COUNSELOR'S CORNER: The power of powerlessness

By Fred Cavaiani

Remember the last time someone sincerely admitted a mistake they made and apologized to you. What did you feel? Most of us will embrace a humble person who admits their own mistakes. Now think of the last time you admitted to someone else that you were wrong. What did you feel? Most likely the process of admitting the mistake took the most effort. Once you admitted the mistake you were probably welcomed by the other person.

When I can allow myself the experience of powerlessness I disarm myself and other people. Powerlessness is simply admitting my mistakes and need for help from others. It is the first foundation for a healthy emotional and spiritual life. To accept my liabilities and need for help brings freedom. To admit this to those around me brings freedom. My act is over. No more hiding. I can be imperfect because I am admitting it to myself and to you. We can now talk openly and freely. I can be open to getting help from you, from others and from God.

We are all powerless over many things in life. I wish the sun rose when I want it to rise. I wish you would be the person I think you should be. I wish I didn't have any bills to pay. I want to win the lottery. I have no control over any of this.

I eat too much. I need help to lose weight. I worry too much. I need help with this. I keep making the same mistakes over and over again. I need help with this. Welcome to the human race. We all need help and we all are powerless over many things.

Yet it is difficult to admit we are powerless over anything. It goes against our ingrained attitude. Who wants to admit that there are things we cannot do or accomplish? It almost seems insulting to admit this. It may even be "psychologically unhealthy." How far from the truth this really is. Admission of powerlessness and a need for help is the foundation for any successful emotional and spiritual growth in life. In accepting our need for help we open ourselves to receiving help from others. In admitting we need something or someone greater than ourselves we become open to having a relationship with God. We become open to having a better relationship with others also. And finally, we become open to having a better relationship with ourselves.

What happens in accepting powerlessness is that humility begins. People find it easier to approach us because we have no agenda except to be open and loving. The only important thing in life is to humbly love and be kind to one another. When I cannot admit my own struggles and mistakes and the need for help I put a wall around myself. I insulate myself from connecting with others and understanding others and especially my own personal self. But when I accept my own powerlessness and inability to make the world the way I think it should be I become free to live a life of love.

Disarming myself in honest self admission allows me to connect and disarm other people. There is no conflict anymore because I am no longer out to convince other people of their mistakes because I am not looking for mistakes. I am only looking to love and discover their goodness. I am embarking on a journey to allow God to love me and fill me with kindness. What joy and freedom there is in receiving from others and receiving from whomever this God is for me. When I accept powerlessness I am on the road to receiving so much from others and so much from life.

Yet it is difficult to admit powerlessness over anything. I fight it, run from it and deny it. Each time I do this I put myself in a prison where it becomes hard to get out and difficult for people to come in. Yet it only takes an honest surrender, breath of fresh air, to simply say "I am wrong about this and need help" or "I cannot control this and need help" or "I am powerless and need help." In this honest admission the Power of God lifts me up to a humble, loving way of living with myself and with others. All things can now open up to me because I am no longer fighting anything or anyone, especially myself.


Fred Cavaiani is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and Psychologist with a private practice in Troy. He is the founder of Marriage Growth Center, a consultant for the Detroit Medical Center, and Henry Ford Medical Center. He conducts numerous programs for groups throughout Southeastern Michigan. His column in the Legal News runs every other Tuesday. He can be reached at (248)362-3340. His e-mail address is: and his website is

Published: Tue, Mar 13, 2012


  1. No comments
Sign in to post a comment »