Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom
Excerpts about Helplessness
Avoiding the Feeling of Helplessness
The second defense normally employed against the state of deficiency is negative merging. The individual avoids the feeling of helplessness and impotence by becoming embroiled in all kinds of negative states and interactions; thus he also avoids feeling separate and alone. The negative
merging is a way to feel contact and union with another—unconsciously the mother—and hence supported. This defense has many important functions, although it is emotionally painful. It protects the individual from feeling helpless and alone. It protects him from feeling suspended in midair without anything to hold on to. It gives him a sense of traction, and hence relieves him from the terror of feeling he is going to slip into oblivion.
Pearl Beyond Price, pg. 365
Everything is Being Done Regardless of You
Ceasing to strive happens through accepting your helplessness. This helplessness is existential because in reality, you are not one who can do. This is the innate helplessness of the human being. In traditional religious terminology, awareness of this helplessness is described as “humility,” the recognition that only God is almighty. So recognizing your helplessness is, in a sense, recognizing that God is the one who is all-powerful and all-doing. This is why many spiritual traditions emphasize recognizing, feeling, and accepting your smallness and helplessness. This could be threatening or it might be quite comforting. To see that everything is being done regardless of you, and that things are happening in a harmonious way, can be quite a relief. If, on the other hand, you are trying to preserve your sense of identity, then the thought of giving up the sense of yourself as someone who does can be quite threatening. So accepting your helplessness is really a spiritual surrender. If you truly accept it, you know that it is really not up to you, and you are free. But if you believe it is all up to you, you will always be busy doing one thing or another
and there will be no surrender. So the understanding and acceptance of objective helplessness is an entry into surrender to Being. Whether we feel threatened by this view of reality or not, it is how things really are. It might be alarming to begin to glimpse how things really are, but it is more alarming to realize that you have not been seeing reality as it is. You see that you have been interpreting what you perceive through various beliefs and concepts, and that these are delusions. If you do not interpret things through the filter of the delusions, you recognize that the world described by the Holy Ideas is the same world, but now without those limiting lenses.
Facets of Unity, pg. 275
Existential Helplessness that is Simply Part of the Situation of Being Human
If you refrain from doing when you have the urge to strive, and merely accept the true condition of the ego, Being naturally acts through its optimizing thrust. Through your striving, you prevent, you block and oppose this optimizing thrust of Being. Striving for happiness or striving to attain any other goal is taking matters into your own hands instead of allowing the optimizing thrust of Being to make things happen. So accepting your helplessness is, in a sense, an invitation for the action of the optimizing thrust. We are seeing that allowing and understanding this helplessness is vitally important for spiritual development. Often, when we initially contact our sense of helplessness, it is the emotional helplessness that is the result of limitations in the environment—past, present, and imagined. This is the sense of helplessness we have when we are ill and feel helpless to move, or when we want a day off but have to work. It is also a regressive helplessness, shaped by memories of infancy when our capacity to do and to act were indeed limited and dependent. As we have said, this emotional helplessness is not the existential one that comes from merely having a sense of self. As long as you can find a reason for your helplessness, it is still not the fundamental helplessness. When you finally feel that your helplessness is not caused by someone holding you back, or by your lack of strength, or your smallness, or by any other specific circumstance, you will feel the existential helplessness that is present simply as part of the situation of being human.
Facets of Unity, pg. 281
Experiencing Helplessness Without Judgement and Rejection
When you feel the helplessness fully, without resisting it, you might feel that you are so helpless that you can’t even raise a finger. This experience is getting down to the truth of the delusion. It does not mean that you are an individual who is feeling inadequate when you could be feeling adequate, nor is there a judgment about the fact that you feel that way. If you experience the helplessness as a failure, it is because you believe that you should be able to be adequate, and since you’re not, you are ashamed and have a self-judgment about feeling that way. However, if you see that the helplessness is just an existential fact that is part and parcel of being an ordinary egoic human being, you realize that it is not something to judge and reject yourself for. Rather, it is something to accept with humility and surrender. It is a chance for you to finally see your condition accurately. So to experience the helplessness without judgment and rejection is to accept our existential situation when we are not in the condition of enlightenment. It is the acceptance that, by the mere fact of being a human individual, you are helpless. This is analogous to the religious notion that it is only God who is mighty and capable, and the experience is similar to being genuinely immersed in prayer. If you really pray, you are acknowledging that there is a much larger force than you as a separate individual. The acceptance of your helplessness has the same sense of surrender and humility, and is in this sense a kind of prayer. Accepting and feeling your helplessness is seeing that you cannot free yourself, nor can you take away anyone else’s suffering. As long as you take yourself to be a separate doer, whatever you do is not going to make a difference, and helplessness is your objective condition.
Facets of Unity, pg. 280
Love Does Not Make You Helpless
Love does not make you helpless. It does so only if you associate it with the time when you were actually helpless, were dependent on your family for care and protection. You're not like that anymore; you can protect yourself from abuse and attack . . . not by cutting yourself off from that softness but by defending yourself as an adult, as someone who has strength. So, because being open was dangerous in our early experience, we need to learn as adults how to protect ourselves in an effective way. And if we were badly abused as kids, we might need to do specialized work to be free of the effects of such a difficult experience when we were young and undefended. As we see, then, part of the danger has to do with the fact that we were abused and attacked. Because that happened, we developed a structure that we think is us. So from our perspective, the danger is now twofold: If we experience our babylike sweetness, we're not only going to be hurt, we are also going to lose who we are.
Love Unveiled, pg. 65
Shoring Up Our Insecure Sense of Identity
As we begin to understand this perspective, we may learn that one's helplessness is based on a delusion: the belief that there is something we need to do in order to be ourselves and the resulting conviction that we can know what it is. This is one of the basic delusions of the ego life of the self. It is inherent in narcissism that we will tend to do things to support our sense of identity. So the self is always engaged in inner activities of remembering, imaging, identifying, repressing, projecting, idealizing, and various self-manipulations to shore up our insecure sense of identity.
The Point of Existence, pg. 257
The Delusion of Separate Doership
The more you get in touch with the helplessness, the more you might also get in touch with a specific physical blockage against it, which is the same thing as holding on to the delusion of vanity, of separate doership. This blockage is a specific holding at the anterior fontanel (at the front of the head) which blocks the channel of Living Daylight. When we see through this delusion and surrender our striving and our belief in it, this channel opens up. Then we can experience the beginning of real holding, the beginning of blessing as a descent of light that is love. This loving light expresses the action of Being as it melts the rigidities and fixations of the soul. When this occurs, we see that vanity is the specific blockage against the channel of Living Daylight, because in believing in yourself as a separate doer, you are taking God's place. In other words, vanity and the striving are reflections of the position that one does not need real holding. You feel that you can do it on your own and so you don't need nourishment -- whether human or divine. It also means that you believe that you do not need Grace, and therefore block it. Grace is the descent of Living Daylight, specifically in regard to dissolving boundaries, so it allows us to be held by the universe and to trust in it. When you connect with this level of reality, the degree of holding in the environment ceases to be an issue. The environment that allows us to dissolve is Being itself, and when we connect with that dimension of reality, we feel held no matter what situation we are in.
Facets of Unity, pg. 283
The Empathic Bond between Teacher and Student
This brings us back to our consideration of Kohut’s view of the transformation of narcissism. We have noted his emphasis on the empathic bond between teacher and student, and discussed our view that the importance of this bond is not only to provide what was missing in the student’s early childhood, but to provide sufficient holding for the student to venture into the narcissistic helplessness and terrifying emptiness. Also, this empathy gives the teacher the information and skill necessary for guiding the student deeper, to contact his own real support. It is clear from the cases above that the empathic bond would not by itself reconnect the student with his own true support. The insight into the helplessness, the understanding that the deficiency is not a real one, and the recognition of the delusion behind both, are pivotal in the transformation of this narcissistic manifestation. It is these insights that are primarily responsible for this transformation. In fact, the transformation is bound to occur if we achieve these insights, even in the absence of the empathic bond. We see, then, that although the empathic bond is helpful, it is not the central factor in the transformation, and insight into the functioning of the psyche retains its traditional place of central significance.
The Point of Existence, pg. 261
The Feeling of Helplessness is Not an Actual Deficiency
The most important insight needed for a student to move from the deficient lack of support to the actual state of support is the recognition that the feeling of helplessness, of not knowing what to do to be oneself, is not an actual deficiency, nor a personal failing. It is rather, the recognition of a fundamental truth about the self, which is that we cannot do anything in order to be, for to be is not an activity. We can come to this understanding only through the cessation of intentional inner activity. At this point, not to know what to do is a matter of recognizing the natural state of affairs, for since there is nothing that we can do to be, then it is natural that we cannot know what to do. There is nothing to know because such knowledge is impossible. Nobody knows what to do to be, and the sooner we recognize this, the easier is our work on self-realization. In fact, feeling that we don’t know what to do to be ourselves is the beginning of the insight that we don’t need to do anything. This fundamental insight underlies many advanced spiritual practices, such as those of surrender and “nondoing” meditation. We can arrive at this insight by exploring the question of support for identity, but it is another matter to remember and practice it. When we truly learn this fundamental truth, then we have become wise; for self-realization is now an effortless relaxation into the nature of who we are, and this is the presence of Being. Nothing more need be done; the transformation is a matter now of spontaneous unfoldment.
The Point of Existence, pg. 256
Trying to Make Yourself Feel Better
By pitting yourself against what is, you are acting according to the delusion that you have a separate will and that you can have your own way, different from what is happening. This is one of the principles of ego: that you have a separate will and that you have choice. Even when you believe that you are helpless and can’t do things, there is the implicit belief that if it weren’t for your helplessness, you could have your own way. From this egoic perspective, it seems obvious that you need to tinker with things, both inwardly and outwardly. This manifests externally as manipulating other people to make them conform to how you think they need to be for you, and internally as constantly evaluating your experience to see whether it is “right” or not, and trying to change it if it doesn’t match your ideas of how you think it should be. “What state am I in? Oh, no! I’m being reactive—that’s no good—I should be just being. Now I’m being. Good, good. I should stabilize that,” and so on, as if it were up to you to make your state become this or that. If you contemplate your experience, you will see this constant activity. The moment you are identified with your ego, you are involved in this activity of trying to make yourself feel better, and not scared or unhappy or empty. All ego defenses are based on this principle of changing your experience to make it conform to how you think it should be. So there is a constant inner manipulation going on, expressing the delusion that you have a separate will and that you can have things your way, which is separating from Holy Will. You have lost your freedom, since true freedom means freedom from the content of what you are experiencing. Whether you are experiencing yourself as a separate entity, or as the Holy Truth, or as transparency, or as a frustrated mother, or as a stressed-out businessman, or whatever, that is what the universe is creating right now. It’s pure magic, so who are you to say to God, “I don’t like what I’m experiencing. Why don’t you change it?” To really surrender your will means to have basic trust in the universe, God, or reality, and so we see how the lack of basic trust creates the delusion of this ennea-type.
Facets of Unity, pg. 129
When Helplessness is Your Objective Condition
So to experience the helplessness without judgment and rejection is to accept our existential situation when we are not in the condition of enlightenment. It is the acceptance that, by the mere fact of being a human individual, you are helpless. This is analogous to the religious notion that it is only God who is mighty and capable, and the experience is similar to being genuinely immersed in prayer. If you really pray, you are acknowledging that there is a much larger force than you as a separate individual. The acceptance of your helplessness has the same sense of surrender and humility, and is in this sense a kind of prayer. Accepting and feeling your helplessness is seeing that you cannot free yourself, nor can take away anyone else's suffering. As long as you take yourself to be a separate doer, whatever you do is not going to make a difference, and helplessness is your objective condition. Until you know yourself to be completely Being, you are objectively helpless; taking that prayerful attitude of acknowledging your helplessness in the face of the immensity of Being is not only useful -- it also reflects the truth. The attitude of humility and helplessness is accurate as long as there is any remnant of self. From the perspective of pure Being, that prayerful attitude helps to expose the egoic self and to acknowledge its real situation. And this acceptance of helplessness, without defense, without judgment, without striving, becomes the point of entry into Being and its dynamism.