The Big Secret
"You have no idea how impotent I feel."
The Worst (and Best) of Power
Power Is Power
Callan Williams, Copyright © January 1997
--The Big Secret
I know a secret about transgendered people.
It is our most dangerous secret, the one that few dare speak. Even in these days of openness, where everything is boldly stated, veneers are ripped off, shells are stripped away, there is one truth we still have trouble with.
In the sea of compassion, in the face of victims, in the teeth of oppression, there is one thing that is still too dangerous to stand up and say. One thing that will stir up all the controversy, from haters to advocates.
The big secret? The truth so dangerous we have to hide it?
Transgendered people are coded to be happy and successful.
Transgendered people are coded to be happy and successful.
-- It's Not True!
Can that really be true? Can we all have the possibility of success and happiness, of being a vital and valuable part of the fabric of this culture in our soul?
Advocates will yell that we cannot be happy. "The oppression of one of us is the oppression of all of us. We must live with compassion for the suffering of those transgendered people around the world who face a cruel world everyday. We must come together to halt oppression."
Haters will tell us "You cannot be happy unless you follow the rules, unless you accept our savior, our code, our morality."
And we buy into this. So many of us want to stand up and say "I am a victim of cruel fate! I didn't choose to be this way, and it's just not fair!" We ask others to be compassionate towards us, to excuse our behavior, to rationalize our choices based on our pain and suffering.
In other words, many of those who want to bring TG people together, those who hate us, and our own beliefs all converge to convince us that we are suffering, that we should suffer, must suffer.
And then we believe that if we are not suffering, we are doing something wrong. To announce that we are not suffering seems like a callous and insensitive act, rejecting the truth that this heterosexist culture stacks the deck against gender transgression.
We can share our pain. We can share our oppression. We can share our shame. But can we share our success? Can we walk into a support group and talk about the big raise we got and have people be happy? Can we talk about new cars, or great lovers?
Sharing success can be frightening. It can't be true.
-- It Is True.
If you think culture stacks the deck against gender transgression, what about against race? And where was there more racial discrimination than South Africa? But even after 30 years in jail, Nelson Mandela knows the secret.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us. It's in everyone. And as we let our own light
We fear the truth -- the truth that we are powerful enough to change our minds, powerful enough to change our worlds. It is the secret that we keep, the one that we deny -- the hidden truth of our power.
And we fear that truth -- the truth that we are brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous -- because we fear that if we are too good people won't like us, won't love us.
Unless we like ourselves, unless we like ourselves, then we cannot give the love to others that they need, get back the love we need. Unless we accept the dreaded secret -- that we really are coded for success and happiness -- we will always be afraid of happiness and success.
-- But It's Their Fault!
Why can't we be happy? Ask anyone and they can give you a litany of reasons. "Society oppresses me." "My family was dysfunctional." :"I am limited." "Others can't give me what I need."
We have been taught that who we are is because of how they treated us -- every they from the creator who played a cruel joke in our genes, to our parents, our teachers, our doctors, our politicians, our business people, even the leaders of the movements we want to help us. They don't get it, they keep us small.
We are all hurting. We have all suffered pain in our past, inadvertent pain, and yes, even deliberate pain that was meant to socialize us, teaching us to kill off parts of ourselves. The nail that sticks up gets pounded down -- and as transgendered people, we have been pounded a lot.
Dr. Robert Anthony: "When you blame others, you give up your power to change."
How do we take our own power?
We must let go of anger and rage. Even House Majority Leader Dick Armey has said: "You can't get ahead while getting even."
Getting even is a trap that stops us from getting ahead, stops us from growing.
-- Who We Are, Or Who We Can Be?
Transformation is not about who we are, it is about what we can be -- about releasing the essence of our being. We have spent years being told about the limits to who we can be, and we hold those limits close and painful.
Hear what we claim for our identity, does the following sound familiar?
I AM so afraid of failing.
I AM sick and tired of your behavior.
I AM too poor to afford it.
I AM too old to travel anymore.
It is my essence to BE: afraid of failing.
It is my nature to BE: sick and tired of your behavior.
It is God's WILL for me to BE: to poor to afford it.
-- The Power Of Risk
Our lives improve only when we take chances
- and the first and most difficult risk we can take is to be honest with ourselves.
To announce that we are not suffering seems like a callous and insensitive act, rejecting the truth that this heterosexist culture stacks the deck against gender transgression, makes transgression a risky act.
Of course, everyone knows that the bigger the risk, the higher the payoff. Taking the big bold risks can result in happiness -- but hiding from them, fearing them, results in suffering. -- but hiding from risks, fearing risks results in suffering.
We all gather together, and we decide to keep our success a secret -- decide that transgender, happiness and success don't fit together. If we feel happy or successful, we have to shut up -- or leave the gender community, cast out as un-compassionate, insensitive and uncaring. The people who have the wherewithal to help often feel cast out and rejected.
-- Compassion Means Sharing Joy, Too
Compassion is vital. We need to care. It is true that one person's oppression is the oppression of all of us. But it is also true that one person's success is the success of all of us. To lead TG into the future, the models must be of healthy, actualized, powerful TG people -- not simply the human tragedy of the few deaths every year and our pain and rage for the hurting.
-- Giving The Gift Of Success
What greater gift could we give the world than the gift of learning how to succeed in this world as powerful, gracious, queer, transgendered people? Is the best tool for ending oppression to bash back at the vague and shadowy figure of the oppressors or to empower the oppressed to take charge of their own life, to face oppression and succeed, find joy and happiness?
This is the secret: We have the capacity to win, to be an effective part of the world, to make our lives better not only for us, but for those we care for, both our blood families and our families of choice.
-- Free To Win, But Only For A Moment
Winning requires one thing: we have to use our own freedom. Steven Covey notes that our freedom exists in only one moment for an of us, and that is in the moment between stimulus and response. Freedom is only in that fleeting moment.
We don't choose the stimulus of our world -- facts like being born transgendered in a world that has no place for transgendered people are not something we can change.
We don't even choose the outcome of our actions, our choices. The rest of the world will respond in whatever way they do.
So is that moment of freedom enough to change our lives? The answer is unequivocally yes. If we act boldly, respond well to what we are given, we can make a happy life. If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
The hard part is taking charge of our own freedom in that moment. Too often, we just react to stimuli out of old programming, rather than respond in the most effective way we can. We follow the fears that are taught us growing up -- and one the biggest fear is that we will be separated, not liked, if we are too successful.
So we know the secret -- that we can choose success -- but we choose not to act on it. We choose instead to find reasons not to succeed, to point the finger at others for our lack of happiness.
-- Discomfort Now, Joy Later
What rationalization do we make in the moment that we blame someone else? Most often it is the fact that any other choice, a choice that would get us what we want is too uncomfortable, costs too much.
We are unwilling to renounce something we want now -- maybe the comfort of not having to face our fears -- for something that we want even more -- maybe the freedom to be who we are.
This is the judgment we make in the moment -- do we come from old programming, or do we put every choice in context? Do we live only in the now, or in the possibility of a better now?
When we are overweight, we often find comfort in food. If we go on a diet, we believe we will find more comfort and health in losing weight. In the moment that we look in the refrigerator, we have to use the moment of freedom to make the decisions: Do I satisfy my comfort now, or do I renounce comfort in this moment for a more long term goal?
This is the way of transformation, dropping the old choices and accepting the new, knowing that new choices will make us into new ways of being. We are, in every way that counts, the sum and total of our choices, and that means to be conscious of who we are and what we can become, we must be conscious of our choices.
This is hard, because in any given moment, the choice will be difficult. The choice to face oppression and stigma to find a greater happiness, to give more to get more often seem completely backwards. Yet, unless we face the world, there is no way we can find joy in it. The possibility of success is small, but the only time you have to succeed is the last time you try, and that means that we must choose the risky path if we want to move ahead, and keep choosing it again and again-- we fail and though failure, find the seeds of success.
-- Facing Failure Is The Way To Success
How do we keep our spirits up when we face failure in every moment? How do we keep our eye on the possibilities of success, when virtually everyone around us is telling us that the chances are small --and besides success is not a reasonable goal while others are being oppressed.
How do we find people who will share with us the belief that abundance is possible in this world -- the abundance of love and resources that can change our life?
-- Personal Power: Making Connections
We have the power to change our life. Personal power in this world is simple -- it is the capacity to have people agree with you, to work with you, to share goals and dreams, to give you what you need and want. There are many ways of getting this power --- following rules, taking risks, force, persuasion, seduction, and so on, but in the end, the goal is always the same -- to sway other people to do what you want.
Of course, the best way to get people to do what you want is to find goals and objectives that you share, to compromise and trade so that everyone gets what they want. To do that, however, requires compromise, and in compromise, nobody gets exactly what they want, but people get what they need.
-- Is Compromise Giving In?
Many people reject success because they believe that the choices we have to make to exert our personal power -- our ability to have others support us and our choices -- require us to renounce too much of ourselves. They talk of a slippery slope that begins with compromise and ends with total assimilation and the loss of identity and self.
This is the question we all face in every moment we make a choice: When do we sell out our dreams by renouncing too much in the moment, and when do we sell them out by not renouncing enough? When do we risk too much by putting off our dreams, and when do we risk too much by demanding satisfaction right now?
To make the decision in the moment requires striking that balance -- and also trusting that the only time you have to make the perfect decision is the last time you try. In this life, balance comes over time and not in the moment, and it is only though going a bit too far, becoming unstable that we find our center and stability.
--Losing Balance, Moving Forward
"To walk, we have to learn to lean forward," says the British psychotherapist Robin Skynner, "lose our balance and begin to fall. We let go constantly of the previous stability, falling all the time, trusting that we will find a succession of new stabilities with each step.... Our experience of the past, and of those dear to us, is not lost at all, but remains richly within us."
We fall forward into the future, losing our balance in every moment and regaining it.
-- Imperfection Is Required
One of the hardest things about being a grown up is always knowing that you are making imperfect decisions -- that every choice you make is wrong in some way or other. We, as beings in a finite world, can never make perfect decisions that satisfy everyone in always -- we can only make the best decisions we can, make them boldly and strongly.
The compromises, the balances we have to make to get what we want are often difficult, always tough. We need to be balance, even in the truth that moving forward requires losing balance. To claim our own success requires claiming it even in the face our own failures -- and that is not a simple task.
For me, being a grown-up is when accept that we are in the generation of the parents, that we have not only the responsibility, but also the power, to take charge of our own lives and our own extended families and our own communities. So many people today -- TG or not -- seem to not want to grow up, to think that life is simply all about them and their pain and problems.
It is only through service to others that we find ourselves. This outward focus, focus on taking our own power and doing something about it, choosing to be a part of the community, is the only way we can become empowered.
--The Beauty Of Our Scars
As transgendered people we are scarred, scarred by life and by fate. We fail and we get hit and we get scarred.
For me, those scars are marks of wisdom, of hard earned lessons that make us even more beautiful/
When the Japanese mend broken objects they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold, because they believe that when something's suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful.
Barbara Bloom, American artist
-- Success demands responsibility.
Success demands responsibility. Accepting success means accepting responsibility for our own lives.
If we assume that we are all the same, what do we assume about other people?
Being compassionate towards others is good and important. We all have pain.
But assuming that others also have the capability to take charge of their lives, that others can also take responsibility and succeed is the challenge.
If we accept that everyone is capable of success, then we demand that they work towards that. We begin to understand that true compassion is to ask people to actually come through and do their best, rather than simply excusing their actions based on their inability to actually do the work.
This balance of compassion and responsibility is a tricky one. To be successful, we must be compassionate towards ourselves and others, but we must also have an expectation that people will take responsibility for their own choices and their own lives, not simply blame others or decide that they are incapable of making things better.
Is this the reason that people resist success, both in themselves and in others, because success demands that we take responsibility for our lives and our choices? It is question that we must ask.
-- The Dream Of Supporting Success
As Bette Midler said, "The hardest thing about being successful is to find someone who is happy for you."
My dream is that I can find a support group where, when you announce you got a promotion and a raise, you can do it with pride and with the joy of others -- not a feeling of shame that you are enjoying good fortune while others suffer.
So this is my quest -- to find a few more people who are ready to stand up for their own power as individuals, and in doing that, make models, money, and change that can help everyone to be able to stand up and express their own unique and beautiful selves.
We heal when we can be honest. We can be honest about our feelings of pain and desperation, but the one thing we cannot yet be honest about is our hopes and dreams. When we dream too big, we set up a tension, a need for others to bubble burst.
-- It Comes Down To You
If Rosa Parks had taken a poll before she sat down in the bus in Montgomery, she'd still be standing.
Mary Frances Berry
There is only one person who can tell the truth about you, and that is you. To admit that you are coded for success, that you have the power to take responsibility for your own life and own happiness is something that you must do for yourself.
After all is said and done, you have the responsibility for your own secrets, your own fears, your own pain and your own possibilities.
Do you want to believe that you have the possibility of changing your life, finding success and happiness, or do you want to believe in the inevitability of pain and oppression?
the question is:
how do we believe in our possibilities, in our dreams?
how do we face the dream breakers and find the dream makers?
how do we trust the call of our heart in the face of a society
that believes in breaking the spirit of people?
how do we move beyond the wounds
and the scars
that taught us to stay small?
where is the empowerment
the affirmation of dreams?
a few years ago i proposed
that a conference
"vanguard of gender exploration"
find a new mission statement
because their old one was a lie
as the edge moved on
and they cater to weekend crossdressers
"the empowerment conference"
was my suggestion
make the town meeting on
"what are the requirements for a
successful transgendered life"
politics and wounds and parties
which go hand in hand
in the minds of activists
who prefer the stick than the carrot
and wonder why
success & abundance eludes them
and they scrap over scraps
the crumbs from people
who don't claim their own success
or keep their success separate
from their transgendered party nature.
success begets success
abundance begets abundance
dreams nurture dreams
possibilities cascade into possibilities
defense begets defense
wounds beget wounds
pain nurtures pain
fears cascade into fears
the seeds you tend
the plants that grow
are the seeds you get
so why do we tend
the fear, pain and wounds?
a queer empowerment conference
not about people of color
not about people of transgendered experience
not about women who love women
not about men who love men
about individual possibility
about personal responsibility
about one humans power
about each person's dreams
where no one stands up and says
what about the hurt
what about the oppressed
what about the marginalized
what about the disenfranchised
but rather they stand and say
I will help the hurt find healing.
I will help the oppressed find freedom
I will help the marginalized find the center
I will help the disenfranchised find their voice
and this is how
I have done it.
This is how
I will do it.
as an individual,
join me in this pursuit?
A conference where people
don't discuss what is wrong
do discuss what how to be right
don't discuss how the system is bad
do discuss how the individual can do good
don't discuss why it can't be done
do discuss how it can be done
don't discuss global problems
do discuss individual solutions
a place where people are
beyond their wounds
acting from their highest self
believing in the possibilities
of other people
of making connections
of making change
of their own power
this is the challenge
to celebrate success
not just to mourn failures
to celebrate playing big
not just to mourn the crushing that keeps us small
to take our power
not to mourn its loss.
not about what others must do
but about what I must do
to change my own world
change that ripples
rings of success reaching outward
touching more and more
and changing our world
create the future self
ordained as an individual
to make dreams come true
when we come together
to believe in each other
to believe in our self.
and believe in
the power and beauty
of our dreams.
"You have no idea how impotent I feel."
Callan Williams Copyright © 1997
"You have no idea how impotent I feel. I don't have control of my own life and my own success, because the system is designed to keep people like me down. Unless you are someone like me, you have no idea how disempowered, silenced, how impotent I feel, and you never really can."
Many people seem to want to tell us this. Blacks tell whites, women tell men, the poor tell the rich, the queers tell the straights, and so on and so on.
We all know that we feel ashamed of who we are, limited in our ability to change what we think is important to us, impotent to get what we want and we need. We are angry and frustrated at the events that have conspired to keep us down, keep us impotent, keep us small.
These feelings of impotence are, like any feelings, very true and very real, a key component of the challenges we face every day. These feelings are not are not groundless. Society really does conspire to maintain the status quo by socializing people in a way that they feel they have to go along to get along, that they cannot effectively create change, cannot transform their life and their world. We really are victimized by prejudice and the pounding of normativity, and that causes a lot of pain, pain that helps keep us down and disempowered.
There are three traditional responses to the cry "You have no idea how impotent I feel."
The first is to agree. "Right on, brother, the system keeps us impotent! Amen, sister, it's others who have the power and not us! We face discrimination and oppression everyday, and if that doesn't change, if they don't open the gates, we all will be crushed under the machine that keeps the rich rich and the poor poor!"
This is a very comforting response, in part because it shifts the responsibility for our impotence to others, to "them," who appear to have power and refuse to use it to empower us, to help. We join together under the banner of our shared oppressions, coming together to work against "them" who are our shared enemy.
The second is to try to explain how impotent the listener feels, and how nobody understands that. For example, men often want to tell women how disempowered they feel, and no matter how much privilege, how much positive prejudice they get, they don't feel powerful, feel like any power can be yanked out from under them in a second.
I watched a TV report on a camp for high school students in Los Angeles where kids were divided into 6 racial groups. In one exercise, the groups were asked to rank the relative power of each group. All six decided that the American Indians were the least powerful, and that whites were the most powerful, but some members of the other groups were confused why some whites cried as they were called to the front of the line again and again. The white students wanted to explain how impotent they felt to achieve change, how they felt silenced and stymied, but other groups had trouble hearing this.
It's easy, when another person responds to our statement that "you don't know how impotent I feel" by trying to explain how you also feel impotent, to let that statement fall of deaf ears, being sure that by arguing their own impotence, they couldn't possibly understand the depth and breadth and intensity of our own impotence.
The third answer to "You have no idea how impotent I feel" is to respond that each person has the responsibility for their own power in the world. Power is not something that is given to groups, but rather power is taken by individuals of any race by hard work, tough thought and tender hearts. Each individual has to take responsibility for their own choices and their own power.
What is power? Personal power is the ability to get people to do what we want them to do, and there are many routes to this goal. We can coerce people into doing what we want, we can trade with people to do what we want, or we can enlighten people to see shared goals so they have an personal commitment to what we both want.
Power is not something shared by a group, but comes from the choices of an individual to take their own power.
For people who are saying "You have no idea how impotent I feel," the answer that you are the only one who has responsibility for your own empowerment, for taking charge of your own life seems to be a direct slap in the face, one more example of how nobody understands just what barriers and challenges they face in trying to control their own life. They are certain that what needs to happen is for others to change, for circumstances to shift, for the environment to be different before they can actually feel potent, empowered in their own life.
When people who say "You have no idea how impotent I feel" are called to take their own power, they see ignorance and privilege erasing them. The person who calls them must be one of the enemy, so blinded by their own power that they can never understand how impotent one can feel.
Each one of us has challenges and shame to face. Each one of us is born with strengths and weaknesses, has gifts and challenges. The society we live in determines many of these parameters, but people have never been able absolutely control their environment. Stephen Covey says that "Freedom lies in the moment between stimulus and response." We don't control the stimulus, nor how people and the world will respond to our choice. Our only control is over our own choice, and as people who have made successes of themselves in this world prove, that small degree of control can do great things.
There are people of every race, creed, color & history who have failed, and people of every race, creed, color, & history who have succeeded. What is the difference between success and failure? Tenacity, quality, and the ability to learn from failure seem to make a difference, the capacity not to give up when faced by challenging odds, but to keep on keeping on.
When we build support groups, what do we support each other in? Do we support each other in the certainty that nobody else can understand how impotent we feel, or support each other in finding ways to claim our own power and use that power to make the world better for all?
I know how it feels to want to say that nobody understands how impotent I feel. As a transgendered person, I feel erased and removed, as if I follow the call of my soul I will be crucified for that choice. I am faced with the challenge of losing myself and my power to play along, or taking my on internal power and having people be afraid of me, work against me. People are challenged by others taking power, and that means that taking our own power, playing big can be separating, and difficult -- especially when others feel that I am taking their power because I have no idea how impotent they feel.
Nobody does understand how impotent I feel. And they never will understand until I can take charge of my own power and agency to explain it to them. This is the paradox: to resolve our pain we must move beyond our pain, to express our impotence we must become potent. It is often the calluses, walls, defenses and fears that we have built from our pain that stop us from changing in ways that can relieve that very pain.
Every human feels impotent in many ways. None of us can really stop death, aging, gravity, prejudice, ignorance, stupidity and the thousand other factors that wear us down. We can't cut those losses, and those losses feel real, are real. We can only try to win where we can, to take our power in ways that balance and transcend the inevitable losses.
What do you think the answer is to your own feeling of impotence? How do you think that can be resolved? Do we have to wait for the world to change, for separation and oppression to stop, or can we begin now to take the little power of choice that we have and build on that moment by moment, choice by choice?
We all feel impotent, and that feeling often overwhelms our own potency. This is the challenge of being human.
"I feel impotent to make the changes that need to be made. I can see so clearly how some small changes could make things better, but I feel impotent to get those changes made, to have all the gatekeepers listen to me and act on my ideas. I even feel like in some cases they bought me off and I lose even more power because I have to be quiet just to protect my income. I feel impotent, and all marginalized people feel impotent, and those who are potent, who have power, can solve this problem by giving us power, power that will mean our voices are listened to."
This is what I hear many saying, that it is the disempowerment, the castration of the marginalized that is the problem, and that those in power bear responsibility for that impotence.
I have no problem with agreeing with people who say they feel impotent. I just have a problem with people who demand I agree that they are impotent. Even with the truth that we are discouraged and dismissed by society, we are each responsible for our own power, and while the system must not unfairly discriminate against people because of certain groupings -- like race, sex, religion, and so on -- ultimately, the system cannot empower us, we can only empower ourselves. This notion that we have responsibility for our own lives, our own healing, our own choices, and that our choices are the only thing that can change & transform our life is a key foundation of all my beliefs.
Talking our own power is damn hard. We have our own limited resources and we have to invest them wisely, for how we invest oursevles is the key decision we can make in the way our lives play out. Do we build our own networks or join one in place? Do we sell out a lot to gain standing in a big system or not sell out and work outside the system? How do we use our own voice? Do we accuse or cajole, attack or compromise?
We will always have to make imperfect decisions, and we can always see different options in retrospect. Yet we make the best decisions we can in the moment, and we need to use the awareness of other possibilities to inform future decisions, because we cannot change the past, only the present moment, which in turn affects the future.
As much as we fear separation, want to avoid shame, humilation and embarassment, avoid confronting a system that is designed to intimidate us into compliance, we must face those challenges to take our own power. We must find the balance between playing along and fighting the system, between community goals and individual needs, between order and freedom, between wild and tame.
I know the rage of seeing a stupid and thoughtless system crush forward. I have been an outsider and seen it move that way, still see it move that way, and it makes me angry. I feel impotent to change it, but I have figured out that all I can do is all I can do and that is enough. For me it is the sure knowledge that while at times I will be victimized by others, it is my choice to see myself as a victim or not.
Marianne Williamson, when someone rails against a social injustice, like hunger, asks "So what are you doing about it? Do you send money to Oxfam? Do you support local food drives? Do you collect for Feed The Children? It's when we become part of the solution, if even a tiny part, that we begin to feel like our lives are worthwhile, that we begin to lose the rage and feel empowered. When in doubt, give, because giving is receiving."
I understand from people's words that they feel frustrated, angry and disempowered. Those are all real and powerful feelings. I know them well, and they have kept me enraged and disempowered for a long time. I have felt like I am pissing into the wind, casting pearls before swine.
I just have come to believe that nobody but me has responsibility for what I do about that. I need to call on my gifts and do what I can to change this world, to give them a chance to see it the way I do for a moment, so they can take the gift of my insight and mix it into their vision of the world. I want to add some words and some thoughts, become part of the great social discussion. Life really does get better, I think, when we do our own work, feel proud of our own contributions.
I feel the rage and sense of impotence that comes from a socialization that drives us into the closet, that pushes us to play small & fit in very acutely. I also know that I can't solve other peoples sense of impotence by myself, that they must find a way to address their own rage and pain. Maybe I'm missing the point, and we can change that sense without healing ourselves and entering into the system, sitting at the table and talking, negotiating for change, for a better world. But right now, it's the only solution I can see.
"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. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us. It's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."
Marianne Williamson, "A Return To Love"
When I feel my buttons being pushed, and feel the fear that causes me to feel impotent and want to flee, I have the responsibility to empower myself, to take the gifts that Goddess has given me and trust in my own ability to make good and empowering choices.
Committing to my own empowerment, falling into my own gift, is the only way to take power. I must face the fears that keep me small, no matter how hard or terrifying that is.
My emotional buttons are my emotional buttons, and nobody but me can heal the sore spots that trigger my shame and fear of separation & isolation.
The Worst (and Best) of Power
Tue 18 Aug 1998 - 03:44:41 BST
So what is the worst kind of power?
Is it power over, the power of force, because it makes people do things against their will?
Is it the power of the trade, because it forces people to participate in an economic system that can leave them under durress and exploited because they have no clout?
Is it the power of evangalism, the power of belief, because that's what drives zealots like Hitler?
Is it indvidual power running unchecked?
Is it group power, the power of the mob?
If you have an answer, then think about this:
What is the best power?
Is it power over, the power of force, because it protects babies when they are too young to take care of themselves?
Is it the power of the trade, because it allows people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and make a better life than they would have if they couldn't trade their time, skills and talents?
Is it the power of evangalism, the power of belief, because that's what helps humans come from their higher selves?
Is it the power of the group, coming together as a community?
Is it the power of the indvidual, the ability to have a dream and make it come true?
These are hard questions, it's true. It's like asking if fire is good or bad -- it burns houses, yes, but it keeps us warm -- or even if guns are good or bad -- they can be used agressively, but they have also protected and fed people.
We seem to have a lot of ambivalence about power.
I just wonder how that ambivialence affects us when we feel the need to become empowered, to take our own power to overthrough the oppression that has been taught us. Does our ambivalance actually let us give up our power to those who are less scrupulous with it than we are?
Is the best plan for everyone to become powerless, to lose power and the responsibility that comes with it, so all can be equal? Or is the best plan for everyone to find and take their own power, so all can be empowered? In other words, is the plan to make more losers, to find a lowest common denominator of power, or to make more winners by empowering more people?
Power is dangerous stuff, no doubt, and it can and will be misused. It takes a while to learn how to handle fire with any safety, and it takes a while to learn how to handle power, too -- and both will leave us with burn scars.
For me, though, the role of the parent in culture, even for those of us who don't have biological children, requires that we use our own personal power to make a good world for those who depend on us, the weaker in the culture, and help empower those people to take the role of weilding power in the future. The role of the parent is to lead, and that means using our power, in service of the greater good, and knowing that we will make mistakes, we will screw up, because we are just humans.
What is the worst kind of power? What is the best kind of power?
Can we have one without the other, or are they two sides of the same sword?
Power Is Power
Power is power. It is neither inherently good or bad, I agree.
But power is also power, and subject to misuse and abuse. I don't think that this means we should all be powerless, any more than I think that because electric power can kill we should all give up the Internet.
I believe that personal power is simply the ability to have others do what we want them to do, to get others to work with us to achieve our goals.
Saw a gent on GMA who has just published a book about power, and he gave the three models of power as he sees them.
-- The Power Of Intimidation. Though money, physical force, coercion, manipulation or other intimidating actions, we coerce people into following us. This may be different for men and women, with men tending to physical intimidation, fists and women using emotional manipulation, a sharp tongue, but in any case, people feel used, and are likely to strike back when pushed to the brink or when they see our power crack.
-- The Power Of Trading. We make deals, bargains, compromises, arrangements with people so that they get what they want and we get what we want. This is the primary form of power in the world today, and it is the basis of market economy. It has limits, because it depends on "What have you done for me lately?" and the possibility that people will shop for deals, that the power of intimidation can come into play. However, it is the basis of most human behavior and neutral.
-- The Power Of Persuasion. When we stand up and tell our story and people see things in a new way and decide to change their behavior, their choices because what we have shown them. This is the only power that can last beyond our lifetime that can make a big difference in the way people live their whole lives. This power is good, but it can be used for nasty purposes, like convincing people that they are separate and supreme and have the right to intimidate others into ceding power. This is the basis of why people speaking from their own deep beliefs, their own moral authority, are so strong and compelling.
In any case, we will have all three kind of power behaviors used on us at some time or another, and that also means that we must be able to use all three kinds of behaviors to get people to work with us, to get what we need.
Power is neutral, but the way we express power and the goals we have in achieving power are not. Self aggrandizement at the cost of a community means that we are using power to throw things out of balance, and we have to remember that what goes around comes around.
My GF used to hate the thought of power. I would simply ask: "Do you want to be powerful or powerless?" She really wanted a third option, something neutral.
To me, the only option is to learn to wield our power with grace, and to know when to cede power to others (surrender), because being powerless in my own life, my own world is not something that I want to try.
Politics is the art of gaining social power.