[Carl Jung on Power and Inferiority Complexes]
Hearken now unto my word, ye wisest ones! Test it seriously,
whether I have crept into the heart oflife itself, and into the roots
of its heart!
Wherever I found a living thing, there found I Will to Power;
and even in the will of the servant found I the will to be master.
That to the stronger the weaker shall serve-thereto persuadeth
he his will who would be master over a still weaker one. That
delight alone he is unwilling to forego.
And as the lesser surrendereth himself to the greater that he
may have delight and power over the least of all, so doth even the
greatest surrender himself, and staketh-life, for the sake of
It is the surrender of the greatest to run risk and danger, and
play dice for death. [Nietzche’s Zarathustra]
And where there is sacrifice and service and love-glances, there also is the will to be master.
By by-ways doth the weaker then slink into the fortress, and into the heart of the mightier one-and there stealeth power.
And this secret spake Life herself unto me. “Behold,” said she, “I am that which must ever surpass itself.”
This is very characteristic of Nietzsche’s outlook on life.
He really produced the psychological power theory first, anticipating, thus, Adlerian psychology, the so-called individual psychology, though it is not individual at all, but is very collective, as one sees from the way Nietzsche states the case.”
You know, Nietzsche had already written a large book about power psychology, so here he simply alludes to it.
It is quite certainly a very important truth, yet it is not the whole truth, but is one important aspect.
A great many human reactions can be explained by the theory of power.
Naturally power is inevitable: we need it. It is an instinct without which we can do nothing, so whenever a person produces anything, he is liable to be accused of a power attitude-if you want to accuse him at all, which is also a sort of power attitude.
People with a power attitude are always inclined to accuse, either to accuse in themselves a gesture of power, or anything suggesting such an attitude in anybody else.
You see, that so-called power attitude is always expressed on the other side by feelings of inferiority; otherwise power makes no sense.
It needs the power attitude to overcome the feelings of inferiority; but then the person with the power has again feelings of inferiority because of his own power attitude.
So the two are always together: whoever has a power theory has feelings of inferiority, coupled with feelings of megalomania.
Of course it may be realized to a certain extent, or it may be well concealed.
In any case it is there. When the power attitude is concealed, people chiefly speak of feelings of inferiority; even people with an absolutely clear power attitude insist very much on their feelings of inferiority-what modest little frightened mice they are, and how cruel people are to them-so one is perhaps quite impressed by their great modesty and inconspicuousness.
But it is all a trick. Behind that is megalomania and a power attitude. It is a fishing for compliments: such a person laments his incompetence in order to make people say, “But you know that is not true!”
It is a famous trick.
Of course other people have the declared power attitude that they are mighty bulls.
I had a wonderful chance to observe that on my trip to India; and particularly on the boat coming back I studied the voices of those Indian officials, military and civil servants.
I noticed that most of the men had made a sort of culture of the voice.
It is remarkable. One man (he was a scientist, however) was a great boomer.
I thought it sounded wonderful when he said “Good morning.” One felt that it weighed. It was like old father Zeus getting up in the morning and saying to his gods, “Good Morning!”
Then I overheard him telling another man, “Oh, I hadn’t seen that fellow for twenty years, and lo and behold, he came up and asked me if I was not professor So-and-So; he
didn’t remember my face but he remembered my voice.”
And because the great boomer was booming himself, you could hear it over half the deck against the wind.
At first I thought, what a mighty fellow! But it didn’t take me long to see that this voice was just a big cloud, a smokescreen, and behind was a very nice, modest little man who was afraid that he would not be taken for a full-grown personality, so he cultivated the voice to make something big at least.
Then I saw the same thing in many others on board.
You see, most of the men on military service are really overcome by the immensity of India, the immensity of their task of being the superior people who uphold or carry the Indian Empire, a great continent of over 360 million people.
How can they do it? Well, they must boom it, must make a noise, and so they cultivate that voice.
It is the boss that speaks, the fellow that rules twenty slaves or servants, and at least five children, and two secretaries in the office, and he must impress himself-so his voice sounds very disagreeable, bossy, tyrannical, harsh, and arrogant.
But those people are really perfectly nice, very ordinary, and very small-simply inadequate to their big task.
That is very typical of the English colonial civilization.
None of those civil servants or military people talked naturally-except one, and he was a very distinguished man. I did not ask his name, but he obviously belonged to the
nobility, and he had the style of the very good boy of the grandmother.
He talked very, very softly, had learned the trick of being inconspicuous, and didn’t need to boom, but you could see in his face that he actually had the power.
All the others only sounded as if they had.
Now, whenever people are called upon to perform a role which is too big for the human size, they are apt to learn such tricks by which to inflate themselves-a little frog becomes like a bull-but it is really against their natural grain.
So the social conditions are capable of producing that phenomenon of the too big and the too small, and create that social complex in response to the social demands.
If conditions demand that they should be very big, people apparently produce a power psychology which is not really their own: they are merely the victims of their situation.
Of course there are other people who are not called upon at all to develop such a psychology, yet produce it all by themselves, and those are the people who could do better than they do.
Because they don’t know their capacities, they don’t make the effort that they really could make.
They have feelings of inferiority and fall into a power attitude.
Then there are the people who can do something.
They are successful, and they are accused of having a power attitude by all those who have feelings of inferiority about their own power attitude.
And there is the mistake; there the power theory comes to an end.
For to be able to do a thing requires power; if one has not the power, one doesn’t do it.
Yet for having shown that power one will be accused of a power attitude, and that is all wrong because the power has not been used for illegitimate purposes; a person who can really do a thing is quite wrongly explained as having a power attitude.
To use that power is legitimate.
So the power instinct in itself is perfectly legitimate.
The question is only to what ends it is applied.
If it is applied to personal, illegitimate ends, one can call it a power attitude because it is merely a compensatory game.
It is in order to prove that one is a big fellow: the power is used to compensate one’s inferior feelings.
But that forms a vicious circle.
The more one has feelings of inferiority, the more one has a power attitude, and the more one has a power attitude, the more one has feelings of inferiority.
Now when Nietzsche sees the power aspect of things-and that aspect cannot be denied-he is quite right inasmuch as there is a misuse of power.
But if he sees it everywhere, at the core of everything, if it has crept in as the secret of life even, if he sees it as the will to be and to create, then he makes a great mistake.
Then he is blindfolded by his own complex, for he is the man who, on the one side, has feelings of inferiority, and on the other, a tremendous power complex.
What was the man Nietzsche in reality? A neurotic, a poor devil who suffered from migraine and a bad digestion, and had such bad eyes that he could read very little and was forced to give up his academic career.
And he couldn’t marry because an early syphilitic infection blighted his whole Eros side.
Of course, all that contributed to the most beautiful inferiority complex you can imagine; such a fellow is made for an inferiority complex, and will therefore build up an immense power attitude on the other side.
And then he is apt to discover that complex everywhere, for complexes are also a means of understanding other people: you can assume that others have the same complex.
If you know your one passion is power and assume that other people have such a passion too, you are not far from the mark.
But there are people who have power, who have good eyes and no migraine and can swing things, and to accuse those people of “power” is perfectly ridiculous, for they create something, they are positive.
Then the devil gets them naturally by another corner and that is what the power psychologist does not see.
Now of course, Nietzsche is very much on the side of the inferiority, where the only passion, the only ambition, is: how can I get to the top?
How can I make a success, make an impression? So Nietzsche is here the man in the glass house who should not throw stones; he should be careful.
His style is easily a power style, he is a boomer, he makes tremendous noise with his words, and what for?
To make an impression, to show what he is and to make everybody believe it.
So one can conclude as to the abysmal intensity of his feelings of inferiority. ~Carl Jung, Zarathustra Seminar, Pages 1209-1214