May 25, 2018
Thoughts on Powerlessness
Yesterday I found myself engulfed in thoughts about my young adult son and what I believed his actions were going to be regarding a particular situation. Those were unpleasant moments for me. My feelings were highly triggered, feelings of resentment, sadness, annoyance and hurt. I noticed my downward spiral, that I was ”highjacked” so to speak by my thoughts. I knew I was longing for understanding, support, and peace of mind.
I reminded myself of Kahlil Gibran’s words about children and parenthood. My turbulent feelings began to settle down. I was on my way to being able to accept my son’s choices, although I would have liked them to be otherwise. Then another means of gaining support appeared.
Recently a friend gave me an article written in the year 2000 by a.woman named Ellen Huidekoper. It is entitled “The Power of Powerlessness.” She writes about the experience of an Irishman* taken hostage by a fundamentalist group in Beirut and her own inspiration as a result of reading about his. Below is a portion of the article. I include it because I found that reading it was indeed a useful means of gaining the support I needed in the situation with my son. Perhaps my readers also will find it helpful.
“… Our initial reaction to pain is almost always: no, I do not want that. You withdraw from it. Whether you are in the dentist’s chair, whether you are faced with a difficult conversation, the first gesture that you make is that you do not want to have anything to do with it. Opening yourself to it in spite of this is already an active response.….
…Your own inner world can become a place of study. There is a great difference between just enduring a feeling of anger, loneliness, or sadness, and trying to observe it. Whenever you have such feelings, they seem to want to encapsulate you totally. You are irritated. You feel miserable. But you can also move towards such a feeling, in order to find out precisely what it is all about. Then you direct your concentrated attention to it. How does it feel, exactly, from within, how would you describe it? When you examine feelings in this manner from within, you begin to understand them. You can begin to name them. If you are successful, then a mysterious phenomenon arises, you start to feel inner strength, and the original feelings of sadness or whatever change a lot, they may even dissolve. You create a kind of inner space. You remain inwardly active, in spite of the pain, in spite of your powerlessness. It only works if you are active. I create presence. My activity creates a new inner space.”
What this quote says to me is that we are never powerless! We may not be able to change outer circumstances, yet we can choose to accept or resist them. In choice I have power. Resistance to what we cannot change breeds frustration, hopelessness and despair. Acceptance allows peace and forbearance to arise. Only I am in charge of my inner state in the midst of pain and turbulence. Support may come from a friend or a book or a sunrise. Support to bolster my strength is there if I look for it!
* Brian Keenan, An Evil Cradling: The Five-Year Ordeal of a Hostage
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