Jan 142012

Evoë contemplating powerI lie in bed at night and think about power. What is power? Where does power come from? Why can I be powerful in some ways, but not in others? How does power manifest in sexual relationships? And mostly, what can I do to feel more empowered in my life? It’s a lot to ponder. I have to examine my painful past – childhood abuse – and take apart things so deep that they feel unchangeable. I must challenge my assumptions about how the world works. And ultimately, I need to decide who I am going to be.

Early in life I learned that it wasn’t very safe to show up. I spent my time trying to please everyone. The grownups had the power. I had no right to choose. I had a very real sense of danger about making a wrong move because the consequences would be painful. This was normal, but also kept secret from the outside world. I became expert at presenting a good face. As a result, I felt powerful in the outside world, but inconsequential internally. I developed patterns of behavior designed to try to control situations in order to mitigate the danger of making a wrong decision.

Evoë in fishnetI’ve come to believe that power is the ability to make choices, preferably by following your heart. It took me years to be able to make any kind of choice. I was always afraid of making the wrong choice. Now I’m likely to make a choice too quickly, if anything. And it’s true that I feel powerless if I feel there are no choices. There is a kind of power that comes from deep within. I sense it like an illumination at my core. When I contemplate options from there, I just feel the right path. That surety of belief, and the ability to act on it, is power.

Of course there is the power over others type of power as well. I grew up with it. It involves getting people to give up their power for you, or simply forcing it. I don’t think that personal power can ever be truly taken away, but it can be easy to believe that you don’t have a choice. Because this model of power was impressed on me early on, I’ve done all that I can to avoid it, while still playing by those rules. I keep waiting for people to let me be powerful, rather than feeling my own power.

As a parent, I’ve been acutely aware of power. I have felt true to my own power. I am the mom. I am in charge. But that doesn’t mean that I enforce my will on everyone. I try to teach my children about their own power. I explain things. I give them choices. I help them figure out how to make good decision. I am a resource. I guide. I foster independence while honoring their spirits and providing a safe shelter.

Evoë in fishnetAs a CEO, I am struggling to figure out how to protect my vision without crippling the company. I’m good at making things happen, but scared that my dreams might be taken away as they were when I was a child. I’m functioning somewhere in between power from within and power over. I’m waiting for everyone else to grant me power rather than just assuming I have it. I’m not very skillful with power in areas that really matter to me. Thankfully, I work with people who understand.

As a lover, power is complicated. I’ve done so much work around my sexuality, that sex feels pretty safe. I generally know the power dynamics going into a sexual situation. I used to be more comfortable being submissive sexually because someone else would make all of the choices. All I had to worry about was my own reactions. It was a relief to be in a situation where I didn’t have to fear making a wrong choice. It was easy to know how to please my partner. Over the past five years, I’ve become more of a top. I like to control the situation. I trust myself more to be able to read my partner’s energy and make good decisions. More and more, I am looking to make love as equals. Playing with power can be fun, but I now want to strip away the psychological distractions and focus all of our energy on being together.

Evoë contemplating powerI’ve noticed that some people feel less powerful as life goes on. Possibilities seem wide open when you are young, but all of the choices you make over the course of your life seem to limit the available options. The economy sliding down must be amplifying this effect for a great many people now. I’ve seen this kind of paralysis creep into sex, as well as general life choices. Maybe the narrowing is deceptive, though – if power comes from within, then you own it completely and no outside force can affect it. Maybe giving up is the true loss of power.

I am a very powerful person. I’m good at seeing all of the options, even the hidden ones. I know myself pretty well. Right now pain and anger often cloud my ability to follow my heart, but it’s a passing thing. I can choose to let it flow through me. My power comes from within.

  • Melanie Henry

    Yes, this. Thank you for this.