Power Trip: How to Journey From Overpowered to Empowered

Jul 27th, 2010 | By | Category: All Posts, Christina's Blog

Christina Enevoldsen

by Christina Enevoldsen

When I was a kid, The Wizard of OZ aired on television once a year. I didn’t know any families who didn’t anticipate this event. My family never missed it. We’d eat dinner early, make popcorn and enthusiastically settle in.

The Wizard of Oz is an enchanting story of a twelve-year-old Kansas farm girl, Dorothy Gale and her dog Toto. They are transported to the magical Land of Oz, where she sets out for the Emerald City to ask the Wizard of Oz to help her return home. On the way, she meets a Scarecrow, a Tin Man and a Cowardly Lion, who join her, hoping to receive what they lack themselves.

When the Wizard is unable to give any of them what they search for, they discover that everything they were looking for was already inside them. In the end, Glinda, The Good Witch of the North, tells Dorothy, “You don’t need to be helped any longer; you’ve always had the power….”

I’ve had my own Oz experience. Like Dorothy, I had a “Meek and Mild” image of myself that led me to seek out “The Great and Powerful” to make up for what I thought I lacked. I didn’t know the power I had and set out to find others who would share theirs with me—many of whom turned out to be abusers. My childhood sexual abuse taught me that I was at other’s mercy and that I was powerless to do anything to help myself. Dorothy’s Wizard claimed to be able to grant wishes, but first she had to appease him by very nearly giving up her life. I didn’t have to bring any wizard a witch’s broomstick, but I had to submit to degradation, humiliation, and control. In the end, my abusers couldn’t offer me what I was looking for anymore than Dorothy’s Wizard could.

Click Your Heels Together Three Times

I never had a witch tell me I had the power I needed all along, but I’ve realized a little at a time over many years that I really am capable of improving my own life in big and small ways.

Some time ago, I made plans with my friend to see a movie. She planned to pick me up at 3pm, but phoned at 1:30pm to say she was an hour ahead of schedule and that she’d pick me up in 30 minutes. She thought it would be fun to go shopping first. When she called I was just making something to eat and her schedule change meant I wouldn’t have time to eat before she arrived. I had something planned right after my outing with her, so lunch was my last chance to eat until the end of the day.

After we hung up I got really angry. I’ve learned to pay attention to my feelings–when they start and where they come from– and I realized that I was angry because I felt powerless. I felt like I didn’t have a choice. In my mind, my friend was keeping me from eating. I challenged that thought. Did I have a choice? I realized I wasn’t being forced to follow her plan so I examined my options. I could eat first while she waited for me or I could just cancel if she didn’t want to wait. Once I realized that I had options, my anger went away. I was empowered.

I learned to listen to my thoughts and be alert to whiney expressions. As a childhood victim, I was at everyone else’s mercy and my only power was complaining. One day I was about to whine to my husband that he never spent any time with me, but I stopped myself. That sounded like an accusation, not the invitation that I intended. I was blaming him and placing all the responsibility for our relationship on him, as though I was powerless. In the past, whining didn’t accomplish anything other than drawing us further apart, which was the opposite effect I wanted. This time, as an empowered person, I said to my husband, “We haven’t spent any time together lately and I miss you. Are you free for dinner on Thursday?” I took responsibility for my feelings and my relationship and I had a date.

On another occasion, I remembered something I wrote in the eighth grade:
“I was passing by a bakery one Sunday afternoon,
The little cookies smiled with tempt but I couldn’t smile back
I was dieting to lose some weight and couldn’t give in now
I was almost to the corner when they caught me looking back
I had to eat their chocolate eyeballs out for torturing me like that.”

It struck me that I even felt pushed around by food. I personified it and made it more powerful than me. As long as I did, it ruled over me. Realizing how ridiculous my beliefs really were has broken its spell over me.

Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain

Though Dorothy imagined herself powerless, she found that she had power all along while the Great Oz portrayed himself as powerful, yet was an unsure, frightened man. That’s the way abusers are. The image they portray is just as much a facade as the terrifying image of a gigantic head, surrounded by flames and thunder. They hide behind the curtain of intimidation and manipulation, hoping we will yield the power they lack.

Knowing I’m empowered to take care of myself, to improve my life, and to be responsible has freed me of my need to be taken care of by others—especially those who are likely to exploit my neediness and cause me harm. My thinking no longer draws me to depend on abusers. I don’t feel locked into a certain position; I know I’m free to grow and develop to change my direction. I don’t feel imposed upon by other’s decisions; I speak my mind and express my needs. I’m no longer driven by circumstances; I’m an active participant in shaping my life. I’m on a power trip and I won’t be returning.

Related Posts:
The Fear of Being Re-victimized
Power Play: How to Recognize an Abuser
The Wolf in Shepherd’s Clothing: The “Benevolent” Abuser

Christina Enevoldsen is cofounder of Overcoming Sexual Abuse, an online resource for male and female abuse survivors looking for practical answers and tools for healing. Christina’s passions are writing and speaking about her own journey of healing from abuse and inspiring people toward wholeness. She and her husband live in Los Angeles and share three children and four grandchildren.

[read Christina's story here]

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17 comments
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  1. One day and I hope it comes Im gonna be like that..I’m gonna take back my life and stop thinking like a victim ……

  2. i think i have something to learn in this area. Powerlessness–especially for men–is infuriating most of the time. Hence so many ‘angry young men’ and withdrawn, defeated older ones. The Lie of Powerlessness that we believed then, and even now–it’s hard to see through so many times!
    Thanks, sister!

  3. That was awesome! I hope many people read and understand this!! Anyone can victimize you. But only you have the power to CHOOSE to be a victim. And through that same choice it can be undone.

  4. Awesome Christina. I love…” freed me of my need to be taken care of by others—especially those who are likely to exploit my neediness and cause me harm.” Wow, did that speak to me! That is always my goal, to not be needy. I believe that has always been my reasons why.

    Thank you for sharing and caring enough to write these blogs. Powerful, powerful.

  5. Really good, Christina… Why am I only now realizing what a good writer you are? Must be my incurable narcissism… And in case no one else mentions it, your eighth-grade poem is fantastic!! Total LOL.

  6. Ashley, if you want your life back, it’s yours for the taking. I didn’t get mine back easily or quickly. If I can do it, you can do it!

    Gordon, I can understand men becoming infuriated by that. It makes sense. It’s not quite the same for women, but a lot of the signals to myself that I’m thinking like a victim are feelings of anger.

    Phil, thanks! You’re right, nobody can make us a victim without our consent. It’s hard choosing not to be a victim when we aren’t even aware that we have a choice or there’s any other way to live. But we get out one choice at a time, one thought at time.

    Thank you, Patty! It was that fear of neediness that made it so hard for me to ask directly for my needs to be met, so that kept me in it even longer.

    Ryan, thanks! I can’t believe I still remember that poem. I guess it was one of the major themes of my life–chocolate bossing me around. :)

  7. Even in the 8th grade you were adorable…you’ve always been in love with chocolate. Your poem really did make me laugh out loud.
    On a more serious note, great (?) essay/article what is this anyway? Great note!

  8. Christina I am proud of myself, I have cut all ties with my biological father who molested me. The hatred is still there for him and my mother who has been dead 10 years now

  9. Thanks, Jennifer! Yes, I’ve been adorable for quite some time now. lol.
    It’s funny because I don’t know what to call it, either. It’s kind of a bloggy article thing.

    Melissa, that’s so wonderful! Congratulations on such a big step! I’m proud of you too.

  10. nicely written, I love the Wizard of Oz analogy…as a child I was powerless and today I am powerless over people places and things, I have only one thing I can control and that it me, my thoughts feelings and behaviors. God is good, and everyday is getting better and better.

  11. Wow Christina, this was great!!! I loved the symbolism of the Wizard of Oz…it was perfect and something we all can relate to. Thank you so much!!!

  12. Pamela, that’s one of the issues that we have to face is trying to control everything else outside of us. A lot of us have a compulsive need to control our environment since we couldn’t control anything as children. Yet it’s a losing battle and keeps us preoccupied on things outside of us instead of on internal issues that we can control. I agree–everyday is getting better and better!

    Thanks, Rebekah! I’ve used a lot of movies to work out my issues. It’s so much easier recognizing issues in other people (or fictional characters) than in myself. lol

  13. Brilliant post Christina. This message is an especially timely reminder for me because of the recent and seemingly on-going major shifts and moves that I have made in my life over the last three years. And it always seems to be in life’s ‘cracks’ where I discover the self defeating beliefs that tend to drive my life subconsciously from the shadows.
    It’s then that I discover all of the ‘things’ I use, and give away my power to, in order to achieve and maintain a measure of comfortablilty and balance in the rough transitional spots. You mentioned two of my favorites and they are both would be remedies for particular ingestive maladies that I had used during my life in order to keep myself ‘in line’ ie, powerless.
    Robert Anton Williams states: Inside of us lives both a thinker and a prover; “What the thinker thinks, the prover proves”. Fascinating how that little phrase characterizes the dynamic of both the victim mentality and the survivor/thriver mentality. Once we flip the switch from glass half-empty (victim) to glass half-full mentality (survivor), then as you say, we can then gain the potential to move onto the next phase for designing the substance that we’ll use for filling up the glass to full and overflowing (thrivor) mentality.

  14. Ron,
    I really like this,
    “Robert Anton Williams states: Inside of us lives both a thinker and a prover; “What the thinker thinks, the prover proves”. Fascinating how that little phrase characterizes the dynamic of both the victim mentality and the survivor/thriver mentality. Once we flip the switch from glass half-empty (victim) to glass half-full mentality (survivor), then as you say, we can then gain the potential to move onto the next phase for designing the substance that we’ll use for filling up the glass to full and overflowing (thrivor) mentality.”

    It’s true that we find what we’re looking for whether it’s powerlessness or empowerment. I think my ‘switch was flipped’ over a period of time. I’d ‘get it’ and think “Now I really get it” and then after some time I’d think “Now I REALLY get it.” Now I think, ‘NOW I REALLY, REALLY get it!”. lol. I can’t wait to see how my understanding will increase next.

  15. I hope one of you will write about how you motivate yourself. I am only partially on my own side. I feel a substantial amount of worthlessness. I am taking steps toward recovery (which feels like pushing a boulder uphill) but sometimes I feel like I don’t care enough about myself.
    It would be helpful to read how another survivor got completely supportive of their own self, or how they remotivate themselves when they falter.

  16. Cassandra,
    “How to stay motivated” is a good topic. When I started this process, I was running from pain more than I was acting out of self-care. My motivation changes from day to day. Sometimes I’m still driven away from the pain of the past and now that I see such excellent results from all the healing work I’ve done, hope keeps me moving forward. I certainly didn’t love myself when I started but I do now and I’m learning to do this as part of taking care of myself. That came as a result of all the other steps. So it’s all tied together and not just one thing keeps me going. I still have moments when I break down and cry when I look at all the work there is to do, but that doesn’t happen very often. Most of the time, I’m excited about what’s coming up next.
    Christina

  17. [...] Links: Confessions of a Child Molester’s Wife Power Play: How to Recognize an Abuser Power Trip: How to Journey From Overpowered to Empowered The Wolf in Shepherd’s Clothing: The “Benevolent” Abuser How to Handle Disclosure [...]

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