There is a myth in our culture that empowerment involves competition and feelings of superiority. Another cultural myth says that vulnerability involves humiliation and weakness. I believe that the reality is very different. Empowerment is an interior state of confidence, not in one’s ego or personality, but in the ability to create a desired outcome without diminishing others. Vulnerability is a willingness to listen with your heart instead of waiting impatiently for a quiet moment in which to enlighten the other with your most cherished viewpoint. It includes a willingness to remove the filter of our own beliefs, and appreciate what is said, even when it conflicts with our own viewpoint. When power and vulnerability meet, even for a moment, we are drawn toward the other. We feel peaceful and connected. . We come away enriched, somehow feeling more of who we really are. I have found such moments everywhere, even within my own family.

On Thanksgiving evening some of our family members stepped outside to enjoy the unusually warm air. Immediately noticeable was a wide ring around the moon. My four year old grandson was so excited that he wanted to call everyone outside so that he could show them this magic. His mother suggested that it was bedtime and perhaps he should go inside. His anger was loud and clear, and he accented it by running down the walk and disappearing into the dark night. His mother’s called out 1-2-3 to no avail. We all drew in a tense breath and were relieved when he finally reappeared. His mother was visibly upset, but instead of lashing out in anger or threats of punishment she held him close and whispered “I was afraid”. Completely disarmed by her vulnerability, he quietly went off to bed.

Sometimes vulnerability involves the surrender of professional demeanor or status. This requires a high degree of consciousness and humility. This combination is rare in my experience, but when it occurs it is

Powerful and memorable.

Last summer I was scheduled for surgery to correct a blocked tear duct, collateral damage from radiation therapy. The surgeon was a compassionate. highly skilled professional, well known throughout Northern California. I was relaxed and confident that things would go well. When I awoke I saw him approach and noticed that he wasn’t wearing his accustomed smile. He told me that the surgery had failed. He could have hidden behind a professional demeanor and made excuses, or blamed others. Instead he simply expressed sincerely his disappointment that he was not able to help me, but only left me with a black eye, His willingness to be vulnerable melted my own sadness. I felt connected and appreciative, even grateful for his effort. It was a powerful moment for both of us.

I use examples to convey the embodiment of power and vulnerability because they give me a direction that I can follow. They create a pathway that I can begin to follow if I choose. Most recently I found a quintessential example in a book called “Three cups of tea”. It recounts the story of a former mountaineer named Greg Mortenson. The first chapter is entitled “Failure”, and describes his attempt to scale one of the highest peaks in the mountains of Pakistan, without success. In addition, Mortenson became separated from his comrades, almost froze to death, and stumbled into the village of Korphe. During his recuperation with the help of kind and compassionate villagers, he saw children scratching their school lessons with sticks in the dirt. He promised the village elders that he would return to build a school. Selling everything he owned to begin keeping his promise, Greg endured personal hardship and beat incredible odds, eventually building 131 schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Even more incredible, he has built relationships with top U.S military commanders. As a result, no longer do army convoys roar through villages with horns blaring, frightening the people. In addition, “Three Cups of Tea” is now required reading for all special forces heading to Afghanistan. An American general, village elders, and Greg Mortensen have laid aside their differences to bring this and other miracles about. I am totally humbled by this story and hope it will touch others.

What I have learned from these and other experiences is that all of us have the opportunity to make this world a better place. For me, it starts with stepping into my power when I can right a wrong or defend someone who is being abused. I also need to be humble enough to admit that when I actually walk this path, it’s because I have been fortunate enough to learn from great teachers. It requires listening with my heart. Once in awhile I get it right.

Author's Bio: 

Trudy Opitz, Ph.D. Is a transpersonal Psychologist, author, and motivational speaker. For the past eighteen years she has taught the Avatar course, a technology of empowerment, In the US and has introduced these tools to Russia, Kenya and Pakistan. Dr. Opitz lives in the San Francisco Bay area, close to her children and her three grandsons. She can be reached online at or you can visit her old but still active website:

Additional Resources covering Empowerment can be found at:

Website Directory for Empowerment
Articles on Empowerment
Products for Empowerment
Discussion Board
Trudy Opitz, the Official Guide to Empowerment