The Queen of My Self

Transforming the Nature of Power
By Carla Goldstein
Director of The Women’s Institute at Omega
Al Gore’s movie, An Inconvenient Truth, has brought to the world’s attention the need to radically change our relationship to power. To save our planet, we must find alternative, clean, renewable sources of power that support all of life’s systems. The same thing can be said about the need to change our relationship to personal power. We must shift from a paradigm of hoarding power for purposes of using it over others to sharing power and lifting others. The spiritual activism principle of empowerment calls on us to take personal responsibility for transforming the nature of power by “doing” power differently.

Every living thing is animated by power and has power to use. Whether it’s a plant photosynthesizing the sun or a squirrel running up a tree, it is using energy/power to fuel action. As social animals dependent on each other for survival, we use power to navigate our social relationships, and this power has the capacity to heal the world if we commit ourselves to using it for that purpose.

Many have said that human action is fueled, or powered, by either love or fear. When our actions are born out of fear, we grasp for safety. While fear is an innate response helpful for heading off danger, what we perceive as dangerous or threatening to our survival has become ubiquitous. Even though modern culture has largely eliminated the daily battle for survival, the same culture leads us to believe that our very survival depends on accumulating alarger share of the limited supply of stuff and on controlling others.Having more stuff and more control will give us more power; if we have more power, we think we will be safe. An imbalance of fear is driving us to all the wrong places for our survival.

The problem with fear is that it is self-perpetuating. The more fearful we are, the more willing we are to sacrifice others for our own self-preservation. As we act defensively, we move further into a state of disconnection. As psychoanalyst Erich Fromm states in his book, The Art of Loving, “the experience of separateness arouses anxiety; it is, indeed, the source of all anxiety.” The thicker the barrier between us, the easier it is to be non-caring or violent towards each other. When we are in the grip of fear in non-emergent circumstances we give up the very source of true safety – being vulnerable and taking care of each other.

In contrast to fear, the power of love has been described in poetry, song, liturgy, and art, as that which brings us together, heals us, elevates us to our highest potential, and connects us to that which is sacred. Love is also said to be infinite, which means that as a source of personal power it is completely renewable, self-generating, can be gifted freely, has the magical qualities of lifting things up and can make the sum of the whole greater than its parts. Humans, with our capacity for love, are miraculous generators of this infinite source of power.

The promise of love as a source of power is that, like fear, it is also self-perpetuating. The more loving we are, the more nurturing conditions we create, which builds a world of true safety where we can open ourselves, freeing our creativity and innate yearning to build lives with meaning.

Each person, regardless of circumstances, has the capacity to choose love as the motivation for action. Even in the most horrific situations such as being captive during the Holocaust or being a survivor of rape, there is the capacity to choose to act from love instead of fear. As Victor Frankl writes in his book, A Man’s Search for Meaning:

        We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

And as Eve Ensler, founder of V-Day says about her work around the world with women who have suffered the worst kinds of gender violence:

        As I have traveled these last eight years, I have had the honor to meet women and men across this planet who have witnessed or suffered enormous violence, and rather than getting an AK47 or a machete, they feel this violence, grieve this violence and allow it to transform within their beings. Then they devote their lives to making sure it never happens to another woman or girl. … They are women and men who constantly sacrifice their own personal security and by doing so create real safety and freedom for the rest.

Tomorrow: Transforming the Nature of Power – Part 2

* Please send me your thoughts about power. Also stories of your own empowerment. When shared, these ideas and examples are extremely inspiring to others. Thanks.

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to

Queen Mama Donna offers upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity.

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