How to Face Powerlessness in Times of Trouble
Oh Man, we do not like it! Feeling powerless in the face of tragedy or loss can make us crazy, emotionally insecure and sometimes even angry. And today it seems we’ve been facing it far too often.
Every time a crisis occurs and no matter what we do, we cannot go back and change what happened, feelings of inadequacy rise up to meet us. When we cannot fix things, when there are no words that will comfort, we must learn to face our limitations. And that’s not easy!
Feeling powerless is something I’ve avoided most of my life. I like to feel in control. I like to think there isn’t anything I can’t handle. But in reality, there are a lot of things that I can’t make better. Recently, I had to face the fact that my older cat is in the process of dying. He recently stopped drinking water and every day he eats less and less. He is taking his time. There is no procedure or pill that will stop his slow march to the end.
There’s nothing to do but wait – first days, and now weeks. I sit with him often, powerless to do anything to make him better. Yes, I could have him put to sleep. I could make that decision to end his life right now, but something inside of me says, that’s really not my decision. I’ve been through the resistance, the crying, the frustration and anger. I have felt them all vividly.
So now there’s just the two of us sitting together doing nothing, and waiting. I stroke his little head and he still purrs. As long as he’s content, I’ve decided not to rush him, to just let it be.
Everywhere there are people facing the toughest times of their lives and feeling powerless. Shame, guilt and fear keep us locked in a tug of war with “what is.” We hang out in the past, with regret for all we didn’t do or say. Or we hang out in the future, with maybe, and hoping for better. All the while our greatest potential for peace is in the present moment right there with the pain and suffering. We just don’t know how to face it. Especially when there’s nothing we can do to change it or fix it.
But our greatest strength really lies behind that black door of powerlessness. It is the only way through to peace. In order to open it we must first recognize it and accept it for what it is – the aspect of our humanity that allows us to connect on the deepest levels, beyond doing and saying. Our weakness, helplessness and sadness will lead us to each other’s hearts.
If we resist our powerlessness and fight against it, we keep it intact. You cannot pass through something you choose to deny. But the very moment we accept our powerlessness, we are free to open up into our true power, that of love, compassion and empathy. When we realize there’s nothing we can say or do, then all we can do is BE with others.
We will never end suffering. We are a species bound to pain and loss. It is inevitable because we are human. When we stop trying to simply put an end to it, we can learn how to care for it. When we embrace our powerlessness, we embrace our humanity. They are one and the same.
What we need to know is that we ARE better together. Our vulnerability is our human glue. Being fully present with pain, suffering and loss, we take them inside of us and they become part of the fabric of who we are. In knowing and experiencing the truth about powerlessness, we learn how to act from love and compassion more often. Our lives can then evolve to include appreciating, protecting and caring for others. We learn, as a species, to make better decisions to this end – wherever the lesson is relevant, one person, one kitty at a time.