Feeling Powerless? Master the Art of Giving Up
By Deborah Blackwell
“What’s that light outside?” my teenage son asked as we sat a bit paralyzed in the dark living room. “Is that God?”
The power had gone out an hour before, just after sunset. I was in the shower when it went pitch black. My husband was at work.
No, it’s a car’s headlights, I said.
“Ha! I thought it was God! Have humans become so attached to technology that purgatory is having no power?” he asked.
Seems so, I replied, wondering where he was getting this biblical perspective. While spiritual, religion is not in the forefront of our lives. But the weather is.
The local weather gurus had not predicted anything like this or I would have been more prepared for the hurricane-level storm that was swirling outside our house. I would have bought non-perishable food, turned up the heat, and showered before sunset. But we were only supposed to get rain. Nobody mentioned electricity.
So, my son and I sat by candlelight. He was on his phone, and I was simply anxious. I don’t do well when the power is out. It’s like a nerve-wracking feeling of nothingness, especially when it’s dark. My heart beat faster, acid flung up from my empty stomach, and my eyes worked hard to focus. I felt powerless.
We could hear the gusts of wind outside, and sheets of rain beating on the house. But inside, it was eerily quiet. This must be what it’s like when we aren’t home, I thought, when there’s no life inside the structure that keeps us safe, warm, plugged in, and comfortable. I don’t like sitting in that kind of stillness unless it’s by choice. I wanted power over my power.
Purgatory, I decided, is the moment we realize we are not in control.
It is deeply human to want to be in control of every aspect of our life.
Control is a powerful thing. When we think we’ve lost it, we feel unsettled, disoriented, and determined to find it. This is not news of course, but when our environment, stability, or peace of mind is threatened, we worry. We even panic.
The need for control comes from our instinct to have balance and comfort, to solve problems and fix situations. We want to make our own choices, perpetuate ease, and promote success.
Ironically, control isn’t what we think it is. It’s not about our external environment. It doesn’t mean steadfast security over ever-changing circumstances. The real power is in the control we practice on the inside—over our thinking, our actions and reactions, our emotional landscape. When we feel out of control, there’s one surefire way to get it. Surrender.
The power of control is surrender.
We can generate peace of mind in any situation if we surrender to the “not knowing” and accept the discomfort of not having control. Telling ourselves that we are OK, instead of waiting for someone else to fix our problems, or at least deliver a definitive, “It’s all OK.” When we surrender, even for a few minutes, it is all OK.
The key is willingness.
Are we willing to give up the feeling of control just enough to let life do its thing around us, for us, and in spite of us?
Surrender is an action, a way to take responsibility for our reaction to whatever obtrusive circumstance is in our face. These predicaments remind us that sometimes, while we aren’t in control, we can take a few deep breaths, calm our body and mind, and focus on soothing the rough edges of reality. It’s proactive. Surrender offers us some comfort and relief while we wait on things to change.
And guess what. We will survive! Even when it doesn’t feel like it in the moment. While we can’t predict the future, we can count on change as a constant, and make peace with that.
Surrender offers us the opportunity to trust that the pendulum will swing back into the comfort zone.
Our power came back on in a few hours, and as it turns out, we were lucky. There were many who waited for days.
I had scribbled a few thoughts on a sticky note in the dark while my son and I waited for God. Here’s what I read the next day:
When we feel out of control, we lose control. So, to give up control, is to take control.
Now, that’s power.