Helplessness

Hi, you.

After some contemplation and through exposure from clientele, there has been an interesting development of a symptomology profile that stems from a culmination of hopelessness and worthlessness. This concept, I believe, leads to the idea of helplessness, which, to some degree, functions as a subtle pandemic that has not been addressed.

How does helplessness as an experience develop? Some may argue that a series of difficult and averse situations or circumstances presented to an individual that leads to an uncontrollable sequence of negative outcomes can lead to helplessness. Some may argue that helplessness is a state of mind. I believe that there are some axioms that can be respected here:

  1. Externally motivated negative stimuli can create a sense of inability to control their environment. This difficulty leads to a challenging of the individual’s understanding of agency, which then produces feelings of lack of autonomy.
  2. Internally motivated negative stimuli can also create a sense of inability to control the individual and their environment. If the individual believes that they are incapable of practicing self-determination, this lack of agency can lead to an inability to create decisions that can break negative cyclical patterns.
  3. Demoralization.

Have you felt as though the world was against you? That, under no circumstance, were you able to change your current situation, and that you were doomed to experience despair?

I believe this narrative surrounds individuals who experience helplessness to the extent at which they feel similarly, but instead, viscerally, rather than through a narration.

The pain that comes with dread and despair has stemmed from our childhoods. I would like to clarify that there is a very specific dread and despair that comes from losing agency that aggregates over time to create schemas and biases that develop over the lifetime. Losing agency (the sense that you have autonomy and a conscience that determines your course of action at an individual level) has been a recurring theme that I have seen throughout working with my clients. For example, if parents believe that, through their life experience, they will dictate the next course of actions that their child must take in order to best serve their child. Don’t misunderstand– it is very encouraged that the authority of the parent should be respected in that if they are coming from a place of genuine care and concern, this should lead to the development of a conscience that the child will follow over time. This subtle and positive indoctrination is not what I am arguing against. What I am particularly pointing out is that there are parents who have removed agency from their children through their own misinterpretations, through their own shortcomings, through their own over compensatory or under compensatory behaviors, etc. This theme of recurring loss in agency can perpetuate throughout a life time. How many instances do you think that an individual can experience in which they believe that they cannot control their own life until the point at which they feel as though they have no control, and thus, leading to helplessness? Helplessness being the derivative of feeling as though there is no motivation or necessitation to take action as there will be no change from an autonomous perspective.

“So, what’s the solution? What are the best actionable steps that will mitigate this sense of helplessness?”

I am open to feedback; however, from my understanding, facilitating conversation towards re-establishing the individual’s relationship to the self by engaging in behaviors that can lead to positive consequences. To be more specific, if the individual can take tolerable risks, followed by a positive consequence from taking the tolerable risk, the baseline of their relative state of being can increase. With this increase, we are slowly, but surely, re-moralizing the client.

“What about individuals who are risk-averse and not willing to take risks?”

Resistance is most likely going to be highest when the client is feeling helpless. When there is no answer or immediate solution, the client may find themselves unwilling to change and not willing to be helped in any capacity, either from others or themselves. If this is the case, it is important to understand that although they may seem as though they do not want help, they do. They have come to you out of an effort because their mind has rationalized that this may be helpful, even in the slightest. This is our only leverage. They want to be helped. But they feel as though nothing can help. Although this places a huge burden on the other individual, if the helpless individual comes to a place where they are able to receive help, then the re-moralization process can begin. This can be a frustrating process for the individual who tries to help; however, a key method, I believe, can revolve around pointing out this very fact that they are not allowing themselves to be helped. There must be a discovery or an uncovering of their inability to receive help. When they are in this state, they are not willing to listen, but yet, they so deeply yearn for someone to listen and to understand their pain. Furthermore, they deeply yearn for a simpler solution than the challenging ones that they have come up with. Do not fall into this fallacy of providing simple solutions. This will end up angering them, as they have already tried those things. Instead, once again, point out their unwillingness to to listen. Following this, what would it look like to brainstorm together? There may be two (or more) possible avenues that can stem from this. If the individual agrees to brainstorming, the individual may come up with a objectively positively-affecting plan that can help them feel better and feel more in control of their life. Or, they could decline. Once they decline, and you point out that they are not willing to even help themselves, once again, they are presented with this paradox of wanting help, but yet, not wanting help. They must be made aware of this dissonance with the self. Only then, can they create change that they realize they have adopted a helpless approach to life.

For some reason, the idea of being paradoxical or any tangentially-related synonym to paradox irks the human ego. Play with this thought a little more, and one can come to the conclusion that our moral compasses are defined by rights and wrongs. To be right, and to be wrong. We don’t want to be wrong. We want to be right, so if we are paradoxical, are we not essentially wrong? This dissonance or discrepancy can be seen very deeply within that stems from a societal archetype… that I am unable to label. Yet.

That’s all for today. I think maybe I will discuss the idea of a “good conscience” for the next blog. Thanks for your time.


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