One of the symptoms of PTSD/CPTSD is a feeling of helplessness. However, my counselor taught me there are three kinds of helpless feelings. The first one is the type of helplessness that a small child has facing a raging adult. The child is helpless. No way they can take on the adult. This type of helpless can be so ingrained that as an adult they feel the same sense of helplessness. Similar to training an elephant by chaining it heavily when it is little, then as an adult the elephant with a light rope around it’s leg feels helpless to move. A devastating feeling that there is no options. No hope. No way to change.
The second type of helplessness is learned helplessness. I watch this at school when students learn that if they just sit there doing nothing and looking pitiful their assignment will either be done by someone else or reduced. It is a learned behavior reinforced by well meaning people that don’t realize that they are doing more harm than good by catering to this learned behavior.
The third type is harder to detect but just as troublesome. This type of helplessness is manipulative. Took watching someone else being had by this type of manipulation. The tell-tale sign of this type of manipulative helplessness is a small smile when they shoved their responsibility on some unsuspecting victim of their deceit. Their helplessness is practiced and refined form of manipulation to take advantage of people that like to help others.
All three types of helplessness involve giving up their own power. One gives up their power because they believe they have no choice. The second gives up their power to get out of doing things and the third all though they are flexing their power are crippling themselves by not accepting their own responsibilities.
The solution to all three forms of helplessness is to take back your personal power. Look for the options, develop hope, take on hard challenges and don’t accept someone else’s responsibilities. Sounds easy enough but it took me years to first wrap my mind around the fact that I had any personal power in the first place. My counselor told me to stop giving up my power. My response, “What power? I don’t have any?” As long as I believed that, there was little hope for me to heal. The first step into ending helplessness is to identify your own personal power. I wish I could say I understood this right away. I didn’t. However, I was willing to experiment on my counselor’s suggestions. I planted a tiny seed of faith in myself. Just a speck, but a speck is a start.
With personal power comes personal responsibility. To stop learned helplessness, take responsibility for your choices. Taking charge of your own life is the antidote to learned helplessness.
The last one is the person being manipulated takes back their power and tells the manipulator that they are not going to do their job for them. Setting a healthy boundary keeps a manipulator using helplessness from taking your power. I did this with coworker. I stopped being ‘available’ to help her. What do you know? They were able to do what needed to be done themselves. I like helping people so I was an easy target. When I learned more about healthy boundaries and put them in place, I was no longer being manipulated and the person moved on to an easier target.
The solution to feeling helpless is to remember I have the power to make it through 100% of my worse days. I am far more powerful than I was ever led to believe. I believe this is the greatest gift my counselor gave me, to help me see my power and taught me how to use it in a healthy way.