My husband and I were discussing this last evening - as a second part to yesterday's blog entry.
What is the difference between power and authority?
Simply put, someone can have authority over you simply by their "position" - a parent, a teacher, a coach, a director etc - HOWEVER, NO ONE has power over you unless you choose to relinquish it! NO ONE.
Power and authority are not the same thing and are often misunderstood.
As artists we must be keenly aware of the difference and embrace that fact. Someone may have authority or have the authority to make a decision ABOUT you, but they do no and will not have power over you - your free will and your artistic freedom and expression is YOURS.
I remember my grandmother telling me this story which encapsulates this perfectly: "When my father told me to sit down, I did; but I was still standing up inside!"
She recognized his authority and followed the rules, but still made up her mind what her core was about!!
Often I hear from singers who are exhausted by the "power-struggle". More often than not, it is a game of authority. Those in authority can often get "power-hungry", however, it is up to us to remember that the power they seek, they shall never possess. Self-power is about the psyche. It is the life-force that creates our core and our will and our intensity. It guides our humanity, informs our integrity and burns for truth of self. Power is what grounds us; guides us; roots us; it is simply what gives us purpose. As an artist, it is what motivates us and what confirms our commitment.
Our personal power is sacred. It is a life-force that creates, questions, discovers and builds on who we are and who we are becoming as human beings and artistic souls.
If we recognize this sacredness and its strength, we realize very quickly that nobody touches it. It belongs to YOU. You don't even have to protect it - you just CLAIM it. By claiming, it knows it is home and will continue to burn and develop strength. It can only be relinquished if we CHOOSE to give someone else power. It cannot be taken. Again, the choice is ours.
By recognizing the strength we possess, that exhaustive battle we often see, can be dissolved quickly! The authority we must stand under - in our artistic lives and in our personal and social lives - is simply authority. It is authority that is created by structure and from external force. It is not power from an internal source!
As we begin to recognize these so very important differences, we can put things into perspective with more ease!
An example: a casting director or producer does not have the power to hire or fire - they have the authority to make a choice. We, as artists, can respect the authority and recognize it in its place, and at the same time, recognize they do not have the power to define us. Even though not getting the job can be disappointing and frustrating, we still walk away with our power intact. There is no chance anyone has power over you and thus, you are intact and can find your next!
When we look at abusive situations - be it with a teacher, a director, and in our personal lives - we often marvel at those who can survive this and seem to come through intact. Why? Because they never relinquished their power. The core of truth was always there no matter how abusive things got. And at a certain point, they got out - past the authority or faux-authority and deep within never let go of their personal power. Not only did they survive, they are free. And they were always free within the sense of self. Authority prevails only so long. Power lasts always.
Within our business we run into egos, stupidity, politics, stupidity, misplaced authority, stupidity, delusion and stupidity!! However, once we recognize the TRUTH of the situation, we are able to handle it with maturity and grace. We can learn to respect the "office" of authority without bowing to it if it is abused and we can embrace our power and not relinquish it to ANYONE in order to keep our sense of self and sense of artistic spirit intact.
Whether you are in school, out auditioning, working regularly, just getting started or a veteran in this business, this power vs. authority is constantly being seen. SEE IT! Recognize that we often refer to as "an abuse of power" is actually "a wish for power and a abuse of authority".
We can respect the "office" of those in authority - and what it represents - be it teacher, professor, director, conductor, producer, agent, etc. If that authority is taken with integrity, so much the better! However, we do not need to even entertain the possibility of someone within that office having power over us. Our power is intact. It cannot be taken, moved or stolen.
Walk into that studio space, audition space, rehearsal space, with your power and sense of self intact. Stand for something. Express something. Create something.
You do not have the authority to give yourself the job - but you can walk in with power and leave with power. Power is eternal. Authority is fleeting.
Claim it. BE IT.
Susan Eichhorn Young
Susan Eichhorn Young covers all things voice—strong and sophisticated singing and speaking.
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