Finding Power when You Feel Like You Have None

“Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don't.” ― Steve Maraboli

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This past year has challenged us in ways that are unprecedented.  In my practice as a psychotherapist, a theme that has always surfaced but has recently been more so, is powerlessness. As we continue to be faced with isolation, limitations, relational and familial challenges, financial difficulties and change we did not ask for but probably need, people are feeling challenged in huge ways. Powerlessness can quickly escalate to hopelessness, anxiety, panic, anger, depression and any other number of symptoms that are specific to each individual experiencing it.  It can also show up in our body as physical aches, pains, and fatigue as well as more specific somatic complaints and illnesses. 

The mind is the body. What we are thinking has everything to do with how we are feeling.  How we are feeling has everything to do with how we are behaving.  It is a vicious cycle.   So, what do we do to empower ourselves in moments when we feel powerless?

As children we figured this out without even thinking about it.  For all intents and purposes, kids are powerless. No matter what the situation, the authorities in our lives typically have the final say, often deciding what is best for us. So, we naturally find our power where we can. I have heard many tales of children who had been physically abused, saying, “but I’d never cry” or “I never let him/her see they were hurting me”.  We tiptoe around so as to not awake sleeping dragons.  We create imaginary playmates and seek solace inside our minds.  We hide in closets. We spend more time with the family of our friends than we do with our family of origin. In my case, I used sarcasm.  That is how I found “a voice” in an environment where I had no voice.

I say all that so you can see, we seek and find power in our lives, when we feel most powerless.  We take control of our lives in ways that help us manage those things and people over which we feel or truly have no power.

This is the beauty of the human spirit.  It is amazing and strong and resourceful and yes, powerful.  We can identify this best when we feel our power the least.

So where do I find power now, as an adult, when the world around me seems to be spinning out of control?

I can choose any number of ways to respond.  I choose.  I choose.  That is where my power is. I can choose to make a change. 

I can choose to leave a situation. I can choose to speak my truth.  I may need to step back and find another perspective if I don’t like the perspective I have.  Rather than focus on what I see as “wrong”, I can look at the invitation that is sitting right in front of me.  Maybe this challenge in front of me is asking me to leave a dysfunctional relationship, seek out help, explore my options, make a pros/con list, start an exercise program, change the way I eat, start a business, author a book, change jobs, save money…and the list goes on and on.

Where do you feel powerless?  What is the Universe trying to teach you about your own strength and resiliency?

Doing something, doing anything empowers me to take a step toward the change I ultimately want.  Baby steps are acceptable and welcome. The only power we truly have is over ourselves.  I am not suggesting that others don’t exert power over us.  I am suggesting we can take power back to find the freedom we seek.

First, we might have to recognize that we are no longer the powerless child we once were.  We can now do what we could not do then. Of course, if I don’t think I can, then I won’t.  The invitation here and the power I have in this situation is to start by changing my thinking to “Yes, I can!”

We are more often limited by our own thinking and choices, than we are limited by the behavior of someone else.   As long as I render myself powerless, I can never take control of my own life. So how do we do that?  How do we become proactive in our own life and our own wellbeing?

Start by losing the negativity and the defeatist thinking. If you don’t value yourself enough to make yourself a priority, to make the changes you need to make, to ask for help when you need it, then who will?  If you wait for someone else to show up, if you wait for your parents, sibling, employer, or spouse to do what they have never done, what you want them to do, you may be waiting a long time.    You may be waiting a lifetime.  

That is powerlessness. 

Don’t let a lifetime pass you by waiting for someone to do for you what you are not doing for yourself.  It’s hard, I know.  Do it anyway. If you empower yourself to find what it is you need, rather than waiting for someone else to become what you need, you are much more likely to get what you want.  The odds go up exponentially.

That is power.  

Go within.  Follow your heart.  Yes, follow your heart. Trite, I know.  Nonetheless, it is not a platitude. It is the answer.  Get out of your head long enough to listen to your heart.  All your mind will do is give you a hundred reasons why “I can’t.” You already have all the answers you need, or at the very least, you can find them. 

Do not sit in disempowerment replaying the helplessness over and over again in your head.   Instead sit in your heart space and figure out what you want.  Sit with yourself and identify the ways you are hating on yourself, rather than extending love, self-compassion and love to yourself.  

Find that tiny crack where a seed is germinating and waiting to break through.  Once it does, it is only a matter of time before it blooms. I promise that if you nurture what is YOU, YOU will be rewarded beyond your imagination.    

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