I know feeling powerless sucks.

It feels like we are not in control.

We want to improve our situation but it seems like there’s nothing we can do.

Powerlessness has one of the lowest emotional vibrations.  

The energy in your body feels stuck and there’s hardly any flow of energy. But similar to other emotions, there is nothing wrong with feeling powerless. It only becomes harmful when we don’t let go of the emotion. The feeling of powerlessness can lead to anxiety and depression, and cause harm to our body if we keep holding onto it.

However, the issue is when we feel powerless, we tend to stay stuck in this state for a long time. We have a belief that “nothing will make a difference”. We are so fixated at our problem that we are blind to the solutions. Even when someone offers us a solution, we might dismiss it and think that it won’t work. That’s why people who feel helpless often find it difficult to get out of the state they are in. They can’t help themselves and others can’t help them too.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. If we just shift our perspective and focus a little, the solution is just around the corner. It might not be the perfect solution that we are seeking but once we increase our vibrational state, we will start to see more and better solutions to our problem.

Examples of Feeling Powerless

We all have been through adversities that make us feel powerless and helpless. Before we discuss how to deal with it, here are some common examples of feeling powerless.

Feeling Powerless Over Our Health

It could be we are dealing with a chronic illness or disease, especially those with no cure yet, and we have no say in when we will get better. We can only rely on and trust the medical professionals to help us.

We could also feel powerless over our addictions such as alcohol. It seems like our addictions have control over us and no matter what we do, we can’t quit our habits.

Feeling Powerless at Work

A sudden recession or job loss can make us feel helpless, especially if we have not been saving our income and are not financially prepared for it. For those who are entrepreneurs, a change in government policy and regulation can affect our business or income and make us feel powerless too.

Or it could be that we are in a job that we dislike and we think we have no choice but to stay in it. It could also be that we have a controlling employer or management who is not open to listening to our suggestions and ideas.

Feeling Powerless in Relationship

Some of us are stuck in a dysfunctional relationship where there is an imbalance of power. Our partner is demanding and try to control us all the time. We feel like we can’t leave our relationships because we depended on our partner for something such as money and accommodation.

Being ditched instead of a mutual breakup can make us feel powerless over the status of our relationship too. We try to save the relationship but nothing we do helps to change our ex’s mind.

We can also feel powerless when we try to help others. Sometimes, it could be that we want to help others but we don’t know how to help them. Other times, it could be that the other person doesn’t wish to be helped by us or they don’t listen to our advice. So we can’t do anything to help them.

Feeling Powerless? Here’s What You Can Do.

1. Accept the situation that you are in.

When something unfavorable or unexpected happens to you, don’t waste time in analyzing the situation, complaining about it or blaming someone for your misfortune. Doing so doesn’t help to change the situation. It only makes you a victim. Instead, accept the situation as it is.

Two people can face the same situation but have a totally different experience. The difference between people who feel powerless and people who don’t is the former resists the situation they are in while the latter surrenders to it. Surrendering is about acceptance of what is and trust that things will get better. It’s not the same as giving up which people often do when they feel powerless.

People who accept their powerlessness feel empowered,

while people who resist it feel trapped.

All of us know that we don’t have control over everything. But yet, people who feel powerless want control over things they have no control over. They think that having control will ease their fear. However, the more they focus on their problems and not get any result they desire, the more frustrated they get with their situation.

It’s only when we acknowledge the things that we can’t change and accept our limitations in the situation that we start to see the areas that we can change and work around our limitations. It’s only then, we can make a difference in our life and start feeling that we have some control over our life.

2. Identify what can be controlled and what cannot be controlled.

Even though we don’t have complete control over everything, we always have some control over most situations. You can’t control the weather. You can’t stop the rain from falling or the sun from shining. But you can always get under a shade.

The key is to have discernment over what you can control and what you can’t and identify the small window of control within the big circle of uncontrollable things. When we focus and take responsibility for the areas that we have control, we stop feeling powerless. However, oftentimes, we mixed up the two and think that we have more control than we have.

You have no control over other people.

But you have more control over yourself than you think.

Most people hate the feeling of being out of control. But instead of finding the power within themselves, they try to control other people or external circumstances which they have no control over. The truth is we cannot control how other people perceive us or how they act, think and feel. Rather than changing other people, control our own perception and action.

Take the current Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as an example.

We cannot control how our government reacts to the situation, the policy and measures they put in place, the actions that they take to contain the virus or the stock market from crashing. These are all beyond our control. We also cannot force others to practice personal hygiene and be socially responsible. We can only encourage them to do so.

On the flip side, what we do have control is our personal hygiene and more importantly our emotional hygiene. We can clean and reset our emotional state every single day. By practicing equanimity, we won’t get easily swayed by other people’s fear and panic or become reactive to the news. We can also choose to accept our canceled travel plans or be frustrated about it. We can be worried about our family living overseas and spread our fear to them or send them messages of love and help them the best that we can.

Most of us think that we don’t have a choice when it comes to our thoughts and emotions. But we have more control over them than we think. We can question our thoughts and choose to not believe it, especially those that are automatic and based on our outdated beliefs. We can also choose how we respond to our emotions — suppress it, express it, or let it go.

It takes a lot of practice to become skilled at it but we definitely have a choice over what we think and feel.

3. Focus on small actions you can take instead of the ideal outcome.

When you know what’s within your power and what isn’t, start focusing on what you have control over and take small steps that bring you closer to what you want.

For example, if you have lost your job, ideally you would want another full-time job to generate income. However, seldom do people get a permanent job overnight. The hiring process takes a long time and you have no control over whether a company hires you or not. If you just sit at home all day and wait for the company to get back to you, you will gradually sink into insecurity and powerlessness due to your dwindling savings.

If instead, you use your remaining time to find a part-time or contract job or even volunteer for a company, more opportunities might open up for you. That’s what I did when I was jobless. I called up the company that I want to work for and offered them part-time service. Not only did I receive some income, but I was also later converted to a permanent employee.

Usually, there is a time lag between

what you desire and the manifestation.  

Focusing on the ideal outcome and realizing that you don’t have it now makes you feel bad. And the more you think about it, the worse you feel. Rather than finding one solution that can solve all your problems at once, build small, consistent habits and allow the solution to be revealed to you as you progress.

For instance, we don’t have control of how our body fights diseases but we can build a stronger immune system and adopt a healthy lifestyle by feeding it with nutritious food each day. We might not be able to get out of the job we dislike right now but we can appreciate the income we are receiving and save up each month for the career transition. And even though we have no control over whether our partner stays or leaves, we can take care of ourselves daily and prepare for the next relationship that is coming.

You don’t get everything you want at once. But there is always something small you can do right now to make yourself feel better in your situation.

4. Be open to suggestions and willing to try.

People who often feel powerless to change their life usually learned it during childhood. They might have experienced continuous, uncontrollable trauma and stress when they are young such as abuse and neglect. So they trained themselves to believe they have no control over their life and nothing they do will matter. There is a psychology term for this. It’s called Learned Helplessness.

I’ve seen this in some of the children I teach. Once they have decided that they suck at Mathematics, they don’t even bother to get better at it. Before they even finish reading the question, they think they can’t do it and they give up.

When you have a fixed belief that nothing will work, it becomes self-fulfilling. Whatever ideas and suggestions you receive from yourself and others get dismissed immediately even before they are tested.

The good thing is beliefs can be changed and made unfamiliar.

Yes, as a child, you might not have control over the situations you are in. But now that you have become an adult, you are better at coping with various situations and have more control over your life. You can walk away and get out of situations that are unfavorable. You don’t have to stay at where you are and remain helpless.

To overcome powerlessness, let go of your beliefs that nothing works. Be open to try and test the suggestions that you receive. Stay curious. Find out whether it works or not instead of labeling and justifying that it doesn’t work. Even if one suggestion doesn’t work, it doesn’t mean that all other suggestions won’t work too. So don’t give up. You will have to keep trying different paths until one works for you.

Ultimately, only you hold the power to stop feeling powerless.

Self-Compassion Books


Featured Photo Credit: NEOSiAM 2020