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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Learned Helplessness, Hopelessness & Moving Forward


Just as many others, you also may be feeling some (or a lot of) helplessness in the wake of the outcome of the US elections today. Obviously I have no crystal ball and am unable to reassure anyone that things will be OK. The American system has a number of checks and balances in place that in theory will prevent a madman at the helm from doing too much damage. But that, of course, is mere speculation, as one year ago we would have said that anyone who spouts venom and bigotry and racism and sexism, etc., would never be nominated, let alone elected.

But here is what I'd like to say today: it is up to each and every one of us to move forward in the very best way possible - in our own lives - in order that the light that we shine may illuminate the life of some of the others who touch our lives, and they in turn, may do the same for those who touch their lives. In order to be able to do that, you must not allow yourself to succumb to helplessness, or anger, or any other negative emotions. This is the only way the world can change, whereas if you succumb to whatever negative thing it is that you are feeling, the world will not only NOT change, but it will have more people in it who believe this man is a good choice. Gandhi said be the change you wish to see in the world and Goethe said if every man will sweep in front of his own door, soon the whole town will be clean.

Learned helplessness and hopelessness are terms that have come into our vocabulary principally through the research of authentic happiness and learned optimism (click here to test yourself on learned optimism) psychologist Martin Seligmann.

Learned helplessness can be understood as the near passive acceptance of unpleasant situations. This passive acceptance eradicates those reactions another more positive thinking individual might have, which would help the person to try to escape from or control the situation. Learned hopelessness is a more serious state, bordering on deep depression, that is the result of prolonged immersion in the prior state of learned helplessness.

In Seligmann's experiments with rats, dogs, and eventually (consenting) humans, it was discovered that when a test subject had experienced a situation where no matter what it did, it could not escape a negative outcome, its subsequent experiences of the same situation, even when conditions were much more positive, and the subject could have escaped the negative outcome merely by trying something different, that subject would invariably give up, assuming that it had no chance of escaping the inevitable.

Victor Frankl, the renowned psychiatrist who was held in Ausschwitz during the Holocaust, and father of logotherapy, wrote in his famous Man's Search For Meaning that one of the main reasons he was able to survive, was because he had not lost hope, as so many inmates of that hell hole had.

BBC Journalist Alan Johnston freed on July 4th, 2007, after being held by a Palestinian faction in the Gaza Strip for nearly four months, insisted that one of the main reasons he had been able to survive psychologically, was because he never lost sight of hope. So also say - in some fashion or another - Nelson Mandela and Alexandr Solzhenistyn.

Hope and optimism are essential to our physical, psycho-emotional and spiritual well-being. In the above-mentioned research, and much more that has been done since, a state of learned helplessness can lead to a weakened immune system, heart attacks, cancer, and all manner of illnesses. In order to find your way back to such a state, if you feel that you are leaning towards learned helplessness or even hopelessness, you might begin by reading some of the suggestions made in many posts here on this blog about reaching for joy and happiness.

If you are aware of a negative inner state, the first step is to realize that your awareness has given you a choice. The next step is to begin to implement that choice at every step of the way...little by little. Get your inner freedom back and begin to live your life that way you are actually meant to. Start now. Don't wait for some calamity to befall you and then begin, or regret that you didn't begin earlier. Take your life into your hands. Change the negativity and believe in yourself and what you are truly able to do - despite outer circumstances.

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Also visit my book website: www.gabriellakortsch.com where you may download excerpts or read quotations from any of my books (also in Spanish & German). My latest book Emotional Unavailability & Neediness: Two Sides of the Same Coin is available globally on Amazon in print & Kindle. You can also obtain it (or any of my other books) via Barnes & Noble.


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Note: If you are wondering why this blog is now only appearing on alternate days (excluding Sat/Sun), it is because I also post on my other blog on the others days. That other blog is The Tao of Spiritual Partnership, so named for another one of my books. Click here to visit the blog and/or to sign up for the feed. 

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