The Power of Powerlessness
By: Ed Ramsay
Taking the Power Back from Being Powerless:
At birth human infants have no defense against predators. We are among the most vulnerable of all species. We are entirely dependent on our mothers/caretakers to protect and care for us making us powerless to survive on our own. Thus by our very nature, birth is a traumatic experience. The experiential nature of trauma and vulnerability does not require a didactic awareness. It is a preverbal experience of trauma, fear, vulnerability and powerlessness. This experience triggers a fight or flight reaction, so that we scream out. As we age we develop our own sense of separateness from other people and our environment. We express our needs nonverbally, but by age 2 we are able to verbally express their needs through vocabulary and as we age we become more sophisticated at getting our needs met. However, our early experience creates a need for power and control though out life. This need for power and control appears to be innate in our being and contributes to our need to feel safe and secure. We need to know that we have power and control in our lives. Thus when we feel that we don’t have power and control we feel vulnerable and powerless. This feeling can trigger emotions from shame to terror.
The fact is that we are more powerless than powerful over many of the people and events in our lives, which can make the need for power and control even more important... Taking the power back from powerlessness involves changing the focus from what I can’t do to what I can. This means looking at what I do have and can do rather than what I don’t have and can’t do. The event is still there and we are still powerless, but not helpless. We now can identify and or get the resources needed to deal with the person or event. This allows us to go from a survive mode to a thrive mode and change the feeling of being powerless, helpless and limited to one of hope and power.
The Paradox of Vulnerability and Control:
The paradox of vulnerability and control is that the more we try to be invulnerable and control people or things outside of us the more vulnerable and controlled we become. Once we give up our need to control and accept our limitations and vulnerability we can begin to accept our humanness, which in turn makes my vulnerability/limitation a non-issue. All humans have limitations with limited power and control. This means that I am no more or less than any other human being. The most difficult part of the acceptance process is self- acceptance as reflected in the following saying.
The main thing in life is not to be afraid to be human.
This reminds me of Patricia Evans treatment of power in Controlling
People. The difference between power over versus power within or
This distinction supports the notion that we are rich in relation to
what we can leave alone and the knowledge that it is not the event that
affects us so much as what we think of that event.