We all experience hard times. For some of us it’s occasional, while for others it’s seemingly their whole life.
When people feel frustrated, overwhelmed, or lost, they may want support from others. Especially if they haven’t done a lot of self-work or have just begun to better understand themselves and the world.
In moments like that, we may want validation, help, understanding, or encouragement. We may want for someone to say, “Your situation is very upsetting, so it’s okay that you feel sad and frustrated.” Or, “Let me know if you need any help.” Or, “I know you can do this.” Or simply, “I am here for you.”
However, based on my personal and professional experience, often people don’t have anyone who is consistently trustworthy and reliable. Or they don’t have anyone at all. And a lot of them can’t afford professional help or are too ashamed or scared to seek it.
To some degree, most people—if not all of us—come from psychologically problematic childhood environments, and many don’t even know it. Therefore, so many of us struggle with being an adult and solving adult problems. Dealing with an overwhelming situation—be it external or internal—can be very hard. Not having anybody to talk to and feeling like it’s you against the whole world makes it so much more difficult.
We have already discussed in previous articles how easy and attractive it can be to stay dependent on people’s validation to artificially “boost” your sense of self-esteem. We have also addressed how looking for it in the wrong places can leave a person even more devastated. And the truth is, sometimes there is nobody to rely on except you yourself.
When overwhelmed, people unconsciously retract into what I sometimes call a child state (versus an adult, realistic state). Here, they feel like a child: scared, lost, lonely, helpless, passive. Or angry, rageful, unreasonable, aggressive, or destructive. As a result, a person is unable to see his or her situation objectively and is therefore prone to unrealistic beliefs and behavior that is ineffective, self-destructive, or harmful to others.
Yes, it can be encouraging and empowering to hear someone say something comforting or be there for you. People may even want someone to take care of them, to be a surrogate parent in a sense. And this dynamic can be, or quickly can become, quite unhealthy. So sometimes you may not have anybody to rely on for support, but it doesn’t mean that you are completely helpless.
What can help is being as aware of how you feel and think as possible. Taking a moment to self-reflect can stop you from doing something you may regret or get you out of a cycle of obsessive thoughts. Taking time to evaluate the situation objectively can help tremendously, too, both in alleviating overwhelming feelings and making better choices.
Additionally, you can remind yourself that you indeed are an adult now, not a child anymore. Here, you can accept that the situation is overwhelming without making it worse. You can take responsibility for taking care of your well-being. You can reassure yourself that you trust that, as an adult, you will deal with the consequences.
It’s important to note that here we are not talking about extreme situations, or about deluding yourself into believing that you can do anything or that everything is fine. We’re talking about staying objective and realistic about your troubles, but also being mature and constructive.
Trusting yourself when you feel overwhelmed or hopeless or completely alone can be quite challenging. Learning to self-validate instead of looking for a surrogate parent to save you can feel pointless or counterintuitive. Yet with a lot of consistent practice you can become more self-loving and self-reliant. And then it’s only easier to tackle your problems, and build or maintain healthier relationships with others.
For more on these and other topics, check out the author’s books: Human Development and Trauma: How Childhood Shapes Us into Who We Are as Adults and Self-Work Starter Kit.