If you frequently turn to food for comfort because you have a boss, parent, partner or someone close to you who abuses power, you may wonder why he or she acts that way. Or you, a nice person, may be shocked that others can be so mean and cruel. Either way, it pays to understand what power can do to some (but not all) people.
A Columbia University experiment helps us comprehend “how power corrupts the minds of those who possess it, more specifically noting how power changes the way people visually perceive others. According to the study, the most powerful people tend to perceive those who are less powerful as smaller in stature. In another series of studies
, researchers observed how power increased moral hypocrisy. They found that powerful individuals tend to judge the powerless more harshly when caught in the act of cheating than when more powerful people are caught cheating. They also found that people in positions of power hold the less powerful to a stricter moral code than the one they held themselves to. The study goes on to suggest that the level of power and the legitimacy of the power do determine the extremity of the hypocrisy.” (“How’s the Boss? Studies Show Power Increases Moral Hypocrisy,” TheHumanist.com, 11/2/17, accessed 11/5/17, https://thehumanist.com/commentary/hows-boss-studies-show-power-increases-moral-hypocrisy
If you’re in a subordinate position to someone with Narcissistic or Anti-social Personality Disorder (what we used to call psychopaths or sociopaths), you may recognize these traits. Maybe your boss plays loosey goosey with rules, but becomes irate if you don’t strictly adhere to protocols he or she sets down. Maybe your spouse must be the life of the party, but insists that you be quiet and squelch any need for attention. The study’s authors explain that, “People with power not only take what they want because they can do so unpunished, but also because they intuitively feel they are entitled to do so. Conversely, people who lack power not only fail to get what they need because they are disallowed to take it, but also because they intuitively feel they are not entitled to it.”
The study describes how some people (you perhaps?) wish to view others in a positive light so strongly that this is the only way they can see them—even when their experience proves them wrong. Some people simply have a difficult time seeing the truth about others because they don’t want to believe it, in spite of the fact that they’re hurt by them again and again. Sadly, powerful, corrupt people abound and look for people exactly like you (wishful thinkers, nice, passive, and hopeful) to dominate. The only way out of this situation is to stand up to bullies whenever possible and get out of relationships with them as fast as you can.