The power that I am talking about here is personal power. And this is more about the power that one has over oneself than it is about having power over others. Another term that is often used for this is self control.
And although having power can lead to having influence over others, this is purely a by-product and not a reflection of power per se.
When one has personal power they will know that they have an effect on their environment. Here they will have the ability to influence other people’s behaviour. Now, this may not always lead to what one wants, but the knowing that one has an effect will be there.
For the person that feels powerless, it comes from a perspective that one does not have an effect on their environment. However, this doesn’t’ necessarily relate to all situations. While one person may feel empowered in one area of life, when it comes to another area they may feel powerless.
Or it could be a general feeling of being powerless and this will mean that it will affect ones behaviour in a variety of ways.
The Inner Experience
Internally this will lead to different feelings, thoughts, emotions and sensations. Feeling powerless is the obvious feeling and then one can also feel: depressed, hopeless, frustrated and angry. Anger is often the result of one feeling that they have been compromised. And if one feels powerless then compromise will be a common experience; so it is the not much of a surprise if this person feels deep anger.
The Outer experience
If one feels powerless within it may seem that they will appear that way without. But this does not always happen. This can lead one to wanting to control others and to go to the other extreme of being in complete control of their environment.
For some it will lead to these internal feelings being clearly visible to the outside world. This could be in form of one always appearing as the victim, unfortunate and as a slave to circumstances.
Dysfunctional examples of this are dictators, tyrants and extremely controlling people; these are people who, out of their own sense of powerlessness, need to control everyone and everything as a way to cover up what they feel within.
What control does is allow for one to regulate these inner aspects. And yet if one feels these things within, it will not matter what goes on outside. No matter how much one consumes, in terms of possessions or people, it will never last or be enough power.
So if we were to round up two groups of adults, one group who feel empowered and another group that feel disempowered; on the surface there is probably not a lot of difference. What will be different are the perceptions that they have.
Physically they are all adults and when it comes to their mental and emotional sides there is a difference. One group perceives the world through the eyes of an adult and the other through the eyes of child.
When the past has not been processed or dealt with, it will lead to one regressing to the past. And to one perceiving the present based on associations that were formed when one was very young.
At these moments it becomes extremely difficult for one to be present and to see that they do have an effect.
It is during the time when was one was a child and before then as a baby that will have a big influence on how empowered one feels or doesn’t feel as an adult. These moments will lay down the internal perceptions that one has of their sense of power.
And how empathic ones caregivers were as a child will play a massive role here. The needs that a baby has can only be met through the caregiver; the child does have the ability to meet them.
This does not mean that the caregiver has to be tuned into every need that the baby has, it simply means that the caregiver needs to be generally aware of them.
When the baby’s needs are responded to, it will begin to see that is has an effect on its environment. That the world responds and listens to its needs and that people can be trusted and relied upon to be there.
Perhaps the caregiver was treated this way themselves or because they decided that they were not going to treat their child in the same way that they were treated.
This will enable the baby to grow into an adult that feels a healthy sense of empowerment. As it feels this within, it will not need to have power over others as a way to feel powerful because it will already feel that way within.
If the baby’s needs are generally ignored and denied, it will experience the sensations of having no control and extreme pain. It will begin to form associations that the world doesn’t respond to its needs and that people cannot be trusted or relied upon to be there.
This is typically because the caregiver is responding the child in the same way that its caregivers responded to them. And out of a lack of awareness; they same behaviour is being played out once more.
As a result of this the baby is likely to grow into an adult that has no sense of empowerment. And as a result of this deep wound, the only form of power can appear to be over others.
These experiences then become internalised and this creates ones perceptions. So even though one can be an adult, as described above, through the internalisation of these early experiences one can feel that they have no power.
The past may be long gone, but its lives within one’s mind. And this means that it will not be possible to feel a sense of power and to respond to life based on that sense. It will only be possible to create the same story all over again.
The ego mind will feel comfortable with this story, because even though it is dysfunctional, it is familiar. And familiar is what is classed as safe to the ego mind. It may seem to be how life is and that there is no other option.
How things were and the story that this created doesn’t have to control one’s life. And with awareness one can begin to realise that their present life doesn’t have to be the recycled past.
This is done from within; no matter what one achieves without or what one sees, unless the understanding is from the inside that one does have power, it won’t matter.
There are many resources out there to assist with this, from books to therapists. What matters is finding what works for oneself.
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Oliver J R Cooper
Oliver JR Cooper
Author of 26 books, Transformational Writer, Teacher & Consultant.
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That which is contained within these articles is based on my own empirical understanding and is true for me at the time they were written. However, as I continue to grow, what I perceive as the truth will inevitably change and as a result of this - parts of these articles may not reflect my current outlook.