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Overcoming learned helplessness?

Discussion in 'Core Beliefs / Cognitive Distortions' started by InsertCoinsHere, Jun 11, 2018.

  1. InsertCoinsHere

    InsertCoinsHere Member

    I'd like to talk about learned helplessness and how to overcome/manage it.

    Personally I find learned helplessness is a core issue, I feel it ties itself in with toxic shame and guilt. It can as many here may have experienced rob many aspects of one's personal growth.

    Career, relationships, inner resilience, aspirations.. Learned helplessness is a core thief. Its that feeling of 'who was I kidding? Its a matter of when, not if.. it all comes crashing down on me'..

    It takes one's self belief from under their feet when they need it most. To ask a person to trust it will all be work out I feel isn't enough, when trust in one's self is gone what can we trust?

    Do people here have experience overcoming learned helplessness? How to cope although your body and mind says no? Are there techniques to manage it? Even a philosophy to pull further strength to overcome times of difficulty?

    Thank you.
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  3. Junebug

    Junebug I'm a VIP Premium Member Donated

    Is that what it's from? :confused: ?
  4. Eagle3

    Eagle3 Well-Known Member

    This is an excellent question, and I will be watching this thread. I have debilitating LH, to the point I can't even hold down a job. I just know I'm going to screw stuff up, so why even bother trying? Yeah, I have absolutely NO trust in myself. So frustrating, but no idea how to rectify this situation!
  5. EveHarrington

    EveHarrington _______ in progress. Premium Member

    Can someone define learned helplessness for me?

    Angrylittlebird and Sietz like this.
  6. joeylittle

    joeylittle ˁ˚ᴥ˚ˀ All howl, no bite Administrator Generous $250+

    It is a term coined by the psychologist Martin Seligman in the late 1960/early 1970’s. First discovered through observing the behavior of mice, rats, and dogs but also then studied and observed in humans.

    It says that many creatures, when exposed to negative stimuli repeatedly, will adopt the attitude that there is nothing that can be done to interrupt or escape the negative stimuli.

    So - it’s possible to be conditioned to expect the bad thing to happen, and then become unable to choose the positive option when it’s available.

    This article is in the Harvard business review. It’s written by Seligman, on the topic of cultivating resilience. It goes more thoroughly into both how learned helplessness is manifest in humans (under multiple circumstances), and how it can be countered with positive conditioning.

  7. Sietz

    Sietz I'm a VIP

    I'm watching this thread. I'm not sure I have it, it's been a question in my mind for years now since I learned the term.
  8. MyWillow

    MyWillow Well-Known Member

    So as an animal behaviourist I’ll also chime in. It’s not simply about negative stimuli, it’s about the environment being consistently inconsistent and unpredictable. I don’t think it’s a particularly natural phenomenon (because the natural environment and conspecific interactions are generally predictable) but more a human construct because we have conscious thought (damned frontal lobes lol).

    So you perform the same behaviour or you try to work out an appropriate response. The consequences change all the time. Sometimes you’re rewarded for one response (feels good) and sometimes you’re punished for the same response (feels awful). When you know what to expect it still feels awful but predictably awful. It’s about the level of perceived control you have over your environment based on your responses.

    Sorry if that’s a ramble. I’m tired ;)
  9. MyWillow

    MyWillow Well-Known Member

    And to add...how to overcome it? I think because I feel that relational harm is at its core for me, consistent relationships can be very healing. The therapeutic relationship for a start. Doesn’t matter what I bring to session, how much I dissociate or have flashbacks or get hyperaroused...if I’m angry or crying or frustrated or numb...my T’s response is to hold the line with empathy but without judgement.
  10. InsertCoinsHere

    InsertCoinsHere Member

    No though it could be for some people. I was talking more of that it's effects are wide spread and influence many decisions in life.

    The learned helplessness is from the core traumas, often then influenced further by smaller Ts, a core feeling of total utter despair, where one cannot see a better future. It takes one's sense of control..

    I find a massive part of CPTSD for me personally to be the learned helplessness, I'd love to heal that aspect.
  11. Junebug

    Junebug I'm a VIP Premium Member Donated

    I keep re-reading the post above @InsertCoinsHere , but I'm still not sure I understand it? If I have it (partly) correct, what you have said is, the effects of learned helplessness (and learned hopelessness, which was the original co-joint term I learned 25 years ago) can be insidious, pervasive and have great impact; have likely been influenced or are influenced by other factors; has been identified by yourself as key (though may not be for others). And because for you it is key you are looking for solutions. (But for others the consequences you described and that I quoted may not be influenced by it; relating to all those things may or may not explain it-?)

    I can only say @MyWillow 's post makes the most sense to me, though I feel as @Sietz said.

    Good luck with eradicating it though then, it sounds like you feel confident you've identified the source.
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2018
    blackemerald1, mumstheword and Sietz like this.
  12. Angrylittlebird

    Angrylittlebird Member

    It doesn’t matter what you do, how hard you try. You are not smart enough. You are stupid and will never amount to anything, so you better just be happy that I tolerate you long enough to treat you badly because no one else will. You will never amount to anything and whenever you start to even look like you are thinking you will I will knock you back down to where you belong. You will not fool someone into thinking you deserve to be counted as a worthy human being, because you are not and will never be. Just sit there and and believe what I say and do what I tell you or others will find out how pathetic and stupid and unworthy you are. Don’t even try to pretend you have a mind of your own because you are stupid and will always be stupid. Be content to do what I say because you are too stupid to think for yourself.

    How do you DEFINE that?
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 12, 2018
  13. Junebug

    Junebug I'm a VIP Premium Member Donated

    Possibly?.. that is listening to another or other's abusive language, and believing their opinion is complete, correct, infallible and, even if it were true, impermeable to change? Taking it to heart, complete with the cognitive distortions that support those (erroneous) opinions? Failing to attribute any of those opinions to their own guilt, and attempts to control? ..

    @InsertCoinsHere , how can you tell if it's learned helplessness, and what other things mimic it ( ie other explanations for the same, if you know)? How did you begin to figure it out? Thank you.
    blackemerald1 and Sietz like this.
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