Jung and Others on Love and Power

Sue Mehrtens is the author of this and all the other blog essays on this site. The opinions expressed in these essays are her own and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of other Jungian Center faculty or Board members.



Jung and Others on Love and Power



… Freud’s theory espoused Eros, Adler’s the will to power. Logically, the opposite of love is hate, and of Eros, Phobos (fear); but psychologically it is the will to power. Where love reigns, there is no will to power; and where the will to power is paramount, love is lacking. The one is but the shadow of the other: the man who adopts the standpoint of Eros finds his compensatory opposite in the will to power, and that of the man who puts the accent on power is Eros….

                                                                                                Jung (1917)[1]


Power properly understood is nothing but the ability to achieve purpose… one of the great problems of history is that the concepts of love and power have usually been contrasted as opposites—polar opposites—so that love is identified with a resignation of power, and power with a denial of love…. What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.

                                                                                    Martin Luther King Jr (1967)[2]


In society, will tends to be set against love.

                                                                                                Rollo May (1969)[3]


… power arises from meaning. It has to do with motive, and it has to do with principle. Power is always associated with that which supports the significance of life itself. It appeals to that part of human nature that we call noble—in contrast to force, which appeals to that which we call crass. Power appeals to what uplifts, dignifies and ennobles. Force must always be justified, whereas power requires no justification. Force is associated with the partial, power with the whole.

                                                                                                David Hawkins (2002)[4]



            Carl Jung and Rollo May share the view that love and will (or the “power drive”)[5] are opposites. But as the above quotes from Martin Luther King Jr. and David Hawkins notes, there are differing definitions of “power,” and some of them challenge this view. In this essay I will begin by elaborating Jung’s definition of “power,” and then offer Hawkins’ definition. I will follow this with a six-stage analysis of “power” as explicated by Janet Hagberg in Real Power, and examine how this fits with Jung’s ideas.


Jung’s Definitions of “Power”


            Our English word “power” comes from the Latin potis esse (through the French pourvoir), meaning “to be able.” If one has power one is able to do things, to make things happen, to be potent. The dictionary adds to this etymological meaning additional meanings, like “strength, might, force; a particular ability; control, authority, influence, right; a person thing, body or nation having authority or influence; energy or force that can do work;…” as well as more technical meanings, e.g. “the product of a number multiplied by itself” (mathematics), “the capacity of an instrument to magnify” (astronomy); and “an order of angels” (theology).[6]            

            Jung discussed the concept of power in 14 of the 18 volumes of his Collected Works,[7] regarding it variously as a “theory,”[8] an “attitude” (especially one that is “primitive, naïve, infantile”),[9] a “need,”[10] an “hypothesis,”[11] the “instinct of self-preservation,”[12] the “urge to be on top,”[13] and one of two “dynamisms”[14] that “most infallibly brings the unconscious to light… the personal striving for power, or superbia…”,[15] the inner drive that seeks superiority over others. This drive, Jung felt, often develops in “… a man who always falls into the second place…”[16] or “… mostly people who are either the under-dogs in reality or fancy that they are not playing the role that is properly due to them….”[17] The result? A power complex.

            Jung defined “power-complex” in his list of definitions in volume 6 of his Collected Works:

I occasionally use this term to denote the whole complex of ideas and strivings which seek to subordinate all other influences to the ego, no matter whether these influences have their source in people and objective conditions or in the subject’s own impulses, thoughts, and feelings.[18]

Elsewhere Jung regarded the power complex as “… the sum of all those strivings and ideas aiming at the acquisition of personal power….”,[19] and he recognized this complex as one of the core elements of the type of psychology associated with Alfred Adler.[20]

            While Adler focused his psychology on power, Freud emphasized Eros, lust, sexuality. Jung regarded both theories as valid, Freud’s “infantile eroticism” and Adler’s “power drive,” being one and the same thing.[21] As the opening quote of this essay notes, Jung felt concupiscentia (lust) and superbia (power drive) were opposites:

… Freud’s theory espoused Eros, Adler’s the will to power. Logically, the opposite of love is hate, and of Eros, Phobos (fear); but psychologically it is the will to power. Where love reigns, there is no will to power; and where the will to power is paramount, love is lacking. The one is but the shadow of the other: the man who adopts the standpoint of Eros finds his compensatory opposite in the will to power, and that of the man who puts the accent on power is Eros…[22]

That is, the person who manifests “masculine protest,”[23] who has to dominate to feel secure, is unable to love. Love and the will to power are antithetical to each other. Think of moguls, “captains of industry,” CEOs who are full of themselves and take delight in declaring to their underlings “You’re fired!” Such persons manifest “power” as our culture defines it—the power to control the lives, livings and fate of others. Love here is “lacking,” as Jung says.

            But there is another way we might define “power,” and other levels or stages of it that we must recognize—levels that Jung never spoke of but that bear directly on his concept of individuation and the higher consciousness it implies.


David Hawkins’ Definition


            In a very interesting book, Power vs. Force, David Hawkins uses the term “force” to refer to “power” as Jung defines it: ego-driven, aggressive, conflict-inducing, polarizing, creating win/lose situations.[24] Hawkins uses “power” in a very different sense:

… power arises from meaning. It has to do with motive, and it has to do with principle. Power is always associated with that which supports the significance of life itself. It appeals to that part of human nature that we call noble—in contrast to force, which appeals to that which we call crass. Power appeals to what uplifts, dignifies and ennobles. Force must always be justified, whereas power requires no justification. Force is associated with the partial, power with the whole.[25]

Power is still, like gravity,[26] whereas Force moves, creating counter-forces and conflict. Where Power is “total and complete,”[27] Force is partial and thus insatiable in its constant need for external energy. Power requires nothing from outside and makes no demands. It energizes, gives forth, supplies and supports life. Force depletes, consumes, wears down and takes life. Power is associated with compassion, Force with judgment. Power makes people feel positive about themselves, while Force leads its practitioners to feel poorly, ashamed, embarrassed or vulnerable to loss of “face.” Power unifies, seeks win/win solutions, has no enemies and thus no need for defense. In its polarizing tendency, Force creates enemies and thus requires constant defensiveness. Health, life, honor, faith, and trust are qualities of Power, while Force produces disease, death, dishonor, doubt and cynicism.[28]

            Hawkins cites examples in history that illustrate the difference between power and force, e.g. Mohandas Gandhi and his campaign for an independent India.[29] In the United States the civil rights movement, led by Martin Luther King Jr. and his non-violence movement, demonstrated how power (in Hawkins’ sense of it) is more potent than force. The quote by King at the beginning of this essay indicates how King understood the true nature of power. Racism, segregation, and discrimination against human beings are morally wrong, so those acting to end “Jim Crow” laws and customs had moral authority on their side. They had Power, in Hawkins’ sense of the term. While the beatings, jailings and other assaults were painful, the protestors took comfort in the fact that they were working for justice. Since they were trained in pacifism, trained to put their faith and trust in the nobility of their cause, the protestors refused to react violently in the face of violent police actions.

            Meanwhile, the segregationists fought, judged, saw the protestors as enemies, out to destroy their way of life. They had little or no compassion for “colored” people, and no compunction about taking aggressive action to resist the civil rights movement. Years of television coverage of the sit-ins, beatings, arrests, jailings, assaults on the peaceful marchers, and murders led, in time, to the segregationists losing face, becoming the source of national shame, dishonor and disgrace. The Power of moral rectitude eventually overcame the militant physical resistance of Force.

            The thesis of Hawkins’ book is that Power will always overcome Force, because the positive, the noble, and the higher consciousness that Power carries has more intrinsic energy than Force. Hawkins, who is a medical doctor as well as a Ph.D., draws on the discipline of behavioral kinesiology in making this claim.[30] Having experienced kinesiology myself, I know what Hawkins is talking about: Our bodies know the truth, and “muscle testing” allows us to determine what we need health-wise, what to do, in terms of aligning with our soul’s intention, and how best to proceed, in deciding on a course of action.

            Contemporary Western culture, however, is still stuck very deeply in Force, resulting in militarism, imperialism, all sorts of power complexes manifesting in global leaders,[31] and our world teetering on the edge of manifold crises. Our reality does not have to be like this: We need to shift from regarding “power” as “force” to “power” as Hawkins and King define it. How to do this? Janet Hagberg offers us some clues. Let’s examine Hagberg’s thesis.


The Six-Stages of Power


            Hagberg sees power as a feature of life having six stages.[32] These are: powerlessness, the stage we all experience as tiny children, completely dependent on the care and nurturance of others, the stage in which we have no capacity for the instrumental living expected of adults in our society. This is what Hagberg calls Stage 1.[33]

“power by association” is Stage 2 in Hagberg’s system,[34] the stage at which a person feels powerful through his/her close affiliation to a powerful person. The personal secretary of the President of the United States or the administrative assistant to the CEO of a big corporation has this type of power. This is not a personal attribute: it is ex officio, power that comes only through the job or function of the person in terms of his/her service to the holder of the powerful office. When the CEO retires, or the President leaves office, the assistant or secretary ceases to have this power.

“power by symbols” is the third stage of power,[35] the stage sought by ambitious adults and achieved by the mogul, the President, the CEO, with all the societal symbols that go with this type of power: the corner office, the private jet, the hordes of underlings quick to do the will of the powerful, who can hire, fire, and make decisions that determine the fates of hundreds, even millions of people. This is the acme of power as our society defines “power.” But Hawkins and Hagberg recognize that it is not real power. Why?

            Stage 3 power is actually quite weak, just as Force is weaker than the Power of moral principle. Stage 3 power is external, i.e. it lies outside the person, and all the symbols can be (and usually eventually are) taken away. Leaving office implies loss of the corner office, the private jet, all the trappings of authority. As Jung recognized, to the extent that powerful figures feel the “urge to get to the top,” they have a power complex, with deep feelings of inferiority in the unconscious,[36] and the vast majority of top CEOs and politicians are unconscious. While they might be forceful personalities, their power is actually the much weaker form Hawkins calls “Force.”

            Something has to happen to move a person from Stage 3 power to Stage 4: some form of crisis is usually involved, of the sort that stops a person in his/her tracks, forcing a time of reflection or introspection.[37] With Al Gore this was the serious accident of his son Al Junior.[38] For days Gore and his wife waited in the hospital, not knowing if their son would survive, and in this time Gore began to reflect on what really mattered in life. He was at the time the Vice President, a powerful political figure, but Gore came to realize that politics, high ranks, power in the sense of symbols, prestige and authority were not as important as family, love, meaning and purpose. In my own life, this crisis came in 1983-85, when all the underpinnings and assumptions I had about reality fell away and I had to come to a whole new orientation, giving up old paradigms, prejudices, and preferences, as my ego was forced to submit to the direction of the Self. I can speak from personal experience is saying that such times of reflection really do present a whole new way of interpreting “power.”

“power by reflection” is Hagberg’s Stage 4.[39] It is different from Stage 3 in a key way: there is a shift from external to internal. Power is no longer only external—the focus is no longer only on the outer trappings of symbols, with titles and lines of authority. Power now begins to be seen, felt, as something internal, deriving from an awareness of one’s unique identity, personal values and a sense of inner direction. Distinctions get drawn between what the culture expects and what one prefers, what is right for one’s personal growth and development versus what the pundits and social arbiters call for. After his crisis with his son’s accident, Gore was still Vice President, but the office did not have as much purchase on his soul. In my own life, much of my reality in terms of occupation, ambitions, and personal circumstances shifted in ways I found surprising, if not positively disorienting. The whole concept of “soul” came to have much more meaning for me, as my ego began to recede as the driver of my life.

“power by purpose” is Hagberg’s Stage 5,[40] the stage in which personal power is closely tied to one’s sense of purpose. Knowing why we are here on earth, having a clear sense of mission and direction translates into a deep, indestructible sense of power—“power” in Hawkins’ sense of the word: loving, ennobling, compassionate, unifying, empowering. At this stage, a person knows that power is no longer the opposite of love, but its corollary: The more love we share, the more love there is in the world; likewise with power: the more power we give to others, the more we seek to empower others, the more power there is in the world. Modesty, humility, frugality, a global ethic of serving others and protecting the earth—these are features of power at this stage—features that are quite the opposite of what Stage 3 power regards as traits of the powerful. But where the moguls of Stage 3 can be dispossessed of their power, and live driven by competition, greed and insecurity, the person living at Stage 5 power can never lose his/her sense of security, trust and purpose. As Hawkins says, “power” at this level is full of meaning and higher principles that transcend the materialistic values of our society.[41] and King understood how power informs love and love informs power.[42]

“power by gestalt” is Hagberg’s final stage,[43] a stage attained by the moral exemplars in human history like Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. Such persons draw on deep inner wellsprings of faith, trust, and connection to Source, God or Ultimate Reality. Their lives inspire others and call out the greatness in those who choose to take up their call to redeem the world, or tikkun olam,[44] our task as humans to repair the brokenness of the physical realm. Which brings us to Jung’s concept of individuation.




            David Hawkins, Martin Luther King Jr. and Janet Hagberg wrote years after Jung died, so he was not aware of their arguments, but I think he would find important resonances in their ideas. Like Hawkins, Jung recognized the pathology in the complex that drives certain people to arrogate power,[45] and he understood that the power drive precludes loving responses to others. Like Hagberg, Jung understood the value of self-reflection, introspection and the systematic analysis of one’s motives and actions. Given his charisma and profound influence on others Jung surely operated at a Stage 5—maybe even a Stage 6—level of power, sure of his purpose and with a clear sense of his mission in life.

            Such values—purpose, mission, introspection, reflection, love and caring for others—are marks of the individuated person, and I think there is a valid parallel between individuation and the higher stages of power identified by Hagberg. Just as the process of becoming fully individuated implies attaining higher levels of self-awareness, so the movement through the stages of power in Hagberg’s system implies becoming more conscious of one’s inner life and innate personal qualities. As Jung noted:

There are well-meaning theologians and humanitarians who want to break the power principle—in others. We must begin by breaking it in ourselves. Then the thing becomes credible. We should listen to the voice of nature that speaks to us from the unconscious…. [46]

People at Stages 4,5, and 6 are listening to this voice, and in so doing, they individuate and redefine the notion of power.




Freeman, Mara (2014), Grail Alchemy. Rochester VT: Destiny Books.

Gore, Al (1992), Earth in the Balance. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Hagberg, Janet (1984), Real Power. San Francisco: Harper & Row.

Hawkins, David (2002), Power vs. Force. Carlsbad CA: Hay House.

Jung, C.G. (1960), “The Psychogenesis of Mental Disease,” Collected Works, 3. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1961), “Freud and Psychoanalysis,” Collected Works, 4. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1956) “Symbols of Transformation,” Collected Works, 5, 2nd ed. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1971), “Psychological Types,” Collected Works, 6. Princeton: Princeton University Press

________ (1966), “Two Essays on Analytical Psychology,” CW 7. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1960), ”The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche,” CW 8. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1970), “Civilization in Transition,” CW 10. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1969), “Psychology and Religion: West and East,” CW 11. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1967), “Alchemical Studies,” CW 13. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1963), “Mysterium Coniunctionis,” CW 14. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1966), “The Spirit in Man, Art, and Literature,” CW 15. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1954), “The Practice of Psychotherapy,” CW 16, 2nd ed. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1954), “The Development of Personality,” CW 17. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1976), ”The Symbolic Life,” CW 18. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

May, Rollo (1969), Love and Will. New York: Dell Publishing.

Scholem, Gershom (1941), Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism. New York: Schocken Books.



[1] Collected Works 7, ¶78. Hereafter Collected Works will be abbreviated CW.

[2] From a speech, “Where Do We Go From Here?,” delivered at the 11th Annual South Christian Leadership Conference, Atlanta GA; quoted in Freeman (2014), 55.

[3] May (1969), 283.

[4] Hawkins (2002), 132.

[5] CW 10, ¶555.

[6] World Book Encyclopedia Dictionary II, 1523.

[7] CW volumes 3,4,5,6,7,8,10,11,13,14,15,16,17 & 18.

[8] CW 8, ¶498.

[9] CW 6, ¶373, and CW 10, ¶342.

[10] CW 10, ¶342.

[11] Ibid., ¶660.

[12] CW 17, ¶156.

[13] CW 18, ¶1153.

[14] CW 14, ¶99.

[15] The other “dynamism” is love/lust/desire. In his reference to superbia, Jung is harking back to St. Augustine’s “… twin moral concepts… concupiscentia and superbia….” Jung notes that “The clash between these two fundamental instincts (preservation of the species and self-preservation) is the source of numerous conflicts. They are, therefore, the chief object of moral judgment, whose purpose it is to prevent instinctual collisions as far as possible.” CW 10, ¶555.

[16] CW 18, ¶275.

[17] CW 16, ¶24.

[18] CW 6, ¶782.

[19] Ibid., ¶344.

[20] CW 17, ¶215.

[21] CW 7, ¶256.

[22] Ibid., ¶78.

[23] CW 18, ¶1153.

[24] Hawkins (2002), 132-133.

[25] Ibid., 132.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Ibid., 132-133.

[29] Ibid., 132. King noted how he was inspired by the life and writings of Gandhi.

[30] Ibid., 3.

[31] E.g. Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un.

[32] Hagberg (1984, xviii.

[33] Ibid., 1-16.

[34] Ibid., 19-44.

[35] Ibid., 45-72.

[36] CW 18, ¶1153.

[37] Hagberg (1984), 63-69.

[38] Gore (1992), 13-14.

[39] Hagberg (1984), 73-102.

[40] Ibid., 103-128.

[41] Hawkins (2002), 132.

[42] Freeman (2014), 55.

[43] Hagberg (1984), 129-147. Hagberg suspects there might be a seventh stage which she calls “Power by Transcendence,” but since it would operate at a level beyond which we currently could comprehend it, she cannot describe it. (p. 148).

[44] Tikkun olam is Hebrew for “restoration/healing of the world,” one of the goals of observant Jews, particularly cabalists; Scholem (1941), 268,274, & 287.

[45] CW 18, ¶1153; CW 16, ¶24; and CW 10, ¶342.

[46] CW 10, ¶46.

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