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Gaining Personal Power

By Colleen-Joy Page

Power and powerlessness are internal experiences that are responsible for much human suffering. We crave power when we feel powerless. We hold on to power for fear of powerlessness. We equate power to control and therefore seek to control.

Let's start by understanding power. What is power? Here is my definition of power:

Power = responsibility + choice
P = R + C

Interpreting this formula gives us insight into the nature of power and tools to empower ourselves and to find freedom from the pain of powerlessness. Using the formula, we see that the amount of power we have is proportional to how much choice we have.

  • The more choice we have, the more power we have.
  • It also means that the more choice and power we have, the more responsibility we carry for the consequences of our choices.
  • Choice and responsibility are bound to each other, for ever intertwined in their relationship to power.
  • We often crave choice because we seek power but attempt to deny our responsibility.
  • We want the power and the choice but we don't want the responsibility.
  • To avoid responsibility we avoid choice therefore deny our power. We seek maximum power and therefore we seek maximum choice.
  • We know that one of the ways we can secure choice is through being in control, and so we become afraid of having no control. But are we ever truly in control? No! We just tell ourselves this to avoid being afraid.

Where there is choice there is power.
Where there is no choice there is no power.
Where there is choice there is responsibility.
Where there is no choice there is no responsibility.

To increase your awareness of power therefore, you must increase your awareness of choice. To decrease your awareness of power, simply decrease your awareness of choice. Avoiding responsibility is avoiding power. Taking responsibility is taking power.

Exercise:
Make a list of things you feel powerless about. Then ask yourself, "Even though I cannot change this, what things surrounding this DO I have a choice about?" For example: If I am ill, I may not be able to do much about being ill, but I can eat differently, help myself with my emotional healing, etc. Make as BIG a list as you can about what you factually DO have a choice about. You don't have to implement these choices, it is empowering in itself to claim that you COULD choose them if you wanted to. This is how we get clear on what is real - on what we DO have choice and power over and what we DON'T.

Personal Power is gained when we Claim what we DO have the choice to change and ACCEPT what we don't have power to change!!!

The human struggle for power and the pain of powerlessness starts and ends in the mind. It is what we tell ourselves in our inner dialogue, and it is what we hold on to as beliefs about reality that is responsible for our inner power struggle and suffering. Ironically, this inner struggle and suffering is brought about primarily through two conflicts with reality.

We face two internal conflicts associated with power and powerlessness. The two conflicts with reality that cause inner power struggles and suffering happen when…

  1. we pretend that we have power - when we have none
  2. we pretend that we have no power - when we do have power
How many times do you say "I can't" and pretend to have no power, when in fact the truth is you don't want to. E.g. someone asks you to dinner and you don't want to go but say politely, "Sorry I can't."

How many times do we say to ourselves "I can" when in truth we cannot and then suffer thinking this is in our realm of power? E.g. hoping and believing that you can change someone else, when only they have the power to change, that is not in your realm of power.

PERSONAL TRANSFORMATION AND SELF EMPOWERMENT

  • Identifying what you do have the power to change is the path to personal transformation and self empowerment.

PEACE AND HEALING

  • Accepting what you do not have the power to change is the path to peace and healing.

Knowing the difference between what you do have the power to change and what you do not, is WISDOM! Fight gravity and you will lose. Accept gravity and you may learn to fly!

Exercise:
Make a list of all the things you would like to change. Ask yourself which of these DON'T I factually have the power to change? Underline them. We think we have the power to change much of what we don't, e.g. other people. You will find peace when you accept these items on your list. Circle the items you actually DO have the power to change. These are mostly INNER experiences, like your attitude, your perception, your beliefs, who you spend time with, how you spend your time, your career, etc. Here is your power.

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