There’s hardly anything as infuriating as the realization that you’re up against a problem or situation of some kind where there is absolutely nothing you can do to change it.
Powerlessness will make you believe that there is nothing you can do, or worse, that you’re a victim.
And when you see yourself as a victim of what you’re powerless over, your suffering will be compounded.
A little over 10 years ago I was rear-ended by someone while I was at a dead stop behind a long line of cars on a busy Houston freeway. Luckily, no one was hurt, but it turned out that the person who ran into me didn’t have auto insurance—and lied about it.
As you can imagine, when I found out he didn’t have a valid insurance policy, I was beyond irritated. I tried every way I could think of to track him down and make him pay for my out-of-pocket deductible, along with the cost of the rental car I would need while my car was being repaired. No luck.
Finally, in desperation, I called my attorney, hoping for some kind of recourse. After he patiently listened to my story and asked how much money was on the line (about $700), he said, “Vicki, you’re going to have to let this one go. It’s just not worth it.”
Did I want to hear it? No.
Was it what I needed to hear? Yes.
As a partner of a sex addict, you’re powerless over many things—especially whether or not the addict embraces recovery and attains sobriety. Sometimes partners engage in countless hours of detective work or create elaborate plans to catch the addict in a lie or to retaliate for being betrayed.
These kinds of activities are safety-seeking behaviors partners engage in that help them make sense of their world. But they can also be a sign of a struggle to accept powerlessness.
After all, powerlessness feels awful—and no one wants to feel awful.
In the end, the best antidote to the demoralizing feeling of powerlessness of all kinds is to take action around what you have power over. The best “revenge” is to do what is in your power to do, and to create the beautiful life you want and deserve. A life so beautiful that you may rarely remember—or even forget—what you were so steamed about.
But how to do that?
Here are 6 actions you can take when you’re powerless:
- If you’re struggling to face the reality that you’re truly powerless, begin by praying for the willingness to accept powerlessness. Accepting powerlessness frees up your energy for other, higher purposes.
- Offer the problem or the situation you’re powerless over to God, your Higher Power, the Divine, or however you conceive of your Higher Power.
- Continually remind yourself that you are not a victim simply because you’re powerless. Tell yourself, “I’m powerless over this situation, but I have the power to create the life I want and to take action over anything I have power over.”
- If you’re powerless over something that has a significant impact on your life (the addict’s sobriety, for example), you may need to set a boundary. Use the 5-Step Boundary Solution Clarifier to identify the boundary that needs to be set and take steps to create it for your safety, protection, and well-being.
- Ask yourself, “What am I uniquely suited for or talented in that I could bring to bear in this situation?” This one is about using your creativity. For example, remember the first AIDS Memorial Quilt created in the late 1980s to bring awareness to the lives lost to HIV/AIDS? These quilts are a beautiful example of how people used their skills—quilting—to turn an obstacle into an instrument for raising awareness and eliminating suffering in the world.
- Ask yourself, “What IS in my power to change about this situation?” Once you’ve identified what that is, take action.
The simple truth is that we’re powerless over many things in life—people, places, and things. The good news is that we have power over how we respond to what happens to us—our thoughts, choices, and actions.
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© Vicki Tidwell Palmer, LCSW (2016)
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