Disempowerment vs Hope
By Dr. Michelle Kmiec, Founder OHH
We all long for our lives to be peaceful and to flow in a positive direction. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we felt assured that everything in our lives would be a seamless progression and that we would always be passionate about our daily activities, empowered by our life’s purpose, and steadily maintain an overall sense of fulfillment?
At various stages of our lives, we contemplate and reflect, and many of us either feel a sense of regret and dissatisfaction, or pure contentment and happiness. Sadly, too many experience feelings of regret and blame their circumstances on plain old bad luck, the so-called “life cards that we were dealt.”
However, rather than placing blame, the focus should be on the one thing that is most often overlooked—the fact that our circumstances revolve around choice – our choice. Even when it appears that we have no choices in life, we always do.
Of course, I can hear you saying, “but…”
- I have children so I have no choices
- I am married so I have no choices
- I must take care of my sick parents in their old age so I have no choices
- I have no money so I have no choices
- I have an illness so I have no choices
- And the list goes go on and on.
When you think this way it’s no wonder that you feel trapped, frustrated, and even angry, and eventually these feelings manifest into depression and/or anxiety. And if left unchecked they can manifest into a full-blown illness or disease.
Feeling as though you have no choices in life is not an uncommon phenomenon and in an attempt to find relief from the frustration surrounding this mindset we often seek out a means of comfort. We may turn to a trusted friend for support, religion, a professional counselor to help us understand why we feel the way we do, or perhaps more dangerous outlets such as drinking excessively and/or using recreational drugs.
You may say that you don’t feel as if you have choices, and indeed it certainly appears that way to you. But is this truly the reality of the situation? Or is it your perception of your current life perspective that you “feel” that you have no choices?
Is it possible that no matter the circumstances you do have choices?
Let’s look at this from a different perspective.
- You do not have money and thus this leaves you feeling disempowered.
You have two choices, either believe that you not do have a choice and remain in this situation or believe that you do have the choice to do something to change your circumstance.
Between these two choices, which one has the feeling of disempowerment and which has the feeling of hope?
Let’s look at another example.
- You may be taking care of a sick elderly parent and thus leaves you feeling trapped (disempowered).
Again, you have two choices, either believe that you do not have the choice and remain in this situation or believe that you do have the choice to find another suitable option.
Between these two choices, which one has the feeling of disempowerment and which has the feeling of hope?
And there is something else. Did you catch the subtle nuance in both situations? There is also a third option and understanding it is key to feeling not just empowered, but also feeling in control of your life.
Even in a situation in which it appears that there are truly no viable options, simply understanding that you have choices in all areas of your life can decrease feelings of disempowerment and entrapment. So even if your choice is to continue to be a caretaker, for example, the simple idea of knowing that there are other choices can change your perception of disempowerment.
In other words, even if your situation stays exactly the same, the simple fact of understanding that you do have the choice to change it but decide, under your own free will, to ride out the situation for a bit longer is often enough to change how you feel about it.
Let’s look at this from another angle.
For example, when you are on a diet, you have the choice of eating the foods that will or will not propel you toward your goal of losing 10 pounds. Many people feel trapped by the notion that they must forever count calories in order to maintain the weight loss and this leads to feeling that they will forever be denied the earthly food pleasures that we all love to indulge in from time to time. But when these individuals do indulge, they inevitably encounter feelings of guilt.
On one hand, it’s true that in order to meet goals you will most likely need to make life changes, and sometimes these changes may make you feel as though you are missing out on some of life’s beautful offerings. But if you are making dietary changes that lead you to feel this way, how beneficial is your diet really?
Could your own mind be sabotaging your efforts to improve your health or general well-being?
Consider this. Is it possible that one of your greatest obstacles is the perception that you must always, in this case, count calories and deny yourself certain foods in order to avoid feelings of guilt?
Perhaps by simply changing your perception and exploring other options to help you to maintain your weight and avoid feelings of guilt could move you toward a sense of personal freedom, improved health and a better sense of overall well-being?
So how can we look at this then?
Well, when it comes to food choices, it is counterproductive to have thoughts along the lines of, “Darn it! I’d really love to eat that, but I can’t!” You can even feel the frustration with that, can’t you?
By thinking this way, you are ignoring the fact that you indeed have the power of choice, and you are acting in a reactionary manner. When you are reactionary you are disempowering yourself. In fact, you are allowing yourself to be controlled by your own untamed emotions and thoughts, and this leads to unhealthy negative behavioral cycles.
So let’s talk about being reactionary for a moment.
By acting in a reactionary manner simply means that in that moment you feel you have no other choices. And certainly that can make you feel trapped.
It is key that you understand the difference between being reactionary and making a choice, and that you focus on the choices at hand. Though admittedly it isn’t as easy as I make it sound.
Going back to your food choices, you always have the choice to eat unhealthy options. But for you to consciously make the choice that today, “I am going to choose the healthier options”.
And doesn’t that feel better?
Many people spend years, even decades, in a work situation that they dislike allowing themselves to feel unfulfilled and without purpose. When asked why they don’t seek out a more satisfying position, many say things like, “I can’t quit I need the money”, “I must pay the bills and this job provides a good income”, “My family is dependent on me”, “I have years invested in this job”, and “I can’t quit now and start all over, especially at my age…what will people think?!”
Well, “reasons” such as these are all reactionary in nature and omit the idea that there may be other options – choices.
All of these so-called “reasons” for why someone must work in a job they dislike are seemingly valid. I get it! But noting the subtle difference between being reactionary and acknowledging that there are always choices can make the difference between feeling trapped in a situation versus feeling that you are in control.
Are you seeing a pattern here?
We all have choices even when it appears that there are none. Even though you may dislike your current employment situation, it is still your choice to remain there.
When you replace your reactionary notions with conscious choices, you can’t help but feel more positive in any situation.
Those reactionary responses come from the subconscious mind and imply that you have no choices, thus no control. Did you know that this is actually a survival mechanism? It is your knee-jerk reaction to anything that you feel is causing you harm in some way. Active choices come from the conscious mind and imply that you have choices and control no matter the circumstances.
So let’s take another look at the same scenario but from the perspective of choice.
What if you consciously made the choice that today you will go to your job? Tomorrow you will make another choice—the choice to go to work or not.
Your circumstance has not changed, but how you perceived it has.
You may also make the choice that because your job is not one that brings happiness and fulfillment, you will begin to explore other options and work on implementing positive changes. This is a major step because this act alone does many things.
- It allows you to feel more in control of your situation. Instead of dragging yourself to work because you have to, you are allowing yourself to make the choice to go to work on any given day. You may tell yourself, “I am not in the best situation, but today I will make the choice to go to work anyway.”
- You can begin to feel excitement over the possibility of a change in your work situation as you begin to explore new avenues.
- By focusing on potential new career opportunities, new windows will begin to open that you didn’t even realize existed.
And why does this happen? Because your focus is now on a potential positive change instead of what is so bad with your current life situation right now.
As you begin to take control and think about your options, you will begin to notice that there is opportunity all around you. Isn’t it interesting that once we start changing our focus for something, whether our diet, a new job, or even changing a life situation we start to notice new options at every twist and turn on the road! All of a sudden what we once viewed as a dead end, is actually access to new paths that we did not know existed, and this translates to the opening up of new opportunities and eventually a new and more satisfying life!
Remember, if you steadily feel that you have no options and that you are a victim of life’s circumstances, then you will continue to view yourself in this manner and will never be able to envision a more satisfying situation for yourself. If you believe that relief of any kind can only come from something outside of yourself, then you will never find a solution.
You need to be the solution!
Recall from the introduction, the examples of circumstances in which people might feel as if they have no choices. Let’s look at how we might change those reactionary responses into more conscious choices.
- I chose to have children so I have choices.
- I chose to be married so I have choices.
- I chose to take care of my sick parent in their old age so I have choices.
- Choices I made in the past left me with no money, but I can make new choices now and change my situation.
- Choices that I made in the past likely led to an illness, but I can choose to change my lifestyle and regain control of my health now.
So, are you ready to make more conscious choices? By doing so you will be amazed by the positive health outcomes you will begin to experience, wonderful new freedom and sense of well-being, and enjoy each day with a new sense of wonderment!