I was listening to the Diane Rehm show today and her interview with Peggy Orenstein  about her book Cinderella Ate My Daughter.

It was very thought provoking and relevant not just to daughters and mothers but to all of us. If marketing and social/cultural norms are defining at younger and younger ages just how our lives and way of being in the world is valued, then what can we do to resist that?

The book by Orenstein and this discussion was also connected, it seemed to me, with the recent interview on Fresh Air with Stephanie Coontz about her book A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s. In this book she explores the phenomena of Friedan’s book and the women of the 50s many of whom had no real sense of self. They too were at the mercy of an imposed set of values and rules for living in society.

The connection is the dis-empowerment of individuals and entire sections of society that pervades and overwhelms the autonomous, responsible individual. Scarily, it is happening at younger and younger ages, and thus is even more difficult to recognize and resist.

Personal Magic (the promised upcoming book!) offers a context and activities to facilitate Personal Empowerment. When you are truly empowered, then no-one can impose anything on you. Real empowerment is about choice and not necessarily about material possessions and power over others. It is an inner strength that comes from and is nurtured by discipline, responsibility and a willingness/capacity to know your true Self.

I would like to write directly to the two radio discussions but owing to the insanely full schedule of rehearsal with the play I am directing about to open, writing time is limited!

So, I am posting the following, excerpted from Personal Magic – Engaging the Arts and Spirit for Empowerment in Times of Change

(excerpt)

Why be empowered at all if it doesn’t give you all the material tangibles that you want? And is a whole lot of work and responsibility? Because, if nothing else, when you are empowered – that is, fully in awareness of self and knowing from within your Soul – you are quite simply Free. You are free from being at the mercy of others. No-one can make you anything. No-one can make you sad, angry, happy or guilty. You are free to respond as you truly are not as your ego or history demands. People can and will still do things that affect you emotionally but what you Do with that in the form of feeling and behavior is up to you. That is real power, and it is real freedom.

Freedom, according to my little desk dictionaries can be defined as ‘personal or civil liberty’, ‘able to do something at will’, ‘ease in action’, and ‘boldness of conception’. (These last two are precisely what we are able to do when in the creative state!) The other freedoms are only extensions of these basic precepts.

In short, it is being able to choose. It doesn’t mean changing what is except in how you perceive, understand and then relate to it. It may mean being better able to change it, once you are free from the entanglements of emotional turmoil. It does mean you are less likely to expend energy by trying to make ‘things’ change when it is not possible, and you will certainly be ready when a new opportunity presents itself.

I think of Empowerment as being your own hero (or heroine) rather than a victim. Sit with that a moment, how would this change your life? Look back the image you created for Personal Magic #4. What if you were able to appreciate your self as the hero in your story, free from being one of the people on the periphery, or the means by which the hero does his/her thing, or worst of all the slave. Real heroes, not just those of whom we tell battlefield tales, live their lives with courage, honor and in the service of their community.

Much has been written about heroes, heroism and heroic deeds. Most relevant to your journey are the stories of those individuals who, in the face of great odds, and often the derision of others, quietly go about their work and their calling. Certainly no hero is ever a victim, regardless of the circumstances.

In theatre, as actors, our task is to find the journey our character is on, by looking at the given circumstances (the what, where, who and how) and then asking, What is it I (the character) want? What is the goal, the objective of this journey? By placing the character firmly at the center of the story, the actor is able to inhabit fully the emotional, psychological and behavioral world. The best actors, and the ones with the most courage, also access the spiritual or Soul aspect of their character.

There is an old adage, ‘There are no small roles, only small actors.’ Likewise, there are no small people, only the small self. By embracing your Personal Magic and bringing that to the world, you can be the hero at the centre of your story. You will know your given circumstances, name your goal, and fully inhabit the emotional, psychological and behavioral aspects of your story. Most wonderfully in real life, you can do so without being a puppet at the mercy of some other writer. Rather you the writer and the director and the lead actor.

Bringing these two ideas together, the empowered person is both the hero and the story teller, is both at the center and also outside the story able to see it all. The hero doesn’t escape the story nor is he/she devoured by it. The real hero/heroine is truly Free and Empowered.

………….

To return to the discussions that inspired this blog, as adults we need to uncover, access and manifest our Personal Empowerment. We also have a mandate to facilitate that power for and in our children. This doesn’t mean we all run amok in the world grabbing what we can for ourselves. In fact, it is the dis-empowered who have to do that.

The truly empowered are fully in their own center, free of all pressure to prove anything. You are free to give and to reject without harming others in the expression of your Personal Magic. You are the hero/ine in your personal story.

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