I was drawn to this website because of the books that Mr Romain has written on the topic. I am involved in a 12 step program and am working my first step admitting powerlessness. This has sparked some interesting conversations with my wife who does not believe in the concept of powerlessness. I beleive without it I am unable to deal with the life dominating issues in my life.
I also beleive that without total dependency on God that only powerlessness can bring their can be no spiritual growth in a Christian's life. Any thoughts that might help me understand my wife's view or on the issue of powerlessness in a christian's life.
Very good topic, brjaan!
Powerlessness, in particular, is a key to recognizing one's need for God. In terms of addiction and recovery, it usually refers to a certain loss of control with respect to the addictive activity. But there is a larger sense in which it is part of the poverty of spirit that Jesus tells us we need in order to come into the reign of God. This second sense invites us to get in touch with the fact that we really don't control very much--in the end, nothing at all except our attitude, and even that is contingent on a certain degree of health. E.g., we don't control the fact that we exist, and we have no complete grip on our health, how others treat us, the weather, the economy, accidents, and the biggie: death.
Really getting in touch with how little we control helps us be more grateful for the gifts we have been given, and teaches us our dependence on God. Hence, the importance of Step One as a key to open the gifts of the other Steps.
The interesting thing, at least the way I see it, is that powerFULness is an illusion. How could it not be? We don't create the air we breathe yet without it we would be dead in a minute. We don't create the atmosphere yet without it we would be cooked in an instant by the sun's rays. We don't create electricity but without it our brains couldn't think, our cells wouldn't work, and our bodies would be helpless lumps of mush. I can't control in the least what other people around me do. On my best days I might influence them in some small way. I can hardly control my own body except by what I put in it and even then I could keel over tomorrow.
Not believe in powerlessness, Virginia (or whatever you wife's name is)! You might as well not believe in ferries (Washington State ones).
It is, however, very important psychologically (so I'm told) for people to not feel helpless. I think it's a classic case of coming to terms with what you can and can't change � and knowing the difference. (I think someone, somewhere, said this much better once.)
And I think at the root of all this is how we each define "power." A quiet love can be a power just as much as a Type A person who builds a business into a world power or a politician who rules a country. I suppose the real question is about finding and acknowledging our own unique powers because when we look at some of the powers that other people wield we can often feel quite humble, even powerless, in comparison.
Those are some good reflections from an agnostic, Brad.
Thank you, WC. I think I merely expounded on some of the things Phil had written (although I didn�t read his post first). I especially like his point:
�the fact that we really don't control very much--in the end, nothing at all except our attitude, and even that is contingent on a certain degree of health.
That�s where Buddhism leaps in (or a belief in being a wondrous creation of God); we needn�t identify with the tumult of thoughts and feelings that we have. It�s almost impossible not to because we ARE our thoughts and egos, as we all know. But I can have mood swings that can make any woman with PMS seem like a lightweight; like a pussycat. That certainly gives one a feeling of a loss of control � big time. Addiction to all sorts of things can be the result. Escape the chaos. Bring some kind of control to one�s life by joining the chemical battle already underway. It actually makes sense. But underneath it all we are still this little, winking bit of consciousness (soul) that knows that the sh*t pile has simply gotten deeper. We feel we MUST dig ourselves out completely but our self is there present amongst all the turmoil whether we know it or not. This sh*t doesn�t have to come off for us to be us. We don�t have to get things all in order and have everything be just right before we are our �true selves.� It�s already there. The other stuff is just decoration. Remove it if you can but I wouldn�t make it the focus. Laugh at it if you can.
I have more questions than answers but the first thing to realize that we are not alone. This kind of crap is far more prevalent than any of us knows. We all think we�re this little island of suffering while the rest of the world rolls merrily along. It just seems that way sometimes. I�ll have to quote the exact passage by Herman Melville that I just read in a short story (it�s not handy right now), but he said something like joy is an emotion that seemingly fills the world because it is outside on full display in the air and breeze and we think misery to be rare. But misery simply lurks in the dark, unseen, and is probably much more the norm.
Hello to All!
I'm not going to make a bunch of excuses for not being around on this board. It's summer, I'm a teacher and I've had PLENTY of time. Just been doing other things.
I did a three day private retreat at the onset of the summer. It was GREAT. And I started attending early morning Mass at a Shrine church in my town. It's a rather intimate little gathering....usually less than 30 people, and is a nice change from my regular Sunday parish. The grounds there are beautiful, too, and so I've established a habit of walking thirty minutes on the grounds after the Mass.
Now....about this "control" issue.
Just to make sure we keep our "Phil's" straight, I'm talking about DOCTOR Phil here in this next passage.
Dr. Phil <G> says that one of the most stressful situations you can put someone in is to make them feel responsible for something over which they have no control.
I don't think I worded it exactly like he did, but I KNOW that I DO that all the time. I assume responsibility for things which are beyond my control. God does not ask me to take these things on, but I do!!
Right now my husband is struggling with a serious and physically debilitating illness. He says things to me like "I feel like such a loser" or "I feel like I'm letting everybody down."
I really don't know how to respond to him, but it is obvious that until he got sick he had convinced himself that he WAS in control. Serious illness was something that happened to OTHER people and that somehow those OTHER people could have controlled it. And now that HE is sick and can't control his illness.....well, he views that as defeat. He has "lost." And there are days when he still has himself convinced that he OUGHT to be able to control this illness. Sort of a mind over matter thing.
I'm not telling this to complain about him. Who knows how I would react if I were sick? I doubt I would take it very well. I just think it is so easy to convince ourselves that we ARE in control until something hits us over the head.
Phil (St. Romain)wrote:
"Really getting in touch with how little we control helps us be more grateful for the gifts we have been given, and teaches us our dependence on God."
Focusing on what I have to be grateful for is probably THE single most effective method I use to battle anxiety. Gratitude helps me to focus on the positive things in my life, instead of becoming anxious about all those other things (MOST of which I have no control over).
Both of my parents and both of my older siblings take anti-anxiety medications. I'm stating this as a fact with no judgement intended. We'll just say that there is a family history of anxiety. I'm hoping that I won't follow the pattern, and I'm hoping that some of the things I learn on my spiritual journey will help me to deal cognitively with the anxiety. If not, then at least I will be able to battle it with more than one approach!!
I've certainly jumped around in this post. Glad to be back here, participating again. Hope I've said SOMETHING useful!
That's quite an extraordinary idea, W.C. I don't doubt that it's true on some level. The problem I see is learning to be Dr. Doolittle:
If we could talk to the animals, learn their languages
Think of all the things we could discuss
If we could walk with the animals, talk with the animals,
Grunt and squeak and squawk with the animals,
And they could squeak and squawk and speak and talk to us.
The body groans, aches, complains but not always in a simple, clear language � at least to my untrained ear. Any tips?
All good stuff, w.c., Anne, and Brad!
There's a great scene in "Instinct" where Anthony Hopkins, who is a prisoner in a mental ward (but is sane as Abe Lincoln), gets in a "discussion" with his counselor (Cuba Gooding) about control. Gooding is cocky and sure of himself, so Hopkins grabs him and gets him in a neck lock, threatening to kill him unless he can say what has just been taken from him. Gooding writes down "Freedom". Wrong! "Control" Wrong! Finally, "My illusion." Correct!
As long as we are healthy, there is a range of freedom available to us, but we have so little control over the parameters which give us this range of freedom that we might as well say that it is a fleeting gift, on loan, at best. We have many illusions about being able to control those parameters, but, at best, we only tweak them, and that, slightly.
A great gift of the Steps, however, is that they don't leave us dangling in awareness of our lack of control. They move us along--next Step 2, an affirmation of hope; then 3, surrender, etc. Indeed, one of the great gifts of the Steps, I am convinced, is in their systemmatizing the spiritual life to make it more accessible. This is part of the "secret" of Buddhism, with its Four Noble Truths and Eightfold Path--lots of practical insights and practices, there. Same with Islam, to some extent. As one moves through the Steps, undertaking the work outlined for each, there is a going deeper into a basic conversion process that can be summarized as letting go and letting God. And it works, as countless millions of people in recovery can attest, present company included.
That's a great story, Phil.
And I think that's a great bit of analysis.
Truly, I don't know who's running the show or if there is a plan, but it does seem to suggest that there is some type of plan because we run into all kinds of difficulties and stress when we try to be what we are not. We might look around at others, see what they have, and think we too should have those things for ourselves. There's nothing wrong with being motivated or ambitious but WHERE DO WE DRAW THE FRIGGIN' LINE? That's the million dollar question. Under what circumstances should we stop striving and yearning and just accept what we have and who we are? How do we know we're not short-changing ourselves? How do we know what we're really capable of without the constant pushing and pressing and striving? Beats me, but I do know � or at least suspect � that 90% of our stress and unhappiness comes from beating our heads needlessly against the wall.
God grant me the wisdom to accept the things I can not change�That's nice in theory but in practice it's not working very well for a great many people. There's just too much other noise competing with it. Would you say that a good deal of addiction is simply an attempt to quiet the noise? To get back to our real selves, to our master plan? Is it our own, no matter how botched, attempt to take an inward journey?
There are other components for sure. Anger. Numbing one's self to the pain. Etc. But there's so much shame associated with some of the stuff we do (and rightly so in many cases) but I also have to believe that we're also trying to heal ourselves. I suppose that's where God or the Master Plan comes in. We can't do it alone. We just make things worse. That, of course, can tend to make us feel even more worthless and more helpless. But I suppose if you look at it like trying to fly an airplane from your seat in coach it puts things in perspective. You're not powerless you're just assuming some power for yourself that really isn't yours and never was. The answer is more of a subtractive process. We don't need to control more things or to control certain things better. That's a never-ending death spiral of anxiety. The more you try to control the more you find you can't control and the more incompetent as a controlling you seem to find yourself.
And so the answer is��damned if I know. It's probably a little bit different for all of us. We're all so different. We're also sometimes in situation that seem to inherently need some change and that would seem to require controlling something. How can one just let go over an abyss and not fall deeper? If we're absolutely convinced that some of the things around us are causing us pain, and we might not be able to escape some or any of them, what do we do then? How do we cope? How do we let go and just accept some of this crap? It seems like defeat when what we secretly really want is victory.
Now this is where you come in and say something really smart, Phil.
That sounds like good advice from TNH, W.C.
I like the sound of that.
Truly, I don't know who's running the show or if there is a plan, but it does seem to suggest that there [i]is some type of plan because we run into all kinds of difficulties and stress when we try to be what we are not. [/i]
That's really the basis from which natural law works--that there are limits within which human nature is meant to function. The 10 commandments and the proscriptions in Buddhism put this nicely, I believe.
There's nothing wrong with being motivated or ambitious but WHERE DO WE DRAW THE FRIGGIN' LINE? That's the million dollar question. Under what circumstances should we stop striving and yearning and just accept what we have and who we are? How do we know we're not short-changing ourselves?
In Christian spirituality, this drive becomes "harnessed" in the effort to "seek first the reign of God and His righteousness." Personal ambition to promote Ego or obtain material prosperity is antithetical to this. Another way of looking at it is that if one loves God first, then there is an ordering of the other desires, all of which will have some reference to the love of God. St. Alphonsus said it simply, "Love God and do what you will." Well, maybe that's too simply.
God grant me the wisdom to accept the things I can not change�That's nice in theory but in practice it's not working very well for a great many people.
That's true, but there is much more to the prayer than that:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
- courage to change the things I can,
- and the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time,
enjoying one moment at a time,
taking, as He did, this sinful world just as it is,
and not as I would have it.
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His will.
That I may be reasonably happy in this life,
and supremely happy with Him forever.
I did a whole book of reflections on this prayer a few years ago and it's still in print, for those who are interested. Let's just say I had a good outline to work with.
The more you try to control the more you find you can't control and the more incompetent as a controlling you seem to find yourself. And so the answer is��damned if I know.
Such is the "place" a good Step One takes us. Truly, that's it! Now 11 to go!
Okay, I think that qualifies as saying something really smart. We can reevaluate the meaning of a number of things; put them in a different context. Surely we all want riches, but gold or something else? We can orient ourselves in relation to our neighbors and worldly concerns or we can orient ourselves (or at least infuse ourselves) with some loftier purposes.
I suppose the trick is avoiding "holier than thou" attitudes or else we're just feeding the ego again under the guise of religion
Would you believe I�m working them backwards?
A lot of good thoughts. Some of it I do not admittedly understand especially some of the meditation technical terms.
I had some important lessons in powerlessness this week. I am forced to admit I am powerless in all areas of my life which leads me to step two. I have to come to the conclusion that a power greater than myself could restore me to sanity. Ilove the example of the serenity prayer. Much of the time I struggle with my own sanity. For me the prayer goes
God grant me the sanity to except the things I cannot change and the courage to change the things I can.
Keep on going, brjaan. The second step is about hope. Perhaps others can jump in here and answer the question, "What gives you hope?" Or, "What is the basis of your hope?"
For many in addiction-recovery groups, it's the presence of those who've gone before and who've overcome addictions that gives them hope. That's pretty concrete, and without this kind of testimony, I suppose it would be difficult to have hope for oneself.
Expanding the concept beyond addiction-recovery, we come to the issue of intellectual assent to some kind of principle, or higher power, which holds forth a promise or even assurance of betterment. For me, this is Christ, whose resurrection I view as a promise/assurance of an eternity with God . . . if I remain in his love, that is. The witness of the Saints also provides some assurance that the spiritual life can be lived to the end, and that it bears marvelous fruit. I have realized in my own experience something of what I hope for, but it is the nature of hope to keep the grand realization ever in the future, from whence one is called forth to live more fully in the present moment.
I have to admit everyday is a struggle to let go of thoughts and situations that I am powerless over. I have been reading Phil's book Pathways to Serenity. I am on chapter 7. I have found the discussion on the stages and the ego to be helpful to understand why I make some of my choices. This has helped me except myself which to me is a first step to surrender to God and except his love.
Much of my life I have spent in the parental mode rescueing others and then crash and burning in the pleasure mode to escape. This is till my tendency. I preach and try to control others and manipulate my environment and then escape from the stress. To Let go that is what I want a baptism so to speak in God's love.
Sounds like a bit of codependency in there, brjaan. We all have to deal with that. I think you've subscribed to the ebookstore, so you might take a look at "Freedom from Codependency," which has a 12 Step process outlined as well.
Keep us posted on how it's going.
It sounds like you�re kind of in a fragile place right now, brjaan. Been there done that (and still am to some extent). I just have one word of advice: Don�t reject yourself.
We all do all kinds of stuff, and exhibit all kinds of behaviors, that aren�t particularly good for us or for the people around us. Yeah, that�s us doing that stuff, but look at just the structure of this sentence: �Us� comes before �doing.� We�re not simply the things we do. We�re more than the sum of our actions. There�s something outside of our actions, the �Us�, that we can hold onto as clean and pure and unadulterated. We can dislike (even hate) some of the things we do but there�s no need to throw the baby out with the bath water, so to speak.
Another thing, just from personal experience, is that we often go off on tangents when embarked on any kind of self-reevaluation project. Something will seem to work for a day or even an hour and then the next day it doesn�t. We look for some form of thought or philosophy or belief to hang onto and sometimes things just keep slipping through our hands like sand. It�s certainly not my place, particularly on a religious forum, to suggest not holding on tightly to God. I�m all for that. But don�t squeeze too hard. You don�t have to. Remember that God is holding tightly onto you too. You can relax into yourself. You don�t have to change every damn thing in one day. You are made, for whatever purpose, to be just who you are. I believe most of our crap that gets us into trouble is because we reject this. Go easy on yourself. You don�t have to be perfect.
I think Phil�s advice about Hope is excellent. Hope is a very difficult thing to find if you don�t have much, but it is absolutely essential. It�s as important as the air we breathe. My advice? Don�t get your hopes up. Literally. What??? I�m saying to get your hopes in line with what is reasonable. Are all your �hopes� just further expectations for yourself that add even more pressure to you accepting yourself for who you are? Stop it. Hope for the sun to rise tomorrow and for you to be there watching it when it does. Hope for having a laugh or two at some of the sh*t that happens to us during the day. Might as well. Hope for the love of just one person � even if it�s �just� the man upstairs. Hope for a quiet moment when you can just read a book, watch a movie or talk with a friend � all while just being yourself with no more expectation than that. Good luck.
I am doing good so far. My trust is in not to sound strange but in Mary mother of God. I made her my hire power or maybe put better my gateway to God the Son, God the Father. my hope also has been in reconnecting with good friends with in SA and outside of the program. I am currently writing my first step and it can be depressing at times. But I then I realize without God there is no hope.
Phil you suggested that some of what I mentioned is codependency issues you would be right. Much of my spiritual problems stem from my fundamentalist childhood and my wife's mental illness. I did not take care of myself through any of it but just medicated myself with religion and the behaviors i was doing. It is funny though as my wife situation improved I my addiction became worse.
I dont think I ever doubted God or disbeleived in him. I think some legitimate spiritual experiences even in my worse moments. My issue was how to deal with the inner pain. The 12 steps and the SA group I attend has been a great place to share the whole truth which is a freeing but painful experience. I think for me God is finally becoming more than just a instant thing or a head trip to call on when things are overwhelming He is my travel companion, my doctor someone I can let go and give control. I am a control freak so coming from me it is real spiritual healing.
Powerlessness, my favourite... I was struck by serious depression at age of 25, and against my conscious will had to face absolute powerlessness. At times I had no strength to go to toilet or to eat. I lost my faith in God, who seemed to me either cruel sadist or non-existent. But this complete loss of my mental and spiritual powers became the most important thing that has ever happened to me. It was like if the old I had died and new I had born. Or better - that there was no "I" at all, at least not I separate from God or nature or other people. And the world has never been the same since.
No more I evaluate things and say that this is good and this is bad. Everything is as God allows it to be. Some people say that depression is bad, or physical illness is bad - but if such graces as those I received follow these sufferings, are they really bad things at all? Now I believe that everything is just as it should be at this very moment. And hope - that I don't need anymore. What would I hope for, when I don't know what is good for me? I just rest in the moment of now, and everything is good now. Acts that I perform seem to come through me, not from me. Strange how it is really possible to act and change things without feeling any dissatisfaction at all.
"If we're absolutely convinced that some of the things around us are causing us pain, and we might not be able to escape some or any of them, what do we do then? "
Just to observe the pain and the situation. Living in current moment without letting mind wander to future ("Can I take this pain if it lasts longer") or past. The pain is not in the real "I", but in the "false I" that is observed.
brjaan, it sounds like a conversion process is at work in your life, painful though it may be. It takes a lot of humility and courage to face one's inner demons. Just keep going. Things eventually get better, as Tatjana has testified.
Tatjana, welcome to the forum. You say your depression happened at 25; how old are you now? It sounds like you've come out in a very good place--quite a contemplative spirit.
You note: The pain is not in the real "I", but in the "false I" that is observed. That's my experience as well. This might be another topic, and so anyone feel free to start us off, but I'm convinced that depression is often a signal that our life is not working. Therefore, a kind of invitation to rebirth is implicit in the experience--sort of a "quit doing what doesn't work and find another way to live!" The problem is that addictions negate that message and enable us pushing ahead in the wrong direction . . . just for awhile, of course, as they, too, eventually run their course, leaving us more depressed than before.
Your words have the ring of experience and wisdom, Tatjana.
Great thread. Powerlessness and unmanageability and escaping from the illusion of control are, of course, paramount, but so elusive.
Eight years with the stepwork has only got me to the point where I can see the insanity returning, go back to step one and start over. This unflattering point of departure where I admit my rebellion,pride,
guilt, immaturity, lack of surrender and over-sensitivity is where I can begin to tap into the real POWER lying within and without, the POWER that can really solve the problem and get ME out of
the way of the SOLUTION. --michael <*))))><
Speaking of powerlessness today I am feeling physically bad. Old back and neck injuries bothering me causing a headache and discomfort so this posting will be short.
Someone gave the example of not viewing things as good or bad but accepting them for what they are. This has been a real struggle for me. I come from a fundamentalist background and find myself thinking in very black and white judgemental ways. Mostly aimed at myself fueling my self destructive behavior. The moments that I have felt fully surrender in God's presence have been when I am able to accept myself, urges, anger, and emotions. These moments though more frequent are intersparsed with fear anxiety and desire to escape from them. I find it difficult to stay in the light but those moments I have been able to have been the most freeing I have ever had,
Hang in there, brjaan! Walking patiently with difficulty is very difficult, but is the source of tremendous growth!
Even so, it IS OK to complain to God (read the Psalmist, for example), to punch a pillow, and generally moan and groan at times.
It was praying the Psalms when my wife's manic depression had taken a turn for the worse that kept me together (using the Book of Common Prayer and later the Liturgy of the Hours) and led me into the Church. I think it also coupled with the help of good pastors, Priests, and friends prepared my heart for the 12 step group I am currently involved in. I love the Psalms especially the pentitential Psalms ( hopefully I spelled that right)
I am preparing to move on to step 2 and 3. I give what is called a first presentation in SA to the group in october. Admittedly I am nervous.
|Powered by Social Strata||Page 1 2 3 4 ... 12|