Violence - Feeling Stuck and Helpless


Ever felt stuck? It feels like you are in this mud and do not seem to get out of it.

And when you try to get out, you keep slipping back.

Slipping back and lingering in the mud causes frustration. It makes one to wonder: “For how long I will get stuck?’ “why can I not get out?’ “what is holding me back”; “I feel so helpless and defeated”.

un women

Being in an abusive relationship- whether emotional, physical, sexual or in any other form of abuse, sometimes feel like being stuck in the mud. Whereas there are many issues that could be going on, one of them could be helplessness.

Let us talk about Learnt Helplessness



What are your take-aways from the above eaglet story?

Well, let's reflect on a few things:  

  • The environment and the belief system made the eaglet to behave like chicken.
  • It admired majestic birds flying on their wings, but felt helpless. 
  • It did try to fly, but kept bouncing back like a chicken and the helplessness continued
  • But one day the eaglet was faced with a hard decision:
    • "Do I continue to go on with life as I have always lived or do I take what it is to fly like a bird?'

Although it had strong wings to change its position, the eaglet felt helpless and powerless due to the conditioning. 

Like the eaglet, being conditioned to repeated negative experiences, could lead to a web of feeling powerless and incapable of changing situation for the good. It can become learnt helplessness. 



Learnt Helplessness in Abusive Relationship

Abusive relationships can lead to one feeling caged and helpless, and powerless to change the circumstances.

The abuser can contribute to that ‘helplessness’ through his/her actions, expressions and intimidation.

inner voices

Helplessness and a sense of powerlessness are often accompanied by irrational beliefs with negative inner voices that come with time.

Such beliefs have the potential to lead to self-defeating behaviors; which move us away from our goals and deter personal development.

Learnt Helplessness

A state of resignation that occurs after a person has experienced negative situations repeatedly like abuse. 

A subconscious belief develops that they are unable to control or change the situation.

It is a perceived lack of control that leads to helplessness.

The Trap: Cycle of Violence

Remember that abuse, like GBV has a cycle, which shows how abuse becomes a cyclic trap. The trap can increase a sense of helplessness. As shown in the diagram below, the cycle generally tends to be a buildup.


cycle violence


As you think of one getting trapped in this cycle, which may contribute to helplessness, it is important to ask:  


Rebuilding the Broken Bridges