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Sometimes our lives spin out of control — especially in this economy. If it feels like you’ve lost control over your life, or that you never had it, think again. Feeling powerless is an emotional trap and it’s not only frustrating, it can also be dangerous! I love Martha Beck. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you will recall a series I posted a few months ago called, “Yes It Was Awful, Now Please Shut Up.” Martha is a life coach and is a frequent guest on the Oprah show. Her new article is wonderful and I want to share it with you, so this week I will be posting “Power Messages” from Martha. Enjoy!

I’m terrified about my daughter’s drinking,” Mindy told me during our first session, “but I’ve asked her to get help, and she just yells at me.”

“My boss can be really unethical,” said Denise, another client, “but that’s the way things work. If I complain, my job is history.”

Paula, a third client, is perpetually exhausted: “I know I should take better care of myself,” she admitted, “but someone has to be there for my husband and children.”

You probably hear statements like these all the time. If you’re anything like me, you may make plenty of them yourself. They may not sound dangerous, but they are. They’re declarations of powerlessness, one of the most psychologically debilitating conditions human beings can experience. If we believe them, such statements can get us stuck in emotional tar pits ranging from frustration to rage to utter despair. The good news? They’re never true.


I’m not saying we have power over everything in our lives—if that were true, my hair would look so, so different—but I am saying that there’s no circumstance in which we are completely powerless. My clients—Mindy, Denise, and Paula—are all being challenged to find their power in a disempowering environment. And whatever your circumstance, so are you.

The most common reason we stumble into the delusion of powerlessness is that we’re afraid of what other people would do or say or feel if we were to act as we wanted. Mindy was terrified of her daughter’s angry resistance. Denise’s fear of being fired overrode her ethics. And Paula anxiously predicted that her family would disintegrate if she focused less care on them and more on herself. All three felt stymied, but actually they were just “allower-less” (say it out loud: it rhymes). They were waiting for other people and the arrival of circumstances to give them explicit permission to do what felt right, and by doing so, they were rendering themselves powerless.

More Martha tomorrow …



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