The Pain of Powerlessness & Getting to Empowerment| 7.6.2022
In this episode, Kristen talks about the pain of powerlessness and how to reclaim your power after feeling powerless.
- What is powerlessness
- Why it's important to identify the feeling of powerlessness
- Examples of powerlessness
- How to work through the pain of powerlessness
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Kristen D. Boice
Welcome to the Close the Chapter Podcast. I am Kristen Boice a licenced Marriage and Family Therapist with Private Practice Pathways to healing counselling. Through conversations, education, strategies and shared stories. We will be closing the chapter on all the thoughts, feelings, people and circumstances that don't serve you anymore. And open the door to possibilities and the real you. You won't want to miss an episode, so be sure to subscribe
Welcome to this week's close the chapter podcast. I am so glad you are joining me for today's episode. It was inspired by clients and the years of working with this notion of feeling powerless. And how do we move from the pain of powerlessness to feeling empowered. And it was also inspired by the movie Elvis, I recently saw it on the big screen. Highly recommend it it's a little slow at parts. But as a marriage and family therapist, I see movies from the lens of trauma, family systems and patterns. And I know I can go into movie and take it in so many different places. So everybody who watches movies with me, I apologise in advance because I am going for the deeper dive into how did this individual and this system get created? And how did the trauma happen from generation to generation, I don't want to spoil the movie, I just want to break down some of this powerlessness that I witnessed and that was heartbreaking. The movie was really about between his manager Elvis's manager, and Elvis in some family dynamics and family system of generational grief and loss that never got fully processed and how it got transmuted into drug addiction and things like that. It was really powerful for me, because it got me thinking about one my own legacy and my own meaning in my life and to how do we break free from these generational dynamics. And this is what the whole podcast is focused on creating freedom in your life. And one of the tools that I think can help you before we jump into the episode fully is downloading the journal. So if you're listening to this podcast, I highly recommend you get the journal that walks you through a lot of what I talk about, and I work with each and every client, it's totally free. And you can get it in your email to your inbox. And you can use it at any time you just go to Kristen k r i s t e n, d Boice boice.com, forward slash free resources, Kristen D boice.com, forward slash free resources. And you can use the Journal throughout the journey over and over and over. So I highly recommend you getting the journal. And then you can be on the mailing list for offerings, programmes and just helpful information. I don't spam you with anything. So jump on that. And then if you want to follow along on social media, I have taken somewhat of a hiatus a little bit this summer, because I want to be present with my family. So I've been really working on presents and giving myself all the permission slips to not get on social media, because you typically have to use social media to get the message out about the podcast. And so I've been a little less on there. But what I do, I try to post helpful information at Kristen D Boice, on Instagram and Facebook. And then tick tock once I'm just learn, you can go to Kristen Boice. And then all the other platforms, you can find me but those are the main ones I'm on. When I'm on social media and LinkedIn, I'm on LinkedIn as well. So let's jump into today's episode on the pain of powerlessness and how it transmits into your life. And so I like to start with shared definitions. So we're all on the same page. So the dictionary defines powerless as being about the power to do something or prevent something bad from happening. So powerless means you're trying without power to prevent something bad from happening. Powerlessness defines the problem. If you put drugs or alcohol, for example, in the body, you are then powerless over what they do to your body, you intellectually know that it's not going to be good for your brain and body. Yet, once it's in your system, you're powerless of what it will do in our interact in your bloodstream or your organs. We intellectually know what it will do, but we don't know specifically what it will for sure do to your body. So we're powerless over that. And so powerless is without the ability or influence or you just don't have any power in situations. And when we are young, we are in so many ways powerless. So if you've been abused used in any way emotionally, mentally, physically sexually violated in any way you are powerless, that wasn't okay for someone to should do to you, you are a little child. And when there's been a natural disaster, we're powerless over a tornado coming through, we can take cover, we're powerless over what it's going to do to our house or property. So natural disasters, we're powerless over other people, I am as an adult. So I'm going to be using these examples. As we are adults. Now we all have an inner child. And so we want to offer empathy and compassion to our younger parts. And so when we bring up any kind of abuse, I want to make sure you're being tender with yourself. Take a deep breath if you need to, this episode's really going to be about how do we work through feeling powerless to get to the other side of feeling empowered, because in this movie, Elvis I'm going to be referencing this for example, Elvis stayed in an abusive relationship with his manager. And it really came out of his own family system, trauma, loss and grief, I'm gonna give you a little family history, Elvis, his mother gave birth to Elvis and another twin. So he had a twin brother, and the twin brother died at birth. And mom never fully grieved that death. And so she was always afraid something bad was going to happen to Elvis, and she used alcohol to cope, to manage the grief and loss and her own pain, her own sadness that never fully got processed, because we didn't know a lot about neuroscience and this significance of emotions, like we do now. And so he never felt good enough for mom, because she felt close to her. It was this like, almost kind of in a meshed relationship if you watch it in the movie, and if you want to learn about a measurement adjusted a couple of episodes back, if you want to learn about family dynamics and roles, you can go back to last week's episode because it really plays out on the big screen played out in offices life. And so the enmeshment not feeling good enough so that shame and wanting to please other people and abandoning self. So he felt powerless in ways you could see he felt powerful. And then in ways he felt powerless, and he felt powerless to get out of this abusive relationship because of the manipulation. Because of what he would play, the manager would play on what he knew were Elvis's pain points, or trying to create this illusion of how Elvis could feel or what money he could bring. When the manager really didn't care about him who was played by Tom Hanks who did an amazing job in the role didn't really care about Elvis at all, it was all for his own gain based on his own trauma. So the manager had trauma. I don't want to give away the whole movie, but I'm gonna give you the gist, the manager had trauma, he was an orphan, and then was brought up in the circus. So he never really fully had the health and attachment of a loving, nurturing parent. And so he would go on to try to get his needs met, which was he ended up getting into some addictive patterns as well that you'll see play out in the movie. And the sad part is, Elvis had unmet needs. The manager had unmet needs, but the manager used that to manipulate Elvis and you'll see that throughout the movie. And Elvis felt powerless in that relationship. And so there's so much pain and feeling powerless. And I want to acknowledge this. We don't talk about this much. When we feel powerless, we feel hopeless, we feel defeated. We feel fear, we feel grief, we feel loss. We feel scared, and angry, and despair, and lonely. And so it's important that we're identifying what does powerlessness feel like when you feel powerless in your own life? And we've all go through feeling powerless. This is a universal feeling in a lot of ways. And I'm not going to be talking about powerlessness when it comes to addiction. The 12 step recovery programme talks a lot about feeling powerless. I'm not going to be talking about focusing on that piece. I am focusing more on yourself and relationally feeling powerless. And so a lot of people will come into therapy and I don't know what to do. I don't know what to do about it. I don't know what to do about them. I don't know what to do about my family. I don't know what to do about what decision to make I feel lost. I don't know where to go and so we will just start slowing things down because I don't know when they say I don't know what to do about it. I'm working on defining what is it and it's important you start when you are feeling powerless when you are feeling lost. That we can go okay, let's slow thing is down. So I'm going to walk you through how to work through the pain of powerlessness. Here's the first step, we're going to go step this down, we're going to slow down, we're going to pause, breathe, and connect to what you feel. So let me give you a couple of examples, I have struggled with feeling powerless, and it's really connected to anxiety for many people. So it can look like depression or anxiety. For me, it kind of sometimes manifests as anxiety, when I feel powerless to protect my kids. So for example, I can't control something bad happening, I can do it, I can do what I'm with them to protect them, but they're becoming teenagers, they're going to launch which is healthy for them to individuate and separate from us as parents because they're going to go on and have their own life, which is healthy, I have to work through, which is what I'm going to step four, which we're gonna break down my own grief, my own fear is I have to work through those feelings, connect to those feelings, identify those feelings, because they're not going to be with me 24/7, I can set healthy boundaries, I can empower them to have a voice, I can teach them about what healthy people look like red flags, I can do all those things, the end of the day, I am powerless, as they become adults on the choices they're going to make. And that is healthy, that is healthy for them to go on and have their own lives. So what I am working on is identifying my own grief, my own fears, my own feeling scared, that's important for me to identify, work through, nurture, and acknowledge. So I have been working so hard when I feel anxious in my nervous system. So step two is kind of identifying what is going on inside your nervous system, what's going on inside your body, so I can get a pit in my stomach. I can feel short of breath. Some people get tightness in their shoulders, like they feel like there's a weight that they're carrying around. And it's important for me to connect to my nervous system, to start soothing it to start breathing into it. And then get curious about the grief and loss that's underneath my anxiety and feeling powerless. And that takes a lot of curiosity and a willingness to sit with the discomfort and slow things down. Which means I need to get my journal out. I did this the other day in the car, I was sitting there waiting. And I was feeling anxious, which I was feeling afraid. But I had to break it down. I can't just sit in the powerlessness. You can sit in the powerlessness feeling that's important. And sit with curiosity. Sometimes it just needs to move through you. And other times it needs to come through you, which means have a voice. It needs to be spoken, it needs to be processed. And so for me, I wrote it out in my phone. And I wrote out it was pretty deep. It got into afraid of disappointing other people afraid of something bad happening. Afraid of regret, I mean really went deep. And so I encourage you to explore what is underneath the feeling of powerlessness, and then explore what is it connected to? So when did you feel powerless in your life? Right out of powerless timeline? I love timelines. Have you listened to this podcast for any extended period of time? I love timelines because it starts to organise it inside of you and starts to make sense of why you feel the way you feel and accept that that's okay. Rather than making it wrong or bad when you go, Oh, I felt powerless. When my parents got divorced. I had no say so in it, which is okay, I'm okay. It is about going. That was I didn't have a decision in that. That was between my parents. So I was powerless over that situation. And not good or bad. We don't need to judge it or make it right or wrong. We can just notice what that felt like. And for me, it felt sad. There was grief attached to it. And oftentimes when I feel powerless, there is grief and loss that needs to be acknowledged. So that's the next what we're going to dive into is ask yourself, What are you grieving? are you grieving anything? are you grieving? Something that you've lost something that you didn't get to experience? Maybe it took a part of you and you felt like a part of you died and let it be spoken. Let it come out in journaling, let it come out in therapy, let it come forward. And so you can bring it to the light. We can't heal something that we're burying inside. And so give yourself that permission to have it come forward. So making a timeline of when you felt powerless. How old were you? What were the circumstances? How do you feel about it now and not to blame anyone? It's to tend to it? It's to acknowledge it. It's To offer yourself empathy and compassion for what you've gone through, and then you can have an understanding, if you feel activated in the current moment to go, oh, this is reminding me of the powerlessness I felt when I was eight, my parents got divorced. And now I can tend to that, and I don't have to project that or tag someone else with my anger or sadness or dysregulation, I can take responsibility for that. Next, I want you to notice, what are you afraid of? What are you scared of? Write that out. So when you feel powerless, what are you afraid of? What are you scared of. And oftentimes, we weren't able to mobilise that we felt frozen in time, we weren't allowed to flee or fight back fight, flight or freeze, we have the flop response, which is that the kind of faint response, maybe that was what happened. And we could go, Oh, that makes sense. You got flooded in your nervous system, you didn't have an outlet for it, you didn't have a voice for it, you didn't get to process it, maybe you're caretaking. Maybe you were the parental FIDE child that we've talked about, go back and listen to that episode. And you had a caretaker everybody emotionally. So you felt powerless, to make someone feel better ie your parent, because it wasn't your job, they had to do that for themselves, which means they need the process of themselves. And we don't want to blame them, they did the best they could. But you are powerless over feelings, someone else's feelings I can manage, take responsibility for how I say things, I can acknowledge my part in it, I can acknowledge how someone else feels for sure. I can't control. I am powerless, over how someone feels, if that makes sense. I can't make them feel a certain way. So when someone says How did that make you feel nothing can make us feel a certain way. I had an automatic response, I had a response of how I felt. So taking responsibility for your own feelings is important. You do have the ability to attend to those emotions that is within you to tend to those emotions, even though maybe your parents didn't know how to do that. So notice what's underneath emotionally for you in the powerlessness? And that's helpful on your timeline to also have that a part of your timeline. How did you feel? How do you feel? Now, I love the word now, because maybe you don't feel like that anymore. Like I feel very much more at peace with my parents divorce because I've done a lot of self work and healing around. That doesn't mean it doesn't come back up. And that's okay, if it does. So next, we want to acknowledge and be specific what you're powerless over and I gave you an example, I'm powerless over other people's feelings. I can't control that. So we're looking at what can you control? What can't you control? When we went to write this list out? You can even make a column? What can I control? What can't I control. So you have like one part of your papers, what you can control and one part of papers what you can't control. And here's what's going to happen on your list in a very short list on what you can control, which is your own choices, decisions, behaviour, emotions, I use the word control very loosely, because really control is an illusion. What are you able to manage, and then the other shoe your paper is going to be filled with things you cannot control. And it's hard to write out what you can't control. So maybe you're in an abusive relationship. And you think you can help somebody or help them heal or find healing, you're powerless over that, you can certainly ask the person, I would really like you to get some assistance and some support around your relationship with alcohol. It's up to them to do that you are powerless over that. And this is so important. If you're in a relationship and you're trying to get someone to see the light, you're powerless over that you can say it till the cows come home until they want to do that work, then things can shift if they don't want to, or there's a protective part that's too scared. You can't control that. And so many people come into therapy, and I say, Yeah, you're powerless over that. And the guy No, but what if I just said it this way? I said, go ahead. Give it a whirl. Because how you say things is within your power. How you show up is within your power. How you communicate is within your power. Do you want to repeat patterns from your childhood where you yell and scream? And believe me, we've all had our moments. Do you want to repeat patterns in your childhood where you're passive aggressive? Do you want to repeat patterns in your childhood where you bury things? And then it comes out and rage? Do you want to repeat your childhood where you drink, eat, gamble your emotions away, shop them away? You can't because it doesn't happen? You saw that in your own family system never worked somebody to drink their emotions away or take pills or it's still there. And that's what the movie showed an Elvis it's still there. The pain still remains until we're willing to get uncomfortable to willing to face the pain. And then guess what empowerment and freedom are on the other side, when you are willing to face your pain, empowerment and freedom, or on the other side, this is the path to empowerment. This is the path to freedom as adults, you have to acknowledge what is reality? And what is the illusion or the fantasy I have in my head when people live in the fantasy, but they're so nice some of the time. Yeah, I'm sure they are, how is that working for you, because you're holding on to that person being that nice person, that they are 10% of the time, and you're living with the person 90% of the time that is stuck in trauma and recreating dynamics that they might have gone through or they might have witnessed. You get to choose whether you're going to participate in that or not, you get to choose the boundaries of what's okay and what's not okay for you as an adult. There are so many support systems and groups out there to help you and when you feel mobilised that you can move into having a voice or taking action in some way healthy action. Empowerment is on the other side. So Your choices matter because that's where empowerment comes from how I choose to show up how I choose to communicate how I choose to self regulate or not all come out of my willingness to face the pain, my willingness to acknowledge my areas of growth, my willingness to acknowledge my unhealthy patterns, my willingness to acknowledge what I'm recreating from my own upbringing, that leads to empowerment, it's when we deny rationalise minimise bypass, that you will stay stuck in powerlessness. I know, it seems ironic, it seems counterintuitive, but that's the truth. When you take ownership for what you're powerless over, you actually end up empowered, we have to let go and surrender to the as is moment, what a lot of us do is we try to persuade other people, we try to talk them into something, we try to show them my side. And you can do that till the cows come home, it doesn't mean that they're going to all of a sudden change their mind, you get the right to have a voice, you can advocate for yourself, that's healthy. That's empowerment. What is it healthy is when you spend all your energy in staying in an unhealthy relationship where, you know, there's not a willingness for them to look at their own patterns, their own pain, their own trauma. And I can love people and have boundaries at the same time. So releasing this trying to convince other people to get help. I mean, you can ask, you can write letters. And if they're not willing to get the help, they're not willing to get the help, you can pray for them, you can offer them encouragement, and you can say when you're ready, I'm here, it's okay for you to get out of unhealthy relationships, unhealthy family dynamics, that's what healthy looks like that leads to empowerment, they're not going to like it. So when people see that you're breaking free, and you're feeling more empowered, some people don't like that, because they like to be in control, quote, unquote. And if you're done enough work, you're no longer going to tolerate that. And that's what was so painful to watch the movie, as Elvis tried to get out of this abusive relationships so many times, and oftentimes a master manipulator will talk you back into it and make you doubt your self. That's what happens in abuse. They make it doubt yourself, and then they implant fear in you that something horrible they're going to do to you something bad is going to happen to you. And so you are paralysed by making decisions, which makes sense, you're so afraid something terrible is going to happen to you, your family, you'll be destitute, you will be rejected, you'll be shunned, you will be shamed, you will be humiliated, you will be embarrassed, you will be not believed. And it was painful to watch the movie for me because I saw it all playing out. And if you watch the movie, you will see it. And it was painful to watch the abuse in the way it was like psychological and psychological abuse sometimes isn't evident on the outside. And what it does to you is you feel like you are the bad person. You feel like, well, maybe I am wrong. Well, maybe it is me. And it plays with your mind. It plays with how you feel about yourself. And in the movie, you could see his pain trying to find his voice and feel empowered. And then you would see him gain it. And then the manager snatch it away in one person, the power of a family system and then the power of grief and loss and the power of that not being acknowledged and processed. And at one point the manager in the movie I don't want to give the whole movie away but it's so hard not to talk about it. The manager Elvis has a loss. I don't want to tell you who but the manager basically takes him out of his grief and makes him responsible for another family member, and I'm like you just shoved all that grief back down by you being the prenta fied child. And so he never got to grieve the loss and a lot of powerlessness is about did you get to grieve the loss of what was taken from you? Did you get that to be the victim of it, to give yourself permission to say that was what I needed to do is grieve, and I wasn't allowed, it wasn't even a thought, to have grief around it. And when you give yourself the permission to acknowledge what happened to acknowledge what you're powerless over, and then to process the grief and loss around it, that leads to empowerment, that's how you get to freedom is acknowledging the grief and the loss that you've walked through. Because at the end of the day, I don't know what's going to happen one minute from now. And I have to kind of take it one minute at a time and nurture myself through it. Sometimes I'm talking myself through it, I'm working with one of my daughters, and she can kind of get into a panic. And the other day, she was so proud of herself, she came to me and she said mom, I was able to kind of talk myself through it and nurture myself through it, choose the word nurture, because I love that word. I'm a big fan of nurturing. And that's how we get to empowerment is empowerment, to find a voice to advocate for ourselves to be clear in our decision, even though you know what, there's no such thing as a perfect decision. And she was so proud that she was able to do that. And I said, Well, how did you feel? Because that's my question I love how did you feel because it's not about me. And she said, I could feel my body relax,
I felt better. I said, That's a relief. When that happens. Man, I want to fix it for her, I want to take her away from feeling that anxiety, and I'm powerless to do that I can only work on how I respond to it for her, because she's going to have anxiety, she's gonna have things happen, they are going to have pain, both my kids. And that's part of walking through this journey. And it's painful as a parent, or as a friend or as a partner. And I'm just here to listen, to hold the space to acknowledge to offer empathy, because that's what we all want. We don't want to be fixed. We want to be heard, understood and loved. And sometimes she doesn't want my help. Like, she doesn't want me to say anything. She's Want my help. And I have to go, Okay, I'm powerless over that. And I've learned to just be quiet sometimes just be quiet and listen, don't say anything. Wait, why am I talking about me and my nervous system and try to make myself feel better. So that leads us to acceptance of what you cannot control, which is majority of the things accepting that grieving that acknowledging that and then decide how do you want to take action? Do you want to go to therapy, maybe you decided we're going to take action by having a voice in whatever that is you need to have a voice with maybe that is writing and journaling. Maybe that looks like talking to a friend more maybe that looks like joining a support group. Maybe that looks like no longer burying the pain inside you. Maybe that looks like sobriety. Maybe that looks like forgiving yourself. Whatever that looks like for you. There is pain and powerlessness, and the pain can have purpose to help free you from no longer letting that pain be what paralyses you. You don't have to let the pain paralyse you anymore. I encourage you to join any of those suggestions. And I want you to know that you matter. You're important. you're loved. Every human on this planet matters. You matter even though you feel like you might not deserve love. You might feel like you've messed up, we have all messed up. I'm not perfect at all. And when you can go okay, I am going to release what no longer serves me and I do like the Serenity Prayer. It's one of my favourites. It's God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change the courage to change the things I can which is must say off and the wisdom to know the difference. It's a very real, if that doesn't resonate with you, that's okay to just discard it. It's something to help you gain back the sense of groundedness that's why the breath helps you to get re centred to get reregulated to get that prefrontal cortex back online for you to have rational thought and to be able to nurture your inner child. I hope this episode was helpful from taking pain of powerlessness into purpose and empowerment. Thank you for being who you are. And I can't wait to be with you again next week. Hi thank you so much for listening to the close the chapter podcast. My hope is that you took home some actionable steps, along with motivation, inspiration and hope for making sustainable change in your life. If you enjoyed this episode, click the subscribe button to be sure to get the updated episodes every week and share it with a friend or family member. For more information about how to get connected visit Kristin k r i s t e n d Boice b o ice.com. Thanks and have a great day.
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