I'm looking for a word that describes that state of being-free-of-power.

"Powerlessness" is not it, as it describes an unwanted state of being deprived of power.

The state I'm wanting to describe is that in which one is not even in need of power (free of the need to wield-power-over or give-power-to others; neither authoritarian nor submissive).

Sentence example: Peter is ___; he has no authoritarian control over his wife as he is secure enough to not seek power over others; nor does he give others any power over him. Peter and his wife live under free association, with neither party seeking to influence (seek power over) the other, and as such they experience a life full of delight devoid of the common relationship pitfalls.

  • I'm pretty sure you don't mean 'triangular' opposite. Not unless you are talking about Pythagoras' Theorem. Sep 16, 2015 at 1:30
  • 'unfettered' comes to mind. Is that the sort of thing? Sep 16, 2015 at 1:31
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    I just invented the phrase "triangular opposite" hoping people would tacitly understand :-) I can edit it out if people can suggest better phrasing. By 'triangular opposite' I was referring to the opposite of both those words (imagine a triangle of three words each of them being opposite -- in a triangular fashion of "have", "have-not", "free-of" attributes -- to one another). Sep 16, 2015 at 1:33
  • unfettered doesn't specifically imply anything about not needing power; one could be 'unfettered' (released from restraint or inhibition) and yet grow powerful enough to fetter (restraint/ inhibit) others. Sep 16, 2015 at 1:34
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    Well, you have made the concept clear. I've drawn a blank. Only phrases come to mind, not single words. Let's see what others come up with. EDIT - I've just seen your link. It might be worth your asking on the Buddhist Stack Exchange. They probably have a word for it. buddhism.stackexchange.com Sep 16, 2015 at 1:45

2 Answers 2


I believe that you have allowed your experience or your philosophy to lead you astray. "Powerless" does not mean "deprived of power". That I am powerless to prevent the sun from rising, and powerless to cause two plus two to equal five (no matter how much I might wish these to be so) does not imply that someone is preventing me from exercising the power to make them so. In focusing on the condition of thwarted desire, you are confusing the ability to exercise power with the desire to do so.

In your example, Peter's condition is not one of power or its lack - it is his lack of desire to control his wife which is pertinent. As such, "egalitarian" might be applicable.

  • The word "powerless" is generally used in the context of someone desiring to effect a change but "powerless" to do so. In Peter's case, he is free of the desire to keep his wife attached to him (thereby free of having to be powerful at maintaining that attachment and also free of ending up being powerless at not being able to maintain that desired level of attachment). To use your phrasing, if this is still not clear, the word I'm looking for is to describe a state where neither the "ability to exercise power" nor the "desire to do so" exists (or have to exist). Sep 16, 2015 at 17:07
  • @SridharRatnakumar - Yes, but desire and ability are entirely separate. Since use of power is voluntary (in your terms), lack of desire to use power is indistinguishable from the ability to use it. If I do not push a button, it does not matter what the button is supposed to do. So Peter's lack of desire to control his wife is all that is necessary to invoke. Whether he "has" power over her or not is irrelevant, since he would not attempt to use it if he could. Sep 16, 2015 at 21:05
  • Power is not entirely voluntary; as an example, if Peter tacitly evoked a feeling of respect in his wife it is involuntary power (leaders throughout history have known to benefit from this kind of power). In any case I agree that in the absence of desire power becomes irrelevant. Given that power can be involuntary, such as in the above example, the scope of desire too would have be expanded (such as the desire to be respected). It is interesting that no precise word exists in English to describe the state of not desiring/needing power (thus not fretting/fearing its absence). Sep 16, 2015 at 21:54
  • @SridharRatnakumar - Try "uninterested", "neutral", or "uninvolved". Sep 16, 2015 at 22:02

Given the state of human condition (where desire for power and the anxiety of lacking it abound) it is no wonder that no such word exists.

The closest I could find is:

nonchalant (of a person or manner) feeling or appearing casually calm and relaxed; not displaying anxiety, interest, or enthusiasm.

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