That Powerlessness You Feel Is Called “Moral Distress”

Being not able to communicate personally with someone made me fell irritated and sad. I realized that is no way to live this life without communicating and socializing. I feel powerless when I have no access to Internet or cell phone. I need to check email, to call my friends, to talk to my parents on Skype without this I would feel … disconnected from my life and out of my normal life.

  • When you lay it all out, you will see that you did not have control in those moments.
  • The original references to God were quickly challenged in the early days of AA, and Bill W.
  • These powerful others are able to exercise their power via money, social position, or physical strength.

Dominant discourse describes the manner in which dominant groups may begin to acknowledge their previous failures to recognize that oppression exists. Dominant discourse occurs as people start questioning what would ordinarily be regarded as unbiased. People then search to explore the underlying values embedded within their perceived cultural norms. The analysis that occurs through dominant discourse shifts attention to the specific contexts that shape culturally appropriate beliefs.


Collective power refers to the power generated by an organized group. An example of collective power would be the formation of a union. An example of direct action to address powerlessness would be the development of a lawsuit or the arrangement of a strike.

Power is viewed by some as an object and a possession to which some have ownership of and others do not. Others view power not as an object but rather as a position in a relationship or social milieu. Power may be viewed in various contexts as either real or perceived, and it can be described as either a fixed construct or a variable aspect of a social relationship. Has a love for the 12 steps, as working through them several times has helped her steer clear of addictions and grow personally and spiritually.

Probable Future Directions of Alienation Theory and Research

For example, expression of resistance can be identified and validated, the resilience that clients use to manage oppression can be acknowledged, and the ethical implications of the client’s struggles can be identified. Counselors may work with clients to address power imbalances. Working with clients to recognize and address feelings of powerlessness—within and beyond the counseling session—may possibly lead clients to experience thoughts of empowerment. Powerlessness can be a learned feeling or response that occurs when individuals are kept in powerless positions repeatedly and over long periods of time by others who are in positions of power. These powerful others are able to exercise their power via money, social position, or physical strength.

  • Powerlessness also can be considered as the absence of complete authority or status to affect how others will act toward others.
  • Use them to learn about additional supports you need, the needs or desires that drove you to act out, or catalysts or triggers that create more temptation.
  • Not going to happen no matter how many jump-shots I practiced on frozen mud under the hoop on the side of our barn.
  • It demonstrates the paradox of powerlessness and the role of surrender.
  • The question of how to address inequality is often presented, especially when considering this issue with people of privilege and those in controlling positions.

A person who works really hard to follow through on commitments has true grit.”[ii] I like grit. It got my ancestors to immigrate to this country, to make a new home, and got us to the moon. To never give up, to hold on, and to never quit are important virtues and considered a sign of manhood for the testosterone half of our population. I take heart in William James’ words, “Faith is a bet you can’t lose.” If I choose to believe that things I’m powerless over can work out without me, then I have more peace. I worry less and cease searching for ways to not be powerless.

Identify what can be controlled and what cannot be controlled.

This biased approach attempts to universalize the experience and social context of the White middle class. In clinical settings, psychological conditions may be better understood when issues of power, such as powerlessness or helplessness, are considered. The tendency of those in privileged positions to ignore, disregard, or pathologize the experiences of marginalized people can have damaging effects on the counselor-client relationship. In counseling, therapists may work to focus on patient’s strengths, which can be a way of knowing and problem solving that relates to modification of this tendency to pathologize targeted people.

examples of powerlessness

In our “Alienation” example, each of the 12 items are operational definitions designed to measure their respective concepts. The protocol is that we will ask respondents to provide their opinions on a questionnaire, and we will use their responses on our preestablished quantitative ladder as the relative level of each respondent on each respective concept. Meaning-making is the process of how we perceive, interpret, and make sense of events in life, relationships, and ourselves.

“The first step towards change is awareness. The second step is acceptance.”

For instance, we don’t have control of how our body fights diseases but we can build a stronger immune system and adopt a healthy lifestyle by feeding it with nutritious food each day. We might not be able to get out of the job we dislike right now but we can appreciate the income we are receiving and save up each month for the career transition. And even though we have no control over whether our partner stays or leaves, we can take care of ourselves daily and prepare for the next relationship that is coming. We all have been through adversities that make us feel powerless and helpless.

examples of powerlessness

Self-estrangement is a complex and difficult version—some would say the overarching version—of alienation, embodied, for example, in the Marxian view of alienated labor as estrangement from one’s creative human nature. Meaninglessness is the sense of incomprehensibility of social powerless over alcohol examples affairs, events whose dynamic one does not understand and whose future course one cannot predict—as in the Weberian depiction of the complexities of secularized and rationalized bureaucratic society. Samantha Stein, Psy.D., is a psychologist in private practice in San Francisco.


Tonmoy Antu

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