Sunday, August 23, 2009

Claim your power

In every moment we make choices. We choose to be kind, cold, loving, fearful, happy, sad or any range of emotions. These choices are key to accessing our personal power. For many of us, these choices are made at an unconscious level. The choice seems almost to be made for us because it happens so quickly and at such a subtle level. These are instinctive choices based upon stimuli and past response. Eventually these responses become habit almost to the point where it feels like we have no choice in the matter at all. People in this place will often justify their actions and responses as “that’s just the way I am”. They become a victim of their own emotional states.

At some point we’ve all probably gotten angry at someone for something and said “he made me so mad” or “she hurt my feelings and made me sad”. The truth is that the decision to feel mad, sad, hurt or angry were all choices that we made in the moment. The decision was informed by our past experiences and our response to those experiences. For example let’s say that you said to me “you are crazy”. If I had a history of mental illness I might feel hurt. If I had been trying to make a point and you simply disagreed I might feel angry instead. If I were simply trying to be silly I might feel happy and just laugh it off. The difference between them is based upon the choice I made to feel hurt, angry or happy.

The key here is to recognize that our emotional responses are choices that we make in every moment. As much as I might like to blame someone else for my emotional state ultimately I cannot. When we do that we give our power away. “You made me feel this and that” says “I’m giving you the power to control my emotions”. When we give our power away, we move into victim mentality. When we are victims we feel that we have no control in a given situation. We’ve all been there at some point and probably know people who seem to be victims constantly. Is it any wonder when we’re in that state that we feel powerless to change the situation?

Our emotional responses are shaped by our past experiences. All of our past experiences are stored in our subconscious memory and our conscious minds use those experiences as filters for interpreting current experiences. The catch here is that as I mentioned in the “The power of the mind” post (05/15/09), our minds don’t know the difference between what we actually experience and what we simply imagine or think. Given that, some of the “past experiences” could be real or come from other sources as described in the earlier post. These could drastically alter our emotional response without our being fully aware of it.

Eventually our instinctive minds process the current experience through all of its mental filters and we are left with an emotional and mental response. Our conscious minds take those responses and react in some way and not always in the way that we might desire. This is where our power of choice comes in. This choice happens at the conscious level. We may feel the desire to be angry, fearful, resentful, etc. but by holding our awareness on our reactions we can make the choice to respond differently. This change however will only happen once we have made the decision to change. If we have no desire or motivation to change then we will continue to be victims of the past.

The key to this change is our awareness. Our awareness is that part of our conscious mind that is doing the observing or the focusing. It is that part of you that is following these words and absorbing the information that you are reading. If your mind wanders while you are reading so that your awareness is elsewhere then you are just looking at words and the message is not being absorbed. This is true in any situation. Our minds will not record and process what we are unaware of even if it is happening right before our eyes. One might think of awareness as the lens for our mental camera. Whatever it is focused on is what will be recorded and everything else will just be background noise.

The driver for our awareness however is our intentions. Our intentions are made at the conscious level. So for example, if my intention (desire) is to change my instinctive response of being “angry” to a response of being “loving”, when the anger arises my awareness will notice that angry response. Then using the power of choice in that moment I can chose to respond differently rather than immediately going into a habitual response. This is not something that will necessarily happen the very first time you make the intention to change but the awareness will be there. Learning to access the power of choice and change your response is a learned behavior and so it may take a several instances of angry responses before you change the behavior but it can and will happen with your intention to make it so.

Now this isn’t to say that you should become an emotionless robot, quite the opposite actually. As I discussed in a previous post entitled “The energy of emotions” (06/14/09), emotions are energy moving through your system. When your brain perceives an experience and selects an emotional response (let’s say “anger”) and your brain releases the neuropeptides for that emotion, you may feel anger but that doesn’t mean that you have to respond angrily. All that may be necessary in that moment is to notice the anger and simply say “I feel anger”. When you do that without attaching an angry response, you can now utilize your power of choice and respond from a more loving place. This is conscious choice and it is the key to claiming, or reclaiming, our power.

Once we fully recognize that we have the power to consciously interact with our emotional landscape we move out of victim mode and we begin using authentic power. We can begin to harness this power for creating the life we want to live the way we want to live it. The happier we are with the life we live, the more loving and compassionate we become. This loving compassion now begins to shape our emotional response until we begin to respond almost automatically with love to all experiences. Love opens a pathway to the Divine, the very heart and source of Love. In that Love we become one with the Divine. This is only possible through the power of conscious choice.

Hold your awareness on the blame you assign to others and the power that you give them and just notice how that feels. When you catch that happening and you say “(s)he made me…” simply reframe the statement into “I am choosing to be…” and feel the power that it instills in you and your decision making process.

How will you choose to respond today?


  1. I can accept many of your reasonable premises:
    - Most of our choices are habitual, unreflected on.
    - We don't deliberate over every possible decision that faces us, but reenact patterns, based on what we have done in the past.
    - Although feelings seem to just spontaneously happen to us, they represent a history of how we have chosen to respond to situations in the past.
    - We can, to some degree (but not perfectly), control our feelings going forward by choosing how we act in emotionally charged situations.
    - Specifically, we can choose to suppress our negative emotions.
    - Whenever we feel an impulse to lash out, we can hold back, & the feeling will pass.

    I can also accept some of your conclusions:
    - We need not feel powerless in our interactions with others.
    - We will feel less like victims if we attribute our feelings to an internal, rather than external, locus of control.
    - If we own our emotions, we will feel less powerless.

    However, none of these observations get me any closer to harnessing the kind of power I require to create the life I want to live. My sense of powerlessness is unrelated to the problem of maintaining composure in the context of stressful face-to-face social interactions. My problem is bigger than that.

    I seek the Divine neither in some otherworldly celestial realm, nor in the solitary life of a emotionally self-contained celibate, but in the physical & emotional connection with another man. However, most of the men who are sexually available explicitly refuse any connection between sex & love. You can "play" with them, to be sure, but you'd better leave when you're done. Genuine intimacy is not part of the deal. Instead, they are seeking something unrelated, or even antagonistic to forging a lasting, human connection. Am I not powerless to change that?

    Gay men in this city have collectively decided to withhold intimacy, to firmly sever the natural connection between sex & love. Graphically, this cleavage confronts me in the abject sexual scenarios they describe (depersonalized, chemically altered, degraded/degrading), & the terms on which they want it (discreet, expedient, NSA, no chit chat, pump-&-dump, blow-&-go). They post pictures of their "private parts" in public forums, but their heads are usually cut off, outside the frame. Their head is not relevant to the encounter, except as another object to be penetrated or splattered on.

    None of this would bother me in the slightest, if this were not the pool I have to wade in to find a life partner.

    So what would empower me in this context?
    Would you suggest I make the choice to control my feelings & not be gay, or not sexual at all?
    That I resign myself to the "peace" of being single forever?
    That I just give in & submit to a dominant sexual paradigm - one I find alienating & frustrating?
    That I defect from that scene entirely & look for a lover only in places where gay men do not go to be sexual, or do not congregate in any numbers?

    I accept that I am powerless to change this sad social milieu. But I refuse to feel victimized by it. My strategy instead is to assert what little control I can by sorting through the buckets of dross, on the mere possibility of finding a gem buried somewhere at the bottom of it all. It is a dirty, tedious job.

  2. @T.M. - thanks for your question and comments. Indeed you are powerless to change anyone elses behavior. You do however have the power to change how you respond to the experiences that you create for yourself. The world is a external mirror for us to look at what is going on inside.

    You speak in generalities about gay men but your statments are not true for ALL gay men. I understand what you are seeing and saying but you have the power to change that. If you are unable to find a person who is open to uniting sex and love, the change has to happen within you first. If you see the pool of potential partners as "buckets of dross" that attitude will certainly be reflected in your behavior and is likely to repel those you most desire to attract. If you will own the fact that you are creating all that happens to you that you see as a "sad social milieu" then you can use that power to attract and create a more positive pool of potential suitors.