by Gail McManus
At this time of new and unpredictable crises in individual lives and world situations, we may wonder how we are to find Hope, a universal need* we all share. As clouds of fear, discouragement and even depression threaten to engulf our tranquility and creative energy, I suggest that there is a way out of the quagmire of this painful state. The key is to find power in our lives. We can do so by choosing to turn our thoughts to the values we hold dear and to find strategies to implement them in our personal life situations.
I, for one, have heard enough for the time being about the latest world crises. Very small chunks of time spent learning facts, as conveyed by the (carefully selected) news media, gives me plenty of information. I have a choice. I can continue to listen to the opinions and reactions which come my way via various channels (ie. social media, television). On the other hand – and this is where Peace and Power arise – I can instead give my attention to what gives me Purpose and Meaning, what gives me Joy.
What gives me Purpose and Meaning? Why, I am experiencing Purpose as I write this article! Perhaps it will brighten your day and give you some relief as you read it. Perhaps it will validate ideas that you have, or raise questions which encourage thoughtful investigation, or inspire you to engage in the creative task you have been longing to accomplish. Yes, I feel quite joyful when I imagine such possible effects my little contribution to other lives may have.
What gives me Joy? I am sitting by the window that overlooks my garden. The plants are gratefully exulting in the recent rain and the dust of many weeks is gone from their leaves and blossoms. I feel Joy as I see their freshness and the small new buds emerging. I feel Joy and Gladness as I watch the hummingbirds drink voraciously from the feeders.
Perhaps you have particular values and wishes for your life. I encourage you to find small or bigger ways to meet your universally shared human needs*. Some of my acquaintances are cautiously refusing hugs from friends. I may not experience the warm connection which a hug brings, and yet I can look in their eyes and, remembering their contributions to my life, express gratitude. And if that isn’t enough, I shall go outside and hug a tree!
*A few examples of universally shared Needs and Values are Support, Consideration, Peace, Harmony, Shared Reality, etc. The list is very big. I invite you to add to it! Such a list may be found on www.cnvc.org.
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 Huideköper. 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 understand a situation from a perspective of understanding, of clarity. In choice I have power. Resistance to what we cannot change breeds frustration, hopelessness and despair. Striving to understand a situation in the manner described by Ellen Huideköper allows peace and forbearance to arise. Only I am in charge of my inner state in the midst of pain and turbulence. Support for this process is often very helpful. It may come from a friend (such as a professional counselor) 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
Gift Idea: Are you looking for a meaningful gift for a special person in your life? How about gifting them with an NVC skills coaching session. Please contact Gail McManus for details.
Regarding Waldorf Education:
“Because children’s ability to observe and perceive is unconscious, one does not notice how intensely and deeply the impressions coming from the surroundings enter their organization—not so much by way of various specific senses as through the general ‘sensory being’ of the child. It is generally known that the formation of the brain and of the nerves is completed by the change of teeth. During the first seven years, children’s nerve-and-sense organization, in its plasticity, could be likened to soft wax. During this time, not only do children receive the finest and most intimate impressions from the surroundings, but also, through the working of energy in the nerve-and-sense system, everything received unconsciously radiates and flows into the blood circulation, into the firmness and reliability of the breathing process, into the growth of the tissues, and into the formation of the muscles and skeleton. By means of the nerve-and-sense system, the body of children becomes like an imprint of the surroundings and, particularly, of the morality inherent in them.” —Rudolf Steiner, Waldorf Education and Anthroposophy