On the street people are often at their most vulnerable. It is when we are at our most vulnerable that taking opportunities can be the hardest thing to do. When in the most difficult places one is afflicted by no end of pressures and strains. Life, here, is a battle, and one may very well be very lost inside while fighting it, such that it can seem safer to only rely on oneself and fight it alone. In a sense this is valid if one’s intimate past had been riddled with pain, however, this is not, very necessarily, a reflection of what one needs and, really, wants at heart. The opportunities that come our way in life are so important, we must believe in them like we believe in ourselves.
Perhaps, no more than the difference between a well lived life and one that is hard and unhappy is in the ability to take the opportunities that come along. Is it really so hard to do this?, for are opportunities in life, afterall, not aplenty? If it is possible to do this well, and if one’s eyes are attuned to what is out there, then can there not be a seamless simplicity to living life well?
I should state clearly that I am not saying, that this kind of well lived life will not have it’s challenges and hardships – most certainly not – because, indeed, the dilemmas and feelings these provoke\insight may be part and parcel of a higher way. The more things we do and try, and the more people we know, together with the more situations we find ourselves in are all liable to bring about increased responsibilities we have to assume, and in this there will be more tests we must directly face. This, though, in itself is a richness, precisely because the more pained one’s heart is at the injustices of the world, in many key regards, the more involved and connected one is to the world. Our way of reacting to, and accepting, the events of life is what matters. Life is so much simpler when we recognise that which we can affect and that which we can’t. What one can change, one will change if one’s focus and energy is right. Who is to say how undeveloped the potential within is in this regard? If we could harness such focus to it’s utmost, then perhaps we would be in possession of a superpower.
Speaking of focus, I apologise if mine is a little off here, as I may have just gone off down a minor alleyway, but such wandering was not in vain as this tangent of thought has been to set in place the basis of that which I want to lay down.
What, then, of the opportunities that may exist to the person who is on the street? The more limited we are by our position in life, the fewer opportunities that there are liable to be before us. The successful businessman has more appointments, projects and investment opportunities than he knows what to do with. When my life has been at its hardest and lowest ebb, life was a reflection of how I felt inside – it was bitterly frustrating, and I felt trapped and unable to escape beyond an enraging set of constraints that defined my world. In this place, because I could not really see how change was possible, let alone believe in it (or myself) , then I saw life itself as limited. Opportunities if they were there were not taken. Many, many opportunities were either disregard, not appreciated nor never even seen. The better things have become within myself, the more opportunities I have seen in life.
One of the reasons why I did not used to see opportunities is because a part of me was resisting them. Change was scary. I was scared of hurt, of being ripped apart and destroyed inside as old hidden pain was reopened and came gushing out. When a lot is hidden within the psyche, the world can seem fraught with the unexpected, the threatening and the dangerous. Like this, without fully knowing quite why (for so much within was repressed), I was wary of life. There was a constant impulse to flee. I wanted to be alone with only myself, at least it was somehow safer that way. I must have missed out on so many opportunities since I had become accustomed to acting out of fear. There must, I am quite sure, have been so many serendipitous occurrences that came my way, but which I never took, and that now are long forgotten. If we don’t take opportunities it can very easily seem that we are unfortunate, life is not fair, because life does not seem to provide us with the opportunities that seem to come the way of others all the time. This may be right, but one may very well be mistaken, and alas it can fuel resentments that never need to be fuelled.
The person on the street can be particuarly susceptible to shunning the help of others. In the first, immediate place, this may come from the stigma they carry with them about being a homeless person. Because, so often, homeless people are judged negatively, with a whole range of prejudices attached to this state, such that when these projections are in the air, one picks up on them. These wear one down, and there are times, in my experience, when the homeless person’s sense of self can be so degraded that they can feel sub human. If one feels like this then there is liable to be a dose of hostility when another person tries to get close. Through this, alone, opportunities and connections may be shunned.
Receiving help for so many additional reasons can be extremely hard in this life. The person on the street may feel this worse than many others in life because by being in this position there is a backlogged history: things have happened, there may be a lot of pain locked up inside. Sometimes those who get close and try to help can be seen as a threat for they are potentially impeding upon one’s most closely guarded and ruptured emotional space. It may be felt that they are digging at places that you are not comfortable in going to yourself. There is the risk that they will make you face up to the, hitherto, unfaceable within. Better then, it can seem, to resist this at all costs. Being alone is safe.
The pain is yours and only yours. There is insulation in creating a fort. You are the fort, it was built by you, it is you, and you must forever guard it. I met one person once who had formed a deeply limiting belief that was theirs. It was clung to, and was done subconsciously onwards for so many years. They believed: “I would always be alone in life…….I would never know love”. This was their narrative. It became imbued within. Without realising it it was the core of his identity. It was an ingrained unconscious belief. The belief, these very words, were uttered in one traumatic moment, when as a child, he was stood alone, cut off, isolated, from life around him. The occasion was a holiday, a grand festive occasion, the other children all had their families with them, a picture book scene, and there this person was alone with no one, no family, no friends, he felt abandoned and it hurt more than he could then possibly express. This moment encapsulated for him what he had long felt. Suddenly the poingnacy of the moment underlined his world he had long on some level felt.
There was nothing he could do. He could – and a part of him so strongly wanted to – have fallen apart. A nervous wreck, shot to pieces……the pain, the tears, the agonising screams from his tender heart, if given expression to then, would have risked meaning nothing to anyone else…….He was alone, no one could understand what he felt, he was a child, he could not understand it all himself. If he gave into the emotion he would have looked like a crazy person to the world. If the pain had seized him then, if he let it, it would have been too much, once started the crying may not have stopped; the tears, the shrieks, the hurt would have totally overwhelmed him. To have done this, then, he would, as he said, have felt himself to have been despicable for being so weak. It would have been humiliating………The world could not know his awful vulnerability.
As a child he did not have the comprehension to explain what he felt…..this in itself was isolation. Therefore for him to have been this in life, to have been in this place, abandoned, it must, he thought, have been him that was the problem……. There must have been something wrong with him inside. By giving expression to all this hurt it would have risked turning him into a pitiful blubbering wreck, and if the world were to have witnessed this, then horror of horrors, all the world may have known his secret humiliating shame. The world may have judged him as he judged himself: which was harshly, with an unceasing shame filled disgust…..and he judged himself so because this must have been the explanation for why he found himself in this place.
This belief “I will always be alone…..I will never know love “, was uttered definitively, in a moment, when all range of sensations, memories and laments were going on within him. It was a defining narrative from henceforth on he lived by. It was a shield for him. A way of explaining away all the right he had at feeling the pain, the anger and the hurt of it all. It gave everything an explanation, and so it stopped him from going to pieces in the moment. This was a belief to live by. It hardened him up inside. This could be his impregnable defence, with it he could shut out and repudiate all those niggling, raw,tender hopes he felt within. He could obliterate the shame and the naked fear of it all, and stand alone. To be above and disconnected from such lame hopes was a type of need for him. The belief he utterted was supposed to be a way of keeping him strong and shutting out those terrifying, senseless, but most natural of emotions, that for him could never be met and would never be satisfied. Within this was agony. But better it seemed for him to deny his tender hopes and needs by quashing them than to endure their perpetual yearning. No space for sentimentality, no space for vulnerability…….he was alone. This aloneness, as I say, was his shield. It was his; his protection that he could not give up because it was his world. Anyone who tried to get close was seen as a threat. And so he spent a long time in his life, from then on onwards, forever fleeing when the opportunity for intimacy came knocking.
For this person for a long time this belief was not consciously in his mind, but it had burrowed itself very deeply subconsciously within. It was his tacit belief system for interpreting life. He could be close to no one for a very long time, since if he were, it would risk invalidating this, his, most deepest of ingrained beliefs. The belief defined him, to be without it would have been like losing his sense of self…….and that was too terrifying to contemplate. To be oblivious, as he was, to the extent of his captivity was highly tormenting: He was continually in conflict with the part of himself that really did want connection, but he would flee and deny himself these needs since it would otherwise have meant giving up his belief. And to have been without it, in the deepest psychological sense, would have entailed being stripped bare. This was too greater risk, his vulnerability would have been too much. For him vulnerability was especially hurtful as it was so intertwined with abandonment. Too much pain in this place lay below the surface, it thus seemed safer for him always to flee. Turning help down and fleeing from others became his habit in life.
Thus, for this person, the belief that was meant to protect him in fact over time dug him into a dark and solitary place. It perpetrated the very pain of abandonment and aloneness he was trying to escape. Additionally, and no less perniciously it repressed substantial pain further within, this hidden hurt crippled him and led him to the street.
This all illustrates for me, how through the beliefs we hold, and our sense of the world and their intertwined narratives that form, we can be a prisoner to our most awful and hidden fears. These can effect us going forward in life, as they make us act out in ways that lead onto help being turned down. The gifts that come our way in life may go unacknowledged if the fundamental joys of life, in our past, were lacking or were warped in angst. To want to be alone can, therefore, too easily be a habit, and if one’s life is lived like this one may very well avoid many an opportunity since one’s fears are just too great.
In avoiding pain, though, all it leads onto is deep and very dark repression. Repression is brutal. It is obscuring and limiting, and it is mightily confusing since so much of what needs to be known remains unknown. One’s sense of reality is, thus, so misshapen that one will struggle to make sense of what one feels, when one’s fears are unacknowledged and repressed within. Consequently, someone who comes close can instinctively be perceived as a threat. One would almost rather be alone so they can protect themselves, this need is very probably misguided, but it can have it’s logic, when one may need, at times one’s own space to realise and come to terms with one’s own things.
So much of the help that comes along in life comes through other people. Sometimes it can just seem easier to turn it down, because the other person may have questions for you that you cannot answer. They may want to know and to understand things which you do not know yourself. You may in heart want closeness, but when such closeness touches upon one’s deepest and most obscure insecurities, then when someone gets close you may be reduced into incoherence that quickly turns to evasiveness as you struggle with all those raw nerves that have been struck. From there no end of hidden shame may flare up as you perceive yourself – being what you had so feared – of being broken and messed up within. Therefore, closeness to others can, if there is a lot of repression within, ultimately be a barrier to one in life since it starkly risks underlining, to such a fragile person, how disconnected they are from life. This is unfair, and it is made, so often, worse by how one judges oneself.
No one can feel another’s pain. When you cannot understand your own pain, closeness can be terrorising. Someone else may want to know and help, but if you are lost inside, then that connection a part of you really begins to hope for may not be achieved, because expressing what is within well and with coherence is a long and arduous process. If you fail in this then that initial connection risks being severed. The result is one’s pain of abandonment is incited afresh, and simultaneously you gleam how lost and cut off you are in life……which only reinforces the toxidity of one’s long held internal beliefs.
The fear is that, compared to the person who is there for you, you yourself feel yourself to be inadequate and lacking in all sense of direction when someone well balanced comes close. This hurts, it effects one’s pride, and so the impulse to flee can all too naturally flare up. The result, is that you are left feeling, in freshly pained ways, an outsider because that stable, solid, world of good people seems evermore unreachable than ever.
These are some of the reasons why the homeless person may resist help. Within, this is not what many a person may want, but when fear and pain are so fraught within, knee jerkly hostile or evasive actions may just be safer to enact. To flee from help and to shun opportunities are actions that may, very well, not reflect the fragile heart within.