Ask Ecogirl April 2012
Reclaiming Our Shared Power
Dear EcoGirl: Sometimes I feel so hopeless, seeing all the horrible things happening in the world. Can anything we do really make a difference? Signed, Feeling Powerless
Dear Feeling Powerless: Thanks for your question. I certainly can relate to your experience, as I think many can.
However, I’ve also come to see that we really do have so much more power than we realize, both individually and collectively. But we often just give it away without even noticing.
The truth is that we’re already impacting the world and the future, either positively or negatively, with the choices that we make every day. This includes what we buy, where we live and work, how we participate in government and community activities, and the way we talk about these issues with others.
Even inaction has an impact, just as it does when bystanders don’t stop the harmful actions of a playground bully.
Certainly, we all need to prioritize where we invest our time and energy. However, it’s exciting whenever we can turn and say, “No, this is not OK with me,” and find ways to help stop it. Through these cumulative choices, we can indeed help create a better future.
So, how do we do that?
Here are some of the key steps that I’ve found for reclaiming our power.
1) Be open to the possibility of positive change. Much of what we enjoy in the world today exists because people took constructive action in the past. Similarly, there are many folks today taking useful and effective action, in so many arenas, all over the world. We can support and connect to their work. We’re not alone in wanting a better world.
2) Face the darkness, and stand for the light. Sometimes, in our desire to create a happy life, we can want to avoid seeing the painful destruction of people, places, and ideals. And I can understand that.
However, ignoring these crises doesn’t make them go away. We still hear about them, care about those who suffer, and feel hopeless about the world as a result. Plus, our lack of participation creates vacuums that selfish vested interests are happy to fill. Thus, our avoidance actually creates its own pain, as our fears become self-fulfilling and we collectively roar headlong into disaster.
However, when we can see these issues as simply challenges to be addressed, and start solving them, we can then directly experience our ability to have an impact, and all sorts of new possibilities open up. There’s so much beauty in the world. Let’s channel our energy to protect what we love.
3) Develop the knowledge and skills to act wisely. Too often people can shift from “no action” to “impulsive and ill-considered action,” grabbing any opinion or proposed remedy as The Truth, and steamrolling others without listening to their feelings, needs, perspectives, or information. This wastes our energy and makes things worse.
So how can our community action be more wise? That’s part of what I seek to explore with my writing. I think it starts by recognizing that we all want a healthy and safe world; seek to make the best use of our limited time, energy, and funds; and prefer experiences that are fun, respectful, and rewarding.
Therefore, we’re more successful in taking action when we increase both our factual understanding of the issues and our ability to be effective, collaborate, and create safe spaces for each other.
4) Distinguish between harmful dominating and helpful initiating. Many of us can hesitate to claim our power because we’ve seen power abused in various areas of our lives. Thus, we can decline to participate, and even punish those who take action, rather than encourage the healthy initiating that’s vital for our effectiveness and success.
So it’s been great for me to explore the ways that we can embody our power in healthy and non-abusive ways. This means, for instance, that we stand up for everyone’s rights, value everyone’s unique skills, and serve everyone’s shared best interests.
I think that doing this helps us be more effective, and is essential for us to collectively avoid today’s emerging disasters. We can nurture our species’ next higher level of manifestation instead!
OK, so now I invite you to consider what power you already have in the community issues you care most about, including as a consumer, worker, citizen, voter, and community member. Then how can you use this power to encourage the better outcomes you want in the world? I think that this process will increase your feelings of true joy!