In my upcoming psychology book named; The Gray In Evil, I wrote a chapter about power, here’s a brief part:
Knowledge is power. Power to do evil… or power to do good. Power itself is not evil. So knowledge itself is not evil.
I had a patient who was classed as a psychopath with sociopathic tendencies, mid aged married male, grew up in an upper-middle class family and was a businessman. His passion was murdering. He would go on about slaughtering people, with no morse or empathy, eyes empty of all emotion, except passion to kill. For anyone reading this, he is truly evil and should be locked up forever, or be given the death penalty. Yet, I was the only one who saw the softer side, his “good” side. He saved animals and healed them to life in his dungeon of torture. If he saw stray cats, he would save them and buy food to feed them. He mended birds broken wings and set them free after he “saved” them. When he talked about his “good” side, you could see emotion and empathy in his eyes, and those were the only times he would blink his eyes (one of the many traits of a sociopath is not blinking while talking, or blink less than “normal” people). The reason for murder? Most people would agree and say because he is indeed a crazy psychopath. But no, he did it for power. I will not go into detail of his upbringing or why he had these passions, only the one reason was to feel in control, or in other words; power. It is a hero/villain spectrum in his case, and for most psychopaths, the need of power and control rules their every move in life.
Another patient I recently had; single male, mid-forties, some of his psychological disorders were the following: disruptive, impulse-control, APD, and schizoid disorders, and classed as a narcissistic sociopath. He showed his right to authority trait the first minute he stepped into my room at the clinic, the first day. He was brought in by a family member after an incident where he was about to murder, so, we all comprehended what he was capable of, therefore the intimidation stage proceeded, trying to make me flinch. Maybe if it was the first year of being a psychologist, I would have gone for the emergency button, yet at this stage of my career I fully understand what a person like this is capable of and can distinguish their every move before they proceed. After a week of hovering above me, touching intimidating objects to scare me, touching himself imitating masturbation while going into details about the horrific and gruesome tortures and killing, me unfazed and always neutral, he finally gave up his intimidation and right to authority stage and opened up. He was not pure evil as others called him, nor was he born evil. Obviously, he wanted power and the right to control, yet his deepest desire was to be loved even though he was not capable of giving love, only harm. Again another human being wanting control and power, yet being seen and loved was his only “cure” as he thought.
The theory of human nature is based on our 6000 year history as a civilization. Men have sought to obtain knowledge and then power so that they can achieve their goals of success, domination, and manipulation. If we assume that Adam and Eve were the first two people to tangle, we can later consider their character and progeny for messages on the nature of man. The first two son’s of our common ancestors were given the names of Cain and Able. These two individuals could not see eye to eye and this resulted in Cain killing Able. This began the story of man and his desire to conquest, control, and deception. The ego of man seems to desire to play God.
From this start we can observe the nature of humanity as an ego centered individual who hungered for understanding of reality so that he could further his power over any match or rival. If we fast forward to our present times, we can see this identical character within all power centers on this sphere. On the other side, power can be for showing superiority in this world. The YouTube video showing a man jumping in a lake to save a dog, or saving a man from a burning house is heroic. Or is it really? Why would they record it and post it for all to see? To be known, loved, popular or just to show people that we can indeed be heroic and good. Yet, in the end, they did want power, or they would have left their devices in their pockets and do what was intended. There are a lot of admirable people who do heroic deeds every day, they do not want recognition or fame, yet the “God/Hero” in them would always jump at the opportunity to risk their lives to save another living being.
Power means control. Control over their lives, people, systems, for their advantage, or for others, and some just desire power because they require to feel some sense of control or authority.
The power to choose is a dynamic energy of hope because we all have the basic capability to make a decision. This is a gift that should not be wasted or regarded casually. We all have the capability to choose light rather than darkness. According to Albert Einstein, “God did not create evil. Just as darkness is the absence of light, evil is the absence of God.”
When you have free will and power, then you will justify your every move and action. In a conflict, each side sees itself as good and justified and the “enemy” as evil. In fact, you can claim that the exclusively real object that distinguishes a protagonist from an antagonist is that we are all taking the protagonist’s side and presenting their or our own justifications rather than the justifications of the antagonist.
“The face of evil is no one’s face,” writes Roy Baumeister in his book Evil: Inside Human Violence and Cruelty. “It is always a false image that is imposed or projected on the opponent.” And philosopher Hannah Arendt said, “The most horrifying things about the Nazis was not that they were so deviant but that they were terrifying normal.”
Pure evil or pure goodness is just an illusion.