is published here with permission. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution and author bio.