Powerless presence

I have an assignment. For seven days, I have to write down one thing and/or person each day that I feel powerless over along with my thoughts and feelings.

I did not just randomly assign this to myself – it is for a class I am taking on substance abuse. I also get to keep a gratitude journal. First, though, I need to become aware of and write about what or who makes me feel powerless.

I remember a still moment when I was very, very young and the feeling of being totally powerless over my life crystallized. I knew it was going to be a very long, long time before I would be able to do anything about it. Something was lost in that moment. I gave up a dream or illusion, and probably gave away too much of my power as well.

It is a little bit crowded on my path to regaining personal power. It will be interesting to meet and get to know the selfs (<==== probably not a real word) who I am who feel powerless. Even more interesting will be the question: what are we going to do about it . . . if anything?

To recognize that I feel powerless requires that I define what power feels like. And, I don’t believe I have ever given much thought to power. Control, yes, I know all about control (and the illusion therein), but power? The quest is on.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass

Tags: ,

25 Responses to “Powerless presence”

  1. ntexas99 Says:

    barbara — powerlessness is hard to define, even after pausing a moment to give it serious contemplation and thought. Identifying seven things / situations / people that make us feel powerless would seem to be the logical step to take if we are looking for ways we can alter our current situation, as well as to help us identify our mode of response to such situations / things / people.

    This was especially helpful: I remember a still moment when I was very, very young and the feeling of being totally powerless over my life crystallized. I knew it was going to be a very long, long time before I would be able to do anything about it. Something was lost in that moment. I gave up a dream or illusion, and probably gave away too much of my power as well.

    I like the idea of identifying power, as it applies to your own personal situation, so that you can recognize the difference between power and control, and formulate a plan as to what you want to do with this information. Very interesting post.

    p.s. I’m a fan of using whatever words fits, whether or not it already exists as a “real” word. By using it, you bring it to life and make it real.

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Hi, Nancy! It is so good to hear from you — how are things going on your blog? Is it ready for the not-so-prime-time? I think I am going to learn a lot from this power exercise. It is an interesting word. There are some places in my life where I feel very powerful – when I set out on quest to make something happen, I generally do. But sometimes, I pay a huge price, too. This exercise will help me identify how I might feel powerless and I venture to guess, there may be some areas where I will be surprised. If you check back here over the next week (until next Friday), you’ll get to read all about it.

  2. Kathy Says:

    Hi Barbara. I so admire you for doing this assignment and finding out what power means and how you give it away. It is a good question. I hope you learn much from this… And am wondering now if most of us–in some way or another–give up our dreams and illusions. And maybe this is sometimes a good thing in which we are accepting “what is”. Yet at other times it is undoubtedly a letting go of what “could have been.”

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Hi, Kathy — I think you are right about giving up dreams and illusions. Some illusions are necessary so we can keep our sanity intact (like the one about the world being a safe place when we were children). I think power might be found in resurrecting “what could have been” and seeing if it is now possible. Like I told Nancy (above), I am interested in finding out where I give my power away, and how to get it back!

  3. sandiwhite Says:

    You are in for a ride on this one, it’s really more far-reaching than you would imagine.

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Great . . . are heights involved? I hate heights. You can fall waaaayyyyy down . . . or is it more of a roller coaster ride? I don’t mind those so long as I am strapped in tight and don’t have to open my eyes . . . but the Tilt-a-Whirl is a favorite — spinning round and roiund and round. But I digress . . . come on, Sandi, spill it. What do you know?

  4. snoopykg2 Says:

    Here are some thoughts about powerlessness and some of my feelings living in a family with where substance abuse and also other abuse was alive and well.

    There have been situations where I became self-preoccupied that I became incapable of reaching out to ask for others’ help and support in facing problems which were beyond my power and control.

    I have been in a feeling of powerlessness when I am in a rut of almost denying the the existence of a Higher Power in my life upon whom I can call for help and assistance, and then feeling powerless when I actually did acknowledge it. A two-edged sword.

    I have become so frustrated and depressed in trying to solve the unsolvable problems that my find your temper, anger and rage igniting and flaring up spontaneously, inappropriately and disproportionately to making myself so alone that there was nowhere to go.

    I have been in situations that I have felt so defeated by the non-fixable realities of life that I come to believed myself an inadequate person, and to some extent still do..
    In feeling powerlessness I sometimes forget that I am a human being, open to failures and mistakes and not the perfection that I sometimes seek.

    My biggest issue is that I cling onto the people whom I cannot control or change or might even to control me until they one day become frustrated by my efforts to change, correct or reform them.

    What is powerlessness?

    Powerlessness is the:Sensation of being out of control with no apparent solution to help you to regain control.Complete lack of control, authority or status to affect how others will treat or act towards you.
    Lack of capability to affect the realities of life out of your control like:
    * how others act towards you
    * if you will get a job you want
    * If you will be accepted to a school you desire to attend
    * what the weather will be
    * if an accident will occur
    * if an act of God will affect you or others, etc.

    Lack of ability
    * to affect or change the compulsive or addictive behaviors of others which affect you negatively.
    * to make others exactly what you want them to be.
    * to change past events which have had a negative impact in your current life.
    * to insure that all of your dreams and fantasies for the way you want life to be will come true in reality.
    * to completely change things you have attempted repeatedly to change with no success.

    Presence of impulsive, addictive, compulsive and obsessive behaviors in you which
    * up to now you have not been able to get under control
    * are causing your life to become unmanageable
    * affect your life and
    * are out of your control.

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Hi, Kim — you seem to have a pretty good handle on how you are powerless, and I agree with your list; I have been in them all at least once and know that there is little I can do about many situations; what I struggle with is defining my sense of being powerless and not being conscious of places where I am being powerless when I truly am not. And, then, I need to look at how I might be causing me to suffer over people and situations where I truly am powerless in changing them or the situation, but that does not mean I, as a person, am powerless. It only means that I cannot see how my actions or my thoughts impact them. This will be an adventure for me, too. I hope you are willing to lend me a few good words!

      • snoopykg2 Says:

        Yes, that is the biggest challenge on this one.
        I think admitting you are powerless over certain things is the easier part, how you react and how you bring that as a positive aspect of your life is the challenge. I think it is those that do not pull themselves out of or admitt that powerlessness are the ones that are in the “Substance Abuse” area. I also think that you can admitt it, however working to get out is the mountain… not to mention the ongoing control minute to minute..

  5. holessence Says:

    Barbara, your assignment is REALLY interesting. I’m currently writing an article for “Evolving Your Spirit” magazine about the solar plexus chakra. You know what it governs? Personal power, self-definition, and social wellness. And guess what? The shadow side is self-importance.

    I enjoyed reading what you wrote, and the following comments. I’m glad to know that you’re going to keep us posted.

    Laurie Buchanan

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      I hope you define “self-importance” for me, too, Laurie. That can get twisted in odd little ways; I’ve met people and have the shadow self who does something we claim is altruistic and only for someone else’s good when in reality, doing things for others makes us feel important and indispensable. And, I’m with Kim: time to work on that solar plexus!

  6. snoopykg2 Says:

    Oh boy it seems like I need to read a little bit about the solar plexus, based on the commnets above and from what I have read on a couple sites already…bye I have an assignment to do too…..ta ta…Kim

  7. holessence Says:

    Here’s a snippet out of my article regarding self-importance:

    Vastly different than self-esteem (acknowledging and respecting one’s personal value), self-importance can be the behavior of condescending to others due to a feeling of superiority; it can also include making others appear wrong so they look right. Like a sheep in wolf’s clothing it can be disguised as altruism, compassion, or kindness. Self-importance includes narcissism—vanity, indifference to others, and an extreme concern about me, myself, and I.

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Okay — here’s my dilemma with the part about “an extreme concern about me, myself, and I.” No one much cared about me when I was growing up; certainly, they were very bad at looking after me. So, I became very concerned about me, myself, and I because nobody else was. I seemed to have carried a lot of it into adulthood, refusing to depend upon people or even look to someone else to help me out. Indeed, I pick people who are reluctant to help me out. I don’t know that I have the other symptoms of vanity or indifference to others. Now, I think I will go write about powerlessness and making sure I am never in that position . . .

  8. holessence Says:

    Barbara – You are NOT

  9. holessence Says:

    Round II

    Barbara – You are NOT concerned about “me, myself, and I” to the exclusion of others, as completely and totally evidenced by your love and devotion for January. You are NOT cocerned about “me, myself, and I” to the exclusion of others, as completely and totally evidenced by your loe and devotion for Jonathan. Need I go on? …

  10. holessence Says:

    Barbara – If I were there I would SHAKE YOU ‘TIL YOUR TEETH RATTLE! You have a heart the size of Texas. You encompass as many people as you can with that great big ol’ heart of yours!

  11. Snoopykg2 Says:

    No Question about that…:-)

  12. jeffstroud Says:


    I am very moved by this blog, proud that you are sharing your experience, your fears, your strengths, your power and your powerlessness.
    I am thrilled to see the suggestions offered, the support and love that is streaming forth as well. For in these ladies is power, power of forgiveness, power of healing, power of acceptance, and all so much more.

    What kept coming to mind while reading your blog the first time yesterday, and then again this morning, with all the loving support, as well as reading your blog for today… was the Serenity Prayer:

    God Grant me the Serenity to Accept the things I can change
    Courage the Change the Things I can
    And the Wisdom to know the Difference.

    With that in mind, I read the comments and I was transformed to an AA Meeting, the topic being the first Step “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol-that our lives had become unmanageable.”

    The First paragraph of this step shares in many ways what you have already stated, “Who cares to admit complete defeat? Practically no one, of course. Every natural instinct cries our against the idea of personal powerlessness…”
    The Twelve Steps.
    In Many Roads, One Journey Moving Beyond the 12 Steps. Charlotte Davis Kasl, Ph,D. Offers the suggestion of shifting words, when making statements of powerlessness, such as “I feel powerless, or “I experience myself as powerless…”
    Ms Davis Kasl, Begins by stating this about the first step, “Clearly, to uncover from addiction, we need to acknowledge or admit we have a problem. The purpose of admitting powerlessness is to send shock waves to our ego or old survivor. ‘I got a problem. Get it? The old ways are not working any more-they could kill us”.

    I hope this is in some way helpful. Know that I am here for you in any capacity that you my chose, to guide, support, assist in healing!

    I am Love, Jeff

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Given the amount of resistance that I have to admitting that I am powerless, Jeff, I am going to need all the help I can get. I very much appreciate the “shock wave” therapy. There are a few instances where such a wake up call was necessary in my life. I am moving into this class with the idea that I am just fine, I am not powerless, there is always SOMETHING I can do, but the assignment is for seven days to acknowledge my powerless presence. What is it that I am so afraid to find out?

  13. jeffstroud Says:


    You write “the assignment is for seven days to acknowledge my powerless presence. What is it that I am afraid to find out? ” Only you know the answer to that question but it must be time for you to find out, or these questions would not be present in your life right now.
    I offered my presence for just that reason, so that you know that you have support, and I am certain that any of the ladies, here would listen, comfort, and support you as well during this time.
    I gather you in a circle of healing and safety while you proceed into the darkness of your shadows. Sending Loving Healing energy.
    As you said in a blog a few days ago about sending healing to Ted, I offer this to you, I have on power as to whether you receive it or use it for your benefit. The fact is I offered it, I did not hold back, I did not silently offer, or keep my gift under a barrel… which is what you are attempting to do, lift the veil over your powerful light, which I believe is already shinning in many many ways.

    I am Love, Jeff

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Hi, Jeff — I am humbled by your generosity and accept that little poke (ouch) about hiding my gifts under a barrel. Today was a very interesting first class (which I will write about ad nauseam soon). Mostly, I was struck at how good I felt being surrounded by 17 other people who were there for the same purpose, whose hearts and minds are connected for these next five weeks with similar intent. It is a rather new discovery for me that I enjoy being with other people because for about the first 50 years, I was always with people but craved solitude. For the past 3 years, though, I have been finding myself more and more gravitating towards being with others and not caring so much to be by myself. I think you have struck a key chord here: I need to share more of myself with open generosity and love. Thank you.

  14. 2010 in review « Eternal Presence Says:

    […] Powerless presence May 201024 comments 5 […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: