Holding Space for Helga Pataki

Updated: Sep 6, 2020

While pondering "Hey Arnold!" the other day, I began to wonder if my viewing of the Helga/Arnold story arc as one that would end in love was troubling. For one, Helga mistreats Arnold. Even though we see she has a beautiful, bleeding heart, when it comes to showing that to Arnold, she projects the exact opposite.

To Arnold, Helga is a bully and a nuisance whose presence he must tolerate because they've somehow managed to be in the same class since pre-school. And even though Helga has loved Arnold since those early days, when she is in his presence she is stricken to the core by the fear of being seen and rejected for who she truly is. Because truthfully, Helga is a flowing, poetic Wonder Woman with a heart of gold. But nobody knows that—not even her best friend, Phoebe. Not even Helga herself.

You see, Helga comes from an environment where her needs are neglected and her excellence is denied. Her parents compare her to her older sister, Olga, forget her name, and neglect her emotional and physical needs. In short, Helga is abused. And as the old adage goes:

Hurt people hurt people.

And so Helga, hurting herself, hurts people. She hurts her classmates with her biting remarks, bullies others into submission, and constantly knocks out the one person who witnesses her sensitivity: Loud Breathing Glasses Kid (whose name, I have just learned, is Brainy.)

Most confusingly for Helga, she also hurts Arnold--the boy she has been in love with since she was practically an infant.

Only, I posit that Helga cannot love Arnold, nor any other male figure in her life truly, until she learns how to heal her inner, wounded feminine, and release the innate fear she has to masculine beings and masculine energy.

You see, we currently live in a patriarchal society that not only prevents feminine beings from accessing the totality of who they are, but masculine beings as well. It is a structure based in fear: in fear of the power of women and the sensitivity of men. It is a system that uses distorted (also known as 'wounded') masculine energy in order to perpetuate racism, sexism, and any other -ism of yore.

Key traits of wounded masculine energy include:

  • Competition

  • Comparison

  • Violence & Agression

  • Destruction

  • Rejection of emotions

  • Reasoning based solely on logic, without room for intuition

One of my favorite examples of how this energy manifests comes from the movie Matilda (1996).

Danny Devito, who plays Matilda's father, is a bully and an abuser who uses over-simplified logic to explain to Matilda why her heart-centered, intuitive reasoning is wrong. He is the wounded masculine and he seeks to wound all he comes into contact with.

This same energy is exhibited in Helga's father, Big Bob.

An overworking "man's man," he serves as Helga's primary model for masculinity. And what a model he shows:

From Big Bob's example, Helga learns that her relationships with masculine beings involve one person being the bully, and the other person being the bullied. This is shown not only through Helga's relationship with her father, but also through the relationship between her parents.

Big Bob and Miriam are a cosmic collision of wounded masculine and feminine energies, which is why, energetically speaking, they're actually perfect for each other.

Key traits of wounded feminine energy include:

  • Passivity & Inaction

  • Emotional aloofness

  • Victimhood

  • Codependent behavior

  • Rejection of emotions

  • Lack of responsibility

So with both Helga's parent's operating from a place of wounded energy, it is no surprise they pass this wounding onto Helga.

Now, like all of us, Helga has a choice. She can:

  1. Become like her mother, a passive and placated individual.

  2. Become like her father, aggressive and unsatisfied.

  3. Ditch both blueprints of being and build her own identity.

Personally, I'd go with option three. But option three can take years of conscious healing to get to and is often a choice we, as children, don't feel equipped to make. To detach completely from our parents' energy field & modeling while being completely dependent on that energy is near impossible. And so, Helga chooses to follow her parents' example.

Only instead of taking on the model for feminine energy, Helga takes on the model for masculine energy by modeling her behavior after her father's. She becomes aggressive and competitive, choosing to wound others to mask her inherent wounding. In her relationships with the opposite sex, she takes on the role of the aggressor, believing that that is a role that must be filled. Operating from a place of deep wounding, Helga becomes one of the school's biggest wounders.

So why do I hold space for Helga?

Because I was once a Helga Pataki.

I was once that girl whose heart threatened to beat out of her chest, but who swallowed her feelings until they couldn't be seen or felt. I was once a girl who, from afar, yearned for connection, but at the slightest smile, bit the hand that hugged her.

I was once a wounded being; a wounded feminine; a wounded me. I hold space for Helga, because I hold space for myself.

I choose to believe in Helga and Arnold because I choose to believe in redemption and recovery. I believe there’s always a second chance, and a third, and a fourth, and even a fifth one after that.

I believe toxic cycles won't end until we choose to break them, to snatch our wishes out from the ether and rein them into being. And I believe Helga will do just that. She will overcome her wounding, and she will let her true self shine. And once she does that, all her wishes are set to finally fall into place.

How do I know it? Well, in Season 5, Episode 4, “Arnold Visits Arnie,” we see Helga as she is truly meant to be, unburdened and unbridled, a creative and sensitive soul exhibiting the key traits of divine feminine energy.

Key traits of divine feminine energy include:

  • Opennenss

  • Receptivity

  • Creativity

  • Vulnerability

  • An embrace of emotions

  • Fun

And guess what? Arnold loves her! Or at least, he *likes* her likes her. This shows that Arnold likes who Helga is deep down, and when presented with that option, will choose to pursue her.

He is a bold kid, after all.

And the creators support this belief. In Season 3, Episode 19, “Girl Trouble,” Grandpa reveals to Arnold that he had a Helga of his very own way back when. The creators, concealing this from Arnold, reveal that his tormentor went on to become his wife, Arnold's beloved grandma, Pookie.

And if *Pookie* can do it, well, gosh, darn it, I can too—I mean, Helga*.

Yes, Helga G. Pataki can do it.

Helga—yes: the woman this post is truly about.

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