Why we settle for the old power-over systems and what it needs to overcome them

We are all fed up with our "power-over systems." They lead us into dependency situations, and we relinquish our autonomy.


Examples include:

  • Educational systems – the government dictates what should be learned, teachers implement the guidelines, and students must do as the teacher says.
  • Visiting the doctor – the doctor prescribes a pill, which we obediently take, well aware that the side effects harm our health.
  • Banks exerting control over governments by manipulating "interests" and "lending." • Large corporations prioritizing profit over sustainability.
  • Valuing status quo ("having") over essence ("being").
  • Parents demanding obedience and not punishing disobedience. Still saying, "As long as you're under my roof, you'll do as I say."

To explain this, I've connected ideas from Vivian Dittmar and insights from neuroscience. In Vivian Dittmar's book "Beziehungsweise," two interesting theses are found:

  1. Power-over has worked for so long because it's simple. One person or a small group dictates, and others follow. Social skills are not needed; in fact, they would be counterproductive and that is why they are not taught. The last part if the previous sentence is my conclusion.
  2. We don't need to take responsibility because there's always someone to blame – governments, life, our fellow humans.


Now, onto neuroscience:


When examining our biological systems, there are fundamentally only two motivators at the core: the toward motivator and the away-from motivator:

  1. If I've learned in the past that something is good for me, I want more of it (toward movement).
  2. If I've learned in the past that something is bad for me, I avoid it (away-from movement).

The power-over system, ingrained early through "education," taught us that asserting needs, being autonomous, unique, wanting acceptance as we are, is sanctioned. What did we learn? Having needs, expressing them, having a will of our own, being different, wanting acceptance as we are, is bad for us. Hence, it's better to conform, not stand out, and do what others expect. This is why power-over systems have stayed in power for so long.


To create power-with systems, our brains need new experiences showing that power-with systems respect our fundamental human needs for respect, appreciation, dignity, belonging, autonomy, and integrity. How can this path look?


  • Replace old beliefs with beliefs that amplify the energy of curiosity for change over the fear of change.
  • Surround ourselves with people who want to walk the same path, learn from each other, and treat us lovingly when we make mistakes.
  • We need a stage where we learn to encounter other people with respect, appreciation, and love, valuing their autonomy and integrity.