Here is my therapy-oriented question for the day: how do people become empowered? This is an important question, not just for me as a therapist, but for everyone who is interested in making a change or tackling a goal.
As a therapist, I have noticed that some people seem to be very resilient. As if that is just who they are. As if there is just some piece of them that is so strong, it doesn't matter what happens to them, they will make it through. Like a woman I know who lives in the U.S. as an illegal immigrant, was abused by her husband, had a son murdered, and somehow finds the wherewithal to go work in a factory for 8 hours every day so she can feed her kids. She is resilient, in my mind. Here she is, as a functioning member of society, after all she has been through.
However, resiliency doesn't seem to be quite the same thing as empowerment. Some of us are very resilient in that we make it through just about anything life hands us. But we may or may not recognize or tap into this strength when facing a challenge in the moment.
For example, my immigrant friend has a really tough time with her kids. They are teenagers, and they are constantly fighting. As in, swinging punches at each other and occasionally doing serious damage. My friend repeatedly says that she "can't" do anything to stop them from fighting this way. She can't? How is this possible? Especially for a woman who is such a survivor, in so many ways.
Being empowered, to me, is having the feeling that we can make it through anything, that we will do whatever we have to do to turn a situation for the better. It is some kind of confidence that we will stick to our guns and things will turn out. It is not just resilience, but optimistic resilience. It would be my friend's firm determination to do absolutely whatever it takes to stop the violence. Police would be called, if necessary. Kids would be ripped off of each other. There would be consequences, and immediate action from this woman.
I believe she is afraid. Afraid of what, I'm not sure. I just know she's afraid. Too afraid to stop what is going on. Too afraid to call me or the police or anyone, and I'm not sure why. Because someone might judge her? Because of imagined legal consequences? Because her kids might turn their anger on her instead of each other? I repeatedly remind her about how strong she is, but it hasn't seemed to help.
We all have things we avoid, postpone, or attempt half-heartedly. Ask yourself these questions next time you realize this is happening. What am I afraid of? What holds me back from reaching my potential or changing things I would like to change? Am I afraid of something unfamiliar, afraid to fail, afraid of rejection or judgement from others? Looking back, which situations are proof of how resilient I am? I'm sure everyone on earth has made it through some tough stuff. Why not face challenges with a little more confidence, then?
Those are my thoughts for the day. Spurred in part by therapy stuff, and in part by Chad's comment today that he had decided to change his attitude about the upcoming health challenge. He says that instead of doing a reseved, half-baked job, he has decided to "be hard-core about it." I should probably do that, too. Which reminds me, we're starting on Monday. You've still got today and tomorrow to join!