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Power: Are You Missing the Secret Ingredient?

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Beth Anstandig

You read the word. Power. It pulled you in. And, at the same time you were enticed, you bristled and balked. We have a love/hate relationship with the topic of power, mostly because we don’t fully understand it. We associate power with the misuse or abuse of it. We imagine people who overpower or rule or dictate. When we think of power, we are often considering one extreme end of the spectrum, a power that causes pain, fear, and damage to our relationships.

So, let’s start with a definition that neutralizes things a bit. Power is defined as the ability to influence. Ahhhh. We can live with that, right? I share these ideas and you consider them. You ask your child to help clear the table and she lifts her plate with a smile. You tell your boss you’d like a raise and she agrees to consider your request. You offer advice to a friend and he listens. Your sister shares a story from her heart and you feel inspired. These are all examples of power that feel palatable because the influence is flowing in the relationships. There is an ask that seems to come from a peaceful place, and the request is received without a fight. Nice and tidy.

But we all know that power often feels out of whack, off-kilter, and full of tension or resistance. We ask for something and we get a brick wall in return. Others reject our influence in overt and subtle ways. We sit there, perplexed, saddened that we simply cannot make shit happen! Power becomes confusing, frustrating, and relationships take on dead-end patterns that are repetitive and corrosive.

Where does our influence go wrong? Maybe we doubt ourselves or question the legitimacy of the ask. Perhaps we’ve been sitting on our request and feeling self-pity or resentment for a while. Or, we ask for one thing when what we really have in mind is another.

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Regardless of the root causes, our channels of power become blocked when we cut off our deepest desire, the most important element of our inner workings. It’s so simple that it sounds almost trite. Our most genuine desire, which is unedited and unfiltered energy in our bodies, is the source of our greatest power.

Great! Now you know the secret ingredient! But knowing about desire is the easy part. Accessing our true desire is where things get tough. We have so many human stories about the phenomenon of wanting. It is perhaps one of the most vulnerable human experiences to become aware of our own desires and then to share them with others. We risk and fear we will be judged or rejected, or that we will suffer the disappointment of not having our desires met. “I want you to bring me a cup of coffee.” Could that really have that much emotional weight? Well, you only have to look a few layers deep to see the meaning behind that ask and the many relational risks it encompasses. I want you to take care of me. I want you to serve me. I want to lounge and luxuriate. I want you. I want to be lazy. I want. I want. I want….

As soon as we begin to judge ourselves or modulate our desire, we cut off the flow of energy in our bodies. We see this all the time with people and horses when we are doing Circle Up experiences with our clients. Perhaps you want the horse to come to you. You allow yourself that desire for a split second before you question yourself. Or, maybe you are afraid you are going to fail and not get what you want. The horse feels this, senses the point of confusion and pressure in your body, and won’t come toward you. It is a brick wall of your own creation. When we coach you, we help you reconnect with your desire and let go of the doubt or judgment. When the horse can feel a clear channel and invitation, he will walk right to you. The desire you feel in that moment is a point of reference you can always return to. It’s your natural leadership coming on-line.

Signs Your Power Has a Blocked Channel

  • You are often disappointed or annoyed with others for not going along with your plan.
  • People around you comply but their energy is flat.
  • You struggle with ambivalence or indecision.
  • When you make requests of others you are already annoyed or angry.
  • You share a lot about the things that you don’t like or don’t want.
  • You offer others the opportunity to make most decisions.
  • People ask you for advice but then they argue with you or don’t listen.
  • You often feel ignored, sidelined, or not consulted.
  • You feel sorry for yourself.
  • You carry around a fair amount of resentment toward others.
  • On a rare occasion, you do ask for things and others provide, you feel guilty.
  • You often sign up to do things out of obligation or duty.

Genuine power is not about making others do things. It isn’t about compliance, yours or anyone else’s. It is about influencing from an internal place so alive and vibrant that those around you deeply want to go along with your requests, to be part of your vision and to join or match the excited and inspired energy you are putting out into the world. We have to be willing to go out on a limb and allow others to see, hear, and feel what we are envisioning.

How to Infuse Your Power with Desire

  • Share with others what deeply matters to you so they can connect with who you are. Let people know more about your story and what has shaped you.
  • Look for the places where you are doubting yourself and begin to challenge that doubt. You might need to get some support with this. The practice is about expressing those doubts so you can let them go.
  • Find small ways to practice expressing your desire, little “wants” go a long way. It could be as simple as asking for a hug or letting someone do you a favor. The hardest part will be to enjoy it without guilt.
  • Set aside five minutes each day to brainstorm a list of all of the things you desire, even if they are far-fetched and fantasies. This is a creative exercise to expand your own comfort level. You never have to act on anything on your list. But at some point, you might decide to try!

We all carry some baggage about power, narratives we have inherited from our families or careers that interfere with how much of ourselves we allow the world to see. At the heart of this dilemma is an inhibition we learn, part of our socialization that, on the one hand, helps with impulse control, and on the other hand mutes and dims the volume of our natural leadership. Think of the inspired leaders who have shaped your life, rocked your world, those whose energy is infectious and delicious. You know exactly who they are and what they want. Their desire is clear. Their channels are open. They are all in. You can be too.

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