Originally published September 10 2008
10 Steps to Personal Power in Trying Times
by Barbara L. Minton
(NaturalNews) This is a really rough time for Americans. We are living through an unparalleled time of social division, watching a few become really rich while many sink into poverty. We work everyday to support a government we believe has betrayed us. Our health care system doesn't keep us healthy. We are facing financial collapse, and life as we know it seems to be imploding. We feel frustrated, stressed and powerless. We can choose to stick our heads in the sand until the misery blows over, or we can choose to take some steps to empower ourselves. If we choose the latter, here are some suggestions for boosting personal power.
End your part in the competition game
For a long time Americans have been players in a very strange game. We have borrowed, stolen and sold our souls to put on the biggest display of material possessions possible, as though whoever spends the most money is the winner. The problem is that no matter how much money we manage to get our hands on, there is always somebody else who seems to have more stuff than we do. There is no way to stand out as an individual in this game. If you manage to buy yourself a huge new house and a luxury car, you just end up like everybody else who has them. Nobody will notice or care about your big house and car, because they are too busy trying to figure out how to pay for their big house and car. There is nothing to be won at this game. All of the players are losers.
Substitute gratitude for envy
There was a time in our not too distant past when most Americans had a standard of living that was similar. In the mid 1900's almost nobody's house was more than twice as big as anybody else's. Everybody drove a GM, Ford or Chrysler car. Envy was kept locked in a box. Now think about what is going on. Everywhere you look you see a new palace being built and you want to know why you can't get a palace too. Envy is out of the box and running wild, and the only antidote to envy is appreciation. By using your psychic energy to appreciate what you already have, you can get envy back in its box. Once you do that, you are on the road to lower stress and higher feelings of well being. A person who has one possession he treasures and cares for has a chance at happiness. A person who has 10 possessions he doesn't care about because he is too busy trying to get possession number 11, has no chance at happiness.
Live beneath your means
When you have to reach for something, you may be able to grab that thing you want, but most likely you will grab yourself a handful of stress at the same time. It is only when you take what is easily in your reach that you can maintain your psychological well being. The first time you borrow money to buy something, what you are really doing is packing some snow into a hard ball in your fist. As your life goes by and you take on more debt, that snowball gets bigger and bigger. You begin to realize that much of your work day is spent earning money to pay the interest on the debt you have accumulated. At this point you have willingly surrendered your freedom and become a slave to your creditors. When you buy fewer possessions and only those you can easily afford, you feel free and light as air. You have money put aside to deal with any stress producing contingency, and you are in a position to live your life as you choose.
Take control of your health
Most of us have been indoctrinated to believe that germs make us sick, doctors make us well, and we have no part in it. When we think this, the disease establishment has us right where they want us. Have you ever sat outside of a medical building and looked at the people going in and out? They are not people who look healthy, happy or empowered. They look like victims. Once you decide that this isn't how you want to end up, you will realize that your only alternative is to take charge of your own health. After all, you are the one with the vested interest. When you have assessed your current physical state, educated yourself about what it takes to get from that state to a level of vibrant health, you will have grabbed yourself a large chunk of empowerment.
No, not the grueling tread mill kind of exercise. In the Western world, we have been taught that the mind and body are two separate entities. But this isn't true at all, and the kind of exercise that empowers is the kind that lets mind and body sing together as one. Move your body. Find the movements that induce a positive mental state and that are enjoyable to you. Maybe walking is empowering to you because you are expanding the scope of your surroundings, or maybe just because it makes you feel good to be a person walking upon the earth. Yoga may bring tone to your body and mind. Or maybe you will seek the pounding and competition of a tennis game. You might listen to music and pretend you are the conductor. The thing here is that when you get your mind and body moving as one, it brings a feeling of well being into every area of your life.
If you have a lot of stress in your life, you may not have much time to sleep. By the time you work all day, take the kids around and do your chores at home, the day is pretty well shot. The only chance you have for a little relaxation is to stay up later and make do with less sleep. And maybe you've been reading those studies that say you really only need a few hours of sleep to be healthy. The truth is that those studies are designed to help you work yourself to death. You really need a minimum of 8 hours of sleep in a pitch dark room every night in order to go from feeling exhausted all day to feeling empowered. Once you have taken steps to make that snowball melt down, you will probably be able to get to sleep without a struggle or a sleeping pill, just like your ancestors did.
Say 'no' to your children
It is amazing how easily your relationship with your child can siphon off your personal power. A little needling and whining, a tantrum or two at a time when you are tired, involved in something or already stressed and before you know it, your child gets the idea that you are a pushover. And maybe you are. Maybe you have given in and let him think he can make decisions that you don't really want him to make. But in reality, he really doesn't want to make them either. He knows that he doesn't know how to run things. That's what he needs you for. When you take the time and energy to say 'no' to anything you don't think is just right, he may challenge you or throw a few fits. But if you do not waiver, he will come around eventually. Once you have re-established your power as a parent, you will feel a lot better and so will your child.
Look behind the curtain
Many Americans have chosen to remain in denial in the face of the obvious, and to seek guidance in conformity and conventionality. They have chosen to believe what their politicians, doctors, media, churches, and schools tell them is true, while all around they see evidence that what they are being told is a lie. Yet they make the choice to keep on believing and stick their heads deeper into the sand. This is the response that the people who are lying to you are counting on. Although at first it may feel good to choose to be oblivious, it is a trick your subconscious mind isn't buying because it has figured out what's really up. More and more of your energy will be required to maintain your oblivion as the nagging voice of your subconscious gets louder and louder. When so much of your energy is required for self-deception, you have really reduced your empowerment. Who was it that said, "Knowledge is power"?
Challenge yourself with a new experience
There is probably something lurking in your mind that you would like to do, but much effort would be required and you have always been able to come up with a reason for not doing it. Now is a good time to think about what it would feel like to really become part of this experience and to see it through. If thinking about this experience produces feelings of tension within you, be aware that psychological tension along with physical tension is necessary for health. It is through experience that life becomes meaningful.
Find that little kernel that is you
Victor Frankel was a personality theorist who spent years in the Nazi concentration camps. He realized that after he was stripped of family, friends, material possessions, work, personal freedom and the small pleasures of life, one thing remained that could never be taken from him. He saw this as the last remaining human freedom –- to choose his attitude and make meaning for himself from any given set of circumstances. Imagining ourselves stripped of all that defines us is an anxiety provoking experience for Americans. To a large degree we have defined ourselves by these external measures. Yet that kernel that defines who we really are is a part of each of us. It is up to us to seek it out as though it were a tiny seedling, to water it, give it light and encouragement to grow. When we have accomplished that, we will be ready for whatever life brings to us.
About the authorBarbara is a school psychologist, a published author in the area of personal finance, a breast cancer survivor using "alternative" treatments, a born existentialist, and a student of nature and all things natural.
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