January 29 – Powerlessness: Step One

Powerlessness is a terrible feeling most of us, I would say, take great lengths to avoid. It is a feeling of hopelessness and utter lack of control. But wait a minute, is there anyone who can truly say they have total control of their life? It is not hopeless to admit there are things out of our control. The first step in addiction is admitting you a have a problem, right? That takes admitting your own powerlessness in order for you to receive help from a power higher than yourself. It is not hopeless at all, but actually quite the opposite: It is the first step in having hope.

green grass on sand overlooking body of water

On the topic of powerlessness, Anne Wilson Schaef writes:

Some of us do not like to hear this, but there are some things in our lives over which we are powerless. In fact, when it comes right down to it, there are few aspects of our lives that we can really control!

Certainly the areas of our lives over which we are truly the most powerless are our own addictive, compulsive working, rushing, busyness habits. In fact, that is one of the definitions of addiction. An addiction is anything that controls our lives, over which we are powerless, and which is making our lives unmanageable. Our inability to stop killing ourselves with doing too much certainly fits into this category.”

I have written in this blog before about what a surprise yet relief it is to realize that working myself to death is, in fact, an addiction. It has made it much easier to catch myself when I fall back into those patterns or find myself making knee-jerk reactions that are ultimately going to hurt me. Just as I instinctively reply “I’m fine. Everything is okay” even when it isn’t, I also have the habit of saying, “Yes, I can take on more work” when I really can’t. Admitting my powerlessness over this behavior has helped me so much simply because it alleviates the burden of guilt I feel over being this way, as though something is wrong with me. It’s my fault I am killing myself, and why on earth can’t I stop? Instead, my inner monologue has changed to: I am powerless over this behavior, and I can choose to recognize it and respond differently. My friend’s repeated mantra of “It’s okay to not be okay” has also helped significantly. I have gone from never feeling okay and consistently lying about it to feeling okay most of the time and being honest when I don’t. What a paradigm shift!

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