“In many ways, we are taught from the time we are children to give away our power to others. When we were told to kiss and hug relatives or friends of the family when we didn’t want to, for example, we were learning to override our inner sense of knowing and our right to determine for ourselves what we want to do. This repression continued, most likely, in many experiences at school and in situations at work. At this point, we may not even know how to hold on to our power, because giving it away is so automatic and ingrained.
“To some degree, giving our energy to other people is simply part of the social contract, and we feel that we have to do it in order to survive. It is possible to exchange energy in a way that preserves our inner integrity and stability. This begins in a small way: by listening to the voice that continues to let us know what we want, no matter how many times we override its messages.” - Madisyn Taylor
I came across this in my inbox today and suddenly I understood more clearly why not being listened to as kids, by being treated as if we’re joking when we’re not, why acting as if we can’t possibly know what we like and why, etc, is so infuriating. It’s obvious but I hadn’t been able to put it into words.
When these things take place we get angry, not because we’re giving away our power, but because it’s being taken away from us. Maybe not deliberately, or maybe deliberately but unconsciously, but taken all the same. And it may take 50 years or more to unlearn the repression we’ve learned, if we ever do, and then we feel angry and guilty, maybe, and resent those who’ve caused us to feel this way.
As very young children, toddlers, perhaps, it’s often necessary for our “power” to be taken away from us. We can’t be allowed to rush out into heavy traffic, for instance, just because we want to go. Eventually and ideally we should come to grips with how our power can be used and that knowledge should make us a bit freer. We can learn to walk several blocks to school without our parents’ fear we’ll dart out into traffic. We can learn what kinds of foods we like and how we want to dress and adorn ourselves.
Except that very often our power is fragmented by what parents or society think we should do and how we should behave and what we should want. We may be trusted to cross the street but not be trusted to choose our own clothes. Not trusted to know what we want.
Which brings up two experiences I’d like to describe, one of my own, one of a friend’s. When I was a young teen, one of the rare times I actually got new clothes, my mom decided to get me a charcoal gray suit with a boxy jacket. Not exactly teen fare but by this time in my life I’d learned to pretty much go along with what I was supposed to like.
But she also wanted me to get a pastel pink blouse to go with it. That was a popular color combination that year. Only I didn’t like pink, especially pastel pink. I mean, who ever heard of a pastel Scorpio? So I protested, maybe not loud or long, but definitely out of character. I expressed my power the best I knew how.
It wasn’t enough. With protestations of, “It looks so good on you,” “It’s such a good color,” “It’s so pretty,” my mother overrode every protest I made until I caved. And cave I did. A picture taken of me in that suit with the pink blouse shows me hunched over, head bowed, trying to disappear. I literally look caved in on myself.
And it wasn’t until earlier this year that I finally realized why pink has made me feel sick to my stomach so often over the years. It wasn’t the pink color, per se, but the battering of my soul that took place when I was made to do and wear something I really didn’t want.
The second event happened to a friend of mine. Another friend of hers had decided that she’d give my friend a manicure as a gift. My friend, however, didn’t want a manicure, didn’t like manicures, would have preferred a gift of a massage. Over the course of several conversations and meetings with other friends where her refusal of a manicure was treated as a joke, my friend’s resentment grew. Why was it so difficult for her friend to see and hear what she said?
It was, to my way of thinking, a power struggle, albeit likely an unconscious one. Because her friend loved manicures (as my mother loved pink) she simply wouldn’t acknowledge her friend’s desires as being legitimate. She probably didn’t even hear her, not really.
Until my friend finally blew up and got angry. And then her friend was amazed to discover that she didn’t like manicures. Well, duh!
Of course, anger is one way, a very potent way, of expressing our power. But it often leaves us feeling uncomfortable and vaguely guilty. Why should we have to get angry to accomplish our desires? We shouldn’t. Have to, I mean. When we have to, it feels as if we’re being unheard, perhaps belittled, our desires given no shrift. And under certain circumstances we’re overridden and we give in.
My friend expressed her desires often and clearly and yet it took an explosion to get her message across. I wasn’t allowed to get angry, much less explode, and I carried the consequences of that assault on my power for over 50 years.
You’re entitled to your wants and desires and don’t let anyone tell you you’re not. Not that you should ride roughshod over people like you may have been overridden, but I trust you to know right from wrong as well as when you’re right and you have that right.
May your sense of knowing what is right for you be expressible and expressed. Let us hope you can express your desires and wants and that people will hear you.
I wish this for you.