Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

Mindful Monday: Acknowledge Your Powerlessness

plant in crack.jpegSince we’ve been exploring the relationship between recovery from depression or another mood disorder and twelve-step work, I thought I’d share this meditation by Henri Nouwen with you as a Mindful Monday. This first step–admitting powerlessness–is so very important not only with addictions, but also in living with mental illness.
There are places in you where you are completely powerless. You so much want to heal yourself, fight your temptations, and stay in control. But you cannot do it yourself. Every time you try, you are more discouraged. So you must acknowledge your powerlessness. This is the first step in Alcoholic’s Anonymous and the treatment of all addictions. You might as well think of your struggle this way. Your inexhaustible need for affection is an addiction. It rules your life and makes you a victim.
Simply start by admitting that you cannot cure yourself. You have to say yes fully to your powerlessness in order to let God heal you. But it is not really a question of first and then. Your willingness to experience your powerlessness already includes the beginning of surrender to God’s action in you. When you cannot sense anything of God’s healing presence, the acknowledgment of your powerlessness is too frightening. It is like jumping from a high wire without a net to catch you.


Your willingness to let go of your desire to control your life reveals a certain trust. The more you relinquish your stubborn need to maintain power, the more you will get in touch with the One who has the power to heal and guide you. And the more you get in touch with that divine power, the easier it will be to confess to yourself and to others your basic powerlessness.
One way you keep holding on to an imaginary power is by expecting something from outside gratifications or future events. As long as you run from where you are and distract yourself, you cannot fully let yourself be healed. A seed only flourishes by staying in the ground in which it is sown. When you keep digging the seed up to check whether it is growing, it will never bear fruit. Think about yourself as a little seed planted in rich soil. All you have to do is stay there and trust that the soil contains everything you need to grow. This growth takes place even when you do not feel it. Be quiet, acknowledge your powerlessness, and have faith that one day you will know how much you have received.


Click here to subscribe to Beyond Blue and click here to follow Therese on Twitter and click here to join Group Beyond Blue, a depression support group. Now stop clicking.

  • Dee

    This is extremely profound and has moved me to really think upon this. I have never been deeply involved in any 12 step programs and only know little about them. Looking at a mental illness and the 12 steps seems like a productive way of healing. Thank you for your post, your honesty. It is refreshing when so many people need to hide their illnesses even from the one’s closest to them.
    Here is to healing, life and love….

  • Joan Franklin

    This was awesome. We are powerless 2 God. He is the only one that can control everything that we have. He is the only one that has given us our mind and everything else that we have. There is nothing that I can achieve w/o his approval. I am thankful 4 his grace, mercy, love and understanding. He is my Power Broker who gives abundantly and fills us with complete abundance/prosperity (wholeness) and I thank Him daily.

  • loretta

    i think this is the most helpful message i’ve read lately. thank you. it ties in intimately with the buddhist way of non-attachment as the means to end suffering. i consider you a blessing.

  • Jill Byers

    I have no knowledge of the 12 step program, and I am not clinically depressed; however, life does get difficult. I find your interpretation of the seed,faith, and time, healing and and completely visually curable. Thank you. Jill Byers

  • http://www, Linda Appleman Shapiro

    Dear Therese,
    Once again, you are inspiring and offer profound insight.
    As a psychotherapist/addictions counselor, the only thing I would add to what you say here is that after admitting to one’s powerlessness as a first step toward healing, the goal – as I see it –
    is eventually to acknowledge how empowered we can become after taking the “steps” necessary to grow and to heal. Life’s challenges are on-going and we are forever works in progress.
    Keep writing and healing, along with the rest of us!
    Bless you!

  • SuzanneWA

    As a woman with bipolar disorder, I have experienced a LOT of stress lately. I find myself overspending, which is a symptom of my illness. If this continues, I will completely deplete my life savings, and have nothing for the future. This article came at just the right time…I feel Powerless to stop the spending. I realize I have to admit this, not only to GOD, but to myself. It’s just sooo hard, sometimes, to resist the temptation of this “addiction.” “Retail therapy” CAN and WILL destroy all I have built up since my last hospitalization. Can you all PRAY for me that I acknowleddge the temptation to spend, and becomeo empowered by the Holy Spirit to confess my weakness, and give it to GOD? I feel that’s all I need to “beat” this thing. Thank you…

  • clare

    thank you for your blog and your post here, as well as the “surrender to me, peace” from today. this is my theme this week for my yoga class and i need so badly to take this into my own heart. im struggling with how to actually surrender. what do i do? i can say i surrender. i know i must and i should and He will lead me, but i dont feel surrendered. i will keep praying to get there, for Him to take over. i want to say that i wish there was something i can “do” to find surrender, but then that is just me thinking i have the power to even surrender myself!?
    anyway, thank you, you write wonderfully and i hope you dont mind that ive added you to my blogroll.

  • Leeannd

    I am really realizing at this point in time of my life I AM POWERLESS. That is hard to absorb not only with having my mental illness but waiting for my divorce to be final thinking and feeling everyone is out to get me, being homeless and THANK GOD to the church for using some funds to put me up in a hotel not the best and right next to a bar but not sleeping in car although at this rate I may end up doing that. Being disbaled both physical and mental I am angry and it has been a struggle b/c of going through channels and protocals to get income based housing also has again brought up my car accident wishing I had never been in it and I would not be physically disabled and I would not be in this position…I guess I am really realizing JUST HOW POWERLESS I AM AND WE ALL ARE AT ONE TIME or another. I worry about my son with my husband and me not being there anymore the list just goes on…my casemanager who helped me fill paperwork out for housing b/c I could not even focus on that asked me a question about race and said what I was but said well I could have…she looked at me and said Leeann slow down its not a test YOU filling it in to the best of your knowledge b/c I was so worried I would answer wrong and paperwork would not be acccepted or get in trouble…I am adult and worried about getting in trouble here comes the childhood out again I thought. I AM POWERLESS and the Lord knows that and he is here for me to guide and lead me…after all this is the path I believe he wanted me to take a long time ago and I ingored the signs or saw them but did not want to. Well here I am a new begining or chapter of my life with the Lord along side of me telling me I NEED TO LET GO OF THAT POWER and ACCEPT THIS TIME I AM POWERLESS AND give it up to him and it one day at time one hour or even one minute if I have to.
    God Bless you Therese as well as all of you and all of you will be in my prayers.
    Leeann d

  • Jesikah Michelle owen

    Something I wrote in 2001 when I was going through a changing time. Thought it was perfect for this topic.
    Peace and serenity.How could I find peace in the midst of all this insanity? These qualities are crucial to me, in order to become the person I hope to someday be. Whenever I feel my seed is solidly planted, it seems that the soil I chose is useless and tainted. How can I ever expect to sprout and grow, when it feels theres so much about life I’ll never know? Someone shines there sun, and I contort to receive their rays. I seek their warmth so desperately, I’m oblivious to their real ways. I’m not receiving real nourishment, their irrigation system is bone dry. I drain myself, endlessly straining to quench my souls thirst, until I fall to my knees in tears and despair, to ask God, WHY? And He replies: “First things first. Let go of all these struggles, know that I will carry them for you. Put me first in your life, have faith in all I do, and know when you need I’ll carry you too. The sun must go down before it comes up, you need patience to grow, your seed is not stuck. Find your own strength,you must start with strong roots. Even on the cloudiest of days, know that I will nourish them for you. Walk with me, have faith in me, don’t see this grey as pain. I assure you the importance of your precious seed drowning in this hard rain. Let my tough love refresh you, and excitedly jump start your hope,to begin this upward journey,of sprouting and breaking through this fresh new ground. I’ll be there of course to embrace you, with the comfort and warmth of the sun, your new bud has found. Bask in my rays, REJOICE!, don’t let them go for granted. Remember just how far we’ve come from the stubborn seed that was once planted. The sun does go down, do not see this as darkness, this mere absence of light. I promise you my prescence, may your spirit be not restless, and with me put up a fight. The sun rests harmoniously,along with all of my Creation,don’t stop growing my love,out of fear of relaxation. You’ll awaken revitalized from this dire rest. I stretch to send your fresh green stem my strongest rays. This feeling of life I extend through your leaves,to affirm your faith, perserverance, and belief in my reasoning,for the fate of those long and dreary rainy days. Reflect, and listen, for the reviving melody of nature’s reminiscent birds. Don’t get phased in your content and miss this element of connection. For that is both the peace and serenity you asked of me, and now I hope I’ve answered your question. Devote the time to make me your best friend. Through my blessings, yourself you’ll get to know. Have faith in the glorious outcome I’ve planned. And with all these things in me, my beautiful flower, always continue, continue…to GROW”.

  • Sieed

    This is a good article !And as Suzanne stated it came at the right time. The minute I began to let go and let G-d is when healing has taken place in our lives. So just by surrendering and knowing we are powerless with the things going on in our lives.Is when he begans to heal!

Previous Posts

Seven Ways to Get Over an Infatuation
“Bewitched, bothered, and bewildered am I” wrote US songwriter Lorenz Hart about the feeling of infatuation. It’s blissful and euphoric, as we all know. But it’s also addicting, messy and blinding. Without careful monitoring, its wild ...

posted 12:46:43pm Feb. 19, 2014 | read full post »

When Faith Turns Neurotic
When does reciting scripture become a symptom of neurosis? Or praying the rosary an unhealthy compulsion? Not until I had the Book of Psalms practically memorized as a young girl did I learn that words and acts of faith can morph into desperate ...

posted 10:37:13am Jan. 14, 2014 | read full post »

How to Handle Negative People
One of my mom’s best pieces of advice: “Hang with the winners.” This holds true in support groups (stick with the people who have the most sobriety), in college (find the peeps with good study habits), and in your workplace (stay away from ...

posted 10:32:10am Jan. 14, 2014 | read full post »

8 Coping Strategies for the Holidays
For people prone to depression and anxiety – i.e. human beings – the holidays invite countless possibility to get sucked into negative and catastrophic thinking. You take the basic stressed-out individual and you increase her to-do list by a ...

posted 9:30:12am Nov. 21, 2013 | read full post »

Can I Say I’m a Son or Daughter of Christ and Suffer From Depression?
In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, we read: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” What if we aren’t glad, we aren’t capable of rejoicing, and even prayer ...

posted 10:56:04am Oct. 29, 2013 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.