Chandran discusses the feeling of powerlessness in all of us and how it is connected with rage:
How often do I feel powerless and how often am I filled with fury? I am beginning to suspect they may be closely related if not the same thing.
I feel angry when I see or hear of injustice in the world. I identify with whoever I consider the victim and feel rage against the aggressor. It’s always nice to have bad guys to hate. Someone who deserves to be punished. And it’s enjoyable to think of the punishments they should get. The victim is always morally superior to the aggressor.
They started it. They did it first. So they deserve to get it back.
But perhaps that is where they are coming from too. Maybe they feel that their victims too deserve it. It’s their right, even their duty to do what they did. Or some other justification that it’s necessary to preserve order or protect something they consider worth defending. Or they had to do it because they had something at stake.
When I am enraged, it is difficult to see the humanity of the ones I am enraged with. Even more difficult to see that my rage looks just like theirs and that when I slip into the sea of hatred, I am no different from anyone else swimming there. But then, it feels good to blind myself to all that.
But some people actually act out their hatred and rage. They kill, rape, torture and so on. Maybe it gives them a sense of power. Maybe all that prevents us from doing the same is fear. Fear of the consequences, of being punished, of feeling guilty. Fear of losing moral superiority and being no better than the other.
Perhaps those who hold power over others are fearful too. Fearful of being powerless. What those they control would do to them if they lost their power and the roles were reversed. Those who turn the tables and seize power are perhaps those who are willing to pay the price.
Anger I feel as a tightness in the muscles, stomach, chest, throat and sometimes the head. Powerlessness feels like a blockage, a heaviness in the heart and the stomach.
What is real power? Is any one really powerful? Who are they? Am I really powerless? Why do I feel that way? What connects the powerful to the powerless and vice-versa?
Why do all these tapes of past helplessness keep replaying in my head and fuel fears of the future? Where did they all begin? Experiences from infancy of being surrounded by huge, powerful adults and totally dependent on them. Constant threats in childhood from teachers and schoolyard bullies..
Have I ever experienced real power? Do I accept it? Is all power evil? Is power always related to coercion and force? Is power over others real power?
When I am powerless I hope for help from someone who is more powerful. Someone who will help me, protect and look after me. But such help is often lacking when I need it. So I feel helpless and vulnerable. Worse still, if that help comes, it usually comes with a price. The one who helped me now becomes my master. Makes new demands. So there goes my freedom, again.
What about my own control issues? Though I’d like to believe otherwise, I too control others and like to do so. There are many subtle ways of manipulation and emotional blackmail. I get my way often by the threat, however hidden of withdrawing love. How close can I get to loving unconditionally?
Jealousy and resentment are other reactions arising partly from powerlessness. When others have something that I don’t, including power, even though I may tell myself I don’t want it, there is usually resentment – and with it at least a touch of jealousy.
It is the thought process that constantly throws up the oppressor figures with which I then do battle.
The rage eats away at me. Sometimes I just feel tired of it. And the sadness comes back again. The very deep sadness at what has been that I do not like and cannot or will not change, and the fact that many things will never be the way I will not want them to be. Can I stay with that feeling, however uncomfortable? When I stay with it, sometimes, I am able to drop my resistance to what is. That’s when I am able to leave behind my fear and rage, at least for a while. That’s when I experience freedom.
Injustices in society that I can do nothing about. And sometimes benefit from. I am party to those misdeeds by omission or commission, even if indirectly.
And what of hopelessness? What is hope but an expectation that things will be better or different – which in turn arises from a rejection of what is. Hopelessness is when we see that the expectation may never be fulfilled. And we resist that realization. When I accept what is, there is neither hope nor hopelessness.
Coming back to power, Perhaps it is a lack of knowledge of what power really is and seeking what we believe it is, but really is not that is the root of the problem. We all seem caught up in the delusion of what we suppose power and totally miss what it really is. We mistake the ability to hurt and harm, and the influence it has over others’ behaviour to be power. Does courage come from being powerful, or is it the other way around? Can one act in spite of one’s fears, creating courage as one goes along, fully aware of one’s vulnerability. Would that be power?
Ultimately, we are all powerless. In the face of nature and its forces and ultimately death itself, we are all equally powerless.
Look at a tiger chasing a deer. If the tiger prevails, it is the end of the deer. But often, the deer gets away. If this happens too often, the tiger will starve to death. Somehow, nature balances things out so that both deer and tigers have survived for millions of years. But when humans do it to members of their own species for gain, or in the name of some stupid ideology or the other, it is not natural but perverse.