In my interactions with people lately, we have been checking in about experiences with "sheltering-in-place." It's fascinating to me the variety of experiences people have been having. Some
people are enjoying a break in their usual hectic schedules, some people are using the opportunity to do projects around the house, and some people are downright miserable, feeling trapped and cagey. Even amongst those who have found
a positive spin on the current circumstances, there is a common theme that has emerged. Powerlessness. Powerlessness is one of the Human Dilemmas.
Human Dilemmas are those things which are universal to the human experience. We experience them as part of simply being human. Powerlessness involves being faced with circumstances you did not choose, that you prefer weren't
happening and you have little to no control over.
The first step of the 12-steps of Alcoholics Anonymous states, "Admitted that we were powerless over alcohol and that our lives had become unmanageable." This step is all about powerlessness,
Step 1 is very applicable to our current circumstances given the uncertainty that we are living with right now. The Covid-19 pandemic and the shelter-in-place order are turning many people's lives upside down. While there
are many things in our "normal" lives over which we have no power, we are now experiencing a new version of powerlessness.
I notice for myself that the whole concept of powerlessness is unpleasant. Not something I enjoy or deal with well. Everything from unfortunate weather changes to traffic to taxes and drastic changes in schedule, to people behaving
badly. Many people are challenged by powerlessness and some even lash out at others, or simply try to control everything and everyone they come into contact with.
A sign that we are challenged by uncertainty is the tendency to be compulsive. Eating more, drinking/drugging more, tuning out more (watching TV, playing computer games, facebook.)
There is an emotional aspect to powerlessness that is worth mentioning and that is Depression. If you consider that Depression is like a system freeze (just like your computer gets locked up,) it falls into the standard instinctual
human coping responses, Fight, Flight or Freeze.
Studies on depression refer to a common human experience when people are faced with a situation they cannot change as Learned helplessness, or giving up.
Given all this, what to do? So what, now what?