Examples of metaphors for power include “power as a muscle that can be flexed and strengthened” and “power as a currency that can be traded and spent”.
These metaphors can help us paint a picture of the nature of power and its role in our lives.
Throughout history, writers have used creative metaphors to make sense of the world and to describe complex ideas in easily understandable ways.
And the concept of power is no exception. Power can be represented in a wide variety of metaphors that help communicate this concept to readers.
Power Metaphors (Listed)
1. Power is a muscle that can be flexed and strengthened
The metaphor “Power is a muscle that can be flexed and strengthened” suggests that power is something that can be developed (or, perhaps, amassed) through sheer effort and practice.
Just as a muscle can be built and strengthened, power can be built and developed. As you develop your power, its scope and influence will grow.
This metaphor implies that power is not a fixed or innate trait, but rather something that can be actively cultivated and enhanced.
2. Power is a currency that can be traded and spent
The metaphor “Power is a currency that can be traded and spent” is implying that power is an exchangeable resource like currency. It can be acquired, traded, and used in pursuit of one’s goals and interests.
Take, for example, a person who is a police officer. He can nefariously ‘trade’ that power by letting someone go for a crime in exchange for money – a bribe.
3. Power is a fire that can be controlled or unleashed
This metaphor can be used to explain the different ways power can be used It has the potential to be both amazingly beneficial and devastatingly destructive, depending on how it is used.
A campfire can provide warmth and light but a wildfire can also destroy and consume large swathes of landscape. Similarly, a person with power can create and build great things, but can also harm and destroy others with their power.
This metaphor suggests that power must be handled with care and caution and only placed in the hands of someone who has the wisdom to use it with care.
4. Power is a river that can be dammed or diverted
The metaphor “Power is a river that can be dammed or diverted” suggests that power can be redirected or controlled by clever people to make it do what we want.
Just as a river can be utilized to provide water for irrigation or hydroelectricity, the more abstract concept of power can also be redirected to achieve desired results.
This metaphor also implies that power is a constant and unceasing force that flows and moves in a particular direction, unless it is actively redirected or controlled.
5. Power is a magnet that can attract or repel.
Sometimes, we see power and we are attracted to it. Take, for example, a rock star. They have great social power – they can get into any club they want, get on a phone call with a politician, and so on. Most people are attracted to these sorts of powerful people.
But it can also repel us. For example, a powerful person who is wielding their power to do harm is going to repel us. They may be outcast by their community or even have their power taken off them. A good example of this is Chairman Mao – he was, indeed, powerful – but he also repelled a lot of the world and made China a pariah state for decades.
6. Power is a tide that rises and falls.
The metaphor “Power is a tide that rises and falls” suggests that power comes and goes like the tide. It can remind you that when you have power not to take it for granted because it will wash away soon enough.
Just as the tide rises and falls according to the phases of the moon and the gravitational pull of the earth, the power you currently have also rises and falls according to various factors and influences.
7. Power is poison.
This would be a good metaphor to use to describe how a person’s power is causing them harm. We can imagine someone ingesting poison and slowly getting sicker. In the same way, if someone gets power and lets it get to their head, their mental state or even their whole life might start deteriorating. The person whose power is, metaphorically, poison, will need to let it go or else it will destroy them just as poison destroys the human body.
8. Power is a curse.
The metaphor “Power is a curse” suggests that power is not as good as we might have hoped.
Think of all the fairytales where the heroine is cursed by a witch and from then on bad things happen to them. This might also happen to someone with power.
For example, a person who just won the lottery might have a lot of power all of a sudden. But this person may feel cursed because suddenly their friends are treating them differently, people are constantly asking for money, and they can’t trust anyone. Perhaps they would be happier to give up the money and all the power that comes along with it.
9. Power is a gift.
Power can be a gift as well as a curse. Of course, it’s not a physical gift, and may not even be something “given” to you. So, it may be a metaphorical gift, meaning it has a lot of the traits of a gift.
For example, a person who is born into a powerful social status might say that their power was “gifted to them by god” and they want to use it for good.
Similarly, if you have the power to get a loved one out of trouble, you might say “this power is a gift that I have, and I will be grateful that I can use it for the people I love.”
10. Power is a weight on my shoulders.
When someone is caring weights on their shoulders, they may feel exhausted and burdened.
In the same way, power might be a huge burden. For example, if you are the president of a county, you have a lot of power, but with that power comes the burden of having to make a lot of very difficult and high-stakes decisions. If you make the wrong decision, it might ruin people’s lives. So, your power is your burden. But to say this metaphorically, you’d say that it’s a weight on your shoulders, which conjures the image in our minds of the burdensome task of caring weights.
The above metaphors for power are just a handful of the many hundreds of different examples you can come up with. To create a metaphor, simply think of something that is like power, but then don’t say it’s like. Say it is. Of course, it’s not literally saying that power is that thing, but it’s a literary technique that can be used to create “powerful” imagery in your writing. The only limit is your creativity!
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education.