The Power of Having the Freedom to Choose How You React 

When you take responsibility for how you allow yourself to be treated, you will find that you have the power to choose differently.

Povozniuk/ Getty Images
Povozniuk/ Getty Images

I was playing a role in the musical Never on Sunday at a small venue in Hollywood with a lot of Greek-American actors, and I was so elated to have gotten a wonderful supporting role. But we had a director who was a complete bully—impossible to talk to or reason with. She treated the actors with absolutely no respect. All of us shared this view of her and talked about it on our breaks, but I wanted to keep my role in the production, so I put up with it. 

Every time I drove to rehearsal, I had a knot in my stomach and wanted to punch her, but I couldn’t, so I put all that energy into my performance. One night, I was having dinner with my spiritual teacher and shared my struggle, asking for advice. He took out a piece of paper and wrote, “Continue on at all costs,” and he signed it and handed it to me. I still have that piece of paper in a frame on my desk. It changed my mindset, and I was able to continue with a greater spirit of cooperation, not feeling like a victim. 

At the end of each performance, the director would ask us to break down the set and clean up the theater because classes were held there the next morning. Every night we had to break down the set, and every day we had to put the set back up—that’s called love of your craft! 

One night, I wanted to have drinks with my friends, but she asked me to clean the bathrooms before I left, and so I did, but as I did, I seethed with anger. I was so frustrated by her constant demands and her disregard for us. The next night, she asked me to clean the seats before I left and something different happened inside me. My heart was so full of the joy of performing and the incredible love from the audience that I started to clean the seats with absolutely no resistance. I suddenly saw this woman for who she was. I saw her with compassion, but more, I felt a deep compassion for myself. 

My heart opened up so much that I started to cry. At that moment, as I let go of my resistance, I experienced the blessing of transformation. Ever since my spiritual teacher had given me the advice to continue on at all costs, I had begun to transform the parts of me that were judging her, believing that I was right, and she was wrong. Every day I prayed for guidance to show me a way to surrender to the reality of this difficult situation; at the same time, I prayed for compassion for this person who I had previously been so resistant to. I had been looking for her to treat me with respect and understanding, but she was incapable of giving me those things. She was just acting the way she knew how, and it didn’t have anything to do with me. I decided instead to focus on what I was gaining out of this experience. I got to be creative and sing and dance. I was having fun performing, and I was reaffirmed in my talents. From this place of gratitude for the opportunity to do what I loved; I was suddenly no longer at her whim. That was the most incredible and liberating moment. When we are fighting with someone, they have power over us, but when we accept a situation, we find a sense of liberation. 

What was most interesting happened next. The director actually came to me and said, “Agapi, you don’t have to clean so much! Please go with your friends. You have done an amazing job, and you are such a great actress.” She just showered me with acknowledgment. The transformation that had taken place inside of me was beginning to manifest itself in my external world. I was stunned! My prayers were working beyond my wildest imagination. 

If someone is not showing you the level of respect you deserve or is making it hard for you to do the work you know you’re meant to do, bring that damaged part of yourself into the light and see what choices you have. You can take responsibility for the parts of yourself that you might be mistreating, pushing aside, or failing to honor and respect. I believe that the world reflects back to us the shadow parts of ourselves that we have left unexamined or unresolved. If we take full responsibility for the way people are treating us, which we are in some unconscious way allowing, then we will find that we have the power to choose differently, and miraculously the people around us will change. If you need to leave a situation, then leave, but know that the same thing might happen in the next job you take or in the next relationship you enter into. At some point, you might need to work out the pattern of being disrespected within yourself. 

This prayer is for anyone who has felt hurt, dishonored, victimized, or disempowered. This can happen in a personal or professional relationship, but ultimately, we pray for the healing to happen within our own consciousness. 

The Prayer
Dear Beloved, 

I bring to you the part of me that feels discounted, hurt, or disrespected. 

Please shed the light so that I may see where I have discounted, hurt, or disrespected myself. 

I ask that the healing embrace of the spirit reach out to my human part that wants others to treat me in a loving and attentive way, that wants to be taken care of in the way I take care of others. I ask that my heart open to that part, and bring it understanding, sweetness, and even humor. 

I ask that the light bridge the gap between what I am getting from others and what I want. I ask that grace be extended in the relationship in which I don’t feel seen, so I can have distance from who they are and how they act toward me. I pray for courage in myself and the willingness to be neutral, not take anything personally, and not collapse within myself.

In truth, I want to know that no one can really hurt me unless I allow it. 

I cannot control how other people act, but I do control over how I react. I ask for the inner support to bring that knowledge and wisdom to myself. I am free in my ability to control my own reaction. 

Let the spirit in me help me move forward, suspend judgment, and expand into the field of forgiveness. 

I also ask that I see the situation from a new perspective. 

I am not a victim, and no person has authority over me. I claim my inner authority, which is my God-given right. 

I can keep my heart open and see how spirit and the light can help me transform the situation. 

I hand it over to the higher light and I go free. That’s what means the most to me—my freedom, my peace, my inner calm, and my unconditional love for myself. 

So be it!

Excerpted from SPEAKING WITH SPIRIT copyright © 2022 by Agapi Stassinopoulos. Used by permission of Harmony Books, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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