I was surfing around for a few minutes on facebook. This random meme popped up in my timeline. Like so many random memes, it carries a common message: my power lies in the way I choose to respond to a situation, rather than in trying to control the situation.
Lately, I’ve been questioning the wisdom of seeing things this way.
When you can’t control what’s happening …
Well, that’s life. Literally and metaphorically. Where does the illusion of control come from? Why is it sewn into our concepts of confidence, stress (or lack there of), capability and success? It appears we have grown very far away from a living, breathing, co-operative relationship with what and how life is. So far, in fact, that we think it’s normal (empowering, even) to create memes, manuals, techniques – entire lifestyles and brands, offering support to those who find ourselves in a position of not being able to control it.
… control the way you respond to (it). That’s where your power is.
Is it? And why is that important to focus on? Our understanding and perception of life is so dysfunctional, so riddled with a (mostly subconscious) craving for dominance, that any time we find ourselves in a position of not being able to control it, we rely on finding our “real” power instead. A working definition of empowerment (embodied personal power) is to control oneself instead of attempting to control others or a situation. Many practitioners would probably object to my suggestion that this demonstrates a craving for dominance. One might argue it represents the opposite. The practitioner releases the need to dominate over life and, instead, focuses on a place of inner power. Okay. And yet, the lens through which perceive and understand can only be described with words like control and power. The practice is recommended as a response to not feeling as much external control and power as one might find preferable. The solution is to seek it internally instead. But it is still control and power that we seek.
As a society we value power. Whether materially, socially, spiritually or personally, we go to great lengths to define, equalize, celebrate, teach, instill, encourage, gain or keep power. Any group of people as preoccupied with power as we are might benefit from wondering about a craving for dominance. If for no other reason than to insist it earn its keep. A preoccupation with power and control carries within it the very real possibility (the likelihood) for dominance, greed, self-interest and excess. Rather than expecting ourselves to wield power responsibly, perhaps we ought to be wondering about why we are so intent on wielding it at all.
I know it has become important for me to wonder about it. A couple of years ago it came to me that perhaps there is no power (in the way we currently understand and perceive it). Perhaps there is only practice. Perhaps there is only how we are with life and how life is with us. As I look back on my experiences, I can’t see that I or any of my relationships were genuinely served by a practice and way of seeing based in power/empowerment. I’ve challenged myself to give up this way of understanding and perceiving myself and life. It’s difficult in this society to imagine a life without this lens. I have only just begun.
What about you? Would you be willing to give up your power if the whole world could benefit from it? What might we practice instead? What lens can we see through?