There is only one solution to the human condition: for one to face the truth … to recognize that there is no power transcending him which can solve his problem for him. Man must accept the responsibility for himself and the fact that only by using his powers can he give meaning to his life.
There is a lot of power in this world and a lot of impotence. There is a lot of authoritarian behavior and a lot of helplessness. There is misuse of power, and there is strength, but what is what?
First of all, I shall explain a number of words. Power is sometimes seen as a positive word but usually as a negative one. Here I depict it as negative, as a fixation that belongs in the first phase of our model: in the pool of stagnant water. With this I make a distinction between power and the word “strength” from the third phase. It is one of the treasures we can find at the bottom of our stream of emotions.
Power and Impotence: Two Sides of the Same Coin
You could say that where there is power, there is impotence; and where there is impotence, there is power. As with all polarities, you will find that if one side is fully aware, the other side is unaware. Someone who uses power in contact with his fellow men feels impotent inside. Someone who behaves like a victim, helplessly, is a ruler deep down inside. Power and impotence are both compensations of the opposite. They are really the same but with a different manifestation. Some people feel mainly powerless, and some live mainly from their power. It is more often the case that within one person power and impotence alternate. They swap places. Our bodies clearly show our survival strategies. We will look at the expression of power and impotence in our bodies. I shall describe the typologies although we are, in actual fact, hybrids of various survival strategies. But there is usually one type that is dominant.
Power: The Swollen Body
If you feel powerful on the outside and use power to survive, you often look powerful. It is, however, exaggerated fake power. It is body builder’s strength. The muscles are strongly developed and the body is top-heavy. The power is in the chest: “Here I am.” It is the survival strategy of the child that has been overpowered one way or another and has not known intimacy. To make sure that does not happen again, you try to be as independent as possible. You are inclined to ignore your own and other people’s needs and to repeat what has happened to you.
We see an extreme form of this in the behavior of psychopaths and terrorists. By showing one’s power and qualities, the overpowering can be massive and open. This overpowering is sometimes done with more subtle manipulations.
The feelings of worthlessness are so strong that they are too painful to feel and are compensated by the opposite, by showing how good one is “I’m okay, but the others are not.” We can see this mechanism in whole sections of the population: people think they are special as compensation for a very painful feeling of inferiority. This compensated feeling of “I am okay, but the others are not” means feeling free to abuse power and take part in criminality, terrorism, and war. It goes without saying that this is an extreme form of the problem of power. Many of us use power as a compensation for feelings of impotence.
Anny comes from a large family: she was the ninth child. Mother was an alcoholic, and father was unemployed and addicted to gambling. Anny never had the feeling that she was welcome. Even worse, she was called ‘a nail in her mother’s coffin.’ She might have been called Queen, but she was never treated as such. She was also sexually abused by her father. At sixteen she severs her ties with home and decides to prove that she is a queen. She ends up in the world of prostitution and quickly works her way up to become a madam. She holds sway over many foreign girls whom she rules harshly and pays little. She vents her anger, which is probably meant for mother and father, on her employees.
Impotence: Slackening of the Body
If you feel fundamentally powerless in life, your body will express that as a slackening and heaviness: the head is positioned forward as if trying to find support. The shoulders are rounded and hang downwards and express a lack of aggression in the original meaning of the word (aggression comes from the Latin aggredior, which means to go towards). There can also be a hollow chest, where deep sorrow and loneliness reside and sometimes tenseness in the stomach so as to not feel the emptiness. Gravity is felt most in a slack body. The feeling that belongs to this type is one of not getting where you want to go in spite of great effort and struggle. The feeling is one of suffering that often reaches further than one’s own suffering; you share the suffering of the whole world.
Anger: The Common Denominator
Restrained anger is central in both power and impotence. A powerful person is more likely to show his anger in macho behavior, insolence, and misuse of power. He will not be inclined to work on himself or his repressed anger. A powerless person will try to hold in his anger, in which he is bound to fail from time to time. He will be more inclined to work on himself as the depressive component is felt. The powerful do not feel all that much. They use all their power to prevent themselves from feeling. Setting old anger in motion will help both to dissolve their fixations on power and impotence. The following is an example of a man who has remained trapped in his impotence:
Bill is a nice, kind man of fifty. He is very interested in personal growth and spirituality. He has already done many courses, from Psychosynthesis to shamanism to Reiki, and all have enriched him. Yet he has remained basically depressed. He cries easily and often, and yet he does not feel relieved. The depressions and the unexpected mood changes keep on coming back. Sometimes he is grumpy and short-tempered towards his partner for no reason at all, and he feels guilty about this later. He sympathizes with the suffering in the world and can cry about what is happening to Mother Earth and to the children in his street who are growing up without any spirituality.
Getting in contact with the anger smouldering under his sorrow would fundamentally help him further. How should he go about this? He could begin by projecting the whole world on a cushion and enlarging his wrath. Something in the vein of: “I hate you with all your misery and all your stupidities, with your violence, etc.” I imagine that he will eventually arrive at the little boy who could not withstand the emotional violence of his mother or could not defend himself against the bullying by other children. You can deal with anything in this way. Put it all on a cushion, talk to it and see who emerges on that cushion. You will peel the onion of your emotions and bring these emotions home. And everything that really comes home, finds peace and quiet. He has to make a connection with his repressed anger. He may then be able to use his creativeness and do something about the spiritual development of children.
An example of somebody who is extremely locked in his power is the murderer of a politician. He is an environmentalist, a fighter with the small print of environmental laws in the hand. He describes himself as somebody who is not sensitive and says that in his work, he does not act from his feelings. ‘I just act rationally; I do not have to be an animal-lover to protect animals,’ he says. After his arrest, he remains unbending and silent and fights via a hunger strike for an ending of the camera surveillance in his cell. He seems to be completely hardened in his own power game. Nobody knows what is really going on in his inner self, and perhaps he does not know himself.
Here, setting anger in motion is the road that should be taken. Contact with animals also helps according to experiments with hardened criminals in the prisons in America. By giving every prisoner an animal as company, which they have to look after, they become soft-hearted and open. The man from the above example might be helped if he had an alley cat to look after. Perhaps that would be the first step to his becoming a friend of animals. The next might be his becoming a friend of humankind. Everyone is a child of God and a fragment of the one Great Spirit and deserves a chance to find a way out of his/her protective shell. That is if he/she wants to, of course, and everything depends on that. People like this have been so damaged in their love that accepting the love of an animal can be the first cautious step on the path to love. It is all about the ABC of love. That is why it is important for children to have animals and to live in nature. They can learn to set the first steps on the road to love.
Mutual Attraction of Power and Impotence
As power and impotence are two sides of the same coin, they will constantly seek each other out; tormentor seeks victim and victim seeks tormentor. They are each other’s mirrors and just like Narcissus, we all need a mirror to get know ourselves. A weak teacher always finds a class that bullies him, and a woman who is frightened and has no inner strength will find a rapist on her path. This is not about the despicable “It’s your own fault.” There is no judgment here. It is about the chance that the mirror of life gives us to get to know ourselves. And, yes, these can be very difficult lessons in life. They need not be repeated for those that want to understand them.
The Game of Power Within Ourselves
This tormentor and victim game does not only exist in the outer world but also in our inner world. There, too, the pursuer and his victim seek each other out alternately. A victim has always got his tormentor at hand, and that is also an important light switch. If everything in the outer world is a mirror and if we agree to take that as a working hypothesis, then we have an important lesson in life: seek the inner game of power and impotence. Go and find out in which way you are your own tormentor and in which way you make a victim of yourself. A few examples:
Are you a workaholic that never takes a day off? Then you are your own tormentor.
Do you criticize yourself often because of your appearance, your inabilities, or your fears? Then you are your own tormentor.
Are you a slave of your own perfectionism? You are your own tormentor.
Discover your own inner war in this way. I think that our inner wars are the most important wars on this planet and the cause of those in the outer world. When you make peace with yourself, you are actually contributing to world peace. A good way to make peace with yourself is by letting your tormentor and your victim, the hardened and the hurt part of yourself, talk to each other. Put them both on a cushion and identify with them in turn. Or write a letter to them, so it becomes very clear how you treat yourself. We often forget that the way we treat other people (also animals and plants) is based upon the way in which we treat ourselves. We often forget that the way we treat other people (and animals and plants) is the base of the way in which we treat ourselves. How nicer you are to yourself, the nicer you become towards another. And for that, you do not have to do anything. It will all go automatically.
People with Inner Strength
You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt has lost its flavour, with what will it be salted? It is then good for nothing, but to be cast out and trodden under the feet of men.
Ye are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Is the lamp brought to be put under the bushel… and not to be put on the stand?
Who has inner strength? There are many misconceptions about this. Somebody told me admiringly about a woman who had transformed her pain from a rape in earlier years to strength by founding a worldwide imperium in the escort branch. She had become exceedingly rich.
In today’s world, we imagine she became socially and financially rich because of strength. But do we call it strength when you take the sexual abuse you have experienced into prostitution in this way? Is it strength when you let other women be sexually abused? Is it strength or a sublimated way of working off your own undigested pain of sexual abuse? I expect that it is the latter. Our world is poisoned by such forms of working off undigested emotions. And the terrible thing about it is that we do not even notice it anymore. We do not know the difference between these types of strength, between financial and social success and strength. Anger is not annulled by the power or influence she achieved, and it is also not transformed into real strength. The cause still exists and the inward journey has not been made.
True strength has nothing to do with social and financial success. True strength is all about overcoming power and impotence and digesting your pain. With true strength you have explored power and impotence exhaustively, lived through them, and overcome your own inner war. You have been through the mill. You are not familiar with violence anymore, not against yourself or another. You have found your strength at the bottom of your deepest emotions and at the bottom of your deepest weakness. Somebody who struggled with the acceptance of her strength had the following dream:
I am sitting with my son on the floor. He has a salt pitcher, spills the salt, and makes a little hill of it. I tell him to be careful with the salt, but he just goes on. Then I’m at a Spark of Light Week and Riet tells me, ‘Identify with the salt.’ I say, ‘I am the salt of the earth’ and become confused. I wake up crying.
A person with inner strength had the following dream:
I am walking on the beach with my dog. On my right is the sea, on the left, moorland and bushes. At a certain moment a big green snake glides out the bushes. I know immediately that it is a poisonous one. It comes towards me and wants to attack me. I am holding a cane that I point at the snake; it rolls over on its back in surrender. When I wake up the next morning, I know that I have conquered evil and now have inner strength.
Strength has everything to do with taking full responsibility for your life. You are no longer a victim, and you do not have to blame yourself or anybody else for anything. Problems are seen as challenges and as a chance to learn something.
The Body That Is Set Free
Let us look at the body of a person with inner strength. It is a body that has been set free. It radiates strength and spirit but also vulnerability and flexibility. Relaxation is the basis of the body. Gravity no longer makes it heavy but links it to the earth from which you can grow, light-footed, towards the Light. The body rests in its center, in the abdomen. Here you can find what the Japanese call “hara” and the Chinese call “chi.” When you rest in your abdomen, you are connected to power that makes you strong in the world, but not in a defensive or offensive way. You have finished with that. You are just yourself, and you rest in your own strength.
from my book: the liberating power of emotions