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Transitioning Out of Powerlessness Into Revitalization

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Judith Bardwick

Psychological problems are never solved through evasion. The anxiety of uncertainty is much worse than the disappointment of frustrated ambition. Reducing uncertainty by having the facts and perceiving reality is critical to people's gaining a sense of control over their lives. When they see what is real, they can take steps to do something; as long as they refuse to "see," they wait and ope that someone or fate or luck will be kind. That creates a greater sense of powerlessness.

Until people who are in despair achieve insight about the present, they create their own continuing pain because they cannot construct a future. They can't move forward in their life because they cannot let go of the triumphs of the past. They don't know where to go or what to do.

People who feel very bad because they are plateaued need to redefine their ambition. In practical terms, people experience a great relief when they give up the goals and illusions about themselves that structural plateauing makes unachievable. When they stop chasing what they can never catch, they are relieved of a large measure of their frustration and sense of futility and powerlessness. Then, they can stop feeling the emotions that depleted them and left them with too little energy. whey they give up the old because it no longer serves them well, they are in a much better position to imagine new objectives that are attainable.

When people give up goals they can't gain, they also give up the anger and depression and constant use of psychological defense mechanisms that continuously drained them. Then, having much more psychological energy, they are in a position to work well, to achieve and to relate to others. In the revitalized phase people have achieved a way of looking at themselves and their reality that enables them to experience areas of life vividly, as sources of significant accomplishment and pleasure.

It is often a struggle to reach the revitalized phase. Some people achieve it without help, but many do not. They remain in the phases of resistance and resignation. Organizations have a vested interest in helping their experienced employees reach the revitalized stance, because it is only then that those people feel good enough to work really well.

When the organizations communicates that it cares about them as individuals and that it respects their goals, and when it creates opportunities for them to face challenge and participate in decisions that affect them, the organization helps employees to reach the revitalized phase.


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Judith M. Bardwick, Ph.D., is a highly regarded speaker, consultant, researcher, and writer on psychological aspects of people at work. For more than two decades, she has combined cutting-edge psychological research with practical business (more...)
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