01.06.2009

Empowering Yourself

In this day and age, the concept of power seems particularly relevant. To many, the word just means strength and brawn, but there are different types. The kind that interests me is spiritual, mental, emotional and psychological power. Empowerment is a word we therapists use a lot and essentially it's what counselling is all about. By healing and forgiving the past, understanding present behaviour and embracing the future without fear, we become truly powerful. Power without internal strength is empty and meaningless. For me personally, freedom lies in having choice and knowing you have choice. In turn, freedom gives us power.

Let's look at each category.

SPIRITUAL

Spiritual power exists within each of us right from birth. We only have to access it by tuning inwards, preferably on a daily basis, not only when we feel helpless or frightened. There are specific techniques that help us to do this such as meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, walking, sitting in silence, tai chi, journalising, just to name a few. Some years ago, I puzzled over how we modern men and women can be spiritual while living in such a materialistic world. It finally dawned on me that all I had to do was make the choice to be spiritual. What this means is that I recognise I'm spiritual while I eat, sleep, wash dishes, write, weed, watch TV, dance, talk, walk and so on. There is no conflict in this after all. It's as simple as breathing.

Once we recognise and learn to use our spiritual power, how can it benefit us?

The greatest gift is peace. When we're in our spiritual power, everything runs smoothly in our lives, we experience synchronicity, we manifest our highest desires, we lose all fear. These are not small things, in fact, they're huge.

Another benefit is trust, an essential ingredient in a positive life. Without it, happiness is literally impossible. There's always going to be challenge, conflict, frustration, imperfection, sometimes even tragedy, but with trust in Self, in Life, in a higher spirit, in the future, it's viable and joyful to keep going. The opposite of trust is fear and fear leads to control, cynicism, disillusionment, sadness and ill health.

A third by-product of spiritual power is love - of Self, of others, for the planet. Love is yet another natural birthright so we can never be without it but, like many internal wonders, it has to be brought out into the light. When love grows stagnant within a person, not only is that individual deprived, but everyone he/she comes into contact with. There's no light without love. Just by letting go of controlling and over planning, life flows more smoothly, all by itself.

How to get it:

* spend some time alone every day* be with nature* laugh a lot* stay in the present* never worry!* manage stress levels* do things you enjoy* practise stillness.

MENTAL

Peace in our souls is a precious commodity, but peace of mind is also vital to health and happiness. These days there is so much bad news surrounding us, so many potential dangers, so much threat. Without strength of character, we stand no chance of living harmoniously. I'm not talking about denial or avoidance where we merely choose to ignore the realities of life in 2009. There are real issues - economic crises, climate change, wars and terrorism but you know what they say - we create our own realities. That just means that the world which exists in our minds and hearts is just as tangible as any external environment. Once we know that, what really is there to fear? We have to hold tight to that inner vision and never doubt it.

Mental strength comes from self value, honesty, integrity, trust. We get it by working on personal growth, learning humility (the right kind), listening well, being open minded and generous of spirit. Most of all, stay positive. Negativity destroys happiness and health.

One's intelligence level is irrelevant to mental health. It has more to do with dexterity of mind and open mindedness towards new ideas. With true mental power, one never grows old. The saying "use it or lose it" certainly applies here. Old age isn't about numbers but rather attitude. Some people are old at 20 and some stay young till death. The trick is to stay passionate about your life regardless of conditions or details. Keep your mind fresh and keen, be interested, learn new things every day, communicate fearlessly.

The main benefit of having mental power is the ability to be autonomous in your own life. When we have clarity, all choices, decisions, relationships, goals and feelings become more accessible and understandable.

EMOTIONAL

Emotions can rule us in a most unattractive way if we allow them. The trick with them is to do the following:

* don't distinguish between "good" and "bad" emotions - emotion is just emotion, pure energy* don't judge any of your feelings - when you do that, you actually hold onto them, prolong the negativity and feed the resultant fears* recognise each one as it rises then release it - if you feel jealousy in the moment, for instance, watch it as it appears, then watch it go by, like an objective observer.

We hold emotional power when we're comfortable with the whole range of human feelings and when we are in charge, not the slaves or victims.

Have you ever wondered why some people seem to lurch from bad decision to bad decision, have unhappy relationships one after the other, become slave to addictions, lose job after job and generally seem out of control? The saddest factor for me is that people who live like this feel helpless, as if there's no alternative. We all have infinite power, certainly enough to make positive changes in our everyday lives, and in ourselves. Most of our problems are caused by lack of self knowledge and negative habits.

Inner joy is one of our natural birthrights, again accessible just for the taking. When we are "happy" we naturally make better decisions because we want our lives to work positively. There isn't the propensity for self sabotage that can otherwise exist. We humans are much better at being miserable than being happy; being negative than positive; sick rather than healthy. Using our immense emotional power, we can actually be effortlessly happy pretty much all the time. Not wildly but softly. I always remember Shirley Valentine talking about her "soft little dream" of sitting by the sea in Greece and sipping Retsina. Whatever your soft dream is, you too can have it.

How to gain emotional power:

* forgiving yourself and others* loving yourself in a healthy way* living a balanced lifestyle* allowing all your emotions* thinking positively* accepting your dark side* connecting with your inner child.

Emotional power gives you the benefit of living without fear, in balance and with self love.

PSYCHOLOGICAL

I've left the most important power till last. The other three are equal in value, but because the human mind is only 10 per cent conscious, we are driven by forces we have no awareness of, thus creating most of our common problems - depression, anxiety, worry, doubt, fears, relationship breakdown, poor communication. That's why we need to gain this power most crucially for, without it, the other three are much harder to attain.

I always tell my clients that psychological health is maintaining a balance between your dark and your light sides. Why is this so important? Without acceptance, there can be no peace on any front. If we only accept the bits of ourselves that we like, there will be a whole hunk of personal landscape that we will fail to know and, thus, fail to conquer. That, I believe, is the root of all addiction. Addicts try to cover up the dark recesses of their psyche rather than exploring them bravely and openly. By embracing our polarities, out goes codependence as well. Addictions and codependence gone in one fell swoop - not bad, huh? And just by acceptance, self love and praising oneself instead of seeking it from others. Okay, it's not as easy as I make it sound. In fact, it's painful and frightening, but hugely rewarding when the work is done.

How to get it?

Sorry but you need to face the past. A lot of people don't want to do this because they fear it involves hating parents and raking over old issues. There is a certain amount of that, but the main reason for looking backwards is to examine the influence of our childhoods and backgrounds, becoming aware of the beliefs and patterns we've carried into adult life, thus minimising the grief of blind mistakes. Making mistakes and even doing wrong is part of being human, but don't you want to know why you drink too much, lose your temper easily, blow your money at the casino often, can't hold down a job, never have any money, surround yourself with toxic relationships, and so on? Understanding what drives us is essential to having all types of power for ignorance is the cornerstone of misery.

Knowing why we do things means we have a chance to alter undesirable behaviour.

Armed with this power, there's nothing you can't do. You can have healthy relationships, attract fulfilling jobs, earn good money, live fearlessly, be healthy and avoid disease.

At the end of our journey, what then constitutes empowerment? It's knowing you're powerful, reaching inwards for the infinite power you have always at your disposal, knowing you are complete and precious, being co creative in relationships, being prepared to live a life of awareness and insight.

You are powerful when you:

loveforgivelaugh/feel joytrustare honest, with yourself and othersare truly braveare in touch with yourselflet your inner child shine.

Marianne Williamson says it best in this well known quote from her book A Return to Love:

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us."

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