Finding Your Power Amidst the Storm
As we come to the end of a very unusual year, I find myself wanting to try and replenish our hope a bit. So many of us have been met with unexpected hardships this past year. We are living through a global pandemic, and this is so much more than most of us are accustomed to contending with.
Maybe you’re finding that the standard self-care suggestions like warm tea or a nice long walk in the fresh air just aren’t cutting it these days. The current state of things feels bigger than anything a great yoga session could fix. And this isn’t the sort of thing you can just shake off by looking on the proverbial bright side. This is something more profound. Something that runs much deeper, grabs ahold of the very core of your existence, and can leave your foundation feeling pretty unstable.
As people, we are highly adaptable. For the most part, this works in our favour. It’s what allows us to normalize wearing face masks to the grocery store, and working from home, and tuning in to one video call after another. Because we are adaptable, we can go on functioning reasonably well even when it feels like everything is actually falling apart. The drawback is that this can easily start to feel like we’re losing control—like all of these bad things are happening to us, and there’s nothing we can do about it. This sense of powerlessness can be utterly deflating, leaving us feeling hopeless and helpless.
The Covid-19 pandemic has touched us all in very different ways, and it has bought with it a tremendous amount of loss for many people. Some people have lost jobs, lost their sense of safety, even lost loved ones. So many people feel isolated, anxious, depressed, directionless, frustrated. I could go on and on, and never fully capture the array of experiences, but the one overarching theme I keep hearing is a heavy sense of pointlessness.
Life is not what we want it to be—from the milder forms of annoyances and inconveniences to the devastating tragedies. Simply put, we don’t like this, and we feel it’s all completely out of our hands, so what’s the point in anything we’re doing if we actually have no power. It’s not just the pandemic, either. There is always suffering. There are tremendous power imbalances in our world, and there are things that happen in life that are beyond our control. This is true, and it can feel terrible. But here’s the part that gives me hope.
Control and personal agency are not the same things. We can lose a lot of control, but our personal power can never truly be taken from us. We all have a core self that remains untouched by external forces, limitations, oppression, illness, or anything else that leaves us feeling powerless.
Life is an ongoing conversation between what’s going on in our inner world, and what is going on in the world around us. Our core self always gets to take a position on the matter at hand. Even in the face of the greatest forms of suffering, we still have the choice of position, attitude, and the stance we will take.
Life says, “Here are your lemons.” And then our core self gets to decide how we feel about lemons.
Do you like lemons and feel grateful for the gift? Do you hate them and want to throw them all out the window and watch them bust open on the sidewalk below? Do you have a pretty decent recipe for marmalade or lemon muffins you figure you might as well try out?
This might not sound like much on the surface, but it is so much more essential than you may realize. If you can take a position, you become actively engaged in life. Things are no longer happening to you, they are just happening, and you have a say in how you feel about it and how you want to live out your response. There is so much power in this, in fact, that your choices will impact others. It is your responsibility to do your best to keep this in mind as you make your decisions.
No matter how many rules, restrictions, and obstacles you’re confronted with, your core self cannot be broken. When you show up to the situation, ready to turn toward whatever is happening, you are powerful. No, you may not change the world overnight, or even alter your circumstances. But standing with yourself through the pain—intentionally choosing the attitude you want to embrace and the responsible actions you want to take—is what will get you through the storm.
Every storm asks a question of you: If these are the conditions, how do you want to meet them? Your power rests in your response.
Vanessa Bork is a first-year counselling psychology Ph.D. student at the University of British Columbia. She runs an entirely online private practice—at vanessaborkcounselling.com—from Langley, BC, and loves creating watercolour paintings.