The Power Motive in Behavioral Science

Powerlessness is a prevalent feeling in the profession of helping others. Nevertheless, it is often not given the attention it deserves. This prolonged period of silence on the topic has led to many people in the profession believe in the idea that they might set things right once they meet their qualifications. While the expectation becomes an impossible target to meet, with time it has become an unspoken rule for helpers.

Though impractical, the expectations of a helper cannot be denied. So, what are the most efficient ways in which they deal with it? While some ways include admitting this powerlessness to clients, consulting with supervisors and colleagues, learning new skill sets and exploring new ideas, a significant way is through using spirituality. Initially, it was distasteful of chaplains and helpers to utilize the spiritual component as a means of dealing with issues. However, moving on, several studies demonstrated that helpers, especially nurses, could cope with and overcome this feeling of powerlessness by adapting to the divine plan.

Behavioral Science and The Power Motive

Studies based on the utilization of the Divine power to overcome feelings of powerlessness were primarily expected to be applicable for all types of helpers. Behavioral scientist David C. McClelland, with his extensive study on the inner understandings of power, created the framework for behavioral science to guide the subject. McClelland, a physiological theorist gained a great deal of prominence on developing the Achievement Motivation Theory.

A vital aspect of the Achievement Motivation Theory that McClelland put focus on is the power motive. The theory discusses the four developmental stages of humans in reference to the psychology of power. The term coined for the process of this growth is power orientation. McClelland initiated a power orientation model in correlation with Freud’s psychosexual development theory.

Stages of The Power Orientation Model

·         Stage 1: It Strengthens Me

The first stage of the power orientation model is categorized as “It strengthens me.” The phase discusses the strengthening and empowering of a person from the external aspect of the self. It basically defines a kind of dependency. The stage focuses on the feeling of power instilled within a person while being around other people. A common instance of the same is when people tend to feel powerful in the association of God, or when an entity with a business acquires powerful clients. Being near people of power often gives people a sense of power.

·         Stage 2: I Strengthen Myself

Entities in this stage look up to themselves as a strong and viable source of power. They do not look or seek external sources of power but turn to themselves during times of crisis. The common experiences sought by people at this stage are usually autonomous, feelings of self-power, and control over one’s own self. Psychologists can be put forward as a great real-life example for the subject. They get a feeling of power on receiving the knowledge of what helps people solve their issues, which helps them get a better understanding of themselves and subsequently gain more control over their own selves.

·         Stage 3: I Have An Impact on Others

The third stage of the power orientation model is characterized by the impact a person has on his peers and other people in close association with him. This generally includes acts like having a competitive spirit, indulging in arguments, and assertion over others. When you get an opportunity and can solve a problem for others, you tend to feel powerful. In such cases, people look up to you for positive solutions and a way out of their problems.

        Stage 4: It Moves Me to Do My Duty

This final and last stage of power development is a depiction of people moving beyond self-concern. They receive empowerment through obligations to circumstances and causes beyond themselves. They view themselves as a tool of higher power where they influence and serve other people. They train themselves to master the statement, “Yield to a higher authority, serve it, and you will feel happy and strong.”   This stage is the mature stage, where people deal with the dilemma of power and powerlessness through their commitment to a purpose that is higher than their own selves.

People achieve complete maturity when they pass through all the above-mentioned stages and acquire the ability to use each of them according to the situations faced. The concept of the power motive is a thorough description of the situation in which most individuals in the helping profession find themselves over time. In several cases, these people tend to attain maturity through the initial three stages of the model as a result of their experiences in life and their vocational training. Nevertheless, they might get stuck in the third stage forever and never transcend to the fourth, thereby facing prolonged personal losses. Working through this and moving through the fourth stage helps one completely conquer their present situation of powerlessness and emerge a victor.

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