I cannot fight, I cannot run fast or long, and hiding in one place will not save you for long. I am basically helpless against violent situations. How do I cope with being helpless?


2 Answers 2


Avoid The Situation

Really, this is the key, and I would bet big money that a near-universal sentiment among self defense instructors. No one can deprive you of life if you are simply not there! Not to say that trouble cannot find you, but it's a good strategy.

Avoidance includes and is not limited to:

  • be aware of your surroundings and the body language of others.
  • Stay in populated places at popular times to maximize the social cost of murder. (Not to mention "hiding in the crowd.")
  • Know which parts of town are "bad" and avoid them.

Note that these are just the things you can do without training in a martial art. No strength required!

Martial Arts for Defense

Many martial arts focus on this. They can give techniques and approaches for surviving any attempts on your life in spite of many of the disadvantages you may have. I happen to study one that doesn't specialize in modern self defense, but these exist!

I will say, however, that being weaker does not mean helpless. Additionally, training may fix the whole "helpless" thing!

  • 1
    Just to add to this having studied martial arts for many years I finally realised that attacks on the person are rare in my country. Like I will probably never have to use martial arts again outside the dojo. Martial arts are fun, but the need for self defence is rare enough that it's a bad reason for learning. They may give you confidence which can be good though.
    – Huw Evans
    Commented Sep 9, 2022 at 10:38
  • 1
    Caveat If you live in some developing countries where the rule of law is not effective then that may be different.
    – Huw Evans
    Commented Sep 9, 2022 at 10:40

A lasting feeling of helplessness can have detrimental impacts upon your mental health. It can lead to depression and isolation, each of which may exacerbate the other.

Personal experience and a mountain of anecdotal evidence suggests the avoidance and training advice provided by @Pipperchip's answer is sound.

It is important to realise that the psychological benefits of martial arts training are often as great or greater than the physical benefits. A feeling of helplessness - whilst sometimes reflective of physical capacities and sometimes causal of physical difficulties such as lethargy and weakness - is a psychological issue, so any contemplation of whether or not to commence martial arts training should be undertaken with an awareness of the potentially enormous psychological benefits.

This answer is designed to supplement Pipperchip's by pointing out that a feeling of helplessness can stem not only from a lack of physical confidence, but from other psychological and even educational issues.

Some of the most charismatic, interesting and confident people you will meet are sub-alpha physical specimens. This might be due to the fact that, given their physical shortcomings, they have had to develop other resources by which to attain respect and status in societies which can often award status for trivial, arbitrary and/or limited 'attainments', such as sporting/fighting prowess, physical beauty and monetary wealth.

Some of these 'other resources' are a sense of humour, curiosity, depth and breadth of knowledge, determination, confidence and creativity. These traits can all contribute to an increase in a person's ability to de-escalate and reshape verbally and physically violent situations and can help a person to feel more at ease in their environment; particularly in their interactions with other people. Vitally, they also help a person to realise that the sense of worthlessness which often accompanies helplessness can be overcome; that the capacities of resilience, strength and courage are relevant not only to physical conflict, but also to other occasions when our emotions and intellect are tested; during social events for example, and when encountering strangers, whether it be professionally, casually or during the course of other challenging interpersonal interactions.

Consequently, strength, resilience and courage can be exhibited by people who lack any special physical prowess and of course by those who are physically atypically weak and vulnerable. These qualities can be trained and nurtured in one's character just as biceps, pecs and quads can be trained in the gym. A person who can remain emotionally and strategically calm when confronted by conflict will often be adequately equipped to deal effectively with that conflict.

Am I suggesting that boosting your emotional and intellectual fortitude will always save you from a psychopath with a knife in an alley, or a drunk idiot in a bar? No. But I do hope to convey that a lack of natural athleticism need not be a lasting cause of the helplessness you feel.

The internet is an incredible educational tool. Learn to use it with discernment and you will find that many if not most of the resources necessary to become knowledgable and emotionally and intellectually resilient can be found on the web, or via the web.

By all means address your physical shortcomings. But don't make the mistake of thinking that learning how to fight will necessarily be the answer to all your problems. In my experience, the best martial artists are often not the most gifted physical athletes, but those who approach their endeavours with an intellectual mindset and with determination, creativity, curiosity, humility, kindness and a robust emotional equilibrium.

Whilst it is not necessarily an easy thing to do, try to develop friendships and associations with people who exhibit these qualities. It is often far easier to develop new attributes when you are surrounded by people who model them and who respect and encourage them in others.

  • 3
    The username checks out. Commented Sep 12, 2022 at 15:22
  • @MacacoBranco. : ) Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 5:40

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