Over time, helplessness can really get stuck at the core of our very identity.
And why wouldn’t it? Our identities form around what we feel most often.
When we’re depressed, anxious, dealing with trauma, or struggling with addiction, it’s as if we are constantly beaten over the head with how ineffective we are at dealing with life.
That’s what our struggles do: they hijack our focus and make us think that we suck.
Our emotional and behavioral struggles work hard to convince us that we can’t stay focused on what really matters in life…and we only have ourselves to blame.
It’s not true— but depression, anxiety, trauma, and addiction work hard to make us FEEL like it’s true.
The truth is, who WOULDN’T have a hard time doing what they need to do every day, when every second their thoughts and physical energy are being dragged down by depression?
Who WOULDN’T have a hard time doing life, when they feel so anxious that their stomach literally hurts and it feels like they literally can’t think because they’re so tense?
Who WOULDN’T have a hard time doing life when every second their attention is scattered due to dissociation— or pulled back inexorably toward a past full of pain and fear?
Who WOULDN’T have a hard time making good decisions when every cell in their body feels like its screaming out for a fix of some substance or behavior?
Think about it this way: let’s say you were the best conductor in the world. You’re the maestro of maestros. In front of an orchestra, no one is more skilled or suave than you.
And let’s put you in front of an orchestra. Ready to conduct?
And then, just as you’re about to conduct your orchestra, let’s point a bunch of huge speakers right at your face— the type of speakers they use at rock concerts— and let’s blast Aerosmith’s Greatest Hits at you so you can’t hear yourself think, let alone hear the orchestra you’re supposed to conduct, let alone be able to actually CONDUCT it.
That’s what depression, anxiety, trauma, and addiction do to us.
They blast their destructive nonsense at us so loudly and obnoxiously and obtrusively, that it doesn’t even MATTER how good we are at life: it’s going to appear that we suck at it.
It’s going to APPEAR as if we are helpless.
Over time, we experience that again and again…so much so that we forget that, actually, we CAN conduct an orchestra, when Aerosmith isn’t being blasted in our face.
Recovery is partially about learning how to get that speaker blaring heavy metal out of our face.
But it’s also about remembering that we are not how we feel in our most helpless moments.
Are are not helpless and hopeless. We don’t suck at life— no matter how we’ve been made to feel when we’re exhausted and in pain.
It’s really important that we not let ourselves be defined by our most difficult moments.
EVERYBODY, including the most competent person you can think of right now, has felt helpless and hopeless at times.
But helplessness does not have to become part of our identity.
It’s a state, a condition, a feeling, a reality at times. But it is not who we fundamentally are.
The greatest artists and leaders in the world have felt helpless and hopeless.
Everyone who has ever recovered from depression, anxiety, trauma, or addiction has very much felt helpless and hopeless.
I’ve felt helpless and hopeless.
But we are more than our most difficult feelings.
Remember who you are.
It may have been awhile— but remember.
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