Power. Right now, you have the power to heal and the power to grow. In fact, you have more power than you know and much more than you use in your everyday life. In a recent article on How to Heal from Abuse, I quoted Marianne Williamson:
What power do you have?
How will power help you to heal and what kind of power do you really have? These are big questions. First, let’s think about the kind of power that you have. There are at least three kinds of power: Power over someone; power to accomplish specific things; and personal power.
a. Will power-over others help with healing? It can be gratifying to have power over someone else but rarely will power over others heal. Positions of power or authority can become used in unhealthy ways unless you are healthy and well.
b. What about power to accomplish specific things? This can help, but accomplishing projects are also not a path to healing. It feels good to see what you have completed or accomplished, but you can be outwardly successful while inwardly you may still be suffering.
c. A feeling of personal power? Feeling confident or powerful is also not the path to healing. You can feel powerful and confident but still be unhealthy. You don’t need to go too far beyond the 2016 US Election for a few examples of unhealthy leaders who feel and who act powerful.
So what do we mean by power? I think the word that gets to the heart of where power meets healing is resilience. Resilience is defined as the ability to bounce back, the capacity to recover, toughness. Healing power is the power of resilience: having the inner strength to bounce back from tragedy and trauma, which comes from knowing yourself and trusting your strength.
Judith Lewis Herman in her bookhighlights the importance of empowerment as the first principle of healing:
The first principle of recovery is empowerment of the survivor. She must be the author and arbiter of her own recovery.
How can finding your power support you to heal?
To help us think about power and resilience, I would like to use electrical power as a metaphor. A little education in electronic circuits can help you and I understand electrical power and how it relates to healing.
Electrical power is a little like water on fire. It flows and it can burn. In order to harness electrical power, you will need to know how to manage the power for your needs or else it will cause you harm. To put it simply, power is all about input (battery or plug in) and output (light the light, turn on the stereo or oven).
Circuits can be closed or an open system. A closed system is one that has no outside sources for power. An open system has a mechanism(s) for outside sources of power. A flashlight would be a very simple closed system because it’s source is an internally connected battery. A light bulb is a simple open system because the power source is the electrical current from your home or office.
Batteries eventually die and they leak. If your life is a closed system, eventually it will become unhealthy, just like a battery. Closed systems are rarely healthy. Every relationship, every business, every mind needs fresh input and new connections to remain healthy.
5 Ways that Power Can Help You to Heal
1) A closed or an open system? Ask yourself: How is my life open to others, to fresh input, to new ideas, to change? It can feel like a huge risk, but consider what you can do to take a step and begin to open up. One of the first steps in healing is the empowerment to open up.
Each electronic circuit has at least four basic components that manage the power within the system: the wires, the resistors, the capacitors, and the potentiometers.
2) The wires: Each system needs wires. They are the conduits for the power. Wires can be shielded (having a plastic coating) or unshielded (bare wires). Shielded wires conserve power and heat, but they cost more money and take more energy to create, but once created, they serve you very well.
Life has given you a set of wires that allow your energy, your life, your hope, and your creativity to flow through. At this point in your life, your wires may be twisted and stretched, but they are still your wires.
Take a moment to consider: How easily does your energy and your motivation leave you? Perhaps you need to learn to shield your wires so that you can retain more energy and motivation to accomplish your goals? Shielding is about boundaries – saying no to draining people or exhausting situations.
3) The resistors: Resistors serve to blunt the flow of power. They slow it down and sometimes divert it. We need resistors so that the power does not become too great, overheating and burning out the wires.
Your resistors include taking the time to slow things down and reflect. Resilience means that you know who you are. You can only learn that by spending time with yourself. Being quiet, being alone, reflecting and practicing simple disciplines like exercise, yoga, and spiritual practices can provide a window into yourself so that you learn who you are.
Slowing down means taking time to be honest about your losses and the traumas that you have faced. Your trauma can be more of an incident or a pattern of events. The Trauma-Recovery Center defines trauma as a continuum from a single event to something as life-altering as war. Any incident of trauma can alter your personality and your emotional and mental health.
4)The capacitors are fantastic creations. Capacitors are a little like an energy bank account. With money, if you spend everything you get, you go broke. But if you save a little each paycheck, you are prepared to act when you are ready. In the same way, a capacitor saves power for a pre-determined time and purpose. They slow the power and divide it up into something usable. It is no longer just raw power, it is served in useful chunks.
You need capacitors in your healing: energy bank accounts where you save up your energy, your motivation, your determination for a time when you most need it. Remember that the fewer sources of energy you have, you are more likely to push to the edge of unhealthiness.
Right now, you have at your disposal multiple energy sources:
- Healthy eating
- Reading uplifting, motivating books
- Healthy relationships
- Spiritual practices
- The ability to plan ahead
The Trauma-Recovery Center refers to your sources of energy as a Triangle of Well-Being or Resilience. I highly recommend their website as it is an excellent healing resource.
5) Potentiometers are strange sounding devices, but they have one important purpose: They turn the power on. Another word for potentiometer is “switch,” as in a light switch or on/off switch. I prefer the word potentiometer to on/off switch because “potentiometer” declares that once you have your circuit put together, you have great potential.
Judith Lewis Herman refers to your potential as your reconnection with ordinary life. To reconnect, you need first need safety (wires and resistors), and then a process of remembrance and mourning (capacitors).
“Recovery unfolds in three stages. The central task of the first stage is the establishment of safety. The central task of the second stage is remembrance and mourning. The central focus of the third stage is reconnection with ordinary life.”
What are your strengths? In addition to grieving, to recounting your trauma, it is also important to take the time to understand your resiliencies. If you can’t name 3-5 strengths, I recommend that you go back to #3 and take time to understand yourself. You can take a free strengths test by clicking here.
Your resilience will grow as you make decisions to:
- Open your system to healthy inputs and healing perspectives
- Coat your wires and become clear about our values and practice healthy boundaries
- Use your resistors and practice time to reflect, meditate, slow down. Grieve, note your traumas and be specific about your areas of resilience.
- Build your capactors through having energy sources from a variety of healthy practices
- Understand your switches, your potential and your strengths and what you bring to your world, your families and your jobs.
Healing from trauma and abuse is within your grasp. You may have experienced trauma or abuse, but you also have a great deal of strength.
Trauma is a part of the human experience. Trauma is unavoidable and is something we all have in common. Traumatic events can bring us together, and we can even grow out of trauma. Even though you might continue to struggle with the effects of trauma, you have survived and that took courage, strength, and resourcefulness. The Trauma-Recovery Center
This article is a companion article to “How to Heal from Abuse,” which I invite you to read by clicking on the link.
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Keep it Real
Previously published by smswaby