Power Reduxby Ruth Gordon, LCSW
When the concept of “power” comes up it is usually connected to some type of emotional reaction. Some seek it; some fear it; some wish for it and on and on. When we can’t reshape or influence our environment in some important way, we customarily feel powerless. It is one of life’s most distressing sensations. Significant loss is always a trigger, and depending on our degree of optimism and self-confidence, we feel like our lives are out of control to varying degrees.
As with all emotions, we often feel stupid for “over-reacting” to relatively minor adjustments we need to make or, at times, we feel numb as we become overwhelmed with life circumstances. The most perilous of these situations can result in PTSD that well may haunt us for the rest of our lives. Fortunately, this is caused by real catastrophe and not too many of us have to worry about this.
So, you may ask, why am I writing about this during the “ho ho ho” holiday season? The answer is because during a time when we are supposed to feel joyful, yet times are hard, we may feel particularly out of step with the rest of humanity and increasingly vulnerable to a descent into bitterness, anger, depression and so on.
This is a good time to look at the whole concept of personal power, because, I am convinced, despite circumstances, your personal power is always there and is simply waiting to be tapped.
Most of us have no desire to control nations, so our understanding of power is on an individual level. Something to kind of tuck away is, that those with an overly ambitious drive to exert influence over others are not necessarily coming from a place of strength. Why would anyone want to conquer another unless, underneath all of their hidden layers, they were fearful that “the other” will control them, rob them, deprive them of their freedom to enjoy the life they wish to live?
When our feelings of authority and authenticity, of the ability to be true to who we really are, come from the inside, from our very core, it is very hard, if not impossible for anyone to take that away from us. This is the true source of power. Always hold on to this knowledge. No one can change WHO you are.
Most of the people that I talk to are not only reeling from difficulties that have entered their lives, but are also feeling battered by the relentless onslaught of problems that have polluted their feelings of safety and security over the past few years. It is one thing to stand strong in the face of hardship once or twice, it is quite another when one is being relentlessly battered over a given period of time.
If you are feeling worn out, that is NORMAL. If you are feeling discouraged, that is normal as well. One of the most debilitating things you can do to yourself is to be self-critical as your grief, anxiety and anger rise to surface, as, inevitably, they must. We have these feelings because they are useful. They tell us when we are overloaded; when we need to take action; when we need to simply endure (not that that is a simple task).
Your circumstances do not define who you are. Your essence remains intact, and if you valued yourself before the hard times, there is no reason to look at yourself differently now.
There is one thing of which I can assure you — no one lives a life with no challenges, fears or disappointments. You do not know what goes on in the private lives of those who appear to be untouched by adversity. (Hello Tiger Woods).
When you are struggling is the time you most need to appreciate your own courage and strengths. Rather than listening to an internal rant of self-criticism, try turning that around to resemble a silent cheerleader that praises your efforts and believes that you will extricate yourself from whatever quicksand has you trapped at this time. Just has happiness abandons us, so does sorrow. It is in the nature of emotions to be transient. You must reassure yourself that, over time, you will experience change (you cannot, in fact, stop it) and that you will look at your life through a different lens.
When you are feeling especially insecure, please, as much as possible, spend your time with people who genuinely care about you and who boost your spirits rather than drag you down. If someone who is important to you is always looking at the dark underbelly, tell them that you cannot enter those realms with them and ask them, as a favor, to keep his/her negative outlook to him/herself. If this person is unable to do this for you, take a break and get back to him/her after you begin to feel more optimism yourself. This is called self-preservation and you need not explain or apologize for your efforts to rebuild your confidence.
Allow yourself to appreciate what you DO have and try to celebrate the good rather than linger on the losses as you navigate your way through this holiday season. As long as there is someone (human or animal, maybe plant?) who loves you and someone that you love there is reason to smile.
AnonymousTherapist Directory. This article may not be reprinted, reproduced, or retransmitted in whole or in part without the express written consent of the author.