Hard Will and Gentle Will

Understanding the nature of the human will gives us insight into our own behaviour, as well as the behaviour of others. Then we can meet behaviour with understanding rather than being judgmental – of ourselves and others. We are all a work in progress.

It is through the will that we experience ourselves as individuals. This gives us a sense of self, of I, separate from other people and other things. Self-awareness can go one of two ways; we can be self-absorbed or we can see ourselves as contributors. One speaks of a lack of confidence, the other of being quietly confident.

It helps in our understanding if we recognize that we have two essential kinds of will; hard will and gentle will.

Hard will is purpose driven, can be automatic and is associated with output. It’s nature is to be in control and in this way is egotistical. Gentle will is receptive, open, observing, going with the flow. Gentle will connects us with the greater good. Both these wills are strong and gentle will is the strongest.

We can use these two different kinds of will in the wrong place at the wrong time. We have all experienced this to some degree. Georg Kuhlewind in his book The Gentle Will explains.

“If we use the hard will in expressive bodily movements where the gentle will is appropriate, the movement becomes incomplete and wrong. When a pianist focuses on the fingers, the right touch becomes impossible, and the music is lost. In stuttering, the hard will is used to move the speech organs; …”

Our task is to continually change the hard will into gentle will. We need both but we should not let the hard will rule.

Image: Piano Girl by Willem Haenraets

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