Learned helplessness – creeping, crippling, and thankfully unlearnable. Learned helplessness is a state of mind in which a person powerfully believes s/he/they is unable to change their circumstances, whether it’s to get good grades, keep oneself organized, get promoted, have a satisfying relationship… This November 11, 2022 article, What is Learned Helplessness? by Kendra Cherry in VeryWellMind.org is an excellent explanation and offers some commonsense techniques for reversing the mindset. Be warned: the experiments on dogs which led to the theory are appalling.
I see it sometimes in my clients. Clients who heard the “You’re lazy, not trying hard enough, stupid, you just don’t care” messages for much much too long – no one deserves those attacks ever – and who can now barely stay in a room with me while I partner with a spouse. Clients who have been physically challenged, and even as they recover, they are absolutely convinced they can no longer cope with everyday tasks, even as we get the work done. Clients who grew up in horrible conditions and who now have no standards to access. Rick Hanson, in Just One Thing: See Progress, January 9, 2013 for Greater Good magazine offers a heartfelt appeal to our better nature as another technique to bring ourselves out of learned helplessness. He suggests we actively look for positive change around us and in our lives as another antidote. It’s subtle and worth considering.
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