The Game of Power


This piece discusses the relevance of power in comparative as well as absolutist terms. One thing I have found is, the word “power,” contains specific connotations to most people. They hear the word “power” and it conjures up an image of absolutist, concentrated power. A king, judge, dictator or some other esteemed or highly influential individual. However, these roles are merely the symbolic embodiments of a concentration of power, saturated power. Power permeates the entirety of the societal structure in subtle and not-so-subtle nuances that dominate each and every social interaction. Everyone has a place. There is a pecking order. Sometimes the contrast is oblique, other times it is resounding.

Power and popularity have an incestuous relationship; they fellate each other, reciprocally. One would argue that popularity itself is a manifestation of power, although popularity is certainly possible without power. Some would say popularity is a form of soft power that can precede hard power. Of course, this begs the question “of which comes first?” and we find ourselves facing a “chicken and the egg” philosophical conundrum.

Regardless you can escape neither power nor popularity. You must learn to understand power as the social equivalent of water. You cannot avoid it. You need it. Without any power to command anything, you would have nothing. With minuscule amounts of it, you would subsist minimally. With moderate amounts, you live comfortably. With excessive amounts, you risk corrupting yourself, probably becoming narcissistic, potentially becoming sadistic.

So what should you care for? This an introspective question common in a culture obsessed with seeming not to care (or at least, caring too much.) Regardless, everybody cares for the opinion of at least one other. This is normal and natural behaviour. Yet, many of us realise in the quest for social dominance that one must be able to outbluff a bluffer should one wish to get their way. He who shows the most indifference and composure is oft the person to come out on top in negotiation or argument. In the theatre of masks, he whose mask begins to crack and shatter first, loses. This is what the manosphere means with all its talk of “holding frame.” From a Machiavellian viewpoint, the person who retains more composure relative to the other is forcing the other to play the cards they deal. A person with a solid frame forces others to react rather than dictate. When one is indifferent to the behaviour of another, where that other would expect they be upset or angry, one commands shock value that can flip a power struggle on its head. By “letting it go over your head” you retain independence, with independence there is respect and social dominance within the interaction. He who sets the frame effectively controls the rules of engagement. He, who is definitively reactive, or at least, comparatively reactive, communicates himself to be a social inferior.


A bluff is when you hold a deceitful frame to get what you want. If you can maintain the bluff with congruence, with minimal cracking in the fa├žade that is your mask, then it will pay its dividends. It will allow you achieve things that your “true self” is normally incapable of achieving. At least, not until you integrate the themes from your bluff into your natural personality. Which much like any significant process is a timely one. This is where the idea of “fake it ’till you make it” comes from. Of course, there are different levels of bluff, characterised by both depth of temerity, and severity. Whom you’re dealing with and what you’re trying to achieve affects how much your bluff will be challenged/tested. Some bluffs are fairly inconsequential, seeking small measures of power in the form of small favour. Used repeatedly and in increments, they can lead to big redistributions of power and a sense of responsibility or obligation in the mind of the bluffee (he who is being bluffed.) This is particularly true once the bluff becomes ritualistically ingrained, an act of habit.

Other bluffs are however more ostentatious, and thus due to their noticeability far more likely to arouse conflict. They will be more rigorously tested by the individual you are trying to persuade or intimidate than smaller bluffs. Cumulative bluffing is a form of systematic desensitisation to an expectation and thus effectively, a form of social conditioning. The power of a bluff comes from the boldness of its misdirection, implication and plausibility. An implausible bluff exposes itself and commands no credible pretence for power acquisition. It is for this reason that in the game of bluffs half of the game is based upon deterrent, the other half being the ability to execute the implication that the deterrent puts forth. This is typically characterised by the utilisation of fear and an absence of any threat or promise that is empty. The instrument used to instil fear and assert control can be characterised in a multitude of ways. There is the physical: a capacity for violence. There is the emotional: a capacity to overwhelm another’s reasoning and state of mental-being. Moreover, there is the economic: a capacity to deprive someone of resources they rely on.

A good example of a bluff no matter how unintended that bluff may be would be a person’s height. Say you are 6’2 tall; it is unlikely throughout life you will have been challenged to a fight very often. Those who do challenge will quickly renege if you back the ferocity of your height with a congruently menacing attitude. Could such a man defeat a 5’5 man who trains in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu? No, he could not. However, who is more likely to be challenged and thus need that skill set to begin with? The 5’5 man is. Most people are too fearful to even escalate with the larger man because of his stature. His stature is a bluff of sorts, implying the taller man is perhaps more physically power than the mind of the onlooker should be led to believe. On a biological level, it communicates to another person’s instincts “this man is capable of physically overpowering me.” Resultantly, said person is trying to cope with their involuntary fear response whilst trying to make a rational decision whether or not they should issue a social challenge. This is a primal feeling a small man cannot invoke in others regardless of his abilities. He must demonstrate his abilities to elicit the same effect, merely standing there is insufficient. The power of dominance via stature (known militarily as command presence) is an avenue of passive power closed to men of a small stature. Instead such men must express their power in other ways, such as by utilising displays of wealth, wit, proxy muscle, and etc.

Whilst a bluff is oft an aggressive manifestation, a deterrent is inversely, defensive. This is not to say outward bluffs can’t be defensive and deterrents cannot be aggressive. They can. However, typically, they are not characterised as such. On the deterrent side of the bluffing game, there are tools available at one’s disposal such as selective validation (operant conditioning.) This is something that can be utilised to encourage the behaviours you prefer in another whilst discouraging behaviours you don’t. Half the game is mentally and physically passive in nature. These things manifest in both how you present yourself and likewise, how you behave in the company of others. The other half of the game is your raw power. Being able to put stock in the collective illusion your outward behaviour and appearance summons with tangible talents, wealth, social capital, aptitude and other substantive elements capable of enacting change through the sheer substance of will. Raw, naked knowledge is useless in the game of power. If you cannot apply knowledge to execute effectively, then that knowledge despite its relevance is useless to you until you can wield it properly. Power, much like knowledge, is ineffective if it cannot be suitably wielded.

Judgement, Self-Perception & Self-Discipline:

If you’re not sure what should be important to you, the bottom line of your agenda should be to increase your power and connect with and co-opt those who can aid in the endeavour that is power acquisition. Spending much of your mental faculty on people who cannot help you (tangibly or intangibly) when you yourself are weak, is a demonstration of low self-esteem. As a person who seeks growth, it is a waste of time in the face of self-betterment to invest your time and attention in those who offer you negligible benefit. Caring about those of low value, those who cannot bring you anything you need superficially, intellectually or spiritually may, in fact, put you at risk of degrading your own faculty as they seek to parasitize you. It surreptitiously communicates to your self-esteem and the perception of others that you are in fact yourself a powerless individual by the mere method of association. Philanthropy can be a great ego boost now and again, but one must not become the very thing that they set out to help, should they not seek to become a member of the needy.

People judge you not just by the company you keep, but by how opinion affects you, and lowly opinion should bounce off you like the irrelevant banality that it is. This doesn’t mean you must be horrible to the downtrodden, but do not be seen to be strongly associated with them. Unless you’re so powerful, you can use the weak to amplify the perception of your benevolence and solidify yourself a healthy reputation, e.g., engage in decadent acts of philanthropy, you have no place to be seen with the weak. As an addendum, it is important to add that investing stock in the opinions of the powerless and those without a potential for power is an idiotic endeavour that yields little to zero return. If you see potential in a powerless contemporary, like any stock, they are investable.

Not disappointing yourself in an endeavour is an act of self-validation. Do not forget that self-esteem can validate itself when you do something good and are impressed with yourself for being able to fulfil your own objectives. A lack of self-discipline comprises the core of low self-esteem. The repetitive nature of personal failure owing to low self-discipline creates a negative mental feedback loop. This is something inverse to the cultivation of narcissism, more akin to the creation of insecurity and poor self-worth, or “anti-narcissism.” That feedback loop then reinforces the idea to the psyche of the individual in question that they are intrinsically useless by the mere absence of achievement. In all its emotive sense of helplessness, this creates momentary low self-esteem. The dichotomy of low self-discipline is that inevitably, personal failure will recur, reinforcing the idea that one is, in fact, useless or lowly. Moreover, indeed without this self-control, one does become that which they believe themselves to be. The consequence of subsequent failure to adhere to one’s goals becomes a form of learnt helplessness that solidifies into a personal belief that one is unworthy, stripping them almost entirely of personal power. With no belief in themselves, they look to latch onto others parasitically to maintain themselves because “they just can’t do this on their own.”

If you keep failing at things because you cannot discipline yourself to do them or get good at them, then you’re going to feel like a failure. Decide what you’re going to do. Start off by “just doing stuff” and then repeat it with intent to develop a healthy habit. Eventually, as it becomes more natural to you, you will become sensitive to technique and look to subsequently refine the thing it is that you’re doing. When you can do something well, it will give you power. It will give you confidence, a degree of certainty, and pride. You are not only useful to others for what you can do, but internally you will begin to respect yourself and gain some justifiable confidence. Confidence is the primary ingredient in the fuel of power; there is no power without confidence for they are intertwined. You can (appear to) be confident without power (a bluff) but you cannot be powerful without confidence. Confidence within the realm of subtext implicitly communicates you are powerful. It creates the assumption in the mind of others that the confidence is a product of power, regardless of whether this is true in nature or not. As such it can be perceived that confidence in and of itself is a type of power.

Silence, Saboteurs & Platforms:

Sometimes the best move you can execute in a situation is to simply do nothing, ignore it, and be aloof. Do not feel compelled to act in the discomfort of uncertainty. You should not act for the sake of acting, but with meaningful and wilful intent. You should ignore unimportant and irrelevant opinions that look to sabotage you from those whom you have reason to suspect look to undermine you. The people who issue these challenges want to destroy or reappropriate your power. They are saboteurs, and thus one should always be seen to look down royally on those who oppose them, rather than validate the basis of their challenge. It is not necessary to completely destroy them, but you must refuse to validate most if not all their attempts at upstart. By validating detractors you give their ideas no matter how banal or asinine a measure of your credibility. You lend your power to their comments by giving their criticism a platform. It is within these words it should become apparent to you that this is the inherent utility of censorship. Indirect censorship via the refusal to entertain a challenger (rather than direct, which is forceful silencing/covering up) gives said person no opportunity to latch onto your reputation and thus by extension, no avenue of entry to bolster their own power. When people like this happen to appear in your life, it can sometimes be an indication that you’re doing well for yourself. That you are succeeding at something and it has been noticed and flagged as threatening. When others feel threatened by you, it often means you’re gaining power, although you may simply be violating one of the laws of power, such as outshining the master. Be self-aware of your situation.

When those who oppose you invest a lot of energy into hatefully disagreeing with you, in all its ironic perversity it’s the closest thing to a compliment that such a person can give you. By forcing them to act on emotion, they give your cause energy, and it matters not if that energy is negative, for all energy is relevant to the sum of an idea’s prevalence. Energy is the stuff platforms are made of. Energy gives your ideas a platform by helping them to gain recognition from within the flamboyancy of detractive hatred. Inadvertently and unwittingly to the dismay of the jealous critic and obsessive saboteur, they garner you more supporters, further attention and increased notoriety. Acknowledgement is the fuel of social status. Gods as entities unproven and fictional as they may be got their power from within human civilisation via acknowledgement. Do not underestimate the power of acknowledgement and the components that form it, recognition and validation, for it is central to everything. It is these things that form repute. Reputation is a cornerstone of power, in fact, reputation is more important than reality itself when one wishes to exercise or protect their power. Like confidence, reputation in and of itself can be seen as a form of soft power rather than merely an ingredient of hard power.

You gain power by doing things that are effective in and of themselves, or by undermining the power of others. These are two very different styles of power acquisition. The first being creative: build yourself up so much that you tower over the opposition. The second is destructive; topple the opposition’s reputation to the extent that their power is lesser than yours. You outbuild the competition via accomplishment, or you sabotage theirs whilst preserving your own. Indeed, if you are neither powerful nor the target of someone’s personal investment, then nobody would give breath for you. They would not even summon the energy to criticise you. They’d simply ignore your existence. Hate is a reactionary emotion that spawns from other emotions, predominantly from fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of self-preservation, fear of a loss of personal power and up there with self-preservation, the fear of making a bad investment.

Family Power Dynamics & Parental Investment:

This is my belief as to why so many parents fear their children being failures. Some opt to lie to themselves that their children are not losers even when it is quite evident that they in fact are. What they ultimately fear is having put all this time and effort into their legacy only for their child to squander that effort by yielding them nothing in return. No power, nothing for them to be vicariously proud of, no return on investment, zilch. This I believe to be the fear of every parent and by extension, grandparent. The fear that their own lives were a waste of time as they will not leave behind a legacy built upon their core values. This idea is of course closely linked to the fear of self-preservation, albeit a type of preservation that the mind seeks to enforce past the cycle of one’s natural life.

Concluding Statement:

Everybody cares about power; that’s the bottom line. Don’t believe otherwise unless you opt to be taken for a fool. Power is the imperative behind all imperatives. Don’t be fooled by romantics and the esoteric gooeyness of emotions that elicit idealism and compassion. Sure, these emotions play a role regardless of power and in relation to power, but the balance of power is inescapably present in all things. Sink or swim. Succeed or fail. There are no alternatives to this, you strive and thrive or you bail and fail. Persevere or give-up. -Illimitable Men (April 22, 2014)

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