Plugging into Personal Power

My first therapist never rolled her eyes at me or sighed dramatically but I wouldn’t have blamed her if she had.

In my early 30s, recently divorced, then quickly into first one then another messy relationship, eating and exercise disorders, financial straights: I had it all. And I had not a single clue about the monkey mind mayhem that I was constantly brewing. Not one clue.

I think of that poor therapist often and cringe my apologies.

One conversation I remember with her went something like this:

ME: So I’ve been pretty stressed since my boyfriend moved in with me last week.

POOR BELEAGUERED THERAPIST: He doesn’t have a job, right? And he’s depressed and dependent on you both financially and socially?

ME: Well, yes. But he asked if he could move in with me.

POOR BELEAGUERED THERAPIST: And you thought that was a good idea?

ME: Well, no, but what else could I say when he asked?

POOR BELEAGUERED THERAPIST: Um. How about “No.”?

Saying “no” wasn’t even anywhere near my radar. I didn’t think I had a choice in the situation. I thought I had to take him in. I’ve spent many of my years afraid of saying the wrong thing or being unkind or making a “stink” (as my mom used to say). It’s taken me a long time to begin to find my voice and to recognize that no matter what is happening, I actually do have a choice.

I have a choice to say yes to eating a vegetarian diet. I have a choice to say no to having guns in my workplace. I have a choice to not say a single thing or lovingly state my complaint when a certain someone walks through the house with muddy boots. I have choices. Listening to a dharma talk by spiritual teacher Adyashanti recently, I was reminded that I even have a choice about whether or not I am overtaken by my emotions.

In Nia we call it making choices for personal power. That’s what choice gives us: power.

When a high school friend posts some absurdly misinformed statement on Facebook, I ask myself, “Do I have the personal power to respond mindfully?”

When presented with a bowl of salt & vinegar potato chips, I ask myself, “Do I have the personal power to have one handful?”

When I am sitting in meditation and I feel antsy, I ask myself, “Do I have the personal power to not peek at the timer?”

Sometimes the answer is yes and I patiently wait for the chime to ring. Sometimes the answer is no and I write a snotty response to my misinformed high school friend. I have yet to find the power over the salt & vinegar potato chip.

Whatever I choose, though, this framing reminds me that I am choosing it. I’m not a leaf being whipped around by the winds of life. I am making a choice. Some choices take more energy than others to make. Sometimes I have that energy and sometimes I don’t. But they are all still choices.

If I was to go back to that first therapist’s office, it might have been interesting if the conversation had gone something like this:

ME: So I’ve been pretty stressed since my boyfriend moved in with me last week.

THERAPIST: He doesn’t have a job, right? And he’s depressed and dependent on you both financially and socially?

ME: Well, yes. But he asked if he could move in and even though I didn’t think it was a good idea, I didn’t have the personal power to say No.

THERAPIST: Ah, so you chose to say Yes. Let’s talk about ways that you can increase your personal power in those situations….


Thank you for reading!

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And you may also like this one: Push. Pull. Put it Down.

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6 comments
  1. Love this! I would say that I wish I would have read this a long time ago but I knew this already. I just didn’t understand or believe this until lately. Yesterday I learned in NIA that every time I do something/Day I have a new chance to start/try again. Heard that before too but for some reason it rang true and settled in yesterday. I have the power to start again…
    Thanks Susan!

    • It’s a lesson I find myself learning over and over. Thank you for reading and practicing making the choice. ❤

  2. Cawood Fitzhugh said:

    I enjoyed this article. The fact of taking a pause and exploring why we feel guilty or whatever about saying yes, versus the self honoring of no is important for all of us but especially for us as women. Great article Susan. Thank you!

    • Thank you, Cawood. I agree that women are often trained not to speak up. May we model something different for the younger generation! ❤

  3. I think I’ve told you this before, but you’re right up at the top of my personal WordPress hall of fame. It’s not just what you say (and that’s always a ‘wow!’) but the way that you say it. You’ve got such a gift with words – and you always hit the spot, AND make me smile. (This time I so loved The Poor Beleaguered Therapist. I had one of those too….) A big thank you!

    • haha! blessings on the Poor Beleaguered Therapists! And on you for reading and writing such a sweet comment. Love and thanks to you. ❤

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