Powerlessness

Additional Information on Chapter 4, page 47

The book mentions a sense of powerlessness as a potential emotional germ but does not expand at all.

There are essentially two types of powerlessness:

  1. Powerlessness due to external circumstances
  2. Powerlessness due to personal qualities or perspective

1. Powerlessness due to external circumstances: We all live in a world in which there are restraints over which we have no control. We can’t jump over the Grand Canyon, can’t fly by flapping our arms and we can’t run a two minuet mile. In the relational domain, we can’t force another person to like us or to fall in love with us, can’t compel another person to do as we wish, and we can’t eliminate all sources of friction between us and another person. While we may have influence over another person, we cannot control them.

2. Powerlessness due to personal qualities or perspective: In this domain there are wide differences among people. There are many who in Stephen Hawking’s severely crippled condition would have given up on life. Hawking has persevered to become the greatest physicist of his age (achievement domain) and is married (relational domain). Same story for Joni Erickson-Tada: After the swimming accident that left her quadriplegic, she went on to become a fine artist, an international celebrity, and, like Hawking, also married. Hawking and Erickson-Tada provide extreme examples. It is almost certain that you, reading this, have not experienced challenges as severe as these two. In the area of marital success typical statements of powerlessness include: “I’m not pretty enough,” “I’m too old,” “I’m too young,” “I’m too short,” “I’m too tall,” “I’m not thin enough,” “I’m not sexy enough,” “I’m not skilled at relating to men,” “there’s no one available,” and a myriad of others. Whether or not we feel powerless in light of these circumstances is a matter of perspective and conditioning.

The Serenity Prayer

The Serenity Prayer “Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”  provides the starting perspective in the arena of powerlessness.

Things That Cannot Change

Some things cannot change: If you and your husband have divorced and he has remarried, the two of you are not going to reconcile.

We take a moment to deal with the purists who have difficulty with the word “cannot”. OK, fine. You could shoot the present wife, make it look like an accident, and apply all your feminine charms to try to win him back. It might work (the odds are not good), but you’ll probably end up on death row, and if not, it is unlikely you could win him even if you try. So the use of “cannot” presupposes that we will not do anything illegal or terminally self-destructive.

First, you must come to a point of acceptance of things that cannot change. Examples

  • I’m Asian
  • I’m 5’ 2” tall
  • I have been married twice previously
  • I have a 120 IQ
  • I am 46 years old
  • I have two children aged 14 and 17

You also need to come to a point of acceptance of things that may be technically alterable but you have chosen to not change them due to excessive personal cost or due to foundational violation of your value system. Examples:

  • I will not marry a non-Christian
  • I will not date until my two children are out of the home
  • I will not attempt to reconcile with my former husband
  • I will not move more than 50 miles from my aging mother
  • Here, also, you might list any of your personal disqualifiers

Once you come to acceptance of things that cannot change and the personal choices that you choose not to violate, you now have a clear perspective from which to operate.

The importance of this preliminary process is illustrated in the world of mathematics, specifically algebra:

  • If you have an equation with one variable, it may take three or four steps to solve the equation
  • If you have two equations with two variables it may take 9 to 16 steps to solve for both variables
  • If you have five equations with five variables it may take 243 to over 1000 steps to solve
  • If you have 20 equations with 20 variables it may take anywhere from 3.4 billion to over 1 trillion steps to solve.

In application to personal life, if you have too many things that are variable you tie yourself in hopeless knots because the huge number of different combinations. If you can secure as many issues as possible then you have a more reasonable number of variables to deal with. This is why in The Compatibility Code we urge you to identify personal qualities and to list disqualifiers. It makes the search for an acceptable mate so much easier.

Altering Personal Perspective

We have already established that different perspectives are as diverse as there are people. The perspective of many is entirely defeating. If Stephen Hawking and Joni Erickson-Tada married despite their challenges, it is unlikely that our difficulties eliminate the possibility of marriage—assuming that is what you seek. We now address the issue of a shift of perspective.

A change from powerless to powerful is simple but difficult.

On the one hand it is as simple as changing your attitude. “Don’t worry, be happy!” “Always look on the bright side of your life!” “I feel good, I feel great, I feel wonderful!”

On the other hand, it is not easy to change a lifetime of conditioning. If you have been repeatedly told that you’re worthless, you’re hopeless, you’re miserable and pathetic; no reciting of the little phrases in the previous paragraph is going to undo that. If you have been through a wrenching divorce that has left you shattered, to say “I am powerful” is equally absurd.

What is required is a major operation, sometimes with aid of a therapist.

The severity or extensiveness of the operation is closely related to how long you have been suffering the negative input. If the negativity occurred only during the final year of your marriage, recovery will be quicker. If you have an entire lifetime of negative input then the process will take longer.

The Tom Harmon Story

I tell a story recounted by motivational speaker Zig Ziglar that provides a perspective on the reality that the “cure” needs to be at the same magnitude and the “disease”. To get the complete story, go to Zig Ziglar’s web site.

Zig was conducting a seminar somewhere in the Southern US. A man named Tom Harmon was persuaded by his brother to attend. Since the seminar was not free, Tom’s brother had actually purchased the tickets so that he could attend.

As Tom describes it, he was sitting in the audience and Zig was up there with all his enthusiasm and Tom was thinking to himself, “Oh Brother, I’ve got another one of these.” Tom was in no mood for enthusiasm and wanted to leave at once. But he was in the middle of a large audience and didn’t want to create a scene. So he decided that at the first break, he was GONE!

Zig’s topic that morning dealt with changing your self image—not unlike the topic of this prescript: Changing from a attitude of powerlessness to an attitude of power.

Before the first break Tom began to realize that what Zig was saying might be able to help him and he began taking notes. When Zig said you gotta take an honest look at yourself, Tom looked down at a 63” waist line; he weighted well over 400 lbs. Not only that, he had been through a recent divorce, he was barely surviving financially (only because a friend employed him), and he had not been to church in many years. As Zig put it, it is doubtful that anyone hearing this story was in as bad a situation as Tom.

When the day was over Tom was enthused. He persuaded his brother to purchase the set of tapes that went along with the seminar. That night he listened to the tapes for 5 hours. The next day he listened for 7 hours.  Over the course of time Tom eventually listened to the two most relevant 1½ hour tapes 500 times. He listened to the other tapes over 300 times. You see Tom’s situation did not develop over a day or even a year. His condition had progressed for over 20 years. You don’t undo 20 years of negative programming by attending a one-day seminar.

Here are some of the events that occurred over the next couple of years.

Shortly after the seminar, Tom went to a clothing store and placed a tiny down payment on two suits and several pair of pants. The coats were 48” chest and the pants 36” waist. The salesman asked Tom “Who you buying these clothes for Mr. Harmon?” Tom said, for myself. The salesman thought he was crazy but Tom insisted that someday he was going to come in and claim those clothes.

A few weeks after the seminar Tom was in a grocery story purchasing his supplies for the weekend. There was a 5-year old little girl that screamed out in a voice you could hear half way from Lacombe to Edmonton, “Mama! Look at the fat man!” Tom whirled to look and then realized that the little girl was talking about him. Tom recognized that the image had shifted. Despite the fact that he still weighed more than 400 lbs. he no longer considered himself fat.

A few weeks later Tom was walking down a city street looking in the shop windows. He stopped to look at a particular display. Soon he realized that some big dude was looking over his shoulder. He whirled, but no one was there. He was looking at his own reflection. Tom realized once again that the image was shifting

Eighteen months later Tom weighed 225 lbs (Tom was a big man, 6’ 4” tall and big boned) which was approximately what he needed to weight.

Five years later, Tom still weighed 225, owned his own successful business, hired several employees, attended Church regularly and taught a Sunday school class.

The point that Zig makes is that a changed image yields a changed in life.

Coming back to the topic of this prescript.

How do your change from a feeling of powerlessness to power?

In the story of Tom Harmon you see an extreme case of the effort required to change a person with a 20 year background of negative programming. If you have a similar background, it may take a similar effort. This should be accomplished with the help of a trained therapist. There are just too many ways that you might go wrong if you try to do it on your own.

If your sense of powerlessness comes as a result of a shattering sequence of recent events, the change will not involve nearly so much effort. Read through the section on how to recover from devastation, apply the principles until you have fully recovered and the natural sense of power will return.

Viewing Objectively or Changing Personal Characteristics

Frequently a sense of powerlessness is due to a variety of concerns that are subject to change.

Take some of the popular excuses listed at the beginning of this prescript and let’s see how common sense might look at these:

  • I’m not pretty enough:
  • “I’m too old,”
  • “I’m too young,”
  • “I’m too short,”
  • “I’m too tall,”
  • “I’m not thin enough,”
  • “I’m not sexy enough,”
  • “I’m not skilled at relating to men,”
  • “There’s no one available.”

I’m not pretty enough: Are you doing everything reasonable to look as good as you can? If not, start doing it! If you are objectively well below average on physical attractiveness, after you have done everything to look as good as you can, consider the following question: Are there others who are no more attractive than you who have married successfully? Think Stephen Hawking and you know the answer is yes. If you measure low on attractiveness, unless you have some other sizzling quality (such as being wealthy or a world-renowned physicist) you will probably need to look for someone to marry who is in the same range of attractiveness. Many studies show that people tend to marry others who share similar levels of attractiveness.

I’m too old: Same question as above. Do you know others who are as old as or older than you who have married successfully? I remember when Pacific Union College Professor Will Hyde died (he was 95), his widow (92 at the time) had remarried within a year. There are other available singles in your age range that want to marry as much as you. Go out and find them.

I’m too young: You’re absolutely right. Wait until you are older.

I’m too short: Are there others as short as you who have married successfully? Of course, go find someone who doesn’t mind that you are short, or look for men who are within 6” of your height.

I’m too tall: Assuming that we are speaking of a woman who is tall, we acknowledge that this may prove to be a challenge. However, we still ask the same question: Do you know others as tall as you who have married successfully? There are plenty of men who are taller than you or who may not mind that you are taller than them.

I’m not thin enough: There are two directions you may go from here: First, you might lose weight.  There are plenty of examples of people who have gone from fat to lean and fit—there are probably magazines at your super market checkout right now that feature people who have lost weight. Is it easy? Of course not! We all know it is a battle, but are you willing to do battle to weigh what you are supposed to? The other thought poses questions presented above: Do you know people as fat as you who have married successfully. As usual the answer is “of course!” While losing weight is the preferred alternative, this second option presents itself enticingly.

I’m not sexy enough:
 It is well to approach this one with caution. It is fine to do things that enhance your sexual appeal, but do so with reasonable taste. If you’re 78, wearing a mini skirt and a low-cut blouse is not going to attract many men. Others consider surgery—breast enhancement or facial surgeries that augment attractiveness. I represent only one opinion but feel that if there is available surgery that will make you feel better about yourself (particularly removal of something that causes you to cringe inwardly when in public) that surgery may be a reasonable option. For breast-enhancement surgery, caution is again urged. Polls suggest that only a limited number of men enjoy large breasts. If you have little or no breast structure, then breast enhancement might be reasonable. The vast majority of men do like breasts. Many women who have a mastectomy will have additional surgery to create an artificial breast. In general, get a book on how to make you look attractive, follow its advice, and forget surgery.

I’m not skilled at relating to men: All right, I hear you. But of all the things listed here, this is probably the area in which the greatest change is possible. OK, you are shy and uncomfortable in heterosexual relationships. Do you choose to stay that way or will you begin a process of improvement? There are many books out there that provide practical steps for improving your social skills. If you purchase two or three such books, read 3 pages a day, and apply whatever the three pages suggest; how good do you think your social skills will be in three years? They should certainly be above average, and probably way above average.

There’s no one available: Foolishness. There 26 million on Match.com. They are there because they want to marry. I appreciate that there may be no one in your immediate vicinity available and you may need to look elsewhere. Further, finding a match is not necessarily easy. Read The Compatibility Code and follow the principles suggested.

What we have provided is a small sample of issues women may cite as reasons not to seek a marriage partner. There are thousands more. What we model with the nine issues listed above is how to think about your circumstances in an objective way. The topic of this section is “Powerlessness” with the implicit alternative, how does one move from powerlessness to a position of power.

Conclusion

A lot has been presented in this prescript because achieving a sense of personal power is quite a challenge for many. That shift may involve careful consideration of all options presented here and therapy as well. An alternative topic that is closely related to the present topic is that of self-esteem. It is essentially impossible to possess a sense of power when your esteem is low. Click on the live link for more on enhancing self-esteem.

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