5 Strategies for Personal Empowerment in Difficult Situations

My guess is that most of us would rather not spend much time in a hospital, unless you’re a doctor or nurse and love what you do. Last June I spent a day and a half in St. Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury, CT, with my disabled brother Mark who was waiting for surgery to remove an infected knee implant. So, I had the chance to remember why I really like to avoid hospitals.

No matter how much effort goes into the decor, the cleaning, and the landscaping, it’s really hard to offset the effects of the negative energies that exist because hospitals are places with a problem focus. Illness is negative energy. Patients are scared–more negative energy. Family members are concerned–more negative energy. Doctors and nurses are typically overworked, at times doing work that involves risks to human life and dealing with some overwhelming and unpleasant situations. Whew! Lots of negative energy!

I found myself shifting into survival mode with my own energy so I endure this hospital experience. Here are some things I was doing:

  • I looked for the good in every employee I encountered, even the nurse’s aide who wouldn’t make eye contact.
  • I asked for what I needed or what Mark needed as our needs arose.
  • I didn’t take personally employee behaviors that weren’t as pleasant, helpful or supportive as I would have liked.
  • I stayed calm even when I felt scared or annoyed so I could be a grounding presence and bright light for Mark.
  • I took lunch outside so I could shake off some of the negative energy I had absorbed.
  • I remembered my life outside of the hospital and reminded myself that this experience was only temporary.
  • I focused on how much I love Mark and remained detached even when he was grumpy and reactive.
  • I appreciated the overall cleanliness of the building.
  • I noted and felt grateful for every friendly person I encountered, from the person who made my salad at Subway to the receptionist who validated my parking ticket.
  • I congratulated myself for my patience with Mark and the waiting despite my own fears about Mark’s situation.

I figured if I had to be there, if that was where I’d been led to make a difference, I was going to do whatever I could to counter the negative energies that I had no control over with positive energies I did have control over. I could control my thoughts and my attitudes, and manage my emotions and behaviors.

When you find yourself in situations where you are exposed to negative energies over which you have no control, remember that you can control your own sources of positive energy if you so choose. Here are some ideas.

  1. Look for the good that does exist. Feel grateful for it. When you deliberately look for good, you will find it. When you focus on negatives, you’ll find it. Wouldn’t you rather have a steady diet of good energies? They will help you more effectively cope with the challenges.
  2. Avoid reacting to others and taking their behaviors personally. Pia Mellody, author of Facing Codependence, once said that people’s reactions have more to do with them and their history than they do with you, unless you’ve been offensive. So, observe others and wonder about their behaviors, but know that what you’re getting from them could have absolutely nothing to do with you.
  3. Stay in your own power by remaining calm even when others are not. “Shut your mouth and breathe,” is another of my favorite reminders from Pia Mellody. Doing that will help you stay grounded and avoid saying or doing anything you might regret later.
  4. Ask for what you need from people who are capable of giving it to you. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. Only you know what you need. And, it is empowering to respectfully make your needs known.
  5. Don’t make requests of people who are incapable of responding appropriately to your requests. That’s a setup for disappointment and will only fuel your anger.

What would you add?

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