People with power don't know what it's like to be without power. It is difficult to get out of bed if you have mental health conditions, it is impossible to laugh or charm if you are worried about what you will eat, and not being seen can make you feel bad.
People who are so accustomed to having power that they don't even know it's there are often in rooms with me. I have multiple mental health diagnoses and I am a black woman in my 50s. I work with leaders in the arts, business and politics to support them to see the effects of their power, but they can't.
People can feel defensive if they just point out the disparity. You can be called an angry black woman. People didn't listen when I told them how hard it was to have no power. In order to bring evidence to what I already knew, I turned to science.
This research is called the Neurology of Power. Sociology and neuroscience are involved in looking at power. Being without power leads to stress. Those who have never experienced that sense of powerlessness are more likely to be affected by stress than those who have experienced it.
The brain and the body are in a constant feedback loop, and anyone who has ever taken a few deep breaths, forced themselves to lower their shoulders or closed their eyes is aware of that. We think and feel.
I talked to scientists around the world about my research. A professor at Harvard Medical School told me about a process called "body budgeting". She says our brains keep a record of when we spend resources and when we deposit them. The brain maintains energy regulation by anticipating the body's needs and preparing to meet them before they occur.
This process is so fundamental to the architecture of the brain that it extends to our mental states, according to a new theory. Our emotions come from our brain's calculation of our body's needs. Predicting a dangerous situation leads to physical changes and makes us feel uncomfortable.
Social effects of body budgeting Our ability to empathise with someone is dependent on our body budget. Our brain can more accurately predict what our inner state and struggles will be when we are familiar with someone. Our brains may be less inclined to use up resources in making difficult predictions if we are less familiar with this process.
People with power often struggle to empathise with others, according to a professor at a Canadian university. These patterns are self-reinforcing because the brain makes predictions. Powerful people often act like they have power. Powerless people act like they don't have anything.
I knew what I knew. Power can be used against people who don't have power. You can lose your sense of right and wrong. Power is important for well-being.
ruthlessness that allows people to make hard decisions without fear of consequences has historically been a celebrated attribute. It can be seen in political leaders of all persuasions. It feels especially stark today. Trust in powerful institutions and policymaking has been eroded due to it.
A new type of policymaking that puts people at the center of the process is needed. Policymakers need to listen to the people who understand powerlessness and the effects of their policies. We can't stay in this loop of people making decisions. The handicapped are handicapped by their own privileges.
There is evidence about power that is uncomfortable to face. I spoke on panels, presented my arguments and had them disputed in public by senior academics, who later apologized privately.
I already know that power is a limiting factor for our leaders, so I don't need to rely on science to justify it. We can do things differently, that's what this is about. It is time to try.
Suzanne Alleyne is a cultural thinker.