Helpless - Learning Limitation


Learn to notice the feeling’s you have when you know that you are helpless, or someone else is helpless.  Consider the conditions of life that you have absolutely no control over, did not have control over, and will not have control over. Consider how as a child you yourself were the helpless victim of a great many experiences. By definition, childhood is in many ways a helpless situation. For instance, you cannot decide you do not want to go to school which was, “for your own good,” So why do you think you could decide against perpetration? You had no control over the decisions of the adults in your life. In this condition children will attempt to find a way to find a solution in their own psyche. One way is to blame yourself – because if you are to blame for the abuse, shaming or experience, then surely, you have the power to change it in the future by correcting something about yourself. And so a belief system develops around “If I am “good,” I will be safe.” “If I am “bad,” then I will be hurt.” Therein lies the problem. Both “good” and “bad,” are arbitrarily decided by the socializing forces in a child’s life, that result in a split in the psyche and the illusion of control.

This was a necessary and normal stage of development. However, now as an adult it is imperative to recognize that there are situations in which you are helpless and to stop using tactics to try to take away the anxiety of the feeling helpless.

One example that is common is that another person’s childish dependence, incapacity to find inner solutions, demand for external help, evokes the anxiety we have ourselves and we rush in to offer solutions, give advice, fix and help to alleviate the anxiety we are feeling. In this reactive mode the higher order knowing that each person must find their own inner solutions flies out the window and we rush headlong into the trap of “helping.”  Then if the help works, you get the glory and if it doesn’t you get the blame.  This idealizing and devaluing is, of course, a projection of the inner dynamic of one who is being “helped.”  Our “help” does nothing except work against us.

I am sure you all know you are helpless to save all the starving children in Syria, to stop the war’s in the middle east.  Notice what your defense is against the fear, hurt and grief you feel knowing your external helplessness.

Consider for yourself what the fleeting secondary gains and benefits are to remaining in a state of helplessness, when you are no longer helpless?  Consider the fleeting secondary gains and benefits to giving advice to others, when you have no capacity to change them at all. How are you being set up to be the recipient of their gratitude or their rage. 

So what is the answer?  It is to stay present to the pain with love and acceptance – within yourself and in relationship to others. Acknowledge your helplessness and feel the inner pain of the other person and your own anxiety and bring the Witness and your heart to the situation.  Do not allow yourself to be pulled and lured into “helping,” instead of loving; distancing instead of staying present.  In this way you will be able to stay present to your own dying one day with loving presence, instead of splitting and distancing. Your whole life is the practice of developing the wisdom to know what you can control and what you cannot control.

Use the serenity prayer as your mantra for a month (at least), until it is deeply understood and completely integrated. If you do not understand it, formulate questions to help you get answers. The answers are all within – not without. What you can change is yourself, not others. You can only love others, not change them.

“God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time,
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;
taking, as Jesus did,
this sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it;
trusting that You will make all things right
if I surrender to Your will;
so that I may be reasonable happy in this life
and supremely happy with You forever in the next.”


~Reinhold Niebuhr