One of the things that is coming to the fore, between trying to think more and read more Stoicism and meditate more on God, is the need to be ruthlessly honest with one's self. There cannot be the willingness to avert one's eyes from the weak points of one's character and personality. To use a martial arts analogy I am familiar with, one has to persevere to have the inner self match the mirror-like sheen of the polished blade.
With that in mind, I was brought up short this week when I consciously realized that I combat feelings of powerlessness with bad habits and sin.
It absolutely follows like clockwork: I am in a situation or in a meeting or receive an e-mail which somehow makes me feel as if I have no power, whether to impact the situation or turn down the request or simply to somehow "fight back" against the perceived infringement. And right after that, my instincts will kick in and I will do any number of things which are not great: overeat or another bad habit or simply become angry and irritated and lose focus for hours on end.
The reason I do it is pretty straightforward to me: being made to feel powerless, I lash out by doing something that is within my power to do. The better question is why do I think that this somehow improves the situation?
Because it never does, really. Then I get to feel bad about two things: the initial incident where I felt powerless and then whatever I did afterwards to avert the feeling of powerlessness. What I need is to come up with a more effective way to deal with it.
I would like to say that it is simply a matter of me being able to calmly and rationally think through the situation, realize what is happening, admit that I am feeling that way, and then turn my attention to something that I can control that is healthy and do that. I say that. It sounds very intellectual and thoughtful, and not at all how I deal with these things in the heat of the moment.
So perhaps in desperation I will throw the question to the wider audience: What do you do when you feel that you are powerless in a situation and are looking for a positive alternative instead of dwelling on the situation or what you cannot do?