Self-empowerment is necessary for us to live authentically, find self-realisation, and fulfil our life purpose. Self-empowerment is a state of being that is available to us all, despite the widespread feeling of powerlessness and the unresourceful states of self-denial, low self-worth, and fear that commonly sabotage our self-empowerment.
In this post I will give an explanation of self-empowerment, from the perspective of authentic living, and will explain how to embrace this state with the practice of mindfulness and personal growth, so that we can live successfully and fulfil our life purpose. I will also reveal the hidden factors to self-empowerment that need to be addressed that are often omitted in the narratives of the self-help movement, such as enculturation and socialisation.
What is Self-Empowerment?
Self-empowerment is the state of having the social, economic, psychological, and spiritual power to meet our needs, and the ability to express this power. Often self-empowerment is used in contrast to states of non-resourcefulness and social exclusion, which are disempowering. Self-empowerment does not require others to give us power, but rather requires us to own and use our inner power, skills, and resourcefulness to meet our needs.
Self-empowerment is the positive expression of power, as it relates to self-actualisation and self-fulfilment. It contrasts with the negative expression of power that is exercised over others in the form of manipulation, coercion, and force. The negative expression of power is an ego-based attempt to control the external world by directing the will of others or using their energy. This negative expression of power is based on a sense of lack, and actually comes from a state of disempowerment and desperation.
When a person lacks self-empowerment, they are in a state of disempowerment, lacking the skills and resources to meet their needs. They then become dependent on others to the extent that they are disempowered. The problem with this is four-fold:
- Not all needs can be met externally, which is revealed by the existence of social exclusion, poverty, illness, and crime.
- Disempowerment and dependency do not promote self-development, and therefore lead to inauthentic living.
- Disempowerment creates an insoluble problem, in that authentic needs can not be met in a state of disempowerment.
- Disempowerment can create a mutual dependency between the dependants and their providers when there is an exchange of money or energy involved for a service, or when a person’s disempowerment is of benefit to others to maintain the status quo.
These four problems explain why the powers of mass society resort to techniques of appeasement and distraction to hold together society—techniques known since Roman times as bread and circus. Without institutionalised appeasement and distraction, there is a risk that the frustrations of disempowerment and inauthentic living will lead to the breakdown or overthrow of society, and therefore to the fall of the powers that control mass society.
Processes Used in Self-Empowerment
Self-empowerment involves the three processes of self-awareness, self-liberation, and self-actualisation, which are harnessed for the meeting of our needs.
Self-awareness is gained through mindfulness, self-inquiry, and meditation. It enables us to become aware of our inner source of power and potential, such as our inner resources, skills, talents, aptitudes, and our connection with our authentic self. Self-awareness also enables us to become aware of our authentic needs and our inner blocks. Self-awareness enables us to develop a strategy for meeting our authentic needs, liberating ourselves, and actualising our potential.
Self-liberation is the process of overcoming the inner blocks that sabotage or prevent our success—such as limiting beliefs, unresolved traumas and complexes, false identifications, draining attachments, dissociative states, and a reactive mind. Self-liberation is gained by combining mindfulness with therapeutic techniques that help to transform and release our inner blocks. An important part of our self-liberation occurs when we use mindfulness to come back to and stay in the present moment, which is where our power is found.
Self-actualisation is the process of manifesting or actualising our potential by using our self-awareness and our mindfulness to consciously direct our will, with a strategy for success. In its ultimate form, self-actualisation is the process of actualising the potential of our authentic self, so that we become more ourselves and manifest our true life purpose. This is an important point because if we are not aware of our authentic self, we may be trying to fulfil the desires of our reactive ego-self, which may not be authentic needs.
As well as working on these three processes, it is worthwhile to gather support from other people interested in your self-empowerment, whether they be mentors, teachers, therapists, life coaches, friends, or loved ones. These people can provide insight, feedback, training, and encouragement.
Self-Empowerment and the Shadow Self
Self-empowerment requires that we embrace the shadow self. The shadow self holds the unconscious aspects of our personality that we do not wish to own, and therefore do not consciously integrate. These unconscious aspects are the qualities we have that we do not want to admit to, usually out of fear. They are often the negative traits we condemn in others, but they can also be the positive traits we reserve for our idols, heroes, or divinity.
To discover our shadow self we can work mindfully in self-inquiry, digging deep into our personality with our self-awareness. We can also seek out the opinions of an honest friend who can tell us things about us that we may not want to hear, or are surprised to hear. In the process of revealing our shadow aspects, it is crucial to stay mindful and centred to avoid the reactivity that may cause us not to accept these aspects.
Once discovered, we can start to own these shadow aspects with self-acceptance, and transform them if necessary before integrating them. For example, if we have a negative trait of being a complainer, we need to own the fact that we complain. As we own the trait, we can observe mindfully any emotions that arise—such as guilt, shame, embarrassment, and fear—and accept them without identifying with them or reacting to them. Then we can transform the trait by uncovering through self-inquiry the positive need buried within it that has become distorted. Once we find the positive need behind the trait, we can release it and redefine its expression in an undistorted, authentic way.
For example, with a complainer, the positive need may be to live at an acceptable standard, and once this need is uncovered, we can redefine the terms of our acceptable standards so that they are based on accepting our present moment experience and our potential. We can also define how we can actively go about living at an acceptable standard in place of passively complaining about situations.
Sometimes there may be many layers to peel back. For example, the need to live at an acceptable standard may mask a need to avoid a certain consequence that our parents went through when we were a child. In this example we can work on our insecurity or reframe the belief to acknowledge that the consequence that our parents went through is in the past and probably does not apply to us.
Self-Empowerment and the Trance of Mass Society
Self-empowerment requires that we break free of the trance of mass society with mindfulness. This is particularly challenging as it requires us to release our social conditioning and some very deep attachments and illusions.
One of the ways that we are held in trance is through the power of spectacle. Spectacle is created in the mass media and in the patterns of social behaviour that are adopted in response. The use of entertainment as a spectacle to entrance a population so that they are appeased and distracted from the issues of self-development and social organisation—and so do not challenge the status quo—was written about by the ancient Roman poet Juvenal when he wrote about the practice of bread and circuses and the deterioration of society in his Satire X. Today the circus is the image-saturated sensationalism of the mass media, broadcast to us 24/7 through the television and the Internet. The sensationalism of the non-stop media holds us in trance by fixating our attention and stimulating the release of dopamine as we react to the sensationalism of a news story, a video, a soap opera, a movie, an advert, or an image—which explains how easily we can become addicted to spectacle, and why the television and Internet dominate our lives and render us passive.
Apart from news and entertainment, we are also held in trance by more subtle representations of life, which take the place of our direct, authentic experience of living. These representations of life are created through marketing and PR, and by the consumer culture of mass society, which reduces life to images of what we want, and reduces authentic social relationships to impersonal relationships based on the relationship between commodities. The spectacle traps us, unknowingly, in a virtual reality, making the image more important than the real, natural world, and our roles more important than our authentic self. This leads to the estrangement of people from themselves, each other, and the natural environment—the essence of inauthentic living.
When we are addicted to spectacle, and trapped in a reductive worldview, we clearly lose our power and authenticity. We dissociate. We need to wake up the spectator and become the mindful observer by bringing the power of mindfulness to bear on our experience of society and its culture, including the way we behave in society, the roles we play and identify with, and the unquestioned beliefs and values we inherit from its culture.
Self-Empowerment and Authenticity
Self-empowerment requires that we identify the things that are inauthentic by considering, from the viewpoint of our authentic self, whether they limit our authenticity or not. If we have already created a list of our authentic values while present in our authentic self, it becomes easy to test the values and norms of the society we live in against these authentic values to see if they support them or conflict with them. For example, there may be a behavioural norm in society that would keep us in a state of separation or disregard for the whole that we are part of. This will conflict with the authentic value of wholeness, and so we can recognise this norm as a pattern to release because it encourages us to be inauthentic.
Releasing a social norm is often not a trivial activity. The level of attachment we may have to it is often very deep and habitually reinforced by millions of other people, amongst which may be our colleagues, friends, and loved ones whose disapproval we may fear if we release that social norm. Furthermore, we are also faced with the fear of being unsupported by society, or of reorganising our entire life which may require further attachments to be let go of, such as the work we do, the things we buy, the things we own, and the people we form relationships with.
At each instance we can face our resistance with mindful self-inquiry and overcome it, and trust in the process that the big step we are taking is towards authenticity and not towards our doom. Uncertainty about releasing attachments is itself a resistance, and can be overcome once we stay centred in our authentic self. Developing a network of authentic relationships and authentic community as support through this social change is of great benefit.
Self-Empowerment, Compassion, and Gratitude
The empowering feelings of compassion and gratitude help us to break through the spectacle of inauthentic living, piercing its veils to expose the magic of life and the love that connects us as a whole. These feelings are the nectar of the gods—anomalies that contradict the virtual reality that dominates our lives, and that show us that life is infinitely richer, deeper, and more meaningful than the spectacle of materialism would have us believe. These feelings help us to value the gift of life and are therefore prime motivators for sustainability. Cultivate these feelings, along with mindfulness, and you will have the keys to the kingdom of your self-empowerment, and the reward of authentic living.
In my Inner Wellness Programme I help you to increase your self-empowerment by identifying and clearing your negative patterns, and helping you to implement the best strategies for self-development and Inner Wellness. To book a FREE Inner Wellness Session, click here.
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