I want to invite you to come with me inside the mind of someone we might call, often in sheer frustration, a “bottomless pit.”
We all know what that means, don’t we? And the kind of person it describes. The “bottomless pit” person.
It’s the “nothing is ever enough” kind of person. The “I always need more” kind of person. The person who seems to be unable to hold onto anything you’ve offered. Who begs you to say something helpful or comforting one day, but then needs you to say it all over again the following day, and the next. And the next. It’s exhausting, isn’t it?
The person who can’t seem to find a way to use anything you say to them, anything you give them. To hold anything.
So how about, just for a moment, we walk in the shoes of a “bottomless pit?” How about we just peek at what that is like? We won’t stay there too long, because we’re going to want to shake those shoes off pretty quickly and breathe a sigh of relief that we don’t have to wear them all the time. However, let’s just give it a go.
Just to make it a little easier, I’m going to give this “bottomless pit” a name. How about we call her “Helen?” It just makes it simpler to give her a human face for a while. Our bottomless pit isn’t necessarily a woman. But let’s go with it, just for now.
So, let’s put on Helen’s shoes.
The world, for Helen, is a really frightening place. It started out that way.
Helen’s mum wasn’t really cut out for mothering. She didn’t have anything to give to a baby apart from practical care—given in a no-nonsense kind of way—because she hadn’t had it herself.
So, inside, Helen’s mum was a bottomless pit too, hungry for what she hadn’t had, resentful of being required to give what she hadn’t had to someone else. In fact, truth be told, Helen’s mum was even a bit envious of her little girl. Why should Helen be the centre of the universe when she, the mother, had never been given that?
Helen’s mum lived life as if it owed her. She believed that Helen owed her, too. Helen was her second chance. Helen should give her everything that her own mother had been unable to give her. Note: unable. We’re not blaming anyone here. It was as it was. It’s as it is.
We’re just putting on another pair of shoes, remember.
Fairly early on in Helen’s life, therefore, Helen learned that she came second. She learned that she didn’t deserve. She learned that good things were not for her. She learned that life was not kind, or comforting, or soothing or giving. Rather, life was punishing, taking and begrudging. Moreover, life expected that she shouldn’t mind.
But something even harder came with that. Helen grew up unable to hold anything. One of the greatest of human pains there is. Helen grew up empty.
Let’s just imagine that for a moment. Some of us will already know what this means, because we already know what that’s like. It feels frightening. Joyless. It’s to be untouched by anything good, to be unable to remember it, or conjure up the feeling of it. Everything is fleeting and temporary. It goes in but it just falls right out again.
People who know it often refer to it as “the void.”
See, we can only hold onto things if we have been held. If our being mothered has included our being physically, emotionally or psychologically held. If we have felt and known that we were existing in another’s heart and mind. We only know we exist because we first discovered that we existed in the heart and mind of another.
And if we haven’t had that, moments vanish. Others’ words vanish. At least, “good” moments and “good” words do. “Bad” moments stay because there’s no way to soothe them. And “bad” words stay because they are all we have known, so they are familiar and trusted.
Do you begin to see the pain of the “bottomless pit” yet?
Oh, it doesn’t end there. It gets worse. As an adult, Helen continues to feel like a hungry, needy child. Just like her mother was. She feels so bad about that, so ashamed, so inadequate. She hates and despises herself. She’s a horrible person for being so full of hurt and anger and resentment. And the worse she feels about herself, the more she tries to compensate by being “good.”
Helen usually cares for her mother, often lives with her longer than many daughters live with their mothers, or continues to live close by. She tries hard to meet her every need, and resents it while believing that she is bad for resenting it. Neither mother nor daughter are happy in this arrangement—there is duty here, not love. Although both would insist on calling it love and both believe it is love, neither really know what this thing called love actually is.
Now and then, Helen goes through periods of the darkest, most desolate, depression. She will catapult between anger and grief. She will cry for days. She will walk out. She will shout cruel things. Then she will be overcome by guilt and remorse. And shame. Oh, always the shame. And she tries even harder.
When it gets really bad, Helen will ask for help. She’s clearly in so much distress that others are eager to try to help her. People give her hugs, words of encouragement, practical offers of help. And Helen expresses her gratitude and appears to absorb it all and feel better. People feel gratified and content that their help has made a difference.
However, in Helen’s world, all it has actually been is a sticking plaster. It has helped temporarily. But the void—the bottomless pit—remains. Everything is just as hollow, empty, frightening and meaningless as before. She is still a “bad” person and she still hates herself.
She genuinely tries to do the things she has been advised to do. She reads the books. She writes love letters to herself. She says affirmations as if they are sacred, magic rituals that will bring about healing. She tries to love herself like everyone tells her to do. But always, there is the void, always the bottomless pit. Always the inability to hold it.
And so it gets even worse. People start to get angry with her. They tell her she is not trying. They bombard her with wise words which others have spoken or written. They tell her to snap out of it. Or to look to her vibration. To change her energy. They tell her she is attracting this.
Do you get yet what it’s like to be Helen, yet?
And do you know the only way it gets fixed? The only way? The way that someone who doesn’t know how to love themselves gets to be able to love themselves? It is by being given, over and over again, the unconditional love they didn’t have. That doesn’t mean depleting yourself. It doesn’t mean giving in a way that leaves you empty. However, it does mean not telling her to do what she simply cannot do—no matter how loudly and clearly and impatiently you tell her to do it.
And now do you see the challenge? Both for Helen, and also for you? Do you see why Helen chose—because, of course, she did choose—to bring this opportunity into this time/space reality for us all? Do you see what a strong soul Helen actually is? Do you see what she offers you?
It is the challenge of finding a way to love unconditionally. To give unconditionally. To find in yourself all the blocks to unconditional love which the difficult personality that Helen is forces you to discover.
This never was about Helen. This never was about the frustration of the bottomless pit. This was never about you learning wonderful techniques that you could offer to Helen in order to help her to be like you. It was always about you. And for that, you owe Helen enormous appreciation.
Helen’s already got this. She knew what she was doing. She has this. Her higher self is looking on, smiling, and nodding at the absolutely brilliant job she is doing of playing out her role. Her bottomless pit role.
Do you get it now? Even a little? The enormity of this gift?
The challenge is unconditional love. The opportunity is unconditional love. The journey is back to unconditional love. Do you catch the energy of that, the excitement of it, the power of it? Don’t you just love the way this all works?
Oh, and if you happen to be Helen, thank you! There is much love and appreciation for you here. We stand in awe.
Author: Janny Juddly
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Francisca Ulloa/Flickr