It comes as a shock to many of us that we are powerless over other people, or that when we try to exert our power over them, we create chaos. Some of us have an easy time accepting we are powerless over others; indeed, it can come as a welcome relief.
Others of us, however, are not able to recognize our powerlessness and we fight it. We hate that we have no control because it makes us feel vulnerable. Admitting that we are, and always were, powerless over our original families can leave us feeling the pain and grief of our childhoods. Needless to say, we don’t want to feel pain and grief and we would rather not have to deal with these uncomfortable feelings. At the same time, we don’t want to feel like we’re crazy anymore.
The healing begins when we risk admitting the truth: we are powerless over much in our life. We have driven ourselves crazy trying to be powerful yet it hasn’t worked. Now we must be ready to see that we cannot control another person’s feelings, thoughts and motivation or how they choose to be in a relationship with us.
We are also powerless over our own dysfunctional behavior, our distorted thinking, our survival habits and our addiction to shame. We have tried to control our thoughts, our behavior, our feelings and ourselves but it’s all been in so sad for all of us.
In trying to control ourselves we have pushed ourselves into a corner and suppressed our emotions until we’ve become numb. We’ve also tried to control how others think of us by being the person we think they want to see. In turn this behavior made us angry - angry with ourselves for denying our real self. And, because we couldn’t express our anger in a healthy way, we became depressed and may have had to resort to habits (medication, drinking, shopping, compulsive sex etc.) to out run the depression. In the process, we lost touch with our true selves.
However, we are not helpless. Our parents who ran roughshod over our feelings, which undermined our growth and our ability to learn, taught us helplessness. They told us that we were wrong or that we had to try harder to be the person they wanted us to be. We became helpless when we couldn’t succeed at pleasing them and we continued that trait in our adult relationships.
When we admit the truth about our own limitations, instead of trying to push ourselves to be a false person, we create fertile ground for new growth. By acknowledging that we were, and are, powerless over others, we awaken to a deeper understanding that powerful changes can happen. This is exactly the same as when we break our leg; no amount of trying to control the leg will make it any different. The healing takes place anyway. Admitting we’re powerless over the healing simply lessens our own hardened will and allows the stress to decrease which, in turn, helps the body to heal faster.
By accepting our powerlessness, but recognizing we are not helpless, we are ready to do the work we need to do to recover from the effects of growing up in a dysfunctional family. We begin to recognize three things:
1. That our parents were responsible for their inappropriate parenting
2. That we were not responsible for the way our parent’s raised us
3. That we don’t need to fix them