RSS

Learned Helplessness – Learning About it!

28 Dec

In the “Learned Helplessness Banishment” trilogy… this is the first post.
Read the second post (to identify and ascertain the existence of Learned Helplessness), and the third and final post (to establish a process of change and overcome Learned Helplessness).

Learned Helplessness, they say, is the driving force behind depression. Depression feeds over our tendency to “learn” being helpless.

Let us begin by understanding learned helplessness. Simply put, it’s our tendency towards feeling helpless when there’s no real reason for feeling so. Here’s a real-life case (with names changed,) where a man’s learned helplessness shoved him into depression, and his depression dragged his family along.

Tim married a young woman after a long courtship. When they got married, Tim and his wife, both were employed. Unfortunately, within a year of their marriage, recession struck and Tim lost his job. He tried finding another, but because his skills were very specialized and also because only a few companies were hiring at the time, he failed in his quest. About after three attempts, he developed a negative self-image, and he began telling himself that he wasn’t any good at finding jobs. This feeling kept him from applying for jobs, and even when the market conditions improved, he continued to feel the same way. He had learned to feel helpless. So while his wife continued to earn for the family, he stayed home, wallowing in self-pity, feeding the monster of depression.

Learned Helplessness manifests itself in many forms. I think that some of it may be culturally defined. For example, a woman may grow up believing that changing the tire of a car is a man’s job. Though she possesses the physical capability required to use the jack and change the tire, she would assume that she can’t do it – because she’s learned that “a woman can’t do it.”

Another example is that of men not being able to cook. Some cultures characterize cooking as a job that’s meant for women, and men learn to feel helpless about it. Then, despite the need to cook (staying alone and needing good wholesome food) they feel helpless and don’t cook.

Learned Helplessness is an attitude that requires repeated reinforcement. A not-so-nice-to-read-about experiment conducted by Seligman and Maier, points out that humans and animals can be conditioned to feel helpless through repeated exposure to situations where their actions don’t yield results. It’s true that all of us would not succumb to such conditioning with equal ease (nor in similar situations,) but we do “give up,” and learn to feel helpless.

From the viewpoint of a learner, this phenomenon can make one feel “helpless” in learning a specific kind of content, or in learning under a specific situation. What we need to figure out is:

In the upcoming posts, we will discuss a short and workable process that could help us identify this demon and oust it from our lives. In the meantime, do go through this link about the life of Dr. John F. Nash. If you haven’t watched “A Beautiful Mind” you’ve missed something beautiful. It tells us the story of Dr. John Nash, who is paranoid schizophrenic, and who through his own reasoning, rejects the voices that he hears. Though the movie shows him experiencing visual delusions, he denies having them in real life – but the controversy of visual vs. aural delusions doesn’t belittle the power of his mind, which enabled him to gain control over his life.

If Dr. Nash could see through his paranoid schizophrenia, why can’t we see through our learned helplessness and uproot it ourselves?

In the “Learned Helplessness Banishment” trilogy… this is the first post.
Read the second post (to identify and ascertain the existence of Learned Helplessness), and the third and final post (to establish a process of change and overcome Learned Helplessness).

Advertisements
 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: