Updated: Jun 3, 2021
In my post from last week, I told the story of how I recently came out of a manipulative relationship with a spiritual coach I'd been working with for a year. Many other women shared their stories of similar experiences with the same person, and similar situations, and I felt it was time to break my silence and let it be known that I will no longer tolerate any abuse of power in my space. That said, I also talked about how difficult it can be to admit when you're in that abusive position, and even harder still to leave. By the nature of life, I'm sure this isn't the last time it will happen to me. But hopefully, from here, it'll get easier to recognize and retract from. For now, instead of dwelling on what has already happened or harping on the lessons learned, I want to talk about the aftermath - how to reclaim what was always our very own.
It's been a surprisingly easy process, once I was able sit with myself and understand that my old coach did not - could not - hold my power. It was mine, and I get to take it back. It may be much more difficult and take much more time in other situations and relationships, so I don't want to sit here and act like all it takes is a little manifestation and reclamation of your personal power to bring it all back to center. Shit, I've been dealing with weird power dynamics with my parents for years now, all leading up to these final months of living at home. That relationship of mutual manipulation might take the next several years to unwind and separate from what I consider to have shaped me as a growing individual. If you really think about it, these dynamics are all around us. Who has power over you, that you wish didn't? As little as you'd like to admit...who do you have potentially harmful power over?
As we begin to recenter into who we are and the vision of who we imagine ourselves to be (and this is a lifelong process, from the moment you become aware of it), it's critical to examine any and all substantial relationships in our lives for patterns like this. Maybe it sounds overwhelming to filter through your mental list of friends and family, teachers and colleagues, and ask yourself, Do I really know this person? Does it feel safe to be around them, or is my body firing signals that don't make sense? Pay attention when you're in the mindset to do so. Having that abuse exposed in a big way with one person may make you reevaluate everyone. It's not meant to be a critical checklist, just a check-in, rather, with how they make you feel at your core. You'll know.*
Some other things to recognize as you regain your power may be how it feels to be completely alone with yourself. Do you appreciate the stillness? Are you avoiding thinking about something, or someone? Would you go on a solo walk out the door right now, or do you have better things to do? It's almost like a date with yourself after a long stretch of little communication. Maybe you have some hefty catching-up to do. What's that skate trick you were learning, last time we went out? You'll have to show me your progress. Oh, you never finished that painting? Well, I can't wait to see the final product. By reminding yourself of who you are when you're free to be alone with her, you are simultaneously reminding yourself of how interesting and cool you are. It may even go so far as to remind you that you don't really need anyone else to follow or be guided, at least in this moment.
Personally, nothing else calls my power back quite like some serious reflection and introversion, balanced with the typical go-go-go nature of life that I so unapologetically enjoy. It's wonderful to always have something to do, but I often forget that a fast-paced life isn't sustainable without the recharge. It pays to lay on the floor, stick my feet straight up in the air, and stretch around like a lazy sea animal as I listen to bedtime lofi. It is positively life-giving, sometimes, to lay in bed where there are a few spare minutes of the morning, just to relish in how good my skin feels against the sheets. To set intentions under the lampshade. To not respond to texts within thirty seconds, and especially to not feel bad about it. Power is knowing that you are not responsible for everything all the time.
Power is doing things for yourself, not looking over your shoulder to see who might be watching.
Power is enjoying the things you may have once felt guilty for participating in (I'm thinking a midnight snack of Oreos, watching entertaining YouTube videos, or speaking your mind on whatever platform sparks interest).
Power is acknowledging how much guilt you have over things that you can't control, and taking steps to abolish it.
Power is being with yourself, in love, in curiosity, in inspiration.
After someone has attempted to steal this from you, I really encourage you to step back, retreat, when you can, into your own space. Reset the ground rules, and reflect on what you've just learned. Don't let any part of the process be a punishment; you haven't failed, you've just discovered something less than optimal. It's all good, or it will be again in time.
*A little disclaimer to the starred paragraph above: I recognize that under certain conditions, you can't always trust a single "gut feeling." I have OCD, and have recently learned that some of these pangs or "what ifs" shouldn't be trusted because it is the mind trying to self-sabotage or perform a compulsory reaction, so similar mental situations will behave similarly. I'm talking about when the icky feelings return again and again, and cannot possibly be ignored when around that person.