Using the Ladder of Power as a Tool Alongside the Journey of Terminal Illness
By Robyn Shani
Overview: The journey of diagnosis and subsequent treatment is one where we often feel powerless and overwhelmed, I found The Ladder of Power an extremely helpful tool.

I am incredibly grateful that I was introduced to a tool called THE LADDER OF POWER which really supported me through my daughter’s journey of diagnosis and treatment. The tool was developed by Marc Steinberg of Creative Consciousness International. THE LADDER OF POWER is an awareness that when we are in expectation it is really easy to find ourselves in complaint, frustration, anger, resignation, or giving up. Using this tool enables me to become accustomed to operating from a place of possibility, dropping all assumptions and expectations.

If I am not in expectation how do people know what I would like? I express a wish or make a request. I am however not attached to the outcome, giving the other full freedom to say yes or no. They can grant me my wish or request, or not. WOW! Such a novel idea! No expectations, assumptions, or manipulations. It is such an empowering way to communicate, it is pure and simple.

Think about it for a moment, we often make a request with the expectation of our request being met. When it isn’t we feel frustrated, upset, angry, resentful, and eventually despondent.

One of the many challenges of diagnosis and subsequent treatment is the feeling of not being able to choose, especially for my daughter. Chemo is essentially a poison that is administered to the patient with the hope that the poisons will stop the mutation of the cancer cells and destroy them. As far as I am aware we have not yet developed treatments that can target only the cancer cells and therefore the result is that all cells are damaged by chemo drugs, the good cells along with the cancer. My daughter, Elliet, was nearly 13 when she was diagnosed, she was old enough to voice her own opinions, and she did. Elliet was furious that we were going to put poison into her body and we had many heated arguments. She did not want to have the treatment and it was illogical to her to willingly put such harmful substances into her body. We insisted that she have the treatment as it was the only hope we had to save her life. Right now, out of the options available, this treatment had the best chance of success. As parents it is our responsibility to make these decisions. As difficult as it was, we were clear that our obligation is to fight for life. We do anything to live one more day so we can do one more mitzvah. We don’t give up; we do everything in our power to survive, and right now the options available include injecting poisons into the body of our precious daughter to kill the cancer cells.

Elliet began treatment against her will. Monday morning, we were at the hospital to begin the treatment and we were discharged on Friday. 5 days of poisons being administered. 5 days of hell. 5 days of vomiting and nausea. On Friday we came home and Elliet had a weekend in her own bed, she was feeling awful, everywhere ached, she was incredibly weak and in immense pain. At home Elliet was surrounded by her family and friends. She was super sensitive to everything, especially smells. The only thing she could stomach was some clear chicken soup broth which she managed to eat and keep down Baruch Hashem.

The next week we were back in hospital due to an infection caused by the chemo.

There were some rare moments when Elliet summoned everything she had and would do her best to connect to a ‘normal’ experience. To do something that most teenage girls would like to do, something for her that was close to impossible. Wouldn’t it be cool to feel healthy and well, even if it was just for a moment?

I was able to support Elliet because I had the awareness of THE LADDER OF POWER , the ability to engage with people and life without being in expectation or assumption. I used this awareness often and I found it to be incredibly helpful. It allowed me to be fully present and available. One example is when my daughter came to me and said: “Mom, let’s go out. I want to walk around the shops a bit”. No assumptions means that I am present to her request. Right now she feels well enough to get dressed and go out. So, what if all her levels were low and she had recently come out of hospital after a major infection! Right now, Elliet wants to go out, and walk around the shops like a healthy 13year old. LET’S DO IT! Elliet would get dressed and we would walk outside to the car, she had a sparkle in her eye as she connected to the possibility of going out. We sat in the car and as I turned the motor on and we were just about to go on our adventure, Elliet would turn to face me: “Mom, I don’t feel so good, I need to go back inside to bed.”

Elliet received the experience of feeling well enough to go out, even if it was only for a few moments. For those few moments she was allowed to feel well. The chances of Elliet being well enough to have gone for a walk were not high and if I had asked; “are you sure you ok to go for walk through the shops?” it would have robbed her of the few precious moments that she did feel well. Those moments were treasured, they were moments of hope and possibility.

I also used this tool when asking for support from family and friends. I would share a wish or make a request and give the person complete freedom to say YES or NO. It is an incredibly powerful and connecting place to operate from. I had immense gratitude when my wish or request was granted and no resentment or anger when it was not.

Using THE LADDER OF POWER with Hashem is also incredibly powerful. It enables me to daven from a place of love and connection. I requested for my daughter to have a long, healthy life of 120 years. Hashem said no. I wished, prayed, and pleaded that Hashem says yes… Hashem said no.

For those of you wondering what this tool is and how you can use it, I will explain it to the best of my ability on this platform. THE LADDER OF POWER is a process of thought and action. The thinking process begins with an idea, thought, or feeling which, then progresses to a wish, will, or desire it is then that we usually make a decision. At this point, we reach the middle of the ladder where we have the opportunity to take conscious action in the form of a speech act to move up the ladder, if not we subconsciously fall down the ladder one rung at a time. If we do not catch ourselves the fall is inevitable. Beginning with being in expectation or assumption. When our expectation is not met, we begin complaining. A complaint is when we speak to anyone/entity that is not source (source in this context is the person/entity that we have the issue with or who can initiate the change we desire). Obviously complaining to anyone or anything that is not able to impact the situation will leave us feeling frustrated and angry, which then leads to resignation or giving up. The fall is sequential and can happen quite rapidly. The good news is that at any time we can shift immediately and move up the ladder beginning with an acknowledgement of our current state. Once we have become aware that we are currently either in assumption/expectation, complaint, frustration/aggression, resignation/giving up we then have the opportunity to take responsibility.
Taking responsibility begins with becoming aware of what we want and verbalizing it appropriately. The climb up the ladder is not sequential, choose the rung that is most suitable to the situation. Express a wish, make a request, demand, command.
Expressing a wish is just that, it is gentle, a butterfly whisper. “I with that …”

Making a request, this has a little more energy attached to it and generally gets the message across effectively. “I request that…”
Demanding will have a consequence attached, when using this rung on the ladder be very clear of the consequence, communicate it effectively and be ready to follow through. “I request that…. If not then….”

Command is a rung that is reserved for specific environments and is generally agreed upon by parties involved. Command is used in the military or in certain high-performance teams. Command is also used in cases of emergency.

The key to the success of using THE LADDER OF POWER is taking responsibility, shifting from being a victim to being a victor, verbalizing what we want to the appropriate source in the appropriate manner. Giving the other full freedom to say YES or NO. Being unattached to the outcome.
The person/entity may oblige and you get what you want, they may not. If not then you will have the opportunity to go back to the beginning of the process and consciously consider what you want, make a decision and again choose the rung on the ladder that is most appropriate. In my experience, I generally operate on the levels of expressing a wish or making a request and when I do, I am very clear and direct. There is no wining, sarcasm or bitterness, it is a genuine wish or request.

I wish that…
I request that…..

I very rarely make a demand, in the 15 years that I have been using this tool I can count on one hand the times I have demanded.

I hope you found this helpful.

Your sister in the journey
Robyn Elana

Robyn Shani
Robyn Shani is a qualified life coach with a particular interest in coaching women. She believes that when each of us shows up as the best version of ourselves, the experience of life will be absolute bliss. She loves being the catalyst that supports people to feel connected, held, and seen. Robyn runs workshops and coaches individuals and groups. Her daughter was diagnosed with EWING sarcoma, an aggressive soft tissue cancer in 2011 and Robyn was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2013. Robyn shares insights, challenges, tools, and stories that hopefully will support people who are going through challenging times.