For a long time in my life, I thought that there are certain things, people, and situations… that are good and others that are bad. Everything that I thought was bad made me feel a sense of helplessness, sadness, agitation, anxiety… and all that I thought was good, made me feel happy, peaceful, calm, joyous…
My Journey: Helplessness to Happiness
What was good and what was bad was a decision based on what I had learnt from observing & listening to people around me. Since my feelings were based on these things, people, and situations… most of which I had no control over, I felt a terrible sense of helplessness.
Helplessness: Playing Dead
I even learnt to become fine with this helplessness (or at least I thought I was fine) and did nothing to feel better (play dead)…. till something happened, something that shook me.
Then I started asking questions, questions like why me?
More Helplessness: Asking “Why Me“?
And this frustrated me and made me feel more helpless because I started thinking even more about those things and people who were (as I thought) responsible for my misery.
Overcoming Helplessness with Positive thinking: Suppression
Then one day I read a very good article that was shared by my friend on how our feelings are rarely dependent on what happens to us but are majorly a result of “What part of the experience are we focusing on?“.
This got me thinking, and I changed my question to “Is there something good that I can find in this situation?”
I wanted to look at the positive side as I thought some emotions like anger, and sadness… are negative & I shouldn’t feel them. So I began intellectualising and found positive ways of looking at those situations where I felt these emotions.
I was able to resolve a lot of my problems (or at least I thought) by simply looking at the positive side. The sense of helplessness that I was earlier experiencing at a conscious level was also reduced to some extent.
At the same time there were other situations where no matter how positive I tried to be, I just wasn’t able to resolve them.
I kept suppressing emotions and pushing these situations under the carpet under the pretext of being positive but the so-called negative emotions just kept coming back and each time with higher intensity.
This made me wonder, what was I missing? Why am I still feeling helpless?
Overcoming Helplessness: Missing Link
As I read books after books on positive thinking and applied the concepts in my life, I became aware and to some extent sure of the fact that experiences don’t really create problems, all problems are a result of certain so-called negative emotions (anger, sadness, guilt…) that we attach to experiences.
Now which emotion is attached to an experience is generally a result of our perspective.
Overcoming Helplessness: Perception
Most problems in life are just a matter of perception. The question is how we perceive things in our life?
So, if my brother shouts at me and I choose to perceive this shouting as his hatred towards me, I will attach maybe anger with this experience which then becomes the problem but if I perceive the shouting as his love which helped me learn from my mistake then I may even be able to feel good about the entire experience.
This approach helped me in a lot of situations but not all. In fact, in some situations, it created even more problems for me.
For e.g.: there were some situations where I made some mistakes and I felt guilty. Since I by now knew that problems are the result of perception, I started looking for what good could have happened because of this mistake.
The good thing about the mind is it finds what it is looking for, which means I was able to find something good even in the worst of situations, which is in a way a really good thing. At the same time, I stopped looking at the mistakes as mistakes and hence never learnt from them.
Overcoming Helplessness: It is not just about Positive thinking
I kept repeating the same mistakes and got into a pattern in life which was creating a problem for me but I kept pushing the mistakes and problems under the carpet under the pretext of positive thinking and perception…
All this because I still thought and felt that, if I could keep looking at things with a positive attitude, I would stay away from certain emotions that were considered negative by me…
That said, I had by now started realising:
- I was pushing a lot of things under the carpet under the pretext of positive thinking and
- Most of my efforts were directed toward staying away from the so-called negative feelings.
Overcoming Helplessness: Escapism
When I look back today, it’s like I was running away from what I truly felt at that moment. I see a lot of people around me doing this today.
One of the basic rules about life that I have observed is:
The more we try to run away from something, the higher are the chances of facing it
So I just stopped for a moment (its good to do so once in a while), looked around and spoke to a friend who said:
Everything that happens in my life has a reason behind it. In most cases, the reason is for me to learn something new.
Overcoming Helplessness: Learning from Experiences
This one statement resulted in a lot of other questions for me like:
- Is it possible that even the so-called negative emotions were there to teach me something?
- Is the resolution to my problems in embracing & observing my feelings instead of running away from them.
- And most importantly, if these feelings are there to teach me something, then are they really negative?
These are the question that I leave you with.
If you or someone you know is struggling with a sense of helplessness, it maybe a good idea to connect with a therapist. Feel free to call +91-8080-2084-73, in case you would like to contact a therapist in Mumbai.
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