The Truly Stuck

Some people are perpetual victims. They are always sick, they always have problems, things are always happening to them and they really want your pity. These people may be very nice, at least on the surface. They may seem like they are doing the right things, making all efforts to go beyond their problems, but sooner or later, they end up back in the same hole.

Everyone has troubles and everyone, now and then, experiences a true catastrophy. Life can play hard and be very daunting. But it’s rare for things to stay in a miserable, continously disastrous state without the cooperation of the person in whose life these situations occur. Unless you are a very negative-thinking person yourself, you will admit that most people are OK most of the time, except those who are delighted to remain in their miserable mode.

It takes a while to learn how these people operate, particularly if you are not one of them yourself. You can be taken in by the outside, by the seemingly normal exterior, by what seems like their efforts to do “better”. You have to observe their behavior for a while before you realize that it is not going to change, and, in fact, it resists true change very strongly. People who are always in a state of being a victim like being there, even if they have no conscious knowledge of that at all. Mostly, even if you were able to point out alternatives, they would either not listen or say that you were incorrect in your assumption about their situation. Things seem to “just happen” to these people. They NEVER have anything to do with their own situation. The world is against them. People don’t treat them fairly. They do so much for others but others never reciprocate in kind. They get taken advantage of, etc., etc. They do not understand how to look at themselves in an honest, introspective manner and ascertain why it would be that things ALWAYS do not seem to go their way. It is always something external that is to blame, something over which they have “no control”.

Victims like pity, it enables them. If you pity a victim, you will get sucked into the vortex that they create and find that they can easily impact your life negatively. In fact, if you don’t watch out, you can end up being their victim (at least once) because your pity makes you vulnerable. Better to feel distant compassion. Offer whatever assistance you can, but if it isn’t taken or acted upon, walk away without a guilty conscience and be content that you have attempted to be of service.

If you teach singing, you must learn about the students who are always victims. They are absolutely out there. You can put in lots of time offering them your skills, your expertise, your commitment to their vocal progress, goals and dreams. You can work hard to help them overcome their vocal faults, limitations and confusions, but keep your antennas up, folks! If you find the person working with you over a long period of time and you see that you are in the same place over and over again, be suspicious. If you keep correcting the same faults, if you keep fixing the same limitations, if you keep giving the same advice, and the person keeps going back to the same issues, and you have done this more than once over a period of months and years, WAKE UP! The person you are teaching is STUCK and you will not, you CANNOT, unstick someone who refuses to cooperate.

Some students want you to teach them to be “better” but are not willing to change anything about what they do. They want to keep what they have and add to it. That only works if what the person has is good in the first place. If it has faults or problems, you must fix them, because if you do not, the new behaviors will not work. People who cannot change in order to grow are not willing to let go of control and experience any kind of vulnerability. They cannot be taught. They are stuck. They will say, however, that they really do want to “grow”, it’s just that they haven’t found the “right” approach/teacher/time/situation just yet.

This can show up in any kind of situation. The person has changed teachers several times, the person has gained and lost their vocal range several times, the person has had nodules repeatedly, they have had confusion about breathing for years. Nothing you do seems to get through to a deep enough place to make a lasting change. Remember, Einstein’s definition of a crazy person is someone who repeats the same behavior over and over expecting it to produce a different result. If you do not stop the cycle, you become a victim of the person’s stubborn resistance.

Every singing teacher who cares and is persistent is bound to encounter at least one of these people in the course of a career, maybe many more than one. Sooner or later, though, you begin to get a feel for “the victim” and you don’t lose too much time on them. You develop the capacity to determine whether or not the student is able to assimilate what you are teaching and what you would like to convey without taking forever to recognize those who are stuck. If you are new to teaching, do not feel badly when you encounter this kind of student, as it must happen if you are to build your experience. Just remember that the truly stuck always have their own company and that of others who are also in the same place, and that’s not a place that YOU are willing to stay.

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One thought on “The Truly Stuck”

  1. As usual, I enjoy how your findings are applicable to both the studio and to life.

    I find that many prefer to “be stuck” because they don’t know any other way! After a while, they form a psychological addiction to being “stuck.”

    Sounds rather stupid, but one needs look no further than an argument amongst a group of people. As in other times in life, they would prefer to waste their voice to continuously debate subjects into the ground and proceed in circles, never to really solve the problem or come to any conclusions! They feel they are making a difference when in reality they are depending on others to make discoveries about themselves. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it is when one cannot actually solve the problem, only find ways to mask it.

    Poor them. Some people simply have the ability to objectively view an issue, pinpoint a problem, approach it correctly, and fix it neutrally. This all is part of a simple process of dealing with life that SOME PEOPLE naturally understand! …others try, and the majority will never grasp.

    For fun, let’s point out that these characteristics I mentioned are also CRUCIAL in a good voice teacher! :)

    -Michael Ehlers

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