Tag Archives: personal power

you_shall_not_pass…is a hidden root of almost every war and personal conflict humans have ever encountered. But how could such a seemingly simple concept have so much power and bearing on the direction we take in our lives? To have an understanding of the conflict we must have a clear understanding of first, what it means to be self-determined, second, what personal power is and third, the meaning and scope of a taboo and how it could create such conflict. Let’s start with personal power and see how it relates to self-determinism. These two, especially in contemporary thinking, seem to be inextricably interwoven.

Living in today’s environment where we are feeling the “pinch” in our finances, recognizing our fading emotional “effectiveness” and where our obsession with “getting ahead” has become our primary goal, there is a perception that something is missing; something that we just can’t get enough of; something that seems to be just out of our reach. That something is what I call personal power. It is one of the primary motivational foci that we have extracted from our comprehension of contemporary psychology, the driving force that makes us painfully aware that without it we are not who, what or where we want to be. Generally, anything that we feel a lack of becomes a primary factor in everything that we endeavor to do. So what, then, is personal power? Where does it come from? Why are we so driven to “acquire” it? Let’s look more deeply.

If you asked anyone what they want out of life I’m sure that what you would hear would be all the common expressions such as “more time, more money, own my own home, have a loving relationship, take a vacation,” all desires that are details in an overall comfortable living of life free from conflict. But that’s just it. They are details, factors, pieces in an overall perspective of how we perceive our life to be progressing. But if we were to distill these expressions down to a simple perspective or understanding, what could someone actually say that would reflect all of My-Waythese factors? They’d say, “I want to do what I want, be what I want, be where I want and do it when I want.” These statements reflect a painful perception that our conditions and actions are somehow influenced, mitigated or, in extreme cases, blocked by circumstances and the influence of others. Feeling this we, essentially, feel that our life is out of our control. Someone else is pulling the strings. Someone other than us is “on the top” dictating how our life is to be lived. Someone else is determining our fate, our path, our circumstances. So what is personal power? It’s feeling like we are able to determine what we’re going to do, where we’re going to do it and how much or long we’re going to be doing it for. Being able to do this labels us as being self-determined. So at this point we can say that for most of us, in today’s days and times, personal power is, basically, equivalent to being self-determined, that is, deciding for ourselves how our life circumstances are going to proceed. The interrelation of personal power and self-determinism is plain to see. This part is easy. Taboos, on the other hand, can be very convoluted and can have a very subtle influence, if not unnoticeable, on how we believe that we can be or are “allowed” to be self-determined and exert our personal power. Let’s, next, look at what a taboo is.

Taboo-1The original word taboo first appeared in 1777. The word itself has many permutations but the use of the word, oddly enough, originated in the Polynesian islands in the south Pacific. The concept is not original as many cultures have this concept involved in their social perspectives but the word is. The concept presents that some subjects and actions are considered to be consecrated, inviolable, forbidden, unclean or cursed. The word consecrated can be taken to mean special, holy or somehow reserved and elevated beyond common use. But generally, the others are self-explanatory in that they are considered to be “bad” and constitute what should be avoided. Either way, it represents something that is, socially, not permitted.

To understand why something should be avoided or taboo we must first understand that the use or participation in what is not permitted somehow “pollutes” or “perverts” the socially desirable behaviors within a particular culture. In other words, for a culture to have a particular type of lifestyle or attitude, certain behaviors must be eliminated so they won’t spoil the effect or feeling people wish to have within their social structure. So laws are implemented, some are written, some are only implied and with them everyone proceeds in their daily lives free of the 10-Commandments-11“polluting” and “perverting” influences. The ten commandments of the bible are the most obvious and the most “discussable” of these in our western social traditions. Other cultures have similar “scripture.” But, like us, they all also have unspoken laws or attitudes that are in play, sometimes within our conscious perception and sometimes below that threshold. They are unspoken because to verbalize or draw attention to them would expose our perceived and repressed feelings of shame related to being able or willing to express them. They emanate from deep within our individual psyches; qualities of our innate animal nature believed to “pollute” or “pervert” the clean or pure image intended for our religious or social behavior. To expose them would verify that we actually do possess those qualities of an animal nature triggering intense shame and leading to denial and projection (defense mechanisms). In western culture, these are the Seven Deadly Sins: wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. All seven are related to one common concept which has become the catchall for what we consider to be a taboo behavior; selfishness. Our social milieu, especially through our religion, has taken the perspective of selfishness and made it the primary taboo in our western culture. The problem this creates is not so much in actually being “bad” behavior in itself but in our use of accusing others of it. In this, it has become a vehicle for suppressing others for our own personal security and comfort while also enabling us remain free of having to acknowledge how it verifies its existence in our own animal nature. This, effectively, amounts to social blackmail. So, what is the unspoken taboo? You cannot be or take whatever you want unless you consider the needs and wants of others first. This undercurrent has been firmly in place in this country and many other parts of the western religion dominated world for at the least five hundred years or more. Let show where this has evolved from and how this applies to us now.

colonistsWhen the settlers immigrated to this part of the world the majority of them had meager resources and were escaping oppression from the European nations. I know that our history cites religious persecution as being the main cause for their migration but we must also consider that in any society imbued with religious principles that those principles and beliefs are completely enmeshed and compatible with the with their prevailing social customs. It’s not only the religious principles that cause conflict but also the social customs that might contradict the way in which those who feel persecuted might want to live. Many of us leave environments that we consider hostile to find ones with more freedom and compatibility for how we want to live. Hence, for the settlers, they chose to leave to do so. Their arrival here with only those meager resources made it necessary for them to depend on each other simply for survival. This coupled with their religious beliefs based on an altruistic tradition of “the needs of the group superseding the needs of the individual” set the foundation for our culture which has permeated and become a dominant force in our American social customs for living based on those original survival needs and religious tradition. Though our physical survival needs are no longer as tenuous, the pattern has survived as a mental and emotional current for those five hundred years strongly influencing our patterns for raising our children. This pattern is very much analogous to how the children of the Great Depression continued the patterns and precautions for survival that they learned in raising their children. These traditions have continued within our current culture but are now a very powerful unconscious undercurrent dictating how we conduct our lives even though we are, generally, no longer at risk for our physical survival. Let’s move on to see what this has morphed into.

Family-Dinner-1As small example but a very enlightening one and reflective of situations on a larger social scale, is of a family sitting around a dinner table. There are two parents and two children. The food has been placed on the table in serving bowls. The younger child immediately grabs the dish of his favorite food and spoons the better part of the dish’s contents on to his own plate. It’s obvious that others at the table will become shortchanged. One of the parents chastises the child and the child is relegated to the status of “bad.” His “punishment” is temporary emotional boycotting by his parents and an obvious perceived “negative” regard by the other child and parents. The chastised child is effectively “in the dog house” because he pursued his own interests before considering the needs or wants of others. In short, he was selfish. Essentially, he has been taught that it is taboo to be or take what you want without the approval of others. He has learned that this behavior is unacceptable and will put him in disregard by others; primarily and ostensibly isolated from the approval, inclusion and support of the “family.” This is, essentially, an unspoken and subtle form of emotional blackmail. This behavior has understandably become a very powerful lesson in exhibiting manners. But let’s look deeper. What did the other child learn? Yes, he learned about his parent’s preferences and the effect on the chastised child learning a “lesson.” But he also learned something else. He learned that if he accuses his brother of behavior that is considered shameful and selfish, he could manipulate his own situation to advantage and not have to expose his own selfish urges to the resulting punishment of parental boycotting. He eliminated the competition through shaming. Essentially, he is suppressing the brother’s actions and creating an opportunity for his own gain with no undesirable consequences for himself. He has learned that he can blackmail others into inaction through shaming them through accusations of their being selfish, thereby, gaining an advantage by being left with what he wants when they refrain from taking action. But what is actually occurring?

First, we have to realize that this lesson may occur either consciously or unconsciously. The effect will remain the same but in the unconscious version; the younger brother may be totally unaware that he is putting the older brother into this situation. It may just become “instinctual” for him to do so. Or, he may grow to become aware of the ploy and actually plan the scenario in order to gain the advantage. In the case of the planned scenario, “enforced” manners actually become a liability to the older brother who is being manipulated through the shaming.

This small example exemplified by only four people in a nuclear family resonates with our social structure on a much larger scale. It shows a social dynamic that has metastasized and is rampant throughout our cultural existence. The implementation of a taboo has become a primary ploy used to prevent others from competing with us. It is an instinct utilized by our ego and deeply rooted in our persistent animal nature as it, nevertheless, still permeates and “seeps” through into our social structure. We have, euphemistically, come to call these people who plan this kind of behavior and who look out for only themselves, “opportunists.” Even in the face of our “altruistic” planned and intended “pure codes of behavior” our animal nature still shines through.

fork in the road-1The introduction of a taboo in a culture necessitates that we decide between receiving the belonging, family inclusion and acceptance of our parents and others while conceding to their desired behavior of us verses our own desire to be or take what we want without the “permission” of those others. But looking back what did we determine earlier? Taking or doing what we want is equivalent to our perception of personal power and self-determinism. Guilt, shame or the feeling of being a “bad dog” attached to a perceived or accused selfishness can severely inhibit our ability and willingness to wield that personal power and be self-determined while risking being “punished” or ostracized for doing so. Underlying all this is the tacit and often unspoken social assertion and early childhood training that everyone else’s preferences must be considered first before we address our own, otherwise, we are considered to be selfish. What this boils down to is that if we wield our personal power and are self-determined, it is highly likely that we will lose the support of others through making them self-conscious of Bad Dogtheir own perceived short comings and cowardice in not acting themselves and they, in turn, will accuse us of being selfish. When we acquiesce and conform to the wishes of others, we often sabotage our own individuality and miss opportunities for creativity by “dumbing ourselves down” so others won’t feel bad about themselves. The irony is that the others who do not wish to become aware of their own cowardice and reluctance in acting would also take what they want had they perceived no potential for “punishment” or social ostracizing. It becomes easiest for them to let us be the “fall guy” or “scapegoat” through manipulated shaming. This tactic produces a very powerful pillar for security in the structure of many dysfunctional families.

What is truly unfortunate is that with the increasing absence of corporal punishment, shame and withholding in the form of emotional blackmail have become the subtle and most dominant control mechanism for creating and maintaining desirable social behavior in our offspring. It becomes a safe guard against us actually looking at our own animal nature while enabling our “control” over others’ behavior who might expose our possession of it. In this light of the fact that it is our animal nature that drives our passion, is it any wonder why so many of us feel so much anger and rage while we really have no clue as to why or where it comes from? We’ve allowed our creativity to become “capped” and what’s even more tragic is that we don’t even realize it.

The subtle and unspoken messages of repression, employed by our culture, amount to collusion. They cloak our awareness of our assumed inadequacies and pose a major stumbling block to a much needed honesty that would free us all to be eminently creative and expressive. It takes courage to call it as we see it and, in the face of “excommunication,” be self-determined and follow our own path. In choosing to express our personal power and to be self-determined, the “excommunication” we risk is the security of belonging to and being protected by the “herd.” Choose-2The choice to risk “excommunication” was most likely a hard one to make but overcome by the great individuals of our civilization such as Beethoven, Einstein, Copernicus, Newton, Rosa Parks, Jane Eyre, Gandhi and many, many more. No one becomes powerful or self-determined by following the rules. We have to ask ourselves, how far will we go to exercise our personal power in being creative and self-determined? Will we risk “excommunication” and being labeled selfish in order to actualize ourselves? Are we still a lion in sheep’s clothing believing we’re sheep? It’s this quality of courage and maturity that we, eventually, must all choose to embrace…

So much has been proffered and promoted about affirmations as being an energetic path toward realizing our desires and ambitions. Yet, little is understood about how they actually work. Most of us share a common belief that if we say something enough times, it will slowly come to pass. This is only partially true. There are other dynamics at work that can either augment the effects of that practice or weaken it if not totally extinguish its effects. Let’s take a look at what we think we are working with as compared to what is actually happening when we use an affirmation.

affirmationsThe simplest definition that I can offer is that an affirmation is the verbalization of a wish or desire with the assumption and hope that enough repetition will produce it. This seems simple enough but we must realize that there are factors that we must consider and understand for this to work for us.

First, if we are choosing to use an affirmation we must realize that, most likely, it is to have or be something that we feel that we are either lacking or unable to be or accomplish. This feeling may be conscious or unconscious. The unconscious feeling is the one we will find the hardest to ferret out and recognize. The conscious ones are those that we can understand “straight up.” The problem with an affirmation arises when what we really feel and believe about ourselves is too far off from the affirmation and our intended change. Let’s use a simple and common example.

There are a great many people that feel and believe that they lack the competence and confidence to accomplish a goal that they might wish for themselves. The goal, whatever it might be, is not as important as the feeling we have about ourselves that triggers the desire for the affirmation. Feeling doubtful about our competence is a lot less damaging than feeling overtly incompetent. Our rational mind recognizes the difference and will direct energy and support effort toward the doubtful while assuming that we still have the potential for “adjustment” but sees an overt feeling of incompetence as being a hopeless investment. So, affirming that “I am a competent and confident person” and feeling its opposite not only cuts off the energy toward becoming competent but serves to reaffirm the feeling of incompetence confirming for it deeper and more powerful roots.

OverconfidentAny affirmation that we use must allow for the possibility of success and failure for the mind to see the potential for “adjustment.” So, rather than affirming that “I am a competent and confident person,” better to say, “Each day that I work on being more competent and confident I am growing stronger and stronger.” This phraseology allows for the possibility of defeat but focuses on our wanted progress which allows for the uncertainty of doubt.

The active principle behind using an affirmation is that the affirmation focuses the energy consistently toward our desired goal or as meta-physicians describe it, “staying positive.” On the flip side of this perspective, when we verbalize our perceived short-comings and inadequacies,tug-of-war-1 our energy is fed into the resistance we feel toward accomplishing what we want or hope to do or become. Our desire then gets locked in an energy "stalemate." Of this the Chinese have been known to say “to acknowledge our enemy gives them power over us.” There is also an old Shamanistic story that is told to a youth by an elder. When the elder tells the youth, “A good wolf and bad wolf both live within our hearts” and asks, “Which one will win?” When the youth is unable to answer, the elder tells him, “The one that we feed will be the one that wins.” If we acknowledge and follow no other laws in the universe, we should know that energy follows thought and attention directs energy.

There is another understanding that I’ve learned that I’d like to impart. It’s that the difference between Self-Talk and affirmations is that the Self-Talk is dynamic and that the affirmation becomes static through becoming wrote or ritualistic. Let me explain.

When we repeat an affirmation over and over with the same words and cadence, the rhythm and the cadence start becoming wrote or automatic. When something becomes automatic we tend to lose the contextual feeling and the meaning that originally powered the affirmation. It becomes mindless. When we no longer feel the context, the energy diminishes and the affirmation loses the potency of its edge and its power. We’ve all noticed the “fall off,” if I can call it that, from when we’ve begun an activity or action we’ve really had an urge or a taste for all the way to the time when we conclude the activity. The feeling of novelty has worn off and it feelsenergy-follows-thought like we’re now just going through the motions. When we no longer feel the novelty or context, the feeling stops powering the affirmation. When this occurs we lose momentum and, more importantly, we become less conscious of what our original intention felt like. Like the law that energy follows thought we can also say energy follows feeling.

When we do an affirmation it is important to maintain an awareness of the feeling behind it so it continues its momentum of power and effect. If your affirmation has lost its “umpf,” change it up periodically by phrasing it slightly differently and by changing the words and cadence. When you do this it will regain “novelty” by sounding and feeling fresh and different enough to get you to pay more attention to its focus and intent. In this way your refocusing becomes dynamic as opposed to static in a constant process of evolving the energizing of your desires.

Lastly. Phrase your affirmations in the present tense. That is, don’t say, “I have become more…” or “I will be more…” But say, “I am becoming more…” Focusing in the present channels the energy into action not just a memory (past) or potential (future).

So, to recap: focus in the present tense. Allow more for your success and failure in its phraseology. Change up the words and cadence to keep it fresh and focused and speak of your progress in small bite sized pieces not in larger than life sweeping assertions that your mind can’t accept the logic behind. Hopefully, these tips will help. Affirmations do work but only in certain situations and we must craft them carefully so they don’t backfire on us. Enjoy and keep it simple.

When we have the urge to do something that will directly benefit how we feel about ourselves there are two ways in which our ability to motivate ourselves can be sabotaged. The first is simply negative programming carried over from our childhood catalyzing our self-doubt and the second is input from others when we tell them what we are planning to do. Repairing the first influence can be very difficult and time consuming and often involves a long process of replacing our harmful experiences with new and encouraging ones. The second way is a lottell no one easier to compensate for if not openly overcome. The method is to minimize or eliminate the external inputs that may undercut our ability and confidence in creating and maintaining the motivational momentum that inspired us toward a new experience in the first place. Simply put, if we don’t tell anyone what we’re doing or planning to do, there is no possibility that their input or feedback will have a deflating effect on our motivation and momentum. Let me explain what happens when we tell others what we’re going to do while we’re looking for support.

When we tell others what we’re doing or intend to do two things occur. First, the energy we would have used for our project gets split and disbursed between the project itself and the process of making ourselves open to the input and influence of others. Many hands may often make light work but what if those hands have different intentions that take our project in a direction different from our intentions? Then our energy becomes dissipated diminishing our motivational momentum. Second, the feedback we receive from others about our project often resonates with the training we may have received in childhood that contributed toward doubting ourselves. Remember, our tendency toward the friends we choose, let alone confide in, almost always repeats our family connections and conditions due to our need for the security of recreating a familiar emotional environment. The word familiar itself is testimony to the strength and focus of that recreation. Most of the time, the discouragement we receive is given to us unconsciously. But sometimes it’s borne of jealousy and takes on a more sinister focus and direction. We usually don’t recognize the unconscious undermining but we do recognize the intentional undermining since we’ve been trained into learning how to become aware of malicious intentions and to spot intentional interference. We then might ask, “Why would we have or want either?” The answer is simple. Since we unconsciously base our friendships on the same standards, cautions and patterns that we grew up with, we repeat our family conditions and programming. And those family conditions often point only to the past cautions and “what ifs” that originally triggered our self-doubt. Let’s look at an example.

Suppose as a younger person we’re gifted with the ability and talent of an artist and a passion for it to match. Our dream may coalesce into a desire for schooling in Rome or Paris to study art in the home environment of the masters. After dreaming and pondering this for a while we realize we must tell our parents if there is to be any possibility for this to occur. As young as we are we have little or no other options. However, we all know what we’re going to hear. “Who’s going to BalloonPinPoppay for the school? You don’t even know the language. What if you can’t sell your art after you graduate? How will you support yourself?” These comments and many more are geared to present a need for caution as our parents do tend to worry. But what so often happens is the passion, the desire and motivation which arose in us during our dreaming and pondering process ends up getting squashed in the light of our parents’ personal experience, practicalities, fears and concerns for our welfare. There is nothing wrong with our parents sharing their concern for our safety and welfare with us. They usually only speak from their heart and with our best interests in mind. But our parents and the majority of our culture have been trained to look at the hurdles that must be overcome rather than learning to apply the passion that might fuel them toward what can be done.

As children and adolescents there really is no other way for us but to tell our parents and the people we care about what we want to do. This is done mostly out of a need to gain their permission. But as we get older and as we pick friends who reflect our family’s characteristics, how can we not expect to have the same type of focus, fears and advice we received as children? Unconsciously we are often still asking them for their permission as we did of our parents aszip your lip children. Even as adults and due to the similarities our friends often focus on the cautions and fears that our parents conveyed to us. Expecting the same response we got from our parents, the best thing we can do to preserve our dreams and their momentum is to not tell them of our dreams and plans…at least until we become a lot stronger in our Self-Trust and confidence to power our own actions.

Not telling our friends and acquaintances of our plans or dreams, especially when we have low Self-Trust and are suggestible by others, is a primary way of conserving and building our energy and emotional strength. When we reclaim the power of our own Self-Trust we can then divulge Peak performanceto others what we plan to do, especially when we’ve matured toward running on our own steam. This is one of the first and simplest ways we have in altering the defeating programming we may have received as children. The best way to maximize our Self-Trust is to minimize the influence of others on us while we’re building it.

…is a hidden root of almost every war and personal conflict humans have ever encountered. But how could such a seemingly simple concept have so much power and bearing on the direction we take in our lives? To have an understanding of the conflict we must have a clear understanding of first, what it means to be self-determined, second, what personal power is and third, the meaning and scope of a taboo and how it could create such conflict. Let’s start with personal power and see how it relates to self-determinism. These two, especially in contemporary thinking, seem to be inextricably interwoven. ...continue reading