A large part of the challenge for many who have experienced life and relationships that were either over controlling/abusive and/or over permissive/lacking parental direction is that we are left feeling powerless – yet often told to own up and take responsibility for our lives without having had the life experience of ever doing so.

Some of us were punished or shamed for attempting to exert any influence over our life and relationships.

We often learned how to fix everyone else’s problems but grew up feeling powerless and confused as to how to make our own life better.

This could often leave us in a chronic state of overwhelm, anxiety, anger, sadness or depression.

Sometimes we could find ourselves where we would “act out” in chronic drama or “act in” by just “going away” or shutting down.

And sometimes we just put on a mask and did the “fake it till you make it” thing.

Today I wanted to share an empowering solution in learning a foundational simple – not always easy, but very simple – 3 step process, or formula, that I can apply in any situation to ease my distress and confusion about “what to do” when I don’t know what to do.

First – being at peace with myself and to recognize where I’m at and accepting what “is” while releasing what was or might be.

That this is today and while it may “feel like” something from the past – it’s not.

Today is also not tomorrow so holding on to worry, fear and anxiety about what “might” or “could” or “should” or “Should not” happen – was not so helpful.

In releasing yesterday and tomorrow I discovered I could create my today and the tomorrow I wanted by learning to release my anger and sadness about yesterday and have hope for the tomorrow I wanted instead of the one I feared.

Second – think about where I want to go and the steps I could take to get there.

If there is something I don’t know that I need to know to accomplish this goal – then I set out to learn it.

For survivors of chronic abuse/trauma/dysfunction this step is really the foundation to our future.


Because in trauma/drama/dysfunction we are most often in survival mode – not learning mode.

Therefore – many of the developmental tasks that allow humans to function independently in the bigger world – never get accomplished.

A few examples of what I mean by developing the skills and sense of “self” that can enable us to feel accomplished, in control and empowered:

  • number 1 – was getting past the story that I kept telling myself that kept me stuck in my pain; learning how to shift from telling the story about what happened to telling the story about how what happened effected me. For more on how I did this check out these posts at my personal blog, A Journey.
  • developing a sense of “self” that is separate from others
  • learning to trust myself vs blindly trusting everyone and feeling disappointed and disillusioned about humans in general ie I didn’t know who to trust so I trusted no one
  • emotional regulation vs feeling as though I had no control over my feelings and emotions
  • emotional expression and learning how to effectively express myself to meet my own emotional needs vs feeling hurt and angry that others didn’t just “know” or “get it”
  • reading social cues so I could engage in healthy give and take in social relationships vs making everything “all about me” or – feeling as though I was fending off or protecting myself from others poor boundaries that felt intrusive
  • understanding assertive vs passive aggressive communication styles so I could get past the daily “drama” that was my life
  • understanding the difference between life “stressors” and the feelings of overwhelming “stress” that can shut us down when we don’t know what to do
  • managing my physical health so I could create health vs being dependent on “professionals” to manage “sickness”
  • recognizing and choosing healthy vs unhealthy relationships
  • recognizing dysfunction and my role in it so I can stop re-creating it in my today relationships
  • time and money management vs feeling as though I never had enough time or money
  • home management skills so I could create an environment that nurtured my soul and know I was safe
  • life management skills so I could create the life I wanted for myself vs just tolerating the life I had and no longer wanted
  • life and coping skills and strategies in general that I did not get in the abuse and dysfunction but I can learn now

Third – being willing to take the actions to do the first 2 steps over and over until I have achieved the me I want to be and life I want to live.

This is what “empowering solutions” is about – learning to cultivate the confidence to create our own “unlimited life”, finding our hope for a better life by finding that we already hold the power to create that life. 

Related: What Does it Mean to be “Empowered”


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