Power and authority issues are about as common as cockroaches in New York City (or bed bugs during those occasional outbreaks). They’re unwelcome cohabitants in your life, and they’re best eliminated as soon as possible.
Putting aside the sacred right of all beings to live for the sake of the metaphor, you get the point. Power and authority issues are nothing but trouble, and actually, they cause more than just a bad night’s sleep. They corrupt our relationships, our societies, and our governments. The greater the issues people have around power, the more likely they are to abuse power, act out, pass on victim tendencies to their children, and otherwise re-act poorly to situations. And given that plenty of other people have these issues, they respond equally or even more poorly to the person who initially acts out of powerlessness, and around we go in cycles of pain and suffering.
But there is a way out. There’s always a way out, and that’s what I’m here to write you to about. No matter how difficult it is for you to claim power or to re-claim it where you’ve abdicated your authority, it can be done. And it can be done mindfully in most everyday situations without trying to pronounce your greatness or make someone else the enemy. On that note, let’s talk about how to resolve your power and authority issues.
The initial abdication is when you first gave up power. Because of how we feel as children, we often feel powerless for a good section of our lives. It is the rare set of parents who are actively finding the balance of empowerment for their children as well as boundaries and rules to guide them. As such, many adults come out of childhood with a sense of powerlessness built into them from their interactions with their families. It can take the form of not being able to speak up or the form of needing to proving yourself physically or mentally better than others. Either way, you feel like you need to get your power from external situations or that you’ve already had it taken from you. This leads to a whole host of issues as life co-creates with you the lessons you need to learn, such as:
- Finding abusers (if you can’t speak up, your abuser is often shouting at you, belittling you, talking over you, and so on)
- Building a community of powerless people around us (We often find people like ourselves to hide our issues and strangely enough to complain. In the example of having no voice, we don’t authentically regain our voice through complaining to others with the same issue; we corrupt it further from our own self-frustration)
- Running from abusive (or perceived abusive) situations
- Or fighting and/or unconsciously provoking such people in an attempt to reclaim your power (often when a fight or argument isn’t warranted)
There are all kinds of scenarios that can set up around someone who has given up their power. I encourage you to journal out the types of scenarios that keep repeating over and over in your life. It will help you to see what is going on and how you’re co-creating it (because while we don’t create anything by ourselves, we do have a hand in most situations that arise in our lives).
The Worsening of the Issue and Growing Anger
The more out of power someone feels in their own life, the more upset they can become. Some people can head down the bottomless pit of depression. Others become incredibly angry. Let’s go down this path today, as I haven’t diagrammed anger and hate too much on this blog.
Ultimately, our anger is with ourselves. We want to feel empowered and able to do what matters to us, but we feel blocked from action on the inside. Most people can feel this, but they don’t know what to do about it. And since part of this issue is to look for power and authority from others, the person is likely to look to others as the source of the problem (and in many cases as the solution such as coming to a spiritual teacher).
Others, however, are not the problem even if they vex you in every day life. You are the bigger part of the problem, and fortunately, you can change yourself. But without this awareness, the anger grows. The ego-self that looks to justify its anger externally usually finds a few examples of where you are slighted, and this gives you further validation to allow your anger to grow. It grows at anyone that you feel has hurt you, and that often shows up in relationships the most strongly. So love turns to hate in romance. In families, it can turn to endless grudges. If the person really projects their anger outwards, they become angry at the government. They may even become involved in causes such as protecting the environment, refugees, and other situations to give this a strangely idealistic twist. But no matter how many people you protect or penguins you save, it will not get rid of the issue.
The Traumatized Victim and Hate
Worse still, some people are so wounded that they turn to total hate. This is one place where racism and a whole host of discriminatory belief systems grow from. When someone is so utterly lost that they have to hate others just for being as they are, this is a truly powerless person. Wars are also built off this sense of powerlessness. Taking from others is absurd. The whole universe of love is inside of us, yet others feel they need to “own” a few more cubits of land? A few more barrels of oil? This is the depth of sickness a powerless person can get to, and it is why the path of spiritual healing is always so urgent for all of us. Until others see people–someone like you–moving from a space of authentic power, they will not know what it is. And they will continue to spiral downward and take all of us with them.
It has already happened before in twentieth century in the form of two world wars and not to mention a huge slew of other wars and atrocities. It’s not like we’re a peaceful world now either. This is why resolving your power and authority issues is so important.
Lest I be remiss, there are many people who have been physically or sexually abused. War trauma is also terrible. These deep wounds MUST be healed otherwise a person will feel powerless the rest of their lives. It can lead to hate against others, but also quite commonly a deep self-hate that can lead to suicide.
“In 2013, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs released a study that covered suicides from 1999 to 2010, which showed that roughly 22 veterans were committing suicide per day, or one every 65 minutes.”Reuters
If you’ve been abused in some way, you may blame yourself for not being able to protect yourself. On this path we know that there are some things that are out of our control, and so while forgiving our abusers is important, perhaps more important is forgiving ourselves.
Returning to the Root Cause of Power Issues
As I’ve already mentioned that initial abdication moment or the moment where you felt your power taken from you, that is also where we must go. If you want true healing, you have to be willing to go into the darkness–your darkness.
Many times, people are happy to deal with the problems with others, but until we’ve dropped down into that deeper inner well and walked the slimy, cold dark hallways of our inner dungeons, we are not free. We do not find freedom from helping others. We find freedom by helping ourselves.
Typically, the journey inwards feels like peeling an onion. Even if the root cause is known (say for instance, you remember your father beating you unconscious), there tend to be a whole host of ego defenses built around it. You can start by sitting and meditating to allow things to come up.
And they will come up if you are sincere. It will be uncomfortable, but this is part of owning your space. In owning this space, you become mindful of all your inner landmines. These are what have been getting triggered every time you felt slighted by your spouse, business partner, employees, boss, government, presidential decree, or whatever triggered you. When you deal with these landmines and defuse the built up energy inside (which can be intense), all those other scenarios that used to bother you will bother you much less.
Resolving Power and Authority Issues One Issue at a Time
If you’re new to the idea that you’re the one giving up your power and that it’s not others taking from you, let’s start with the journal and writing out how you give up your power. Here are some common ways that people do so:
- Letting others make decisions for them
- Letting others speak for them
- Not speaking up when you have something to say
- Not taking care of things you need to take care of (such as not balancing a budget, so you are never sure of how much money you have and get into problems with not having enough)
- Closing your heart (which cuts you off from true power)
See if you can find some specific situations. Then you can start to analyze how you’re responding to things and why.
Reclaiming Our Power and Inadvertently Picking Fights
Because there can be a lot of built up anger and animosity, at times, you may want to pick a fight to reclaim your power. Sometimes, I’ll have a session with someone who is getting angry and almost trying to pick a fight with me to prove that they are smarter or more spiritual or more something than I am. But this is just the issue acting out. And especially when working with spiritual teachers, healers, and other helpers, this is counter-productive unless the situation has been set up specifically to ignite this issue. In those moments, there’s a whole manner of triggering a student to let him or her feel through the anger and release some of it while getting greater clarity of the deeper issues at play.
At the same time, not everyone is going to be happy that you are reclaiming your power. It will create waves when you set boundaries for yourself or speak up firmly when others have been used to talking over you. I encourage you to do this mindfully as much as possible. If someone is doing it in a business meeting, I encourage you to still say what you need to say, and then bring up the issue one-on-one with the “abuser.” A lot of times, abusers aren’t intentional abusers, and some really aren’t abusers at all. It is only through the lens of the powerless victim that some people even appear that way. As you reclaim your power, you may realize that they were just being themselves, and perhaps you were simply jealous that they could so clearly vocalize what you could not. This is one of the interesting reversals that often happens on the path to true healing.
Finding True Power: The Power of Love
Ultimately, true power is love. It is the quality of unconditionally accepting the present moment. When we see things clearly and aren’t clouded by pain, it’s easy to know when to speak or to act. It’s also easy to know when to not act or not speak. Silence and voicing ourselves are both powerful tools, and they are most needed to deal with the occasional intentional abuser and the more rare malevolent abuser. Most people who may seem to have power over you look that way because of your perspective and their own ignorant behaviors. Try not to take most of the things that go on around you personally. Most people are too lost in ignorance to blame even though we hold others accountable as necessary.
For the more serious abuser, we do send them love, but we may also send them to jail in the instance of a rapist or someone who commits assault and battery. This is one of the ways that we maintain our power as opposed to letting a deeply traumatic incident define us and rot us out from the inside. Truly, what we do to ourselves after such horrible things is often worse than the event simply because of how decades our lives can get ruined. This isn’t meant to be a measurement though. It is an encouragement that even when deep pain and trauma arises that you still stay in your power and remember that love and power are not acquiescence or about punishing others. But we do know how to stand up for ourselves.
Respecting True Power in Others
The more we abide in a space of love, the easier it is to notice if we are speaking or acting in integrity. We begin to hold more esteem and respect for others who genuinely use power well. In this way, you can discern a kind-hearted CEO from a greedy corporate president. You can see a great public servant as well as a corrupt bureaucrat. You don’t make broad generalizations about people. You look at the individual, and because you don’t need to take anything from them, you can see what they are really offering and how they are offering it.
Resolving power and authority issues is a big deal, and as you do so, you will fee stronger and more confident about yourself and will be better able to interact with others in a similar place. And when two or more strong and empowered people get together, all kinds of amazing things can be born in this world from a place of love.