Personal Power Dynamics 101

We have been talking with friends, students, healing clients, and members of our Mesa “tribe” about our important discoveries regarding how, when, to what or whom we had been giving away our power.  Our new understandings from only last week about the issue have massively shifted our reality and brought about amazing personal growth.  (See last week’s post on our View From the Mesa blog.)  We have seen the insidious nature of how we have been indoctrinated, coerced, tricked, brainwashed, or just “reminded” to give that power away.  It also has become much more apparent how little education is given to adults, and especially to our children about the workings of personal power dynamics, resulting in a yawning information gap about the subject.

I was working with a client the other day whose habit of giving away her power started when she was a toddler.  Her original traumas had “gained interest” over the years, leading her to be increasingly fearful, dependent, self-deprecating, and depleted.  We have been working together for some time and have resolved many of her issues but the underlying specifics of her feelings of victimhood and powerlessness had eluded being pinpointed.  Wilma (not her real name) had trouble letting go of frightening or painful experiences and would hold on to them emotionally for days, re-traumatizing herself by rehashing them in her mind.  She saw herself as totally inept and others as always “yelling” at her, either to correct, criticize, or simply ridicule her.  This was terribly upsetting to her, in part because she saw herself as “doing the wrong thing” by reacting the way she habitually did; kowtowing, deferring, feeling stupid, and ashamed.  This showed her to be at least minimally aware of the possibility of consciously choosing a different response to criticism, but Wilma didn’t know how to do so.  She just got upset and spiraled downward.

On top of the pain of being reprimanded, Wilma was doubly intimidated by raised voices, having what largely amounted to “shout-a-phobia”.  Sadly, her husband of decades (let’s call him Phil) would consistently loose his cool whenever she did something he felt was “stupid” and shout at her.  Wilma couldn’t bear it.  She would just fold up like a like a spring-loaded umbrella and usually, … call me for help.  The most recent incident was no different, only this time I had a new way of helping Wilma.  I would teach her “Power Dynamics 101”.  I started in on explaining the whole issue of giving away personal power, but quickly realized that she simply couldn’t relate to the way I was using the word.  So many people like Wilma see themselves as being totally devoid of any real power, so how could they recognize themselves as giving any away?

Thankfully, Those Who Teach and Guide me beamed me an expression for one of the major symptoms of power squandering, a feeling that is a marker for giving up power that Wilma could absolutely relate to; that of losing her composure or peace of mind.  The sensation is always a red flag for loss of personal power.  While expressing emotions is a normal part of the human condition, from the standpoint of spiritual enlightenment as soon as we find ourselves getting anxious, worried, sad, afraid, angry, resentful, indignant, negatively excited, or “worked up” in any way, shape, or form we’re giving away, leaking, or outright hemorrhaging power.  Otherwise we would remain dispassionate; open, calm, and collected.

Wilma got the concept instantly and it was apparent on her face.  She recognized how she not only dutifully relinquished her peace of mind in the moment of an emotional drubbing, but that she usually continued to do so for hours, days, or weeks after the fact as she rehashed it in her mind.  Intellectually, she understood that whenever we become aware of our peace of mind slipping away or feel it is being “taken” from us, we don’t have to give it up.  The big issue for Wilma was just how to win that tug-o-war and hold onto it, along with her self-esteem and basic human dignity.

I asked Wilma if loud noises like fireworks, a loud truck going by, thunder, or other high-decibel sounds were inherently upsetting to her in and of themselves.  She seemed surprised at what I had asked and said they were not.  We discussed her fearful feelings when Phil shouted at her and I reminded her that fear is an anticipatory experience—a purely emotional occurrence, one that goes with foreseeing having something bad, dangerous, or deadly happen in the real world before we actually live it.  “You’re experiencing the lion pouncing on you and how much it will hurt before it actually does,” I said.  This prompted Wilma to remember something I had told her long ago and she started poking sequentially at the air with her finger.  I knew she was groping for an acronym I had taught her: F.E.A.R (“False Evidence Appearing Real”).  If it wasn’t the loud noise itself that hurt her, what was she was fearfully anticipating?  What was the object of her dread that she presupposed might come next that she was so deeply afraid of so as to totally cast off her peace of mind and jump in the lifeboat?

As an example, I told Wilma how in my family shouting was often a prelude to physical punishment.  She told me that her parents never hit her.  Then what else might be the follow-up to a shouted reprimand that she so dreaded in advance even though it never actually came?  Some kind of lesser punishment?  Feeling shame?  Being shunned?  We made a short list of some possibilities and wrote them down.  We used some Kinesiology (muscle testing) to zero in on the culprit and came down to one, fear of abandonment.  Wilma had been in the care of a maid during the day when she was little and the woman would start in yelling at her and her older sister as soon as her parents would walk out the door.  If they didn’t eat the food she served them, the woman would force lemon slices into their mouths.  Wilma and her sister would often run down the block after their parents in tears to try to get them to stay and protect them.  They felt abandoned with their tormentor.

Wilma became a withdrawn and timid child who survived elementary school by virtue of the close knit comraderie of small classes in a private school.  Later landing in a big public high school left Wilma feeling cut adrift and socially inept.  The ordeal became so terrifying for her that she ended up being institutionalized while still a teen.  When I mentioned that experience and asked if she hadn’t felt terribly abandoned in the hospital she replied, “My mind was already there.”  “In there,” she continued, “they had all the power.”  Being institutionalized had doubly sensitized her to avoiding abandonment at all costs, to the point of becoming a “please-a-holic,” serving up her power (and dignity) to others on a plate.

Wilma was able to admit that what frightened her so much about her husband’s yelling sprees was the possibility that he’d eventually get so fed up with her self-described bungling that he’d leave her.  Each time she’d let the fear take away her peace of mind—and her power.  She confessed that she saw herself as being totally incapable of fending for herself if Phil were to walk out or die and that the prospect terrified her.  She felt controlled and victimized by her husband, and his loud, angry, and all too routine yelling made her avoid his company as much as possible when he was home.  Giving up her power and deferring to Phil’s control wasn’t nearly as draining to her as giving up her peace of mind to her own fear of abandonment when he yelled.  Wilma felt Phil’s yelling was unjustified, but was also punishing herself as the trigger for his outbursts.

I told Wilma that Kate and I had long ago come to understand each other’s anger and fear as manifestations of old power draining issues that we didn’t have to take personally.  We learned to keep our cool (peace of mind) while negotiating a way to help each other mutually resolve things, instead of just jockeying for power.  Our devotion to each other allows us to keep lines of communication open in the face of heated emotions no matter what and help each other heal.  By doing so, our relationship moves to higher levels through our challenges instead of being wedged apart by them.  Wilma and her husband just weren’t at that level with each other and may never get there.  Still, things could change.

I asked Wilma if she could see that Phil’s shouting was an act of giving his own power and peace of mind away.  She had never before been able to view things that way.  “When he loses it and yells at you, something is going through his mind or emotions that he is also afraid about or he’d be able to retain his composure,” I said.  “What you’ve done sets him into imaging something scary to him and he yells to frighten it off.  Maybe he’s afraid he won’t be able to take care of or defend you, or your “mistakes” remind him of his own mortal fallibility.  Maybe it scares him that you’ll take his decision-making power away like his momma did when you act on your own without him.  Can you see yourself keeping your composure when he ‘goes off’ and reminding him of that?”  All of this was news to Wilma.  She had only seen the experience in terms of Phil demeaning her and robbing her of her peace of mind.  Their relationship was a competition, not a union.

“So how do I change it?” Wilma pleaded.  I told her that she could change only herself and how she responded to Phil’s yelling.  She could also gently teach him what she had learned if he was willing to listen.  I reminded Wilma that her new awareness of the situation was already working for her.  She’d be seeing similar situations through new eyes when they arose in the future and could make the conscious choice to hold onto her power when they did.  “I feel like I can’t stop giving my peace of mind away when Phil yells,” she countered.  I agreed that it wouldn’t happen just by thinking about it because something was stuck, deep inside her psyche.

I asked Wilma to think about her internal safety program that would click on every time she heard raised voices, was criticized, or reprimanded.  I pointed out to her that she had been conditioned when she was very young and impressionable to give up her power to the angry maid or face the consequences she so cruelly meted out.  She had connected this with feelings of abandonment from her parents not being there to protect her and felt defenseless.  I gave her an analogy to consider:

“It’s like that toaster oven over there,” I told Wilma, pointing to counter of the little kitchen in our healing center.  “There is a switch on it that has positions for bake, broil, or toast.  If it’s set on toast, whenever you push down the lever, it will toast what’s in there no matter how you want it cooked.  Your emotional switch is set on the ‘toast’ or ‘fear of abandonment’ position and loud voices push down the lever.  Luckily, we have a way to reset your switch.”

Though still a bit skeptical about my “woo-woo” techniques after several years of experiencing them, Wilma acknowledged that they had changed her life for the better.  She knew what was coming next, having already experienced the benefits of several YES/NO guided head movement healings I had done with her in previous sessions.  The operant expression for Wilma’s power abdicating issue that we chose to use to remediate the issue at hand was, “Stop giving your peace of mind to fear of abandonment.”

It only took three sets of head movements to get Wilma’s unconscious system to shift.  I could feel her whole energy field move.  Still laying on her back with her eyes closed, she began to repeatedly touch her lowest ribs at her solar plexus.  When I brought her attention to it, she said she hadn’t noticed that she was doing it.  “I don’t know why I’m touching myself there,” Wilma said.  “I never do that.”  “I know,” I replied, “So why are you?”  “It feels different there, … calmer… ” she offered.   I told her that our solar plexus and diaphragm are the seat of fear in our physical and emotional bodies, pointing it out to help her make a connection with the feeling.  I then asked her to think about Phil yelling at her and she was astonished to realize that her fear was completely gone.  I suggested several other situations where she routinely gave up her peace of mind to yelling, criticism, etc, that usually caused her to feel afraid and give up power just by thinking about them.  “I can’t make it (the fear) come back,” she exclaimed.  “That’s weird!”  When Wilma got up and sat back in her chair, I noticed that her face looked different.  I no longer saw the frightened little girl I always saw embedded there, but a new maturity.

The kind of unconscious power game Wilma and Phil have been acting out is deeply embedded in 3rd Dimensional reality and ego-based existence.  It’s like we’re all playing this giant game of dodge ball, yet no one realizes we’re engaged in it.  We’re taught that it’s polite or prudent to defer to certain people and give up or give in instead of hurting feelings, making enemies, resisting overwhelming odds, or creating a scene.  We can give up our power to life’s bullies, disaffected life partners, or “the powers that be”.  We’re also encouraged to grab power by the way our society celebrates competition instead of cooperation.

While these are clear cut cases of relinquishing power to others to fit in or stay alive, we also give up power needlessly by wasting it, sloughing it off into the ether through negative emotions.  We can get worked up or lose peace of mind (part of our power) when we think about the future of our chaotic world, view crime stories on the news, fear foreigners, or see litter on the side of the road.  We waste power and procrastinate when we give in before the fact to fear of failure or rejection before we start.  Giving up our power is a choice, one that can become a conscious one.  When it does, we will see that we never have to give it away against our will, retaining our peace of mind even if a gun is pointed in our face.  Once your see the power game for what it is, you can choose to stop playing, take your power back, and eventually walk away from the game.  Maybe we can all someday learn to play a new game, one where power sits on the bench. 

Here are a few things to reality-check about with respect to what/who we needlessly give away our power to when we are confronted by them or engage in them.  Surely, there are many, many more.  Do you recognize yourself as giving up your peace of mind or personal power to:

Failure (when it happens)?
Fear of failure (before it happens)?
Your parents (even if deceased)?
Your anger?
Other people’s anger?
Your boss?Fear of poverty?
Bible thumpers?
Multinational Corporations?
Customer “service”?
The Past?
Fear of confrontation?
Noisy neighbors?

About Brad Silberberg

Brad Silberberg, director of The Mesa Creative Arts Center in Burgettstown, PA (Pittsburgh area) is an artist, holistic healer, spiritual leader, and change agent.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.