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Do You Feel Powerless?

May 1st, 2010 in Personal Growth, Work

I’ve been thinking how we generally accept that there are areas of our lives that we are powerless to control.  We feel that we have no control over the crazy boss, bills, our partner’s habits, or what our children do.  We have no power to choose in some situations.  Yet is that true?

I’ve certainly had a boss from the pits, who was constantly unhappy with whatever I did, loved to let me know and was controlling.  It was no fun and to be honest I didn’t really handle it well.  I vacillated between trying to keep a safe distance and doing my best or giving up and not really trying as hard.    I definitely felt powerless with this person.   Yet was that true?

How about relationships?   Have you ever been in a relationship that sapped you of your energy and you felt you couldn’t leave?  What about those annoying habits that drive you crazy and endless efforts on your part hasn’t elicited a change from your partner?   Is it true that you are powerless to change the situation?

We don’t have control over people, places or things…they just are.   But we do have control over choices in how to deal with it.    I know most of us don’t want to hear this because in some ways it’s easier to be powerless than to make a concerted effort to change.   Was I powerless over that boss?   Yes, I was powerless over how she dealt with her employees, but not how I reacted to her.   I could have chosen to do my best and then let her deal with her own displeasure.

Some people you can’t satisfy because they don’t know how to satisfy themselves.   We take on other people’s drama, thoughts and we absorb them as judgment against ourselves.    Or maybe we are the controlling ones trying to stymie the choices of others.

My friend says, “it’s easier said than done” whenever I discuss how we have choices in every situation.  She’s right…because if we believe we don’t have any power, guess what, we don’t because we gave it away.

We do have choices in every situation, even if we don’t like the options.  The fact that we have a choice allows us to own our power and not give it away so freely.    Here’s the life lesson I’ve learned after spending a chunk of time on this earth.

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”  Eleanor Roosevelt

We give away our power all the time…and others will grab it as quickly as we disown it.   The choice we make is who owns our power.   What if you do have a boss from the pits, how can you exhibit your power?  You can do anyone of the following to start on your road to gaining back your power:

  • Stop yourself from reacting – just say to yourself “Stop!  I’m not going to react until I give myself time to think about this situation.”
    Evaluate what the boss is doing – what are they telling you, how are they trying to control you.
  • Look at areas that the boss may be right – where could you improve?
  • List the areas that they are wrong – this is their need to control everything.
  • Decide to change what you can and let the rest go away – figure out what you can actually change and acknowledge what you can’t do.   No one likes to acknowledge what they don’t know how to do, yet you gain lots of energy in separating your strengths and weaknesses, otherwise your weaknesses will block your strengths.
  • Decide how you want to be treated – even if the boss can’t meet your needs as this provides you with clarity around how you want to honor yourself.
  • Talk to your boss about how to get the best from you using their behavior as a guide.
  • Choose whether you want to continue to work there or find another job.
  • If you can’t find another job right away, choose to separate between what is your responsibility and what are your bosses’ issues.

Don’t accept immediately that you have no choice, always look for choices – create a list of potential choices and see which one you can handle at the moment.

If you are overwhelmed, find a “power” buddy to work together to bring more choices into your life.  You don’t have to make a change, just start creating options.   When we get overwhelmed, it blocks our creative thinking.    Have fun with creating a list of choices, as this is the beginning of gaining back your power.

I bump into feeling powerless on a daily basis…that’s part of life.    Sometimes, I catch myself and reframe my reaction, so I feel more in control of my choices.  I still allow the drama of others to seep into my life and then start to feel overwhelmed and powerless.

It’s a balancing act on a daily basis.   You wait for the bus and it’s late and you need to be somewhere quickly, then you feel powerless over the circumstance.   You are, but not with your reaction to the situation.

Powerlessness implies that we have no choices and that is not true…we always have a choice.

What About You:
What areas do you feel powerless?   Listen to areas where you complain a lot…those are your areas to work on.  Do you feel that there are times we just don’t have choices?


“To fully enjoy the ‘richness’ of our lives, we need to stop long enough to visit with ourselves.”
(Pat Brill)


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3 Responses to “Do You Feel Powerless?”

  1. Richie Perl Says:

    Great post, Pat!

    I also had the boss from hell. A woman!

    I was a bit younger and didn’t have the internal resources to completely deal with the situation.

    The reason I didn’t leave was because of the health insurance situation at the time.

    She was one of the reasons I needed psychotherapy.

    I like to think that I would be able to handle the situation better now. I hope I won’t have to find out!

  2. Paul Says:

    Additionally one of the most important things to consider here is many of us tend not to accept our bad habits and tend to always blame it on bosses and people around us. One question that comes up is, “How do you know and accept that you’ve bad habits”. It’s simple. Doesn’t matter which job/relationship you hold, for most part if you keep facing the same issues and same complaints from others then you know that you seriously have to correct something. Try to see a pattern. Obviously one of two people can be wrong. But not all or most of them! I personally have faced this in my life. If you’re ashamed of evaluating yourself or talking openly about yourself to friends, family, etc., then consider atleast talking to a shrink atleast when you feel confused. A great poet once said, “If you know yourself well, you can rule the world”. And that’s the key — “Self realization”.

    A very simple funny example is from Ron White (the comedian). He begins saying that he was performing a show in some navy camp and in midst of the show a civilian lady drunk /yelled “Every one of them is a bad lay” (Which means all the navy folks there…). So Ron White points out the issue in this situation “At some point, don’t you think it’s your fault. All 30000 navy guys cannot be bad. When a pattern follows us, we don’t realize sometimes, it’s us (the one person) not everyone else who has to deal with us.

  3. Paul Says:

    One other thing is that, yes we always have a choice. But the outcomes of the choices might not be easy. It’s like taking medication. Yes, I have a headache. If I take medication X, my headache might go away, but then I may get nausea, vomiting, trouble sleeping. etc., The question is what do you think you can handle better? The current headache or the side effects of the medication. Atleast in medication we have a choice. But let’s say if your current boss is the problem. You quit, and there’s no going back. You may find that your next job is worse than your current situation. And now you’ve to deal with a whole new set of problems – which you’re not even accustomed to ! And then you start to think “The devil you know, is better than the devil you don’t know”. But too late!
    So it’s always important to evaluate the pros and cons of a situation. Write them down and study and check mark each of them and see what you can handle/want, what you absolutely cannot and then make choices.

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