Lecture on the occasion of a
continuing-education weekend for the phone service
“Life-line Switzerland” (Die Dargebotene Hand)


September 18 and 19, 1999
Kartause Ittigen (Frauenfeld)


Feelings of power and powerlessness in human beings.

A Primal Therapy point of view
considering brain evolution and ontogenetic development
.



Author and speaker.
Esther Odermatt, Primal Therapist (St. Gallen)


Education and Training by
Dr. Arthur Janov, PhD,
founder of Primal Therapy (Los Angeles, USA)



Power and powerlessness


1 Origins of powerlessness
   
1.1 The brain; development of the three levels of consciousness
1.1.1 First level of consciousness: The brain stem
1.1.1.1 The needs of the first level of consciousness
   
1.1.2 The second level of consciousness: The middle brain, or limbic system
1.1.2.1 Needs of the second level of consciousness
   
1.1.3 The third level of consciousness: The cerebrum, or Neocortex
1.1.3.1 Needs of the third level of consciousness
   
1.1.4 The development of the three level of consciousness is complete
   
2 Power and powerlessness as Adults
   
2.1 Needs of the adult
   
2.2 Hopes and illusions



1 Origins of powerlessness


1.1 The brain; development of the three levels of consciousness

1.1.1 First level of consciousness: The brain stem

The first level of consciousness is located in the brain stem. Since this part of the brain is already present in reptiles, it represents an early stage in brain evolution - one calls it also the reptilian brain. You know surely the expression: to be cold like a snake; which means to be “without any feelings”. And it is true, the snake does not have any feelings. It is missing the next step in the development of consciousness, the middle brain, also called the limbic system.

The development of consciousness between conception and some weeks after birth occurs almost entirely on this first level. The development of the brain stem begins soon after conception and ends some weeks after birth. This explains why a baby in the first few weeks after birth has no tears, since that requires an emotional brain which at this stage is not sufficiently developed.

This does not mean however - as was long assumed - that the baby does not feel anything. It means that the baby IS - is what his system receives from the outside world. If his vital needs are not satisfied, the baby is pain. In other words, he is the state of his being. He is neither good nor bad, he simply IS. No more and no less. Everything which he experiences, good and bad in reference to his vital needs, that is what he is. Unlike us, he has no distance to himself and to what happens to him.


1.1.1.1 Needs of the first level of consciousness

The embryo, and/or baby IS therefore, and he is composed of vital needs from the moment of procreation.

Intrauterine needs include: sufficient oxygen, therefore a mother who does not smoke; a mother who does not drink alcohol; who has a healthy diet, so that the materials for cellular development are available. And as far as possible a stress-free pregnancy, since stress - above all emotional stress - adversely affects the hormonal release of the mother, which in turn damages the embryo.

The birth process is initiated by the baby himself, for he has the need to be born. The baby releases certain hormones, which are picked up by the placenta. Now he needs the contractions to start; not too weak and not too strong, just right and in accordance with his powers. During birth he has the need for sufficient oxygen.

The needs after birth are diverse. The baby requires now safety, protection, warmth. In other words, he needs the body of his mother, her breast, the sound of her heartbeat, her voice. So the circle can close: what was available and known intrauterine can be found again outside.

And nevertheless the baby often still has the need to scream. We shall talk about that later. What is important is to realize: non-fulfilment of the vital needs is pain, and not being able to react appropriately to the pain means powerlessness.

All experiences that the embryo or baby undergoes from the act of procreation until some weeks after birth are registered in the brain stem.These experiences are faithfully recorded and form the base on which his following life is built. These recorded experiences are so to speak the foundation of his house.

Why, one may wonder, has evolution designed us to store pain in the body. What is the sense of that? There are many reasons why the body stores pain. One of them is, that it would like to heal. It would like to get rid of the pain.

To understand this somewhat complicated fact, it perhaps helps to consider an example from the world of the unicellular creatures, the amoeba. An amoeba lives in water. If one places an amoeba, as laboratory animal, in water which has been polluted with ink, it has no other option than to accept it for without water it dies. What happens is that the amoeba has the ability to part dirt from water in its cell body, by filtering the ink out of the water and storing it in its body until it has the chance to exude the ink from its body when put back in clean water.

What does this experiment teach us? The amoeba requires water to live, that is its need. We mentioned some of the needs that the embryo and/or baby requires to survive; these are his water. The non-fulfilment of his needs, is his ink.

It is often impossible to met all needs of the embryo or baby. A pregnancy and birth is subject not only to internal but also external conditions, which can pollute the water in various ways. For example: accidents; relationship crises; natural disasters; war and so on. The embryo cannot protect itself; it is enclosed in its small world. It either cannot react, or its reactions are not perceived. It is absolutely powerless to influence what happens. Powerless, if the body of its mother does not react at birth to its signals; if the pelvis is too narrow and all the baby's efforts to come out are useless.

There are many reasons why there can be complications at birth and the birth experience become a traumatic event to the newborn. This is why the need to scream becomes so important to the baby. If all his vital needs are satisfied after birth, such as food, warmth, security, then the baby can scream out the pain of his history, but this of course in the arms of the mother, father or caregiver.

Let us go back once more to the example of the amoeba: the arms, in which the baby is held and the active care which he gets from the holding person, as he screams out his pain, is the clean water; the pain, which he has experienced, is his ink, which can be exuded through crying.

If, however, the baby screams alone, without the active attention of a caregiver who holds him in the arms, new pain emerges, such as feelings of abandonment and loneliness. That is how feelings of being alone in this world are created. Feelings of utter loneliness and total abandonment and powerlessness, for the baby can do nothing to change his condition. He screams and nobody understands. Perhaps he just escaped from death, having had the umbilical cord around his neck and got no more air. He was already blue as he finally got out, and now he lies alone in a small box, which we call a bed, alone, without the protecting body of the mother, without hearing her reassuring heartbeat to which he is accustomed. Too bright the light, too many unknown noises. He cannot react, he is exhausted and falls asleep. What irony, when a person steps by and looking down at the baby says: "Look, how peacefully he sleeps!"

The human body is under certain conditions capable of manufacturing its own drugs. These include the Endorphines; substances similar to morphine. The immune system of the mother treats the embryo as a foreign body (foreign-protein). Without the Endorphines the mother's system would reject the embryo. So therefore during pregnancy and up to birth, the blood circulating from mother to child contains these Endorphines. One could say: “We all are born addicted”. Our first addiction was the Endorphines, which are physically and emotionally needed during pregnancy, and without which there would be no pregnancy and therefore no life. Could this be the condition that myths and religions refer to as paradise?

However, at birth at the latest - if we are lucky and our mother has had a healthy, well-protected and harmonious pregnancy - we are cut off, in the truest sense of the word, from this first source of happiness. The luckier amongst us were breast fed by our mothers. Mother's milk contains a substance like morphine, which helps the baby not to go totally cold turkey - meaning on withdrawal. In other words, a breast-fed baby can better cope with the loss of the mother's Endorphines than the bottle-fed baby.

Have you ever visited a nursery station in a hospital? After an often traumatic birth the babies are put in small beds and left by themselves. The stronger amongst them are almost screaming their lungs out, protesting aloud against this kind of treatment. The weaker have given up and are already asleep. Powerlessness is engendered in both cases: the screaming and sleeping baby alike are both in total powerlessness. Their rightful, healthy place would be on the body or in the arms of their mothers, or at least in their bed. However their needs are ignored, and they can do nothing, absolutely nothing, to satisfy them.

Do you know this feeling, to be in a situation which calls for action and yet you can’t do anything, absolutely nothing? Do you endure it? Well, the baby had to endure it, he has no other choice.

If the pregnancy was not optimal, the baby was not desired or the mother was stressed out or depressed then the baby is already handicapped.

If the birth process was traumatic and the baby couldn't get out by his own force, since he perhaps had the umbilical cord around his neck; or the mother's pelvis was too narrow, or the baby's head too large; or it was a post-term/pre-term delivery; or the birth lasted hours and the supply of oxygen became so tight he came out blue and required active resuscitation? They are many more reasons why a birth can be traumatic, such as: caesarean section, breech delivery etc. All this is registered in the brain stem and will dictate his behaviour patterns in his future life, unless the baby can scream out the pain in safety and security (meaning being held with love).

The vegetative nervous system is divided in two antagonistic components: the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous systems.

The sympathetic nervous system takes care that the body reacts optimally under stress. The sympathetic nervous system releases certain hormones (e.g. adrenalin) to boost performance to overcome life-threatening emergencies; also known as fight-or-flight response. The opponent of the sympathetic nervous system is the parasympathetic nervous system. It serves the metabolism and the replenishment of bodily reserves at rest.

We can sort people into two groups: the sympathetic and the parasympathetic. If a baby was born, for example, as the parasympathetic nervous system was in charge, he will become a parasympathetic person, and conversely. Perhaps these types are better known under the name of pessimist and optimist, or losers and winners?

One of our patients was the second born of twins. She got in a temper tantrum, every time she lost a game. She needed all her strength to conquer, to never again be in the situation of the second and therefore the loser.

The baby who sees the light of day while the sympathetic nervous system was active will have the feeling: “I made it”. He has just learned that efforts are rewarding and that he can trust his impulse. The baby who was born while the parasympathetic nervous system was active, “didn't make it”: he was got out; for example, with forceps, by caesarean section or when his mother in the last attempt squeezed him out. He has just learned that he can do nothing, that all efforts are useless; even worse, that to follow his impulse is life-threatening and can lead to death.

Imagine a baby who comes down the birth canal with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. The further he moves down the birth canal, the more firmly the cord gathers round his neck, the less oxygen he has at his disposal. Until here, the sympathetic nervous system was active, but now, as the supply of oxygen diminishes, the brain receives the message: "Attention, danger, no more effort, effort is dangerous and leads to death!" The parasympathetic nervous system takes over, which means that the brain announces: "No more movements, save energy!" If this condition continues long enough, the oxygen reduces itself in the baby's body from outside in, which means, first from the limbs, then from the vital organs. If it comes to the worst then only the brain is provided with oxygen.

A patient wanted to hang himself. In a therapy session he felt getting no more air, his throat tightened up, he couldn't breath, couldn't do anything about it. To hang himself meant to go into power; now he could do something: he could kill himself!

As you can imagine, it is mainly the parasympathetic person who looks in life for help and comes into primal therapy, and less often the sympathetic person. The parasympathetic person often finds no way alone out of his problems, because there was for him/her literally no way out.

We try here to explain the influence of the two nervous systems at birth.

Each patient experiences his/her case differently and specifically. There are never two identical cases. There are of course similarities, but each person is unique. This is why it is so important that the therapist listen without making assumptions.

Let us go back to the course of the birth. If everything proceeds normally, the birth is triggered through the baby's hormonal release: it knows the deadline. Everything which opposes this is registered by the brain as pain or terror; not being able to do anything about it is registered as powerlessness. Terror and powerlessness are equal in their force; one to one! Still we can not speak at this stage of development of feelings: the lymbic system, the emotional brain, is not activated yet. So we speak more of a condition of terror and/or powerlessness.

Now the baby is born and lies in his small crib. He is hungry and cannot go to the refrigerator; he is cold and can’t slip into a warm bed; he is thirsty and can’t reach for a drink. He is overcharged with the many new odours and noises and the bright light, and nobody takes him in their arms and gives him safety, warmth and security. He is delivered to everything fully and has absolutely no control over his situation, being totally dependent on his caregivers. If he screams because he is hungry, he has to wait, because his screaming is out of feeding time. If he screams because he needs human warmth, he is going to be fed or gets the bottle, or his diapers are changed. The baby screams because he needs to let out his frustration, but is left all alone in his crib, under the motto: "Screaming is healthy and strengthens the lungs!"

So the neediness of the baby is totally misjudged and he is burdened with new pain. In other words, he does not get what he needs; he is not understood and he can do nothing about this. Powerlessness, helplessness, impotence!

In the USA more and more children are brought through caesarean section into this world, since the doctors increasingly fear the risk of birth complications. Sometimes they are subject to legal actions and have to pay massive compensation for damages; which, of course, is the expression of the parents' powerlessness. Therefore the babies are taken out according to the doctor's schedule. The baby has no chance to wait for his time. Patients to whom this has happened have very little trust in their impulses. One 47-year-old patient describes it like this: “My whole life I wake up in the morning and I do not know what I should do, and each evening I wish I could start the day again; this time I’ll do it right! It seems to me that something is totally wrong. I have done something totally wrong!”

In the USA more than 50% of all male babies are circumcised shortly after birth “for hygienic reasons”. This happens without anaesthesia. One proceeds on the assumption that the baby doesn't feel anything. Although progressive doctors advise on the danger of the trauma, nobody wants to listen. It seems obvious that there is a connection between the common practice of circumcision in the USA and the violence there, whether this be sexual or other acts of violence.

In the eastern states like Russia, the Balkans and in China, and also in South America, babies are tied up like small packages: only the head looks out. They look like small mummies. Can you imagine the powerlessness of these babies? They cannot move freely; they are totally constricted. Isn't there a direct connection to violence on the one hand and passivity on the other? A patient who tried to anaesthetise his powerlessness with alcohol had insights about it: to him there was a direct connection between being tied up as a baby and his drinking habits; it was all he could do as a baby, drink!!


1.1.2 The second level of consciousness: the middle brain, or lymbic system

The second level of consciousness we call the middle brain, or emotional/feeling brain.

We share this brain structure with the mammals, to which biological group human beings belong. Some of us have perhaps expressed our grief sometime to our dog and had the feeling of being understood by it. Yes, emotionally the dog understands, for it also has an emotional brain system.

So on this level we feel. The development of the emotional level begins after birth and is basically complete at age 5 or 6. If the eyes of the baby show tears, we know that he feels pain. Now he can feel, and if he can feel he can suffer. Therefore he no more is the pain or the suffering as on the first level, but now feels the pain and suffers. But he doesn't yet know that he suffers, because for that he needs a fully-developed Neocortex.


1.1.2.1 Needs of the second level of consciousness

During the development of this emotional level the child has needs.

The needs we mentioned on the first level continue. The infant requires therefore besides the vital needs like food, clothes etc. furthermore security, safety, warmth, loving care, stimulation and the possibility to learn. With that comes the need for at least one person to relate to. Without a person to relate to the infant can not develop emotionally, or only inadequately. That is to say, the limbic system (the middle brain) can not develop properly, or only inadequately. The need to relate emotionally is great. So great, that the child will accept anything: in the best case love, warmth, protection, security; in the worst case blows, shouting, screaming and maltreatment going as far as sexual abuse.

The child has no choice: he must take what he gets, for his needs are essential.

The child has no means of comparison: whatever he experiences is normal for the child; it is his “normality”. He will take personally everything which happens to him. He does not yet have the brain capacity to understand on a thinking level, for that requires the Neocortex. The child understands only emotionally. He sees the evil or angry look of his mother or father and reacts to it.

A child under the age of 5 or 6 years cannot consciously lie. If he says something which adults regard as untrue, he does this from emotional feelings, for example from fear of the person who stands threateningly before him. If the child fears the person he relates to, an unusually disturbed relationship emerges, a relationship which does not correspond to the needs of the child. These unfavourable conditions prevent the healthy development of the limbic system, therefore a healthily-functioning emotional level.

Surely you have seen a trial on television, in which a murderer and/or sexual offendor is reproached for having shown no remorse over his deed, having acted in cold blood, sitting there with a stony face, no tears, no emotions, untouched, as if it doesn't concern him. This behaviour is a sure sign that the limbic system, the emotional brain, did not develop - or very inadequately.

At the soft touch of a hand a patient reacted in great pain, screaming loudly. She begged the therapist to hit her. After questioning the reason, she said that only by hitting her badly would she feel loved. Her father had raped her brutally at age 5. Her mother punched her blindly and hit her with any available object, while the little girl had to take all this in complete powerlessness.

However, even in the best case it is impossible to fulfil all the child's needs all the time. Parents are not perfect, they have needs too, and these are often not in accordance with those of the child.

Therefore, it is all the more important that the child can express his emotions about the non-fulfilment of his needs, either through weeping, outbreaks of anger and frustration or temper tantrums. If the child cannot let out his pain in security, it will confirm in a fateful way what the baby has learned on the first level, since everything which happens on the second level is viewed through glasses conditioned by the first level.

The child is handicapped by the events which happened on the first level, or better said: imprinted. If his crying is suppressed, if his outbursts are punished with withdrawal of love, if he is hit for his temper tantrums, not only can his system not cure, worse, more pain is added. Therefore, for something under which it suffers already it is punished once more.

You know perhaps the situation? A child weeps; the parents try to fathom why; they find no plausible reason and react more or less as follows: You have no reason to cry; if you do not stop immediately, I will give you a real reason to cry; or worse: I am going to beat you up so you will know for sure why you are upset. The powerlessness of the parents gets transformed into power and explodes abusively over the child.

The child however, whose body was ready to heal - that means to let out the pain, which he is feeling but cannot express verbally because his mind (Neocortex) is not yet sufficiently developed - feels totally deserted. Gigantic powerlessness is rising up. He does not feel understood, emotionally left all alone. The child will react according to the experiences of his first level. The one with a sympathetic imprint will not stop crying, he/she will react defiantly and angrily against the parents. But the one with a parasympathetic imprint only resigns. He has already learned that to react is dangerous, it can be deadly. In both cases however, the child feels not understood, being left alone, powerless.

The 47-year-old patient with the caesarean section mentioned earlier reacted as a child to her powerlessness with temper tantrums. She was sent for it to her room and ignored until she apologized for misbehaving. Five years old, she was told by her father, a medical doctor: “You are psychotic”. Now she knew for sure that there was something wrong with her, for her father had to know. This experience completed the feeling that she did everything wrongly and that everything would be good if she could only be different. She became an actress so that she could perform all this with other characters. To be herself is in her own words “unbearable”.


1.1.3 The third level of consciousness: The cerebrum or the Neocortex

The development of the third level begins at age five or six and is completed at about twelve when youths commence puberty.

From about the fifth or sixth year a child can lie consciously, meaning intentionally say what is untrue.

With approximately eight or nine he can ride a bicycle, in the sense of behaving appropriately in traffic. If, for example, a playmate on the other side of the street calls, he does not rush headlong across the street, but first ascertains whether the traffic allows it. He knows now about the danger of the street. Of course a younger child can be conscious of the danger of the street, but he still reacts mostly emotionally, for the need to be with the friend is more urgent.


1.1.3.1 Needs of the third level

The needs on this level continue to include safety, care, trust, love, security, freedom, space, at least one person to relate to, friends, education: simply being a child.

A neurosis will be produced whose strength depends on how the child could develop up until now. The neurosis will make it possible for the child to find his place in his family, his school, in his environment. The neurosis is a defence mechanism, which makes it possible for the child to escape the pain of the preceding levels. The word neurosis has in our society acquired an exclusively negative meaning. It is to be emphasised however, that neurosis is a important defence mechanism. That is to say; a necessary survival mechanism. It will make growing up possible to the child, since a well-functioning defence mechanism (the neurosis) suppresses the pain of the earlier levels.

If his/her parents put great value on education, then he/she will try to be successful in school. If the parents require a helper at home, he/she will fill this gap. In brief, growing up involves trying to be what carries the best chance of being loved by the parents.

The child now has more scope. He perhaps finds in his environment a family or persons to relate to, who correspond more to his needs, because he can be more himself there than in his actual family. If the child is successful in that then he can develop solid defence mechanisms, and with their help he will find now and later on his place in society.

But what happens to a child if despite all his efforts he is not accepted? If the parents, for example, are unpredictable and their bad moods and tempers are directed at the child; if father or mother are alcoholics and quarrels and power trips prevail in the family; if the child is sexually abused by a parent; or if constant quarrels between the parents leads to separation? What happens if a parent is chronically sick and the other partner must go out to work and nobody takes care of the child: on the contrary, the child is now responsible for the housekeeping? What happens if both parents die through accident and the child loses the persons to relate to completely?

In all these cases the child cannot be a child. He cannot grow up in safety; he must take over tasks which are not rightfully his. In most of these cases the child comes to be the father and/or mother of his/her parents. Often he/she is admired and praised for it and feels confirmed in what he/she is doing. What really happens however, is that the body grows but the emotional development stands still, and so the child cannot really grow up. Depending on the earlier history the feeling of powerlessness is strengthened, or comes to be omnipresent.

But if the child despite the primal pain (pain of the preceding levels) cannot create a neurosis, because the environment is too abusive and chaotic, then he won't develop adequate defence mechanisms against that pain. Depending on how great that pain is he/she may be nearer to psychosis than neurosis.

That does not mean, however, that the child cannot be intelligent. On the contrary, he becomes perhaps even highly intelligent, a genius. However, this intelligence will always be a flight from the pain. Only in this way can the necessary balance emerge, the balance between the strength of the pain and the strength of the defence.

Depending on the primal pain the child will take the one or other direction: super-intelligence, or on the contrary apparent stupidity with no motivation whatsoever concerning learning.


1.1.4 The development of the three level of consciousness is complete

At the start of puberty the development of all three levels of the brain are complete. Depending on how the three levels could develop the young person will dispose of a better or worse functioning defence system.

With a good defence system, in other words with a well-functioning neurosis, he/she will now take over more or less the values of their parents. Some will perhaps totally oppose what the parents demand, but nevertheless they will finish school, learn a profession or finish further studies. They will go out, making their first contacts with the other sex; in brief, they have hope for their future.

With a bad defence system, however, the first thoughts of or attempts at suicide come, for the girl or boy now knows that she/he suffers.

A patient wrote in his biography: “I decided life was completely pointless and meaningless at age 12. This came from thinking about time, mortality and infinity. The logic was flawless and it was all rather depressing. The most I could ever do was try not to think about it.”

The patient, whose hand the therapist had softly touched in the session, wrote in her biography: “At thirteen I wanted to jump from the balcony, because I could endure it no longer. I then decided to be, however, what I evidently was selected for, namely, the reason for all the evil in my family.”


2 Power and powerlessness as adults



2.1 Needs of the adult

Now we are grown up. Naturally we also have needs in adulthood. But which needs are now really essential?

Well certainly what is essential is to eat, drink and sleep and to have work to assure having a roof over one's head.


2.2 Hopes and illusions

Adults believe, however, that they can now satisfy all their needs.

Let us construct the following case:

Two people fall in love. Hormones are activated in their bodies, adrenalin is released into the blood. As a consequence a state of euphoria is created with high expectations and hope. One sees the loved person as one needs him/her to be, not as he/she really is, for in this intoxicated condition nobody sees clearly. They’ll get married. They are now absolutely sure that they are going to get “it”.

Do you remember the amoeba with the ink? To be loved by a person, is like finally being returned to “pure water”. Now the body would like to heal, to get rid of all the pain by screaming it out, to dispose of “the ink”. This need remains however unconscious; it is not culturally acceptable to scream one's pain out in the arms of the loved person, just as one couldn't scream out the pain in the arms of one's mother as a baby. Instead of understanding this complex background, one now wants from the partner everything that one did not receive as baby, infant and child.

If the state of “being in love” ends, meaning the system stops overflowing the body with adrenalin, we once again see clearly; the rose glasses fall. We see the other as he/she is. So as not to have to feel the disappointment, the adult looks for a way out, for a means to keep his inner pain unconscious. Now the partner automatically becomes the guilty one. We are convinced that the partner owes us everything that we have been seeking so longingly: love, safety, warmth, recognition.

From disappointment one could now terminate the relationship; look for a lover; build a house; plunge into professional activity; leave the country, starting somewhere new from scratch; or have more children in whom one can place one's hope (start of new abuse).

However, if one cannot do any of the above then one cannot prevent the early pain from coming up from the lower brain levels, and if one finds no therapy in which this pain can be experienced consciously then one will not be aware of what is happening to one. There remains only the possibility of treating the partner as the “guilty” one, for otherwise the pain will attack one's own system which will lead to sickness.

Nothing, however, which one does for the partner will be sufficient: the needs will not be satisfied. Powerlessness appears, the old, forgotten powerlessness. But before the powerlessness has the slightest chance to become conscious the adult will go into power. Now he/she is grown up; no more the small child who must endure everything and cannot defend him/herself. The power, into which the adult will go, will always be 1:1 with the powerlessness experienced on the early levels. Power and inner pain must be 1:1, otherwise the old pain would get through, and this is prevented by the defence, which was essential in early childhood but now prevents one being real.

In a marriage in which both partners go into power there can be murder and manslaughter. However, this is usually the exception. Usually, if one partner goes into power that forces the other to go into powerlessness. They hate each other for it, for neither want to be where they are now. Since they are each firmly convinced that the other must now give him/her what he/she wants, the partner is more or less forced to take part, be it sexual intercourse, the shopping spree at the weekend, the vacation by the sea or in the mountains...

The partner who goes into power is compelled to get what he/she wants. If his/her unconscious powerlessness is great, he/she will have no conscience about what he/she does. He/she will say, the other partner wanted it also. One believes this all the more, since one probably chooses as partner someone whose powerlessness has remained powerlessness; meaning, somebody who even now as an adult cannot go into power and whose powerlessness will lead him/her into disease. Paradoxically, in this case getting sick is a manifestation of power.

Someone who cannot fall in love perhaps sets his/her hopes on a successful career. The more important this is, the better. He/she perhaps becomes a doctor, politician, professor, psychologist, teacher or theologian. For where the monetary value of the profession does not bring it, the moral value of the professional image can bring the power and reward which keeps the pain, despair and powerlessness unconscious. The bigger the unconscious powerlessness, the bigger is the power into which one has to go, even to the point of being a dictator.

Our entire world is marked by this powerlessness. In the western world we believe we can do everything. We do not accept death anymore. Babies already get operated on in the womb, in the erroneous opinion that they “don’t feel anything”.

Powerlessness has millions of faces. However, adults in our culture have one thing in common; we suppress powerlessness as soon as we are in contact with it, for now we have the capability to escape powerlessness.

Then we consume things we don’t need like addicts. We buy things out of frustration, eat too much, smoke, drink alcohol, well knowing that this damages our physical and emotional health. We ruin brain, liver and our entire immune system, and all to suppress the old feelings, the pain, which wants to come up. The entire repertoire of acting out compulsively as addicts has the unconscious motto:


Never, ever be powerless again!


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