I haven’t been in a great place this past week. My computer’s hard drive crashed and it didn’t sit well with my parts. Even though I did not lose data, my productivity loss triggered the futility from beneath the surface. I was inundated with theories from my parts. Maybe the universe is punishing me. Maybe my abusers had infiltrated my computer and destroyed my hard drive. Maybe I wasn’t meant to run this business. Maybe I wasn’t meant to be happy. Maybe this was a sign I don’t even belong on this planet. As you can see, it went south very quickly. And in my usual fashion, I wrote from it and it helped. But it was still a hard week. And I am still catching up.
When we go through childhood trauma, part of our reality will be fueled by futility. Don’t get me wrong, everyone on the planet deals with it to some extent. But for us, it is particularly strong. While futility is a horrible feeling, we can make it so much worse by battling it. When the battle starts, it can lead to far more mental, emotional and physical pain. So, I am going to outline several steps you can take when this feeling takes over because I know it will. These aren’t the steps you normally hear in the mainstream. They aren’t even steps that are easy to comprehend based on how we treat ourselves. These steps are about being kind to self. And it is about time we did that.
- Do anything possible to be present. Grounding is very difficult for us to do. We have spent our entire lives running from our bodies. It is understandable. Our bodies store the memories and emotions from the past. But when we are feeling futility, it is important we see it as a flashback. It is even critical because futility can lead to suicidal ideation. So, we need to do whatever it takes to be as present as possible.
- Be aware the futility is there. Futility can be stealth. It is tricky. If we aren’t aware of it, it will take over our day and we won’t know why we feel the way we do. It descends like a heavy blanket and sings its siren song. This is the song that says, “Don’t do anything. There’s no point anyway.” It is the path of least resistance. And when we have no energy, it is incredibly convincing.
- Write from it if you can. In my opinion, futility is the hardest emotion to write from. The very nature of futility convinces us there is no point. That means there is no point to writing either. But if we use our will to reach for that journal, it will make a huge difference in how we feel. If you don’t know what the message sounds like, here are some suggestions for where to start. “What’s the point?” “Nothing is going to change.” “This won’t make any difference.”
- Manage your controller. When the controller comes up, acknowledge them, write from them, but ignore their suggestions. The controller panics when the futility sets in. The controller does not understand the temporary nature of our emotional states. They think in black and white. Whatever state we are in now will be our state forever. They become overwhelmed with fear and start making lists in your head. “We must get this done. We must succeed at that. If we don’t do XYZ today, we are going to be homeless.” This state of paralysis with a manic mind is my own personal definition of hell. And yes, I have lived this hell many times. But the futility will not be with you forever. You have functioned before and you will function again. Recognize that and let go of the list for this moment.
- Take time for yourself. You have heard it a million times. I know that. But normally, it is advertised as something beautiful and exotic like a spa day. That is not always possible. Allow yourself to sit for a while. If you are a parent, put the kids in front of a movie and give them a popsicle. Take a nap if you want to. Allow yourself to leave the house without make-up or hair done. Save the chores for tomorrow. Take a sick day. The guilt is going to come. You have never been allowed to consider what you wanted. The controller will tell you that you aren’t being a model citizen or a good parent or a good enough employee. But fighting the moments when rest and compassion are needed will not make you feel better and might even get you sick.
- Keep reminding yourself that you will come out of it. As I mentioned above, every one of our emotional states is temporary. Sometimes the only solace I can hang onto is its temporary nature. Allow yourself to acknowledge that. Make a note to remind yourself about it. Know that if you rest right now, you won’t be resting for the rest of your life. Your energy will return. But the more you bring awareness to the futility, the more temporary it will be.
None of these steps are easy. And this message is for me as much as anyone right now. I teach this to my clients and it is still hard to follow. But the more we can bring awareness to our futility cycles, the better we will ride these waves and come out the other side. Don’t let your controller build a dam. The pain of that battle will be intolerable. Sit with your futility. Hear the message. Honor the story. And it will pass.