How do you feel when you read the word power?
Feel free to pause for a bit as you recall your own experiences with power.
When asked to consider the meaning of the word power, many people may think of inner strength or being powerful over another person. We may also have thoughts about the power of something elusive like the ability to detect danger before it occurs, as out of our control as thunder and lightning or as amazing as the power of the mind. If we follow the inner curiosity a bit further we may think of people who are power hungry, the power to choose and powers we don’t fully understand like those of a creative life source or ever-evolving technology.
Similar to force, a quick venture to see how we classify power at dictonary.com results in a variance of definitions including the ability to do or act, the possession of control and to inspire or sustain. We also use the word power interchangeably with the word force.
Why the distinction between force and power in terms of force free parenting?
Although force and power may be defined similarly in terms of language, an important discrepancy arises in relation to force and power in terms of the adult-child relationship. For the purpose of this book, power is the basis of the ability to choose and turns into force when it is used to control or exercise power over our child. The ability to sense the inherent, yet potentially subtle, difference between whether we are operating from power or force may or may not be inborn, but it can be developed and it is vital to force free parenting.
Now, spend a few moments noticing how your body feels when you are powerful. Although your mind may provide images and experiences that relate to power, really focus on the sensation.
Can you sense the difference between power and force? If not, you will be provided many opportunities to do so throughout the book.
Power is the basis of will – the ability to choose – and when thwarted, it can easily move into force.
Force places our attention outside of ourselves. We impose our will by directing attention, thoughts or actions in an effort to control our child or life experience. Generally, force bypasses the awareness that we have the ability to choose our thoughts and actions. When we force, we are somewhat unaware that we have the ability to consciously choose our motivations and direct our personal will.
Power is our attention inside – our own mind, body, thoughts, feelings, potential choices and actions. Power claims the ability to choose and direct our lives in ways that do not require the control of people and things, specifically our children – and even ourselves. We are responsible for our own thoughts, feelings and actions. We are able to then help our children access their personal power to direct their lives while clarifying, learning, appreciating and respecting boundaries for themselves and others.
To really experience personal power, we have to know it is within us and that we do not need to give it away or exercise it through some form of force (manipulation and worry included). When we force, we are moving from a myriad of unconscious, conditioned or instinctual responses and we don’t know the full experience and potential of using our personal power to direct our lives through intention.
In short, force is control and resistance. Power is possibility, potential and the honoring of choice. Force feels constrictive, controlling, clinging, compulsive and false (albeit amazingly strong at times). Power feels expansive, alive, clear, intentional and honest. Force is fleeting, contrived and exhaustive. Power is innate, ever present and always accessible.
Quite possibly one of the most striking opportunities in parenting is to see that all of the challenges are actually opportunities to discover and decide what is true about ourselves. Are we, in any given moment, going to approach not only parenting, but any aspect of life, from the perspective of force – to impose our will on that of another or reach for control to feel better?
Or are we going to choose to exercise our personal power in a way that allows us to recognize and affirm the totality of our and our child’s potential?
For now, simply begin noticing the difference between power and force in your body. Power is always present, an aspect of the base of being. The undercurrent of life. Force is a bit different and erupts from our ideas and experiences in life – many of which we are not initially aware.
As you sense the variances of force and power in your experience also notice the ability to choose. If you feel choice-less, simply notice that. In choosing to notice what you experience in these ways you are bringing a quality of attention to your parenting and life experience that can help you exercise the ability to choose later as you decide more about how you want to interact with your child.
Next, we will talk a bit more about the role of personal power.
Are you struggling as a parent? If so, I’d like to share something with you: a story and some hope.