Most of us know how these emotional states inhibit us psychologically, but that’s not the whole story.
Feeling emotionally powerless also makes you physically weaker, according to science. Read the research summary below. Then move on to the three tips to increase your personal power.
Everyone has had a day where they just don’t seem to have the physical strength to accomplish everything required. New research has shown that your personal sense of inner power could be the cause.
According to a recent study conducted by scientists at the University of Cambridge in the UK and published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, your state of mind can affect your physical strength. The researchers conducted a series of three experiments that tested a person’s mood and sense of power against physical tasks such as lifting boxes.
In the first test, participants were given a survey to rate their sense of power by ranking how strongly they agreed with various statements such as “I can get people to listen to me.”
After the survey was conducted, each person was asked to lift various boxes and estimate the weight. Researchers found that though all of participants overestimated the weight of the boxes, the more socially powerless a person felt, the heavier they believed the boxes were.
In the second experiment participants were split into two groups. One group was asked to sit in a socially powerful position, with one elbow on the arm of their chair and one on the desk beside them. The second group sat in a more constricted position, with shoulders dropped and hands under their legs.
In this experiment the participants who sat in the more powerful position gave more accurate weights for the boxes, while those who were constricted continued to overestimate the box weight.
In the final experiment, participants were given a choice of remembering a situation in which they felt either powerless or powerful. After, they were asked to estimate the weight of the boxes once again, but were told they were being tested on the effects exercise has on autobiographical memory.
In this test, researchers discovered that participants who chose a powerful memory more accurately guessed box weights, while those who remembered situations where they felt powerless continued to overestimate the weight.
Based on the combined results, researchers believe that feelings of powerlessness, whether due to a person’s inherent personality or because of their social status, can result in a physical manifestation.
Each of the above experiments leads to simple conclusions about what you can do to increase your personal sense of power and access to more physical strength. Here are three:
Most of us have an autopilot voice in our minds that comments on what’s happening around us. Often, this is a critical voice that says things like:
You can’t do it.
There’s no point.
Who do you think you are?
You’re going to fail.
Saying things like this to yourself makes you physically and psychologically weaker. The participants in experiment number one above who disagreed with the statement must have had a voice in their head or a belief that said, “No, you can’t get people to listen to you.”
One of the best ways to manage a critical voice is to simply listen to it and realize that this is what you are saying to yourself. For example, when your inner critic says, “You’re stupid,” follow up that remark by saying to yourself, “I just said to myself, ‘You’re stupid.’”
Repeat this heightened awareness pattern objectively and you’ll soon have a fuller realization of what you’re doing to yourself, which may help you make different choices. Don’t allow a critical voice to run your mind and emotions on autopilot. And don’t try to make the voice stop from a victim’s point of view. Just get off autopilot and you will – by definition – have more choice! Try it.
Autopilot thinking and behavior is one of the primary symptoms of self-sabotage.
Experiment two above demonstrated that posture has a lot to do with personal power and available strength. Do you spend a lot of your day in a physical slump? Do you hunch over, breathe shallowly, and walk around with your tail between your legs?
Again, just be aware. You don’t have to throw your shoulders back, pound your chest and bust out a Tarzan call. Just notice when you are constricting yourself and make minor adjustments to loosen up, straighten up, and breathe more freely.
When you relive memories, you reenter the same emotional state you experienced at the time. You can relive positive memories and recapture the joy (highly recommended). Or, you can relive negative memories and re-experience pain and failure.
Negative memories and the emotions that go with them are often triggered on autopilot by present situations. The key here is to let go of the feelings that are wrapped up in the trauma of the memory, while still being able to learn from it.
One way to do this is to mentally “step back” from the memory by viewing it from a distance. This is a classic, time-tested NLP method. Interesting research suggests that viewing memories from a distance significantly reduces the negative emotional effects of the experience and enhances an adaptive response.
The simplest way to view troubling memories is to do the following:
Think of the memory.
Now, imagine the image of the memory moving off into the distance until you “pop out” of it and can see yourself “over there.” When you are at a comfortable distance, you’ll feel like a more neutral observer. From this objective perspective, you don’t have the emotional attachment and it is much easier to learn from the experience.
The above methods work. If for some reason you are reluctant to try them, or give up too easily, then you could be overly attached to negativity. You need to learn about self-sabotage, which is often the culprit when you know what you should be doing, but don’t do it.
Watch this free video to discover how to identify and end self-sabotage.
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Last reviewed: 21 Mar 2014