Let’s focus on a dichotomy that gets to the heart of how people live.  Are you driven by the power of love or the love of power?

In my decades as a therapist, a concept that recurred in my discussions with my clientele was: The bedrock of a life well lived is love.  As love is prioritized, predictable patterns can emerge:

One’s general demeanor is more approachable.

Heart connections can prove meaningful.

Open-mindedness is displayed when differences emerge.

Conflict tends to be managed cleanly.

Listening becomes a well-honed skill.

Social habits are reliable and responsible.

Conscientiousness is evident.

On the other hand, when people seek power, very different tendencies emerge:

Opinions are rigid, leading to stubbornness.

Telling is more prominent than listening.

Conflict quickly becomes ugly.

Social connections feel exploitive.

Curiosity about others’ needs and feelings is lacking.

Correcting or invalidating is prominent.

Relationships become transactional only.

Many more evidences could be identified, but it is safe to say that individuals in each camp differ greatly regarding psychological maturity. 

Power people are less safe and less emotionally balanced than love people.

Given their core ingredients, it’s no surprise that narcissists seek power over love.  Why is that?  Let’s highlight several key distinctions, and as we do, notice how power initiatives fit naturally with the primary ingredients of narcissism:

  • Love seeks to affirm.  Power prefers instead to establish superiority.
  • Love enters into another person’s space to connect.  Power draws others in with the expectation of conformity.
  • Love prioritizes diplomacy.  Power prioritizes force.
  • Love seeks to include.  Power excludes.
  • Love involves future thinking, being mindful of eventual outcomes.  Power is focused on now only, being mindful of immediate outcomes for oneself.
  • Love sets people free.  Power restricts others.
  • Love builds self-esteem.  Power destroys self-esteem.
  • Love is willing to enter into another person’s pain.  Power creates then perpetuates pain.
  • Love enjoys others’ companionship.  Power insists upon being admired.
  • Love offers assurance, comfort.  Power offers criticism, contempt.
  • Love breeds joy.  Power breeds paranoia.

Looking on this list of opposing features, it would seem obvious that a live grounded in love is far more appealing than one given to power.  And yet, narcissists cannot seem to disengage from their fascination with power.  Worse, some narcissists insist their initiatives are actually consistent with love…that they are being helpful.  Lacking insight, they can rationalize their attitudes with strong self-serving illogic.

The truth is that power hungry narcissists do not prioritize love because changed thinking would be required.  They would have to declare:

Something inside me is off.  I need to recalibrate.

I can see personal patterns I should renounce.

There is a better way.

I’ve never mastered some of life’s most necessary coping skills.

I need training; I’d like someone to guide me.

I’m weary of feeling so angry and negative.

Life is not all about me.  I realize that.

Narcissists cannot (or will not) admit such thoughts. 

Despite mountains of evidence to the contrary, narcissists repeatedly claim: “My way is best. I have it all figured out. My only problem is your unwillingness to defer to me.” 

As they taste power, they are sucked into its distortions, and barring a miracle, efforts to convince them otherwise are empty.  It’s over.  They become consumed by darkness.

Eschewing the power of love, holding onto the love of power, narcissists listen to the stubbornly defiant inner child who cannot trust.  Fearing vulnerability, they choose false, yet alluring bravado.  Setting aside common sense, they press forward with cynicism, marching headlong into Nothingness.

Narcissists fail to understand that love IS ultimate power, leading to strength and influence.  Love breeds peace, confidence, healthy boundaries, harmony, joy, goodness, and much more.  Rising above combative instincts, love is the consummate measure of a life well lived.  And while power-based narcissists can only dream of being well-received, love prompts others to think: “I find you appealing enough to seek out your gifts.  Let’s join forces.  Together, let’s make the world better.” 

And yet…and yet, narcissists insist: “Nonetheless, I love the power to destroy.  I love the surge of superiority it brings. Yield to me and all will be well.”

Shaking my head, my response is: “Wow.  Just wow.”

~Les Carter, Ph.D.

To watch the video on this topic, click here.