What is helplessness anyway, what does it mean, how does it look? I have felt it, lived in it and dealt with it often. I know when other’s are not used to it or aren’t dealing with it well. This writing is in part sharing my way of managing that feeling and in part to offer a different way for others. For visual aid, this picture of my stuffed animals is a nice depiction; and offers a perspective shift. In one view, it looks like my Puppy is holding Bear down, and the plastic jar cap balanced on Puppy’s back so neither of them can move. The other view? Hang on, bear with me (pun intended) …
I feel this in my own life when my problems, stress, people and conflicts weigh me down. From a distance it appears to be no big deal but ends up feeling so much bigger than it is; the weight of other problems and stress from society, work, other people’s stuff I sympathize in gets added to the pile of stuff. It seems at first like I’m Bear. Then when the weight of the rest of it all is acknowledged, I feel like Puppy. I’m holding down what I don’t feel I can control or affect, and I’m being held down by smaller or simpler things that aren’t a big deal but are important to me to carry.
Thus, I feel helpless. I can’t easily let those things on my back fall because I care so much about them and they’re so precariously balanced, but I also can’t let up from the things I’m managing to control because they’ll all fall apart into entropy disaster. If I don’t care or I don’t manage control of it then the guilt, blame and shame complex ensues. This is just the pattern I have and I see so often in others.
So, how the hell do I deal with this??
I found dancing with it works well. I mean this metaphorically as much as literally. Learning how to move with the balancing parts and the held down parts. Go slowly, pay attention to each small piece with love and patience. There’s no rush, no hurry to get up and solve it all. It’s been this way for how many weeks or years, right? Any movement or change is going to take time no matter what. I’m going to have to work at the change and work at being patient with it. It’s constant waiting, watching, listening, sensing, to myself, to other people, my world and all the factors that I’m holding down or balancing on my back. It’s not easy or simple. It’s damned hard many times. But there are times when the balance shifts just slightly and the weight is eased. The energy is different and a little easier to handle. I can breathe again…There’s a sigh of relief from the pain or exhaustion. It’s a beautiful and wondrous moment. It doesn’t last long, usually, but it does happen repeatedly. The dance is not centralized in that moment of relief, the dance is ALL of this; the relief, the energy or balance shift, the hard and complex waiting, watching, listening and sensing and having patience. It’s all a dance, a beautiful and complicated movement that takes practice. It’s not like the helpless sensation is going anywhere soon, so you can choose to give it time and space.
Let it go. Just not care if the parts or pieces fall off or slip out from the hold. Seriously, just let that shit go or fall apart. This is where the emotional releases happen. When the fit of crying, the tantrum of screaming, yelling and cursing with appendages shaking in tightly controlled convulsions happen. There are times when the weight and the stuff gets to be simply too bloody much and I just can’t take it anymore. I have a human moment and let go. I’m terrified of these moments, as I’ve been trained to never, ever give up self-control or show that I feel intense emotions a lot, often and in significant amounts. And I breathe through that crap, cry it out, shake or clench it through or laugh until I feel sick or exhausted. It can be incredibly dramatic in appearance and feel, or so soft and seemingly minuscule that only I or those watching closely enough to sense any energy shifts can notice. A couple common assumptions: in these releases, the intensity is correlated with the depth (like how long I’ve been carrying this weight around) or importance (how influential to me or my world this weight is) of whatever was released; and that there’s words to describe the weights I’ve just released. Many times, there are just images or memories or simply feelings/energy. The effects of letting it go are amazing, though, to my internal system and sometimes to the external world and other people. Those perceptive enough to sense the energy shift, knowing enough of breakthroughs to get it that words can’t cut it sometimes, or those fortunate to know the stories behind the shifts in letting go, they tend to be smart enough to simply stay open and accepting of what is.
This is when the perspective shift applies; instead of seeing the situation as balancing a bunch of crap and weight on my back while holding in or down a lot of crap and stuff I can’t let go of, I see the balanced load as caring and holding space for another or myself. The jar lid on Puppy’s back isn’t a burden or obligation to take care of, but becomes a jar lid Puppy is caring for and loving being chosen and able to hold that.
For myself, to clarify a bit here, this difference is instead of feeling like I have so much crap of the weight of the world (my loved ones’, friends’ and family’s troubles and tribulations, societal crap and community trials that I’m sensitive to) to carry, I perceive the weight as a choice I made or I accepted the request from someone/an entity I love. I’m helping, giving support and care for this being, idea or person, I’m assisting. I’m being there for that pain, suffering, trouble, struggle or process in whatever and whenever ways I can. This is such a wonderful gift I can give, and this perspective allows me to practice agency of choosing to let it go, shift the balance so it could help the process by enabling empowerment, or someone/something else can take the weight and do something productive or better for the whole.
And holding in all the crap, Puppy holding down Bear? That perspective is shifted by viewing Puppy cuddling Bear, that the stuff I’m holding in and holding down is what I really care about. Some part of my psyche or being values and perceives this stuff as precious, important and worthy of my time and vigilant attention. A lot of the stuff I hold in and down, that slips out or I feel the need to let out or let go of sometimes, is old stuff from my history, what I’ve lived through, done, seen and heard. It’s the lessons I haven’t fully learned yet, the parts of me or my life/those connections to the world and any part of my existence, that some part of me knows I need or can integrate and use now or later. Sometimes that crap I let go is merely in order to help someone else see it can and should be done at times. Sometimes that crap is a deep or not so deep learning moment. Sometimes it’s crucial to my evolution and sometimes it’s just a roadblock to get around. Roadblocks are important; how does one struggle through and grow if there’s nothing to struggle against? When I let go, sometimes I blame or lash out at someone. This is followed with apology and working through the situation, if the person is willing and able, which is sadly not always possible. I digress…
The point is that nothing happens in coincidence, I believe. I still don’t know all the reasons and rhymes of helplessness, but helplessness has a purpose and can be amazingly serendipitous. I know that it’s based in fear, and can be treated as such; if I let it build up and hide from it, it will become so much bigger and powerful than the intention ever was meant. If I sit with it, hold it gently and stay curious about it, it could teach or show me something amazing and wonderful or lead me to a place I get to grow in. If I stand up slowly (don’t want to scare fear, because it can attack or run, not something I revel in handling) and carefully, look the fear straight on or invite it out of hiding, and ask it to show and tell for a bit…Well, I’ve had some awesome reveals of myself, human nature and the world doing this practice. This is just how I deal with helplessness.