A Social Worker's Journey to Empowerment: From Skepticism to Belief

A Social Worker's Journey to Empowerment: From Skepticism to Belief

It's “hogwash.” The words grouped together into a sentence or string of sentences taking up an entire page that to me reads as “indigestible hogwash.” I don't buy it, and I don't believe that reading these words, things like "Whatever you’re seeking is also seeking you, and it works everywhere, in all things, for all of us" are somehow going to help me or anyone else feel more empowered. For starters, feeling disempowered had been my truth for far too long to even identify what feeling empowered might be. I’ve often been treated like part of a disempowered group, as both a woman and a social worker, which further confirmed my status. Yet, as I continue to do today, I have spent my career helping other people find their own path to empowerment, because I believe it of them. Nonetheless, I am part of this team. I believe who we are, and I believe in what we are doing, down to my core. So, I read and re-read and read again, this “indigestible hogwash,” in a vehement attempt to reconcile this discrepancy, or to at least make sense of it and my position as a passive participant in the Journey to Empowerment, so to speak.


So, here’s what happens when you spend a lot of time with the same material and around people who actually believe in it and who seem to live their lives according to it and—if you can believe it—also seem happy. You begin to think about it more and differently. You begin to talk about it. You begin to wonder. This is what happened to me. I began to wonder what it would feel like to not carry around with me my disempowerment, my history of trauma, and my negative self-image and self-talk, like it was my badge of courage. I began to wonder what real empowerment would feel like, and I started to imagine the truth in happiness. I had reached a crossroad. One path I knew. The other I wondered about.

A Social Worker's Journey to Empowerment: From Skepticism to Belief

So, while I wondered and allowed my fear of change and my fear of letting go of my familiar, negative thoughts, to be my base of operating, a few of my clients began talking about desires to be “happier” and more “positive people,” explaining how they were exhausted by their own negative and self-defeating thoughts. These were all topics that were found in the book. I then began to do a trial with them and use the methods discussed in this book, this book that initially to me, hardly seemed like something that should be published. After all, my clients have always taught and inspired me, and perhaps this would be my next lesson. If I used some of the concepts of this book, given how ready I felt they were, maybe they would benefit and continue to teach me. So, I started slowly, weaving their language and articulated goals for therapy with different parts of the book that seemed most relevant. And, they would follow through and report back in the subsequent session. Then a bizarre thing started to happen. It was working! My clients would read to me their homework assignments, reflections pulled from the Journey to Empowerment and tell me about the series of "ah-ha" moments they had, realizations about their thinking patterns and beliefs, times they caught themselves in a negative thinking spiral or on that hamster wheel of doubt, guilt and shame, and decided to stop, get off, or "flip it." They would use the words, "powerful," "light," and God help me, "empowered." They would start talking about reductions in stress headaches and back pain, improved relationships with their parents, and a decrease in fights with their significant others. As I wondered, they did in fact inspire me, and I began to understand something; I had already chosen that other path.

To clarify, as it turned out, I was not a passive participant in the Journey to Empowerment. My process was just different. The following is the sequence of what that process actually looked like:

  • I read, re-read, and edited a book filled with what I believed at the time was “indigestible hogwash.”

  • I began listening to people I greatly admire, who embody the concepts of the book and actually seemed happy.

  • I began feeling less at ease with the way I thought about myself, and my shields seemed less necessary or powerful.

  • I started to wonder...

  • I was becoming more and more open to the possibility that this was not just “indigestible hogwash.”

  • I then began to believe that this would work on other people.

  • Further, I began to believe that there was a possibility that this could work for me as well.

  • I started practicing.

  • I started looking forward to it.

  • I started feeling the difference.

A Social Worker's Journey to Empowerment: From Skepticism to Belief

Then, something else began to happen. I began to take more control and believe in my own possibilities. I believed that I did not have to engage in my negative thoughts, but instead I could try to understand them, understand what was really being communicated to me, and understand how to “flip them” then move forward with more “light” and positivity.

I have even had a few “relapses” where I allowed my thoughts to take me on that negative spiral, or I allowed other people’s “mistreatment” to define me. And, here’s the thing that happened next: Once you know what it feels like to genuinely and authentically be in alignment, body, mind, heart and soul, it becomes so much easier to recapture it and get back on that path. In these moments, when I stopped to reflect, read, and even talk to a few people, it was back with me instantaneously. I know what it feels like to be happy. Nothing in my external life significantly changed during this time. All that truly changed was my thinking.

So, here's the other thing. While physics has never been a favorite subject of mine, I do believe in “Energy.” I believe we allow certain people or events in our lives based on the “energy” we emit, meaning, based on our most recurrent thoughts. I was indeed seeking something that found me. I believe this book, these pages strung together, full of sentences and words, came into my life at a time when my energy was in the process of shifting and needed more guidance.

A Social Worker's Journey to Empowerment: From Skepticism to Belief

So, yes, I feel more empowered. Every day I feel stronger, happier, and it feels easier and easier to believe that this is the way I’m supposed to feel. This has been my journey and my new path that I look forward to continuing to explore. Next on my path, SWEET’s second book: Discovering Your Worth. Perhaps, I’m ready to digest it like an exceptional meal. Who knows? We shall see!

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Dr. Dubin-McKnight has wide clinical, teaching, supervision and mentorship experience that spans 18 years. She also has a vast experience working in the criminal justice system, in community mental health, in teaching, and in management. Her added passion is in education, coaching, public relations, and mediation. Her goal is to ensure that social workers and other non-medical practitioners feel empowered and have a voice “at the table.” Dr. Dubin-McKnight is the co-facilitator for the SWEET Institute. She was most recently the Court Operations Director at CASES. She is currently Adjunct Faculty at Columbia University School of Social Work, Adelphi University School of Social Work, and NYU Silver School of Social Work. She is also a trainer at the CUCS Academy, and Howie T. Harp. She has a private practice for people impacted by trauma.