A few weeks ago, I lost my hubcap in Bloemfontein. A friendly young lady screamed out of her mom’s car, “Jammer dame, jy’t jou wiel verloor!” (Sorry lady, you’ve lost your wheel).  At that point, I was feeling rather chuffed with myself, making it all the way to the conference centre with no mishaps or detours. A long drive, a tired brain and rusty Afrikaans combined to make me wonder,” How on earth have I been driving on 3 wheels only?” Stopping my car, I got out ready to discover the worst, and there it was: 3 hubcaps and not 4. That happy hubcap was nowhere to be seen. I kept looking for it. I think it’s in some Bloemfontein “woestyn” (desert) now!

Long story cut short, I’ve felt like a beggar ever since I lost my hubcap. I feel embarrassed about my car, and ashamed about myself. It’s not a strong feeling; it’s just there like a grating reminder at the back of my mind. And during this time, I’ve felt a loss of power myself. People must be judging my car, and they must be judging me. JHB is a real car city. We don’t really drive dinged up or even old cars here. Everything new and shiny. In this strange place of irrational shame, I’ve found myself almost saying yes to things I haven’t thought through or really don’t want to do. I’ve been wondering about this, and the mysterious connection to my sense of reduced power. When I speak about power, I mean my personal autonomy. My ability to choose and say yes and no with freedom. It seems that this place of powerlessness attracts the controlling or co-dependent (excessive emotional or psychological reliance on someone else) like bees to nectar! You don’t want to know the messes I’ve walked into, or just narrowly avoided these last few weeks. Now, I don’t know a lot about this, and I’m just beginning to study more on the concept of personal power, but I’ve really got to say that it’s real and true.

Bullying, manipulation, control and co-dependency are all symptoms of powerlessness. A bully isn’t powerful. Neither is a person with a victim mentality. However, they are attracted to each other in an unpleasant dance. Saying “yes” or “no” to doing things when I don’t mean it is also a symptom of powerlessness. This makes me sick – in a state of disorder – because my mind registers the difference (cognitive dissonance) between what I said and what I really mean, and my emotions respond with resentment and a loss of control. Shame or guilt steps in and my body becomes filled with toxic, negative thoughts – thoughts centering on loss of quality of life versus receiving joy and contentment.

So many of my clients are stressed because of powerlessness. Just this week I saw how my own responses hinge on how powerful I decide to be or not. It IS a decision, but it’s really subconscious. An abusive boss, a destructive relationship; a co-dependent colleague; even a damaging view of good food – all of these are floating torpedoes on the sea of life, waiting for our response. My “yes” could be killing me, slowly or swiftly. And my “no” or “I can’t” could be getting in the way of what I really want to do.

A famous Proverb reads, “A desire fulfilled is like a tree of life.” So when I desire something, I can really state YES and my body is filled with life. A simple remedy is to examine my heart and my choices. Are my “Yes’s” really yes (I want this), and my “No’s” really no (I don’t want this)? I believe we can each build ourselves to be people of legitimate power, who encourage those around us to be equally powerful. Can you imagine a society that looks more like this? More truth, more freedom and more dignity? Beautiful!