Welcome to Following the Whispers blog

Thank you so much for taking the time to visit. Hope you enjoy your stay. I blog here whenever I feel the need. This blog was created at the time my memoir came out, in February, 2009. Its motto was: creating a life of inner peace and self-acceptance from the depths of despair. Now, my focus is sharing this journey we call life.

“Only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth, and that is not speaking it.” Naomi Wolf

“We are called human beings, not human doings.” Wes Nisker, Buddhist teacher

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs…(And) if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” Theodore Roosevelt

Monday, May 13, 2013

Monday Musings:powerlessness

I spent 9 years in the 12-step program of Al-Anon and Adult Children of Alcoholics. The program helped me immensely. The very first step in the program is "I am powerless over alcohol (or whatever) and my life has become unmanageable."

I needed a reminder about powerlessness. So often I take on issues that are not mine without even realizing I'm doing it. But the truth is that I am powerless over anyone else's stuff. I am powerless over outcomes. I am powerless over just about anything except my own thoughts, feelings, and actions.

When I take on someone else's pain, it's like if someone were drowning and I jump in and manage to save them, but I end up with hypothermia. I could, instead, throw in a line for them to grab. I have to find ways to be empathetic and caring and loving without inhaling the pain.

How about you?


Anonymous said...

A wonderful compassionate post Karen.


Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

I think I do like feeling I have some sense of control over things--and that we all have the power to change each other's traits or help them shoulder problems. Good reminder here that we *can't* change people...we're powerless and can't take on the world.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

We can't help someone if we're drowning, too.

Karen Walker said...

Thanks, Yvonne
Elizabeth, it's humbling when I do accept this
Diane, yup - it's why in airplanes they tell us to put the oxygen on ourselves first!

L.G. Smith said...

It is tough when you want to "save" the people around you. It's like a mother default setting or something. :)

Jerry n Kimberly Peterson said...

Learned this lesson many years ago...lost many family members over it but freed myself from all of their pain but was then left with my own and then dealt with that...it's a never-ending process that we have turned into our life's journey! Keeps us traveling and we love it!

Karen Walker said...

L.G. Especially when it's your child!
Jerry n Kimberly, yes, it is a lifelong process for sure

Pk Hrezo said...

I hear ya. Hard to do for naturally empathic people like us. But you're right, we can only do so much. People have to help themselves, and in the meantime all we can do is be supportive.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

It's difficult to keep the distance, but necessary.

Arlee Bird said...

I think I react similarly to you, Karen. I guess that's why I tend to distance myself from things in close proximity to me as I get older. Some of my blog posts are my ways of dealing with some of the wrongs I see in the world, but they are mostly ways for me to sort things out in my own mind. I don't think I'll change the world with my blog posts, but maybe I can make a few people think.

But real life? Outside of cyberspace? I think I'm in hiding because I don't want to deal with stress or emotional pain. Sometimes I'd rather just sleep.

An A to Z Co-Host
Tossing It Out

LD Masterson said...

For me, it's my adult children. Knowing I can no longer "make it better" when they're hurting is the hardest thing in the world.

Karen Walker said...

Pk, yup, yup yup
Alex, yes, how to keep the distance but remain loving and emotionally connected - that's the key
Arlee, very insightful comment - I use distractions like TV, and I used to use food to numb the emotional pain
LD, me, too!

Manzanita said...

That, unfortunately, happens when people try to help others. I realize that because I started out my adult life as a psychiatric nurse, I had a shield built around myself. I guess it's still there. I could only help people when I didn't become personally involved.

Karen Walker said...

Manzanita, that is what I am learning - to put a kind of force field around myself so that the pain doesn't penetrate. Doesn't mean I can't be empathetic. It's not easy.

~Sia McKye~ said...

I learned a long time ago that you can't fix or *save* others unless they want to fix themselves. And then all you can do it give support. Keeping healthy emotional boundaries isn't easy but without them you drown.


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Karen .. I'm glad I don't do that too much anymore and realise I simply can't - so stop. As you say too easy to get drawn in ...

All the best and as Sia says keep healthy emotionally .. Hilary

Carol Kilgore said...

Karen, I think I may have been on the road to being like you, but a wonderfully wise woman told me that each of us has our own path to follow in this life and that, in your words, we can throw a lifeline, but little more. It was a difficult lesson for me to learn, but I did. So now that is what I try to do. And when I feel myself wanting to jump in, I remember her and the reason she shared that with me. And I'm OK with that.

Karen Walker said...

Sia, thanks so much for the wisdom
Hilary, I can't either, that's why I'm writing about it
Carol, thank you - such wise women right here on this blog!

Pearson Report said...

Poignant post, Karen - and great timing as I needed to read this.
I'm struggling with a little powerlessness in my world and am making adjustments to how I rescue those close to me - gosh it's a hard adjustment to make.

But... we are troopers, aren't we and we'll manage!

Thanks for sharing,

Jack said...

I've heard this is a common struggle and one hard to over come. It is just hard to stand back and help without getting in the middle of it or wanting to fix it all.