The Strange World of Emotion

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Linking Power to Happiness

Having discussed the desire-emotion loop in the article on projection and introjection, I now consider the way that happiness and power fit into it. Happiness is usually the preferred kind of emotional experience, and the most common kinds of desire usually centre on power : for example, power over oneself (or self-control), and power over other people, and power over the environment. Hence the most common form of the loop ties together power with happiness.

Perhaps aesthetics is the only genuine alternative that is independent of power. In the following analysis, the aesthetically-minded person can substitute the desire for aesthetic experience for the desire for power.

Sub - Headings
Diagrams 3 and 4
Control of the Will
Use of the Will
Summary 1
Desire for Power
Will to Power
Summary 2

Why is power so alluring, so seductive?
We have to go back to the way that projection and introjection work. When I have a desire that cannot be fulfilled immediately then phantasy or imagination is used to close the gap in the loop. I project my desire, but I have to introject my requisite emotional response from within my imagination. So my emotive beliefs are not fully real, they depend on imagination, and any severe stress can shake my faith.

The desire for power arises as the standard way of trying to validate, to make unshakable, my expectation of happiness. The man with power is the man who can satisfy his emotional requirements. The man without power has to depend on imagination – this is the plight, and the source of creativity, of all subjective minds.

Most people have little understanding of the real dynamics of personal relationships. For such people, relationships will be understood in terms of attraction, need, intimacy, familiarity, etc.  Whereas, in my view, relationships always have an ingredient of power, except those based on equality. Power is not solely an aspect of government and law: it comes into all forms of life, both human and animal. When a man seeks power then he is expecting that it will produce happiness in him. Conversely, when he seeks happiness then he is also likely to be seeking some form of power that can maintain the happiness.

I summarise these ideas. In most relationships the complement of happiness is power. A person can only be lastingly happy if he or she has the power to maintain that happiness. One without the other leads to dissatisfaction and hence to suffering.

The loop of projection and introjection that I formulated in the previous article, Projection and Introjection, is reproduced here as Diagram 3.

Diagram 3 :

Primary Loop of Projection and Introjection

Primary loop of projection and introjection

"Will" means the same as "will power ".  The ideas on power and happiness described above transform the loop. Now it becomes as illustrated in Diagram 4 : Secondary Loop of Projection and Introjection.
The "Desire" of the primary loop now becomes the desire for power, and the "Belief " becomes the expectation of happiness.

Diagram 4 :

Secondary Loop of Projection and Introjection

Secondary loop of projection and introjection

Freud put sexuality and aggressiveness at the base of the modern person’s character. I dispute this view. The desire for power, the desire to complete the desire-emotion loop, arises before sexuality does. At the beginning of its life the infant has to create an ego. This is its first achievement, and it requires power. If its relationship to the parents is an unhappy one and so nullifies its power then the resulting ego is fragile and easily de-stabilised. [¹].  Whereas infant sexuality just affects the intensity of the infant’s bonding to the parents, when the ego is already in the process of creation. [²]. Aggressiveness arises from a fragile ego, from an ego that has to marshal its remaining power in order to defend itself.

The loop of projection and introjection has two parts: the control of the will and the use of the will. Each part has its own emotional dynamics. Each part leads a person along its own particular line of ethical and spiritual development.

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The Control of the Will

In days of old the development of will power was a prime focus within concepts of ethical development, and emotions were devalued and repressed. Nowadays it is emotional difficulties that are the major issue: emotional problems undermine the will. Hence the person may need to achieve emotional maturity before he /she can develop a powerful will. [³]

When self-pity and depression arise I can usually brush them aside by using my will. But this stratagem repels me. Will is only a stop-gap way of handling emotional problems when the intellect cannot provide an answer to them. For most of my life I functioned on emotion (or rather, the emotional component of idealism) ; will was of secondary value to me. Focusing on emotion means to search for intensity, the intensity of living experience. I preferred a natural and spontaneous holistic unfoldment, however long it took. The unskilful use of will simply sweeps problems out of sight. But sooner or later these difficulties have to be faced.

These thoughts have implications for mental and ethical disciplines. I compare the focus of traditional spirituality, often pursued in solitude and isolation, with a more modern focus that applies a spiritual idealism to worldly issues.

1). Practitioners who focus on will :

Meditation or psychic development or the performance of duty is the usual practice, and the person conforms to traditional ideas of the moral life. Therefore the exploration of ‘higher’ consciousness is the prerogative of those who are conformist and uphold tradition and authority. The person lives their idea of tradition.

2). Practitioners who focus on emotion or the emotional component of idealism :

Intellectual inquiry is the usual practice. The exploration of the subconscious mind is mainly the prerogative of those who rebel against authority. A rebel needs to be self-reliant – this is the requirement for probing the dark side of life. The person lives their understanding of life.

Of the major figures in the intellectual inquiry – for example, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Freud, R.D. Laing, and myself – only Freud was not a notable rebel. And interestingly, Freud was the only one who used symbolism in some degree instead of direct cognitive theory. Reliance on symbolism always denotes conservative traits of mind.

However, this dichotomy between will and emotion is only approximate, since some practices, mysticism for example, often straddle both parts. And it is often necessary to control, through the will, the public expression of emotion.

In the relations between will, mind, and feeling, which one governs the rest?  Mind !
The person is his or her medley of values and meanings. And these are derived from mind. Ultimately, the dynamic of life arises from the pleasant and the unpleasant feelings, but these mean nothing until they are transformed into emotions – and these require the existence of unconscious ideas. Will has no power until it activates desire – and desire requires ideas or values to focus on. [4]

Whichever half of the loop of projection and introjection that a person focuses on, whether on the use of will (by desire) or on the control of the will (by emotive beliefs), the deciding factor is mind.

Mind is the theatre of life.

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The Structure of Power

I look more closely into the way that power is structured. There is a choice of two paths, each of which is binary in form. The first path is exemplified in the ideas of two nineteenth-century thinkers.

Friedrich Nietzsche produced the view that power is needed in order to create a stable ego which can exist in a world of perpetual change. The person imposes Being (the concept of having a fixed ego) on the process of Becoming (the process of constant change). The means of doing this is the cultivation of a consistent will that clings to the same evaluations: unchanging values produce an unchanging ego. Ultimately, everything is subsumed into will and power (an excellent summary is in Blackham, pages 24-25).

By contrast, Max Stirner rejected Being and focused on the concept of fluid character – in a world of change then character needs to be changeable too. He saw himself as the man who had freed himself from the tyranny of instinct and of fixed ideas. Slavery to instinct and desire just produces weakness in character. Man has to realise value from within himself, to give himself his own value, instead of depending upon the state or society to do it for him. Stirner is trying to formulate a description of narcissism (70 years before Freud and Jung). He is totally flexible, he is not to be defined by his thoughts. He is the creator, the owner, of his beliefs ; he is not created by them. He never allows them to ossify into principles. He can use sensuality and passion without being engulfed by them. The narcissistic egoist ensures that the creator remains separate from his creations. Stirner is the Unique One, as all narcissistic egoists are.

Nietzsche and Stirner represent opposite approaches to the control of the will, so they form a binary. For Nietzsche the fundamental drive is the will to power. But this equally well applies to Stirner. So the will to power is the means whereby the person tries to create either a static ego or a flexible, fluid one. The will to power is the path of introjection.

Nietzsche’s view is the traditional aim of spiritual practice, the attempt to focus on an unchanging reality, and to deny validity to the world of change. This is the path to Being. But Being takes its identity from its opposition to Becoming, the process of endless change. Therefore Being is binary to Becoming, and neither represent ultimate reality. It is just as valid to use the path of endless change as the way to attain a higher evolution as it is to use the traditional path. Neither path is better than the other. Which one a person follows is purely a matter of choice and inclination.

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The Use of the Will

This has two forms. The person can use his /her desires either to gain power over the environment or to gain power over people and society. The first use is usually within the realm of science and technology, the second within politics and morality. I call this use of will the desire for power. The Desire for power is the path of projection.

Summary 1

There are two paths to power :

1). The person aims at power over themself : this is the will to power.
2). The person aims at power over the external situation : this is the desire for power.

Whilst it is convenient to view will to power and desire for power as being two separate drives, I actually consider them to be alternative ways of utilising a person’s fundamental drive (I believe that there is only a single drive, but it can be channelled in various ways).

I trace the emotional factors behind these two forms of the drive.

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The Desire for Power

First I consider the desire for power.

Take the parent-child relationship. At various times the parent will show jealousy towards the child. Compare two attributes of jealousy:

3). Smothering
This is a method of controlling the child by denying that child its personal responsibilities. This affects the child’s desires and produces spoiling. Another drawback of a smothering mentality is that the parent becomes demanding and possessive when under stress.

4). Nagging
This is a method of controlling the child by criticising its love or respect for the parent. This affects the child’s emotional responses and helps to produce either identification with the parent or rebellion. The identification is generated by guilt induction, and the rebellion, fuelled by pride, is the reaction against identification. A person with a nagging mentality is usually unable to show much emotion. The nagging response is due to the addition of fear to the jealousy. It is the fear that ‘freezes’ the parent’s ability to express emotions, particularly the affectionate ones.

Strategy (3) will be used by a parent who can abundantly display their emotions.

Strategy (4) will be used by a parent with frozen emotions.

What these strategies suggest is that jealousy gives rise to the issue of controlling other people. But there are two aspects to control : lack of consideration for another person, and the desire to change that person. In these strategies, the mode of jealousy differs. Smothering represents the lack of consideration for someone and reflects jealousy in love mode. Whereas nagging criticisms of a person have the purpose of trying to change that person, and are a sign of weakness in the character of the fault-finder. In general, negative criticisms of a person that use an emotional bias (for example, saying to someone ‘ You are stupid’) represent a form of personal attack, so they reflect the self-pity mode of jealousy. The desire for power is the desire to change other people or one’s external circumstances. Therefore the desire for power acts through jealousy (self-pity mode).

Before the advent of World War 1 and the horrors of trench warfare it was still traditional for some idealists to have a ‘gung ho’ attitude to war – war was adventure and the testing of one’s character. This attitude reflects vanity and led me to understand that vanity makes the transition to the desire for power. Now since power also acts through jealousy, then combining the two emotions gives:

Desire for power = jealousy + vanity.

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This formula is not quite complete. 

If a person accepts suffering then their life revolves around guilt. Whereas if they reject suffering, because they find it to be degrading, then their life revolves around pride. Guilt and pride are binary to each other, so the person often oscillates between them. Neither the passive resignation to suffering nor its rejection achieve anything of permanent value. Now I understand why power has the entrancement that it has. The desire for power is an attempt to get out of intolerable situations, where neither resignation nor degradation is an acceptable alternative. To escape from such situations the person needs to control their relationships and enhance their sense of pride in themself. The desire for power is the attempt to control or change the social environment in such a way that it reduces the person’s internal stresses. So the desire for power uses both jealousy (in its mode of self-pity) and pride as its vehicle of expression.

Power over others is a displacement of the need to attain power over oneself. Power over others facilitates the inflation of pride in vanity mode as a means of achieving a surrogate self-respect. Therefore the vanity factor in desire for power is actually the vanity mode of pride.

Desire for power can be looked at in another way. In social situations the person uses pride to manage the weakness of self-pity within his /her jealousy.

So the final formula for desire for power is:

Desire for power = jealousy (self-pity mode) + pride (vanity mode).

The person does not usually change themself much in a lifetime (unless they go into psycho-therapy). To change oneself involves facing one’s weaknesses and inadequacies. It is much nicer to try to change other people. So the desire for power is often the preferred means of relating to other people.

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The Will to Power

Now I turn to the will to power.

This begins the spiritual drive. Without it, a person can turn to the spiritual life, and be involved in it (for example, in New Age activities), but he /she will not be propelled by a consuming drive. Also, this drive is the sphere of intense creativity. The compulsion to create great art is just the will to power in disguise.

The structure of will to power needs to bear some resemblance to that of desire for power, since they are complementary aspects of one loop, the loop of projection and introjection. Stirner supplies one clue : it is the narcissistic person who attempts to derive value from within themself. Narcissism has a component of vanity, so this is the needed complement to the vanity mode of pride.

The other clue is highlighted by having an existential attitude to life. Consider an existential man: he has an intense will to power and lacks interest in social control or the exploitation of nature. He seeks freedom from both external and internal constraints. The most powerful constraints are those of social conditioning, and the most destructive of all emotions is envy. So he directs his envy towards himself ; he turns his envy onto his constraints and his weaknesses in order to destroy their power over him. In this way he destroys the fascination with social control. To achieve this result the existentialist uses narcissism to control his envy. [5]

Uncontrolled envy is very dangerous. If a person directs his destructiveness externally then he causes social chaos. But if he directs his destructiveness internally (by using his narcissistic ideals) then he follows the road to freedom of mind. However, if it is not possible to overcome his weaknesses then envy and destructiveness always carry risks of mental tragedy for the lonely explorer (for example, Nietzsche collapsed into madness). [6]

What is possible always depends upon the historical situation and the degree of development of psychology theory and practice.

The formula for the will to power becomes:

Will to power = envy + narcissism (mode of vanity).

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Summary 2

The three traditional ways of handling the issue of power are:

The first choice negates the person's fundamental drive, whilst the second choice channels it through the desire for power, and the last choice channels it through the will to power.

The challenge of modern times is to develop and use the will to power within society. The individual needs to sustain and mature his or her personal power within the arena of personal relationships, despite his or her burden of anxiety. This is the way of the existentialist.


The number in brackets at the end of each reference takes you back to the paragraph that featured it. For the addresses of my websites, see the Links page.

[¹]. The time period in which the infant constructs its ego is described in the article Vulnerability of the Ego, on my website Patterns of Confusion. A shortened version is the article Creating the Ego, on my website Discover Your Mind. [1]

[²]. See the article Bonding. [2]

[³]. My definitions, descriptions, and analysis of emotions are given in the three articles on Emotion. See home page. [3]

[4]. Feelings, values, and unconscious ideas are all described in the first article on Emotion. [4]

[5]. The destructive aspect of envy is described in the article Envy and the Death Desire, on my website Patterns of Confusion. On the same site is an article on the severe psychological disorders that envy and other emotions can produce : the article is Depression and Autism and other states of despair[5]

[6]. Nietzsche's madness has baffled every writer on him that I have read. It is usually thought to be the result of syphilis, but this cannot be correct. His madness took only a few moments to happen. For comparison, syphilis produces a gradual decline in mental functioning. Instant madness is always the result of rapid-onset catatonia.
A description of catatonia is in the article Guilt and Meaning - part 1, on my website Patterns of Confusion[6]


Blackham, H. Six Existential Thinkers. Routledge, 1952 and 1986.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. Beyond Good and Evil. Translated by W. Kaufmann. USA, Vintage, 1966.

---- On the Genealogy of Morals/ Ecce Homo. Translated by W. Kaufmann. USA, Vintage, 1969.

---- Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Translated by R.J. Hollingdale. Penguin, 1988.

Paterson, R.W.K. The Nihilistic Egoist: Max Stirner. Oxford University Press, 1971.

Stirner, Max. The Ego and His Own. Translated by Steven Byington. London, 1907. 
Also published by The Modern Library, USA.

Home List of  Articles Links Top of Page

The articles in this section are :

Transference - introduces the patterns of bonding.

Projection and Introjection - the basic loop of desire and emotion.

Power - the loop of power and happiness.

Aspects of Personal Identity - inferiority, social approval, and more.

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so long as the source is acknowledged.

Copyright © 2002 Ian Heath
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Ian Heath
London, UK

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