Monday, 16 January 2017

Power *** !

I was watching BBC News this morning and I witnessed Michael Gove being nothing but completely positive about Donald Trump. I speculated in my mind that Gove's behaviour was about power; I don't know what his motives are of course in reality, I can only guess. Gove lost power when he was forced to withdraw from the Prime Ministerial race and yet more power when Theresa May promptly sacked him when she became Prime Minister, so it seems plausable to suggest the Trump cheerleading could be about Gove trying to gain power from Trump.

So then this got me thinking about the concept of power itself, power usually has negative connotations doesn't it. 'He or she is power mad' etc -  but in actual fact, wanting power is a positive and healthy thing; as long as you don't break rules of honesty and decency to get there.

Of course, some people break the rules to become big and powerful, in that case the power the person gained is not impressive, as any power gained via a nefarious route doesn't count, in fact the power gained in this scenario is worse than being a poor and powerless person who has no power at all. 

I think every human being is always trying to gain power, it's normal, you notice it every day in your interaction with your fellow human. It's good to be competitive, to try to gain power if it's pursued with good moral's; but if someone finds themselves lying or cheating to gain power, then it's time to take a step back. As the fact the human being has an advanced personality that can over rule and regulate our primal instinct for power is what distinguishes us from animals. 

As I thought about power today, I was reminded of a place I worked as a young man, a timber mill. I worked on the wood machining section, a skilled job which was valued by the mill owners. There was one man, ('John' we will call him ) who was the top wood machinist, he was experienced and the Mill ownership valued him, I think he got an extra pound an hour than the other machinists kind of thing. 

But interestingly, John would spend literally every tea break defaming the Timber Mill bosses. One director, he alleged, had bought the company 'to it's knees' and was demoted to be Director in charge of transport kind of thing. The main company director, according to John was apparently a foolish and greedy workaholic, cutting corners etc in pursuit of ever more money. Even though John's criticism of the bosses was unfair and inaccurate, I have to say it was entertaining and John was clever. In the tea room we all listened in; myself being a naive young man at the time, kind of half believed John's criticism was correct too. 

When I look back, the same Timber Mill bosses were kindly Christians + fair bossses, investing in new machinery etc and sending the finance director round every year to tell you about your pay rise, in other words they were very good bosses and I noticed that this Timber Mill is a much bigger business  than it's early days when I worked there.

But from a psychology point of view, the interesting question is, what drove John to invest so much time and energy into defaming his bosses? I can again only speculate of course, but I think it was about power, jealousy of the bosses having power that John didn't to be exact. John was top dog on the shop floor, the best paid practical worker, but of course the senior management in the office were better paid and had more status than John, In the natural human desire to gain power, a senior management role was John's  only logical next  step to gain more power, after all he was 'King' of the shop floor already. 

An older person can learn new things of course, but John was getting near to retirement age and seemed set in his ways and I would think the jump to senior management would have been hard for him, computers and a lot new to learn etc. I think John thought he couldn't manage, or at least didn't want to take on the senior managers job even if he was offered it, John couldn't get the power he craved from a promotion. So instead of self-regulating and accepting his predicament; which was the right thing to do of course, John went workplace terrorist kind of thing and spent every single break time defaming the bosses. John would also call  them 'pen pushers' in an attempt to undermine and devalue their work. If you think about all this running down of the bosses - to us the captive tea break audience, John was convincing us and himself that in fact he was more powerful and better than senior management, even if that wasn't true. It's not for me to diagnose as I have no qualifications in this area, but perhaps a psychiatrist would confirm John had become a neurotic in this area of his life. John was subconsciously upset and frustrated that he couldn't get up to the next power level,  and in defaming the bosses John was papering over the cracks of the problem, without really getting to the bottom of it all.

I didn't understand why John did this defaming at the time, it was only later on after I had studied psychoanalysis that I started to gain some insight. This John defaming shtick was a bit of a storm in a teacup really, I think another side of John quite liked the bosses and I think the bosses quite liked John, maybe the older  managers understood and over looked John's neurotic behaviour for the greater good.

Anyway, I just thought that was an interesting example to discuss power and the healthy and unhealthy side of it. Let's end on a positive note, power is a good thing, it's normal and right to pursue it, as long as you don't break the 'rules'! 

James Bickle