There is nothing quite like taking a sip of wine at a dinner party and choking on it. The body responds immediately and completely to the presence of liquid having gone down the wrong pipe. The exploding, desperate sounding coughs draw attention to you no matter what, and leave others wondering, "is this person choking on something?" Or, "shit, do I even remember the Heimlich maneuver?" All conversations stop and the spotlight of unwanted attention shines brightly upon you. Of course there is nothing to do but move away from people as quickly as possible, hopefully while covering your mouth with a cloth napkin. It is impossible not to feel disempowered in such a situation.
For starters, all you did was have a sip of liquid, something you have done on a regular basis forever. In fact, it is one of the first things you did when you were born. You were gently taken to the breast of your mother and the sucking instinct kicked in. Arising in tandem with this was the less glorified swallowing instinct. It is such a fundamental and basic impulse and something we know how to do immediately. When you choke on liquid, you are demonstrating that you cannot be depended on for basic functionality.
There is one thing even more disempowering than choking on liquid: choking on your own spit. At least if someone saw you take a sip of something before you began to choke, they may be able to draw a reasonable correlation. However, choking on spit displays no causality and leaves bystanders baffled. Those around you are left to their own imaginations to come up with an explanation as to why this person, just seconds before seemed absolutely without issue. "Did he swallow a bug?" "Is he having a seizure?" They don't know. And they couldn't know. This, my friends, is disempowering. Once the coughing subsides (again, caused by your own spit) and others are awaiting an explanation, the only one to give is inherently disempowering, not to mention embarrassing. "I choked on my own spit."
Further disempowerment can occur later that night when one reflects upon the disempowering event. "It just went down the wrong pipe, how does such a thing happen, what the hell is going on.....what can I count on if I can't even feel confident that I can properly swallow my own spit.....what am I even doing with my life......what kind of a person am I?"