Friday, 30 March 2012

The Transformative Power of Powerlessness

When she suggested that she suspected I would not be able to relate to what she was saying, that my life was presumably sorted and serene, I felt as though I had failed.  It didn't strike me as a compliment but rather that what I had been exploring with her had been perceived as an intellectualisation or an imagining of her situation, rather heartfelt empathy from a place of shared experience. 

To admit powerlessness and unmanageability is to take an enormous step towards change.  Acceptance can only follow awareness and without it action is likely impossible.  Awareness alone is painful.  Awareness with acceptance is uncomfortable as, without action it's a useless combination.  There is a significant relationship between powerlessness and unmanageability but one that has to be experienced to be fully understood.  To acknowledge one's powerlessness over people, places and things is to become almost instantaneously more manageable.  Without any change in external circumstances, the attitude one adopts in relation to one's position can provide a radical adjustment from which it is possible to step out of the rut one has perhaps felt stuck in, and start to do something different.

For me, powerlessness is a daily reality.  Whilst I seek to support individuals to change, I have no power over this process.  I cannot insist upon it, and literally lack any power to initiate it.  This is a comfortable reminder of everyone's autonomy, including my own.  We are the only agents of our own change.  We can reach out, and access additional strength and resource, but fundamentally when it comes to changing ourselves, our thoughts, words and deeds, it's down to us.  We have to be ready to change.  When we're sick of being sick, and tired of feeling tired, the time may come that the theoretically comfortable familiar is in fact less comfortable than the prospect of the daunting unknown.  No one changes for the sake of it.  We have to have motivation, or incentive.  The more personal this drive is, the better.  The greatest catalysts are those we can fully own.  Changes that are sought to please or placate others are at best hard to sustain and at worst likely breeding ground for resentment.

"As long as you live, keep learning how to live."

"Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards."
Soren Kierkegaard

Momentary lapses in awareness and acceptance are another reality and that's OK.  I am forgetful and seemingly hardwired towards pain.  I do however have clear reminders that I can look out for, as things start to slide and the cracks begin to show.  Freewheeling is fun to begin with, until you realise there aren't any brakes.  I know that my life is becoming unmanageable when I start to lose things - I mislay bits and pieces, or leave things behind.  Routines start to slip, I stay up later than I need to, doing very little and depriving myself of rest.  The best remedy I have come across is the embodiment of 'one day at a time', giving myself a chance and regarding it as a daily practice.  I return to this point over and over again, and yet I am a different person with each encounter.  As such, life seems to me to be more of a spiral than a circle.  I am growing, I am learning, and it is a work in progress.        

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