Tag Archives: powerlessness

Here we are again, back with this word:  power.  Do we have it?  Or not?  If you have read my book, you know that I believe that the 12 steps, as they are laid out in the textbook of Alcoholics Anonmous, are for beginners.  It was never an intention for us to go through life powerless.  Yes, we are very much powerless at certain times in our lives.  But that isn’t a bad thing.  Think of powerlessness as a doorway, through which we can step into and thus walk experiencing lives of power.  We get our power back in the 10th and 11th steps.

In New Thought this week, Centers for Spiritual Living all over the world are following a #100YearsOfScienceOfMind theme, based on the Ernest Holmes book Living the Science of Mind.  This week’s entry is titled “Thinking Affirmatively” and begins with this quote:  “THERE is a Power for Good in the Universe greater than you are, and you can use It.”

Just like in the steps, there is a process to get to the place where we can use this power.  Ernest Holmes describes basically a three step process:  1.  Oneness.  We are One with this Power for Good.  2.  The trend of our thoughts and beliefs will either attract or repel good in our lives.  3.  Change the thinking and the beliefs if what you are attracting is not pleasing to you.

The process is a bit longer in the steps, and a bit more detailed, but basically the same:  1.  admit, or discover, there is something in life not to your liking.  It isn’t working anymore.  2.  Find and develop a higher power.  3.  Take personal responsibility for your life by discovering yourself, your fears and how you react to those fears.  4.  Clean up the mess.  5.  Begin to live life based in spiritual principles.  6.  Continue to do introspection and develop a sense of and connection with a higher power.  This is where you get your power back.

Combine the two teachings, and I can tell you that life gets better than you could ever imagine!

If you want a jump start on creating more good in your life, consider going on retreat with me, to Death Valley in March.  Here is a link with more information.


"Whenever you take an adversarial attitude towards something you give it power."  Dr. Christiane Northrup

The first step of just about any 12 step program wants us to admit that we are powerless.  For many, whether in New Thought or not, powerlessness is simply not something that is done.

New Thought teaches us that we have power over our thoughts and beliefs and emotions, and that what we think tends to manifest in our lives.

For others, powerlessness signifies some type of weakness.  How many times has the average alcoholic heard someone tell him that if he were stronger he could control his drinking?

The reality is, we do have a lot of power, but it is misplaced power.  We give power to the substance.  We give power to people in our lives.  We give our power up to all sorts of things:  possessions, jobs, busyness.  And I would venture to say that if we really stopped to take a look at what we give our power to, it would be a love/hate relationship.  We love the temporary escape the subtance provides, but hate the consequences.  We love all our possessions, but it really complicates lives.  They say busyness is a status symbol, but how come we are so tired all the time?

So we move through life living out of congruence with our true values, giving power to something we really don't believe in, because we think there is no other way.  And in the case of substance abuse, we can't fight it, because we've given all our power to it.

Eventually there comes a time when something has to give.  Something has to change.

So we go to a 12 step program and it tells us the first thing we must do is declare our powerlessness.  This goes against everything we've ever been taught, and goes against most societal value systems.  It also goes against New Thought teachings.  And because of these values and teachings, we instead create an adversarial relationship with whatever it is we are having problems with.  Instead of helping, this simply gives it more power and takes more away from us.

So now we find ourselves between a rock and a hard place.

What's a person to do then?

I advocate a different way of looking at the first step.  In my book, I've reworded it to say, "We admitted we were ready for a change in our lives."

If you find yourself unhappy, overwhelmed, consistently worried, experiencing stress related health problems, or unable to accomplish what you wish in your life, you may be ready to admit that a change is necessary.  The good news is that you get to decide what to change to!

In the next blog post, I will speak to this in more detail.  You can sign up to receive notification of new posts at the right if you are on a computer and at the bottom if you are on a device such as phone or iPad.  You can purchase the book here:  http://karenlinsley.com/?page_id=1174#!/A-New-Thought-Journey-Through-the-12-Steps-book/p/70971359/category=0



Today I want to talk about the first step.

They say in meetings that it is the only one that needs to be done perfectly.  And yet it seems to be the most difficult one.  And not just for New Thought folks but for everyone.  If you are a New Thought person, then you know what the objection is.  That one word: powerless.  We are taught in New Thought that we are most definitely not powerless.  Others object because they simply don't want to stop the old way of living, and still others object because they are too afraid of the unknown to let go of the known.

I've seen people use these very objections and allow themselves to be dragged into a pit of non-recovering toxicity that never fails to shock me.

So today I want to present another way to view the first step.  I think if viewed in this way some of the objections might be removed, hopefully all of them and you will enter into a new way of being that is more wonderful than you can imagine.

When an addiction doesn't work anymore, it's like a door has closed.  And if we don't listen and learn when one door closes, others begin to close.  Try and open a door that has closed.  Try and drink successfully.  Try and control and manipulate members of your family.  Continue to enable loved ones to be the worst example they can be.  How is that working?  The truth is, it doesn't. It has never worked and never will.  A door is firmly shut.  And to continue to try and reopen it means you stay in a hallway of uncertainty and dissatisfaction and misery and denial of who and what you were meant to be in this world.

Drinking, or thinking about drinking, is to keep facing the door.  Attempts to control or manipulate or enable mean you are still facing  the door.  It just keeps you in the hallway.

What the first step can do is allow you to turn away from the door. Say goodbye to the old behavior, turn your attention away from it and toward something different and more productive.  Do your inner work, grieve properly the loss of an old friend, and move into a new way of living with courage and enthusiasm.

I was a New Thought person when I got into recovery.  I looked at that word powerless and thought, "no.  I'm not powerless.  But I don't want to drink anymore.  So what do I do now?"  And I turned away from that door and began to look for new ones.  The new ones showed up as promised.  I began a new way of living that was somewhat clumsy and inelegant at first, but I kept looking forward and have never looked back at that firmly closed door.  I don't miss my old way of life, nor do I regret it.

It isn't about missing and regretting and hanging onto the old way of life.  It is about embracing a new way.  It is about turning your thoughts from the old and towards the new.  It is about letting go of that which does not work, and then healing, and then facing the new doors with an air of excited expectancy.

As Parker J. Palmer say, turn away from the door.


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One of the biggest organizations in the New Thought movement is Centers for Spiritual Living.  Their publication is the Science of Mind magazine, which has been in continuous publication for almost 90 years.  At the front of every issue, they publish the "We Believe" statements written by Ernest Holmes, the founder of Centers for Spiritual Living.  The ninth of the eleven statements says, in part, "We believe in control of conditions."

The first step of the 12 Steps says we are powerless.  Go to any 12 step meeting, anytime, anywhere, and you will likely hear someone say proudly that they are powerless over people, places and things.

If you are a member of a 12 step organization and a member of a New  Thought organization, how on earth can these two seemingly opposing beliefs hang out together?

Personally, I think the first step is spirituality 101. I think it is a doorway into a deeper and more satisfying way of living, not somewhere to park.  I think it is for beginners, and I believe it when I read in the AA textbook that we get our power back in the 10th step.  I've addressed this here and want to move beyond that for this post.

Getting our power back in the 10th step is not the same as believing in control of conditions.  Control of conditions takes it a step further, and I understand how thinking that we have the power to control conditions might be foreign and scary and quite frankly, not possible to most 12 steppers.

Bear with me here, because I think that embracing the empowering message inherent in this bold statement allows for a more satisfactory life.

Both the 12 steps and what we teach at Centers for Spiritual Living emphasize that we work from within out.  We change our insides, and the outsides follow.  If we are willing, the 12 steps work us as we work them, allowing us to have "a personality change sufficient to bring about recovery from alcoholism."  (from the text book of AA, Appendix II, Spiritual Experience).  That personality change then manifests as behavior  changes and differing choices, which then results in different conditions in our lives.

At Centers for Spiritual Living, we teach that we change our consciousness (and we have a LOT of tools to do so!):  our beliefs and our thoughts, which then change our feelings, which then changes our behavior, which then changes conditions.

Looked at in this way, the concept of control of conditions no longer seems so scary or impossible, at least to me.  How about you?


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I love the way the steps are set up.  There is an order to them that makes it easy, for me at least, to move from victim to empowerment.

I know that it is common to hear, in 12 step meetings, that we must continually acknowledge our powerlessness.  In all my research of the steps, and in my personal experience of 29 years of incorporating them into my life,  I have failed to find any evidence that advocates powerlessness as a way of life.  Instead, I find much evidence that says powerlessness is like a doorway into recovery.  Powerlessness is for beginners.

In a way, much of life is like this:  when we first encounter a new concept, a new way of living, a new way of being, we must be open to possibilities, even though the unknown is sometimes much scarier than the known, as unsatisfactory as the known may be.  But if we admit to not liking the way things are, and to acknowledging that there must be a better way, then we somehow open ourselves up.  Powerlessness is that doorway.  Yes, we are in a powerless place in the beginning....but only in the beginning.

Once we get to step 10, we get our power back.  (Actually in my personal experience it comes much sooner in the process, but I know it isn't that way for everyone)  Here are the 10th step promises in the textbook of Alcoholics Anonymous:

"And we have ceased fighting anything or anyone—even alcohol. For by this time sanity will have returned. We will seldom be interested in liquor. If tempted, we recoil from it as from a hot flame. We react sanely and normally, and we will find that this has happened automatically. We will see that our new attitude toward liquor has been given us without any thought or effort on our part. It just comes! That is the miracle of it. We are not fighting it, neither are we avoiding temptation. We feel as though we had been placed in a position of neutrality—safe and ­protected. We have not even sworn off. Instead, the problem has been removed. It does not exist for us. We are neither cocky nor are we afraid. That is our ­experience. That is how we react so long as we keep in fit spiritual condition."

Jean Houston writes, in the Foreward to the Science of Mind textbook, that in thinking of God as something within us, it moves us from a state of powerlessness to one of power.  "This grants us tremendous power and with it the innate responsibility to make or break our world through the extraordinary working power of our minds. Thus the practical emphasis in The Science of Mind of schooling in the power of trained thought."

So....we move  from a state of powerlessness in the beginning, to one of power by the tenth step.  The steps teach us to live in 10 and 11, inventories, meditation and prayer.  New Thought teaches us to consistently do our spiritual practices, with introspection (inventory) and the resulting personal awareness, and meditation and affirmative prayer making for a lifestyle that does indeed move from powerlessness to being safe and protected, from victim to empowerment.

This is a lifestyle that works, and I am so grateful for it.


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Does your life suck?  Or maybe not all of it sucks, maybe only one aspect sucks.  It doesn't matter:  suckage is suckage, whether it is your entire life or just one part of it.  If you have some suckage going on in your life, the only thing you need to do to begin to change that is acknowledge that you want to change it.

That's it.

The traditional wording of the First Step speaks to powerlessness.  I prefer to look at it this way:  my life sucks and I want to change it.  Then I begin to envision what I want to change it to.  There is no shame here, no blame, and certainly not a lack of power.  It's about focus, and training our minds, and this is the beginning of that process.

This is the beginning of the empowering process that allows us to totally take personal responsibility for our lives.

If this scares you, welcome to my world.  It scared me too.  No longer could I blame the circumstances of my life on God, or someone else, or them, or even alcohol.  Scary, but also a doorway into a life I never dreamed possible.

Someone once told me in a class that if my dreams and visions did not scare me, they weren't big enough.

Life sucked, and at that time my dreams and visions were very small:  start life over again with a new way of living that did not include alcohol and drugs.  It wasn't a matter of hanging my head in shame for being an alcoholic.  It was a matter of refocusing my attention to what I wanted to occur in my life.  I wanted to live differently.

If you want to live differently, then you have made a beginning.  Acknowledge that.  Then begin the process of dreaming big.  Do not deter  your focus from the prize.  Take your focus off a life that sucks and place it on that which you wish to be and do.

I'd love to hear about your journey!