It has been a hard couple of months for me. I’m in a swirling sea of change so deep that it’s hard to find my sea legs, or land legs, or any footing at all on which to firmly stand. The proverbial sands under my feet are shifting so radically that I have been way outside my comfort zone with just about everything. And when the going gets tough and I find myself uncomfortable and immobilized, fear and its sidekick, mistrust, step right up to offer their services. If I’m grounded and centered and my sense of self is strong, it’s easy to tell fear and mistrust “Thanks, but no thanks.” However, when I’m dealing with so much change and discomfort, I will often welcome them in with open arms, as if they were old friends. With fear and mistrust by my side, I drop into my very old coping pattern of trying with all my might to exert some sense of control, somewhere, somehow, so that I can reclaim my personal power and sink my feet into some good ol’ terra firma.
I know this is happening when everything “out there” starts to bug me. I find myself completely irritated with traffic, noise, all the things I have to do, all the things I’m afraid of that are unknown, and mostly, I become totally annoyed with what other people are doing. This old pattern doesn’t serve me at all, of course, but I do find that I subconsciously revert to it when things feel massively overwhelming. I let my sense of self become weak, my power begins seeping out of me – like a phone whose battery is nearly drained – and I try to power up with everything “out there;” that is, everyone and everything outside of myself. I try to brandish some sort of imaginary saber of control in order to reclaim my sense of self. It’s an awful feeling and, often, I don’t realize that I have reverted to this old pattern until I become utterly miserable. Then I sit down with my journal to find some enlightenment as to why I feel so awful and angry and why everyone is driving me nuts. And today, with my journal in my lap and pen in my hand, I gratefully, so very gratefully, finally remember Step 1.
I have been doing 12-step recovery work for 4 ½ years now and as we say in the program, “The twelve steps are the guiding principles for our individual recovery.” Step 1 says: We admitted we were powerless over ____, and that our lives had become unmanageable.” Each 12 step program fills in the blank with the issue of that specific recovery group; powerless over alcohol, powerless over drugs, powerless over other people, etc. When I remember Step 1, I put the pause in the pattern.
I am powerless over others. When others are doing things I don’t like or don’t agree with and I feel myself trying to exert control, trying to change what they’re doing, I remember this step. Usually, it means to me, “There’s nothing I can do. I’m powerless over what they are doing.” It’s a way of surrender and acceptance, but typically, for me, there is a sense of detaching from the person and situation with a feeling of reluctant resolve: “Oh well, I’m powerless. They are doing this thing anyway.”
But today, after days of flailing around, being so bent about what someone else is doing, I finally found some welcome freedom in working Step 1 – that is, meditating on it, thinking about it, looking at it from different angles. Today, I received some brand new insights about powerlessness.
I realized that admitting powerlessness isn’t about someone else and reluctantly resolving to whatever they are doing or not doing; it’s about me and restoring my own power. I have become power-LESS. Step 1 is a way for me to remember to stop in my tracks, and acknowledge that something has happened which has caused an upheaval in my life, and I’ve stopped doing the things that fill me up because I’m so overwhelmed. I have lost my footing, become caught in an eddy of confusion, and I’ve let my power drain away. Step 1 helps me put a pause in the pattern; to stop and be aware of what I’m actually doing. I’m power-less. I’m totally depleted, energetically.
Because I’m now aware that I’m caught in the eddy of overwhelm, admitting powerlessness is the way to seal the holes in myself through which I have let my power seep out. Step 1 helps me remember that I need to power up. I’ve been going to the wrong source for power by trying to plug into the wrong outlet. I have forgotten that the recharging station is the higher power within myself, and have unconsciously reverted to looking to others to reclaim my energy and power as I let mine continue to drain away. Others are never the source of my power; therefore, I must re-orient my inner compass from pointing “out there” to pointing straight into myself: the closet contact point to my Higher Power, to Source, God. There’s no other source for my specific and unique plug to plug into other than the truth within myself; however, when I’m overwhelmed and confused and feeling alone, I can so easily forget this. If I’m trying to pull power from anything other than from deep within myself, then that means my sense of inner power has severely weakened and, therefore, I need to plug in and do my practices – yoga, mediation, journaling, playing my guitar, doing something creative – to stay powered up. And when I’m powered up, I’m power-FULL, not power-LESS. Not powerful in the sense that I’m more than anyone else, but power-full in the sense of filled up with my own unique spiritual essence.
Admitting powerlessness helps me find my inner strength by helping me feel safe, secure, and bright again. When I’m powered up from within, my boundaries are strong and I’m free from the sway of external circumstances. I become untangled from others and their stories and whatever they’re doing or not doing. That’s so liberating – both for them and for me. What a beautiful thing. I’m so grateful for Step 1 today.
“It works if you work it…and you’re worth it.”