There are many good answers in Is there a way to say "go to the path of no way out"?, but most of them imply that the subject is aware of the situation after making the mistake (like "Oh shit! I've painted myself into the corner."). I want to find a phrase or idiom to emphasize the unawareness of getting lost, that they are going down the path leading nowhere. They don't know what they don't know, and without outside help they will keep going, thinking that someday the solution will come. In Buddhism term, they haven't reached nirvana and is still stuck in the samsara.

So far, I only see that "going down the path leading nowhere" is the most suitable. But I'd like to see other options.

  • There is a difference between 'going nowhere' & 'being stuck with no way out from the current course'. The first you can always turn around - "the road to nowhere" doesn't imply "no way out". Commented Jun 8, 2018 at 7:01
  • First of all, it can be: going down a path leading nowhere. It is only "the" if you have previously agree with your interlocutor that there is some path.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jun 8, 2018 at 14:13
  • Yes, Buddhism has paths. For example, the path to enlightenment. That said, if you ain't going anywhere, we say in English, to be in the doldrums (place on the Equator where no wind fills your sails) and that would not be a path at all, it would be a state or condition (of your mind and/or body).
    – Lambie
    Commented Jun 8, 2018 at 14:17

3 Answers 3


Two expressions come to mind:

Up the creek without a paddle

For this one, the subject is generally aware of their situation.

On a hiding to nothing

For this one, other people are aware of it but the subject generally is not, and keeps on trying without success.


To be on the path to enlightenment.

If, however, you are stagnating, we would then not really be on a path, you would be stagnating or be in the doldrums.


Doldrums are a latitude on the Equator where no winds blow to fill a ship's sails. It is an old maritime expression.

If you are actively going down a dangerous path: to be on a path of destruction or to destruction.

  • I think "the path to enlightenment" can be more understood as "really close to success"?
    – Ooker
    Commented Jun 8, 2018 at 14:44
  • Enlightenment has little to do with success. But what is your point? I am saying that stagnation, not going anywhere, being nowhere is not a path. It's a place. There are three things in my answer. The middle one, which is not the middle way, by the way, is what you are asking about: stagnation, lack of movement, the doldrums, not moving forward, etc, etc, etc.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jun 8, 2018 at 14:48
  • no, I understand the stagnation and doldrums parts. It's just that although I understand a little bit about Buddhism, and I know in Buddhism context enlightenment is not success, but for outsiders it would have this meaning?
    – Ooker
    Commented Jun 9, 2018 at 1:50

The blind leading the blind

describe a situation where a person who knows nothing is getting advice and help from another person who knows almost nothing

The Blind Leading the Blind by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1568

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