More or less, we all are feeling powerless right now. The world as we know it is falling apart, and our illusion of control is breaking into pieces.
We are overwhelmed by the feeling of uncertainty and we realize that we can do nothing about the global processes that take place today.
Sensitive and deep thinking people are profoundly affected by all the suffering and injustice that happen in the modern world. They are the ones who feel powerless more often than anyone, especially in such turbulent times.
There is even a term for it – it’s a German word Weltschmerz that describes the feeling of deep frustration with the world’s suffering.
Of course, we can feel powerless because of more personal reasons too. Be it the loss of a loved one, a painful breakup, or unfair treatment at work, it feels like we can do nothing to change the situation.
This is when our whole world seems to be falling apart and we realize how little in this life actually depends on us.
Yes, it’s an undeniable truth that we have no power over certain things in life. But it doesn’t mean that we are completely incapable of bringing a positive change.
So, what can we do to at least adjust our attitude and feel a little more powerful right here and now?
What to Do When You Feel Powerless?
1. Withdraw yourself from the situation
The first step is to withdraw yourself from the situation that takes away your power. It means finding a healthy distraction to help yourself take a break from it.
If it’s today’s global events that make you feel powerless, take a break from reading the news. Arrange an ‘information detox’ day and commit to resisting the urge to scroll through your social media feeds and news websites for 24 hours.
If it’s a more personal problem, such as a breakup, then find positive ways to distract yourself, such as reading a novel, watching a quality movie, or hiking with your friends.
However, keep in mind that distracting yourself with nonsense such as reality TV shows or dumb sitcoms will only leave you feeling drained.
2. Celebrate your past achievements
When I feel powerless, I recall my past moments of glory. And it works every single time. One little memory is powerful enough to change your perspective on the present situation.
You see, when you recall a memory of your past accomplishment (such as graduating from the university or getting a promotion), you immerse yourself in positive emotions of power, victory, and success.
As a result, it affects your current mental state too. Even if this past achievement has nothing to do with your present situation, the flood of positive emotions will make you feel more powerful and optimistic.
Make sure to recall your moment of glory in detail as it’s the only way to evoke a strong emotional response that you need right now.
3. Put your feelings into words
When you go through challenging times, it’s easy to get buried in negativity and despair. Sometimes you can’t even define what emotion you are experiencing right now.
You are just constantly under the weather, feeling like adversity is here to stay and you will never be happy again.
This is why it is important to put your feelings into words. You can do it by writing a journal or talking to a friend. Not only is it a powerful way to release your emotional pain, but it can also help you make better sense of your feelings.
You will be surprised to see that your thoughts take much more tangible forms when you put them on paper or share your concerns with a friend. Yes, you are feeling powerless right now, but now you finally start to understand why.
4. Don’t hold onto the illusion of control
We all like to feel that we are in charge. Our well-being, future, work, family, and marriage are all under our control. Or are they? We only know it for sure when a challenging moment comes knocking at our door.
This is why trying situations leave us in such pain. They break our illusion of control into pieces, leaving us feeling powerless. We suddenly realize how many things don’t depend on our will. Our loved ones leave, our businesses fail, and our settled lives fall into uncertainty.
Having your illusions broken is always painful. But it’s also a necessary part of evolving. It helps you become a wiser version of yourself and develop a more well-rounded and realistic approach to life.
5. Focus on the things that are under your control
Because of this illusion, we often confuse the things we want to control for those that are indeed in our power. So, how to know the difference?
Try a simple exercise. Make two lists. The first one should contain the aspects of a situation that are beyond your control, and the second one – the things that depend on you.
For example, you feel defeated and powerless because your sister-in-law spreads rumors about you, and everyone in the family believes her, not you.
What will be on your first list? Your sister-in-law’s love for gossip. Her desire to ruin your reputation. Your relatives’ lack of critical thinking.
What about the second list? There will be things such as your attitude to what’s happening, the time you spend in the company of your in-laws, and the way you respond to the rumors.
So, based on both lists, can you do anything to change your sister-in-law’s personality and make her stop spreading rumors? Not really.
But you can distance yourself from your relatives. You can set firm boundaries, stop picking up their phone calls, and say no to their never-ending requests. You can have a difficult conversation with your spouse and say that you won’t tolerate these behaviors.
You see, it turns out that there are a lot of things you can change and you are not as powerless as you believed.
6. Find one thing that you CAN change, no matter how small it is
The above exercise will also help you see possible actionable steps you can take.
The example above shows how it works for everyday situations such as family misunderstandings, but what about more severe circumstances, like the loss of a loved one?
Such events leave you feeling totally powerless and devastated. To the point that you find it hard to keep up with your everyday routine and work responsibilities, sometimes even personal hygiene.
So, the steps you can take in this situation will be small, and it’s okay. Small doesn’t always equal insignificant. When you are deeply depressed because you lost someone you loved, even taking a shower is a victory over the darkness that consumes you from inside.
So, focus on these tiny steps. They will be your anchors into reality that will eventually help you regain your power.
This approach also works for the feeling of powerlessness against the world’s chaos. Yes, you can’t end the injustice, change society’s distorted values, restore the true freedom of speech, and give corrupt politicians what they deserve.
But you can volunteer to help those who are suffering. You can promote critical thinking and true values on your social media profiles. And you can convey the truths neglected by the mainstream mass media and state propaganda to your friends and acquaintances.
Yes, it may look like a tiny contribution to making the world a better place, but it is still significant. Sometimes your small actions have a huge impact on other people’s lives.
It turns out that you have the power to change the world after all!
7. Put your emotions into creative endeavors
This technique is particularly effective if you are feeling powerless as a result of Weltschmerz. What can be better than putting your frustration with society into art?
In fact, expressive therapy is known to work for different kinds of negative emotions and mental health problems, including depression and trauma.
But I find it most powerful for existential depression and similar experiences. In other words, creative expression is most effective for feeling discouraged and powerless against the things you can do nothing about such as death, the world’s suffering, and social injustice.
These are the emotions that are most difficult to express and deal with. So, if you are a deep thinker who is feeling overwhelmed by everything that happens in the world today, I highly recommend putting your emotions into a creative activity.
Be it painting, sketching, music composing, or poetry writing, getting creative will help you release the burden of daunting emotions.
One Important Truth to Remember When Feeling Powerless
When I feel powerless, the first thing I do is recognize and accept my emotions. Otherwise, any further steps don’t make any sense.
Popular recommendations such as “always stay positive” don’t really help you tame negative emotions.
In fact, they do even greater harm as they leave you striving to dismiss and combat what you feel. It inevitably leads to suppression, which can later have catastrophic consequences for your mental health.
So, if you are feeling powerless, accept your emotional state for what it is. Don’t hide from your inner darkness and don’t distract yourself with nonsense, trying to “stay positive”.
Only by recognizing your feelings can you recover and take back your power.