Counselor's Corner: The power of powerlessness


Fred Cavaiani

When I realize how powerless I am over other people, places and things, I discover an inner strength. I live in the present moment without tension or anxiety. Tension results when I invest emotional energy in how I would like the world to change or how I would like other people to change. My investment in these attitudes helps no one, particularly myself. I would like the Covid-19 epidemic to disappear. I would like Russia to stop invading the Ukraine and killing so many people. I would like strict gun control so there would be no mass shootings. I would like every one to love another. I would like this world to be a gentle and loving planet. I want every one to like me. I would like every one to think the way I do. Investment in these attitudes helps no one and only creates internal misery.

The power of powerlessness happens when I realize that in my powerlessness I can withdraw from anger and resentments toward other people. I don’t have to change anyone. I cannot change the weather. I cannot change other people by telling them what they should do or what is wrong with their personality. I am not going to change another person by trying to convince them to join my belief system, join my church community or my belief in God, my psychological, spiritual or philosophical attitudes. Investment in these attitudes seldom helps anyone because I then make myself powerful and I start thinking in a condemning and judgmental manner.

However, when I realize that I am powerless over other people and over the world, I start realizing my own limitations. I begin to realize that I need help so I do not remain in anger and resentments toward others and the world. I start realizing that I am not powerless in how I treat other people. I can choose to be loving and kind and gentle or I can choose to be angry and condemning. In embracing my own powerlessness, I start experiencing a God who is always loving and compassionate. In departing from condemning words and actions about other people, I experience an inner freedom.

I can choose to be gentle and loving. When I make this choice, I create an environment for myself and those around me to experience something deeper in life: an experience of love and compassion.

It is amazing to realize how many things I cannot control. It is also amazing to realize that if I simply focus on this present moment slowly and gently, I will slow down and experience God. I will see the goodness and wonder of God in everything and everyone.

Last week when our family was gathered together for Easter dinner, I found myself talking in an almost preaching manner to a few of the people gathered. I heard our daughter in the background say to my wife, “Tell Dad to stop preaching.” I was offended at first but then I realized that no one was asking for my viewpoint at that moment and I most likely sounded like I was trying to inspire someone else with my “words of wisdom” when they were not asking for my “words of wisdom.” I then began to realize that kindness and empathic, compassionate listening is far more effective in creating a positive and loving environment.

I must always embrace the powerlessness that results when I realize that the world doesn’t need my “wisdom” but everyone can profit from the power of love and kindness. Life can be miserable when I am critical and condemning. But my internal state can be open and receptive to so much good when I am caring and kind in thoughts and words and actions. Epictetus, the great philosopher, said it so well: “It is not so much what you are doing as how you are doing it. When we properly understand and live by this principle, while difficulties will arise—for they are part of the divine order too, inner peace will be possible.”

In embracing powerlessness, inner peace will be the result. Love and kindness bring inner peace. Anger, resentments, and investment in negativity create such a devastating, emotional prison. The humble embrace of the present moment with attentive focus, gratitude and love becomes an embrace of powerful powerlessness which becomes an embrace of a loving God. But I must embrace, admit and accept my powerlessness in this moment so I can experience the divine in this moment. The power of God can easily come to the powerless.

When I embrace powerlessness, my heart will experience love and goodness. And it is love and goodness which the world needs so badly right now.


Fred Cavaiani is a licensed marriage counselor and psychologist with a private practice in Troy. He is the founder of Marriage Growth Center, a consultant for the Detroit Medical Center, and conducts numerous programs for groups throughout Southeast 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

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