Stepping Into Our Power – Nothing Can Stop Me Now

For all of us, our private road to personal power has been strewn with awful events that challenged us, boulders that have unexpectedly tumbled down about us, detours signs we saw at the last minute, rerouting that we needed to figure out on the fly, moments, weeks, years we’ve gone through that no one should have to endure, actions we’ve taken that made us feel we might not survive, and yet to quote Lana del Ray in Radio we can all arrive at a point where we feel: nothing can stop me now.  This iconic singer speaks freely about how she became powerful, by learning how to love herself.  Her lyrics:

“No one even knows how hard life was,

I don’t even think about it now

because I’ve finally found you”

reflect her recovery and her happiness. “People will always hate, but I love myself now, and that’s all that matters,” she muses as she recalls her journey in finding her resilience.

What Lana del Ray is speaking about is our personal power, our resilience. Our personal power comes from successfully meeting, navigating, and coming out on top of our challenges from whatever source they stemmed: from being the oldest, the only girl, the responsible one, to being the smart one, the pretty one, the one who stood out, the one who didn’t, to our addiction, the abuse, or discrimination we survived.

We, like Lana del Ray, deserve to feel real good about ourselves, feel confident, even feeling impressed, because we have not only survived, but in many cases thrived in the face of the numerous tests we have experienced.  But we often don’t feel pleased with ourselves.  In fact, many times we don’t even stop to consider what we have just accomplished when we have been challenged, and for each of us our challenges are different – whether it was speaking to our son’s teacher, listening to our mother’s pain, driving into a new part of town, telling our partner enough.   Somehow, it is so very complicated for us as women to embrace the resilient part of who we are.

Yes, our power can ebb and flow.  It surrounds us, it lifts us, and it appears to vanish, but we know it is still there. But to consciously walk around feeling it?  Yes, we’ve all had the experience of hearing “you’re so powerful” from a loved one, an employer, a friend, and simultaneously feeling our inner response of “no, I’m not.”

Recognition is always a humbling experience.  As women we’re been trained to say “who me?” when special qualities of ours are noticed.  So to notice what is right with us, is a challenge, a much bigger task, than fixing things for others, than helping out our friends, our family, shining at work.  Because if we feel our power, then we need to own it, prompting us to answer the “who me?” that comes to mind, with the “Yes, you!”  And of course, this is uncomfortable.

Having heard this from friends, family members, patients, and having felt this in moments within myself, I’ve wondered why do we become uneasy when we hear what is obviously a compliment.  Or is it??

I’ve come to the conclusion that something about this statement, another acknowledging that they see our power, must feel so very threatening, yes threatening, but to what?  What does being seen as powerful hit upon within us that often provokes such an immediate, and so common response?  Could it be that being powerful doesn’t jive with our culturally reinforced image of how a woman should be seen? Could it be that being seen as strong, that loving ourselves as Lana del Ray sings, doesn’t comfortably fit with what has been drilled into our head that we are really vulnerable, that we are the loving party, but not capable of self-love, and to the assumed statement that we can be only one or the other, one culturally acceptable, and the other not as much?

By doing this we can choose to step into our power, and have a life sweet like cinnamon, as Lana sings. We can allow ourselves to be complicated, nuanced, maybe not so predictable, even to ourselves.  We don’t need to live in a box, and we certainly don’t need to put our power in one.

Like the pebble in the pond, by releasing ourselves from being defined by others, we not only affect ourselves and our future, but in doing this, we can knowingly influence the next generation of women in our lives — our daughters, sisters, aunts, mother, nieces, cousins, the women in our office, our apartment building, our town.

How to do this? … Begin to embrace your resilience.  Yes, your resilience, those skills we develop under stress, sometimes extreme stress.  Need some motivation to own your power?

Continue reading “Stepping Into Our Power – Nothing Can Stop Me Now”

Warrior Women Give Themselves a Voice – A Lesson We Can All Learn

As women we know that within us is a warrior.  We may joke about being tiger moms but that’s not far from the truth.  And part of our power comes from our being attuned to our own inner opinions, inner voices, if you will.  This has allowed us to know when we feel something is right, or should be right, and when it is not. Translating that into action isn’t always as easy, but with using our strengths individually, and as a group we have accomplished many things such as when our great-grandmothers fought for the vote, and obtained this right.  We have achieved this again in the military by being recognized for what we are already doing, serving in combat.

Here women have been advocating to be recognized for what they have already been doing – serving in combat.   As of 1-24-13 women are able to “officially” serve in the front line, something we’ve been doing, without this being recognized, officially.  And guess what, being able to “officially” be in combat puts women in line for promotions that were previously not open to them. Interestingly this action opens up an additional 7.3 percent of positions in the military for women to advance, as combat experience is a big plus for promotion. Read: the possibility of more equal pay.  Now women will have the same opportunities for advancement as their male peers. As they will be able to list “combat” experience just as their male counterparts are able to do, a key requisite for advancement (2).

But there is more to this “official acknowledgment” than just the career and financial implications, doing this, changes the culture of the military, for the better.  Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Dempsey, saw the similarities between women and men in the military: we all take the same oath, we all where the same uniform.  And in this one action he also sees the possibility of a reduction in sexual assaults in the military. How does he connect the two?  He understands the implicit message sent to our military personnel when you have one part of the population that is designated as ‘warriors’ and one part that is designated as something else, that disparity begins to establish a psychology that — in some cases — led to that environment. I have to believe the more we treat people equally, the more likely they are to treat each other equally. (1)

In this he is utilizing what research has found, that people tend to form impressions of others based upon how respected they are within their group.  So it stands to reason that if you are in a “warrior” group where others (women) are seen as “non-warriors,” then you have set up a situation where there are two classes.  And this was the case in the military where women were seen as “less than” than their male counterparts.

Circumstances in which one group has more importance than other, sets the stage for the group in “higher position” to potentially take advantage of the group in the “lesser” position by asserting their power.  One disgusting way that this played out in the military is through sexual assaults on women, which we know have nothing to do with sex, and are all about power and dominance. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has acknowledged sexual assault is vastly under-counted in official records (2).  But the numbers we do have are mind-boggling; approximately one in three military women have been sexually assaulted, about 33.3%, double the rate of those in civilian life (1), an outrageous number!

What to do?

Women have fought for equal status and we will continue to do so. Yes, when we give ourselves the gift of own power, when we listen and take to heart what our inner voice, the voice of our own personal hard-fought battles, our resilience, tells us, we too can achieve incredible things.   In giving themselves a voice, in pushing for their rights, women in the military are creating a safer environment for themselves to not only do their job, but also to thrive. Now that’s a lesson we can all learn from.   For more inspiration, listen to Alicia Keys’ ode to giving ourselves a voice and relishing in our personal power –

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Hearing Our Own Voice – When Faced With Being Blamed for Violence We’ve Experienced

 

Our past trauma can be triggered in a variety of ways. Just after The Feast of the
Epiphany (January 6), a patient brought in an article sent to her by a friend in California;
and she was triggered. The article concerned a priest who actually blamed women
for abuse they experienced at the hands of men. She was deeply upset but laughed at
some of the excerpts she read. After all, it was all so familiar. She, as many of you have,
heard it before, in so many ways since we were children. But as she spoke about it, she
noticed that it really disturbed her.

So she began by doing what we all know how to do so very well. She began to find
reasons to explain why this man of God did this very un-Christ-like act. She expressed:
well, he’s probably done some good. He’s probably old, and being kept on due to his
past good deeds. Yes, she rationalized his actions, but she was still feeling it.

But through the process that I taught her, she began to listen to that little voice inside.
She heard this voice of reason begin to whisper, then speaking more clearly, then
demanding to be heard, and finally screaming: what about YOU? She realized that
she had caught herself being the “good girl”, yet again, explaining the abuse instead of
feeling her response to it as she remembered it, yet again.

Being so trained to be the good girl is a type of cultural trauma that is so subtle, so
pervasive, that it took her speaking to me, for her to finally hear herself, and risk
stepping outside of her conditioning to express her anger at this very poorly informed
man. All I did was to point out: you sound angry, inviting her to check in with the part
of herself that has been traumatized, and prevailed, her resilience. When she did she
discovered she was incensed!

Violence against women is making the news, as usual. It is for some sexy, young
women, usually, strong men exercising their power over women, women hurt, killed—
shot in the head, raped on a public bus, beaten by their husband. Oops, that usually
doesn’t make the news.

So what’s the big deal? Aren’t women always blamed for a man’s bad actions? Nothing
new in this, except this time it is a priest delivering this disgusting message in his
Christmas message. The Pasadena insert of the LA Times this Sunday reported on
Father Corsi’s gift to his congregation on the Feast of the Epiphany, the Feast of The
Three Kings. http://www.pasadenasun.com/opinion/pas-0104-in-theory-an-italian-
priests-divisive-words,0,224530.story?page=1

Yes, Father Corsi, from Northern Italy, was very clear in his text: Women and Femicide,
women bear the responsibility for everything from sexual attacks to sexual abuse. And
he exhorted women to search their conscience. Yes, you have that right. He didn’t
pressure the men to examine their conscience, those who are the major perpetrators
of the 1/3 increase in domestic violence deaths in Italy in 2012, but the women, who
were the victims. Now don’t be so ungrateful. So what if what he offered was a piece
of coal? Down deep inside, what do we expect?

Continue reading “Hearing Our Own Voice – When Faced With Being Blamed for Violence We’ve Experienced”

Binge Drinking – Taking Away Your Own Power

Most women read “Excessive alcohol consumption is the third leading cause of

preventable death in the United States and is a risk factor for many health and societal

problems,” (1), and think, “Oh, too bad, this really isn’t about me. That’s about all those
others, who really have problems,” without stopping to think how it could apply to them.

I know this may make you a tiny bit anxious, but let’s take a moment and look at the
definition of heavy and binge drinking:

Heavy drinking is defined as more than two drinks per day on average for
men or more than one drink per day on average for women. One drink a
day! (1) Some of you are thinking “this is crazy,” but bear with me for a
moment longer.
Binge drinking is defined as five or more drinks during a single occasion
for men or four or more drinks during a single occasion for women (1).
Four drinks, you may be hearing yourself say–that’s just a moderate night
out!
The reason why this doesn’t feel like a problem is that it’s common: about
1 in 8 women aged 18 years and older and 1 in 5 high school girls binge
drink (2).
Women who binge drink do so frequently – about 3 times a month (2) that
is going out most weekends. And therein lies the problem for many, not
realizing the impact of a “girls night out.”

Most girls and women don’t realize that drinking four or more drinks, even on occasion
can create a problem, a serious problem, even a permanent problem. Binge drinking
increases the chances of breast cancer, heart disease, sexually transmitted diseases,
unintended pregnancy, and many other health problems. Drinking during pregnancy can
lead to sudden infant death syndrome and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (2). I know
the long-term health effects seem very remote, to women of all ages, so let’s look at the
immediate ones, and add a couple.

Sex and alcohol is a complicated relationship — it giveth and it taketh away. Alcohol
gives us lower inhibitions leading to feeling more relaxed, less worried, less observant
about what we’re doing, or saying. That can be, and is frequently, nice. And yes, it
can ease our way into a sexual situation. This may sound even better. But alcohol also

say, what I won’t repeat now, my head cleared a little. I realized I had another choice. I

could leave, and I did.”

But, if we decide we want sex, the next question is how do we protect ourselves
– yes ourselves for once, not everyone else, and not his or her feelings when we
make arrangements to be safe. This much alcohol can also make our thinking fuzzy,
particularly when it comes understanding not only what we want to do but also how
to protect ourselves by asking the right questions, and taking the right actions. Think
STDs, yuck, I know, but many are preventable through the use of a condom. Think
unwanted pregnancy, and yes it can happen to anyone from the President’s daughter in
TV show 1600 Penn, to friends, to you.

Anger and alcohol is another potent mix. I have found in my clinical work that many
women binge, many times alone, because they are angry. And since we’ve all been
raised to be good girls, a key belief being that we shouldn’t be angry, many women
unconsciously deal with their anger by anesthetizing themselves through alcohol use.
Speak about a no-win solution. God forbid they actually allow themselves to know that
they are angry and express their anger. Who knows what could happen then? Maybe a
solution could be reached.

Alcohol and weight gain. Yes, alcohol can make you fat. It is after all highly caloric,
and has no nutritional value. I know none of the models are fat, and yes it is so unfair!

So what to do? No easy solutions you say. Well, there is one. Stop giving away your
power, and using alcohol to excess is one way that women give away this vital inner
resource. Begin to tap into your inner strengths, your resilience. You know what these
are — the parts of you that you use in situations to help everyone else: the skills, the
behaviors, others see and comment upon, so very favorably; what you do for others, the
advice you give your girlfriends about drinking, about guys. What if you remembered
your own advice and gave to yourself. How good would that be? Now that would be
power!

Continue reading “Binge Drinking – Taking Away Your Own Power”

Christmas and Perfume

If ever there was a season celebrating resilience it is the Christmas Season.  As women, this season represents a virtual treasure trove of elements around which we build our resilience, because our resilience is built around our response to stress; and this is the season of stress, both good stress and the other kind.

During this holiday time we find ourselves playing our own version of three-dimensional chess.  We are navigating our commitments to our children, creating a happy holiday season for them whether they are three and still believing in Santa Claus, or twenty-three and moving out on their own.  We feel both our love and the pull of obligations, both stated and expected, to our family.  This is compounded by needing to make the decision of who to spend the actual Christmas Eve or Christmas Day with, or whether to create the magic of the holiday within our home, figuring out how to do the cooking, shopping, decorating, and still for many of us, keep our day job.  We need our friends who tend to be less available, as we are, due to being equally stressed out, running, laughing, and at times stuttering instead of speaking.

And this is compounded by our image of what this important holiday season is supposed to contain, an image not formed by Hallmark, or by the endless ads on TV, but an image rooted far deeper in our psyche, an image formed in our own childhood, an image we revisit, one formed by needs and desires remembering them as fulfilled leaving a smile on our face, or memories of want and need that that are still full of pain.

It is this last element that makes this season so challenging, the fact that we are present to this season not just as a forty-five year old, but also as a five year old.  That we are navigating not just a list of expectations of those who we love who surround us, but also we are carrying those needs and wants from the child within us.

This is why it is so important to find a way to give to ourselves this season.  Not just an actual gift, which may not be a bad idea, but also an inner gift, one of personal perspective — a gift of gratitude, of appreciation for all the resources that we have, of respect for all that we do, and of promise, a promise to do something special just for us, whether this is taking one single moment to put on a dab of perfume that we like, to remind ourselves as we gently waft it’s aroma throughout the day, that we indeed are special, that we can take care of ourselves, to a commitment to use our considerable resources, our resilience, to begin to take better care of ourselves.  Now that would truly make this a merrier Christmas.

By Patricia O’Gorman, Ph.D.

Author of

The Resilient Woman:  Mastering the 7 Steps to Personal Power (publication date 3/5/13)

pre-order available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble