April 21, 2015

On Step One: The Admission of Powerlessness Factor

This week, we continue our series with Rivka Edery, M.S.W., L.C.S.W. in which she shares with us the importance of acknowledging we may have been powerless but we are not helpless.
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STEP ONE:  We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable.  

Step One is your guide on how to process and heal from trauma.  It will also serve as your guide to personal growth, which is applicable for anyone, not just for trauma survivors. Why is processing trauma, and personal growth, important for you?  You may wonder of the necessity of going through such a process, especially if you are high functioning and successful in life.  Growing pains are painful, and we humans are wired to avoid pain and seek pleasure.

You also have a responsibility to take care of yourself, and although some pain can be avoided, there is the pain that cannot be avoided, and requires processing.   This is your turn now, and you begin with this first step.  The word “admit” is to accept what is valid and true for you personally.  This step asks you to accept what areas in your life that have been affected by your personal trauma history, causing your life to be out of control, unsatisfying, or chronically problematic for you.

Emotional growth includes freedom from a sense of false control and dependency, facing what needs your attention, replacing unnecessary emotional defenses, and ending spiritual isolation.  At this point, you may be thinking: “Just get over it and move on!  If I dwell on it, talk about it, explore it, I will just make it worse.  I don’t know why I should bother with this healing stuff?  After all, look at how 'fine' I am without knowing or dealing with what happened!”  

If there was a time in your life where natural dependency was used against you (childhood abuse and trauma), you may be highly triggered by “admitting powerlessness” over what happened.  After all, when you are powerless over something, it implies that you did not do something, but rather, you get done to.

If your powerlessness was once a weapon used to control you, and your protesting what happened carried little weight, you may associate “powerlessness” with defenseless, and this can be entirely too painful.  You may have never taken the risk to feel this vulnerable, or to explore the definitions of these terms, as it pertains to your growth.  After all, most people have the need to be in control, let alone if believing you are in control once saved your life, your mind, your sanity, etc.

Some survivors over-react and harm themselves or others.  In either case, there are always the elements of either over-reacting or under-reacting.  You do not have to remain this way the rest of your life.  The opposite of Step One is the erroneous and highly misleading belief that you have power (over what happened: people, places, and things), which results in you taking inappropriate or excessive responsibility.  This is because you think that you can stop the person(s), or event(s), or that in some way you actually caused it to happen.


Human nature is such that people would rather feel guilty than powerless.  That is why you assume a great deal of power; to counteract the real feelings of powerlessness, which is inherent in having been traumatized.  In what areas of your life can you see evidence for this?

TIP: Whenever you feel miserable, consider if it may be because you are forgetting that you are powerless of the situation (people, place, or thing), and you are mentally trying to change someone or something else, that you do not have any power to change. 

TIP:  Being powerless does NOT mean you are helpless.  It just means that you must change your source of power.  You are not the Source.  Internally, you may have taken on the entire burden, which leads to emotional entrapment and a form of mental slavery.  Unlearning your original beliefs about power, and responsibility, is the essence of Step One.

TIP:  Step One will allow you the freedom to love people in a genuine way, because you will be free of needing anything from them.  By letting go of control and manipulation, both you and the other person are free to be who they are.  You allow yourself, and others, to experience love on a different level – free from demands and hidden agendas.

You cannot overpower a traumatic event, and other people are beyond your power to control.  This is the essence of Step One.  If you integrate this principle into the very fiber of your being, you are experiencing the power of Step One.  You may need to return to this step as often as you need to, and feel free to do so.  It is now that you stand a real chance in changing your self-identified unhealthy patterns.


Please join me next week as we further explore Steps Two and Three of Alcoholics Anonymous, and their application for trauma-recovery:  Step Two: “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”  Step Three:  “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”



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Rivka Edery, M.S.W., L.C.S.W. has a Bachelor’s of Arts in Social Science and a Masters in Social Work from Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service.  She is a highly intuitive and sensitive psychotherapist, with a private practice in Brooklyn, NY, and is a first time author specializing in trauma recovery and spirituality.  She has been active in the treatment and recovery field for more than eighteen years.  Since 2009, she has been working as a clinical social worker assisting clients who are recovering from trauma-related disorders.  She has treated numerous clients and has talked with hundreds of recovering addicts.  As her career was advancing, Rivka wondered if the ancient spiritual principles of the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous could be applied to the healing of trauma.  One day, she was suddenly inspired with an idea that had a firm hold on her and has not let go since.  It combined the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous that saved her life, with life problems that are a result of surviving traumatic experiences.  The result is a unique approach for trauma survivors who are seeking a combined spiritual and clinical approach to their personal effects of surviving trauma. www.rivkaedery.com

Author of: “Trauma and Transformation: A 12-Step Guide”
To purchase my book, “Trauma And Transformation: A 12-Step Guide” (2013): http://goo.gl/o3BndU

My podcast, "Trauma and Transformation: A 12-Step Guide", is available at the iTunes Store, Microsoft Windows Zune, and other podcast providers. You can search using my name, book title, or key words.

Bi-weekly Radio Show Guest Host
National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse (NAASCA)
“Stop Child Abuse Now" talk show.  Every other Thursday is SPECIAL TOPIC Night - "Child Abuse, Trauma and 12-Step Recovery". Please see our web page at: www.NAASCA.org/Trauma-12Step

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