Learned Helplessness and Its Implications

A Self-bound Condition of Learned Helplessness and its Implications

Learned helplessness is a psychological state, in which in a person cannot escape an aversive stimulus even if there is option to escape, because he was forced to bear it before, and now he believes that he has no control over it.
"No! I can't do it! I know how to but... I still can't." Hear words like these from someone often, and you know you are talking to someone with a Learned Helplessness Disorder.

Learned helplessness was a theory accidentally propounded by Martin. E.P. Seligman and Steven F. Maier, in the University of Pennsylvania. They were experimenting on dogs using classic conditioning, where if a bell is rung while giving him food, the dog salivates. Later if you just ring the bell, he would still salivate. Professor Seligman later tried experimenting by restraining a dog in a hammock and by giving him harmless shocks. He discovered that, when this conditioned dog was kept in a shutter box, and the bell was rung, the dog did not jump. The same experiment was then made on an unconditioned dog, and the moment he heard the bell he jumped. This showed that the dog had learned that he cannot escape from these shocks and didn't even try jumping.

This same theory is applied to human behavior as well, providing an explanation for the psychology behind depression. A person gets into depression because he has gone through a difficult relationship or has lost some loved one, has been a victim of physical and mental abuse, or has gone through a severe disease. However, depression can also be genetic, and people with low self-esteem, pessimistic thinking, and who can't handle stress are prone to it.

Implications of Learned Helplessness
  • Disruption in emotions: Depressed mood.
  • Poor Health: Increased vulnerability to diseases, and becomes very weak.
  • Lack of Job Satisfaction at Work: Unable to improve performance at work, lack of concentration, and unable to perform problem solving tasks.
  • Pessimism: One always thinks, he can't.
  • Low Self-esteem: Self worthlessness.
  • Lack of Motivation: Not easily motivated by others or oneself either.
  • Lack of Social Skills: Shyness, poor interpersonal relationships, and habituated to isolation.
  • Loneliness: He feels like he has no friends, cannot make one, and does not feel loved.
  • Suicidal Traits: Person constantly thinks of dying, as he feels he is worthless.
  • Child Abuse: When parents feel they can't control their child, they tend to give up on him / her and stop taking care, without even realizing that the child is under the influence of learned helplessness. This can lead to child abuse.
  • Anxiousness: Feeling of fear, uneasiness, worry and overburdening.
Learned helplessness is basically used for shielding yourself against any sort of failure. A lot of people facing this problem may not even know about it, and hence cannot overcome it, as it becomes their way of life.

Getting over Learned Helplessness
  • Meditation: This is one of the most known practices to heal many psychological disorders. You should practice meditation in a way that suits you, and feel the change and positivity coming in.
  • Recognize the Disorder: First thing, a person should know that he is going through a psychological disorder, and understand its implications and symptoms to recognize the problem.
  • Reason Out the Causes of the Disorder: Try figuring out what lead you to feel this way, and understand the problem. This will prevent you from getting into a depression the next time you are in an emotional turmoil.
  • Be Positive: Practice being positive, and don't be afraid of falling or failing.
  • Remove Mental Blockages: Always remember that failure is really a stepping stone to success, and what happened before will not happen again. Learn from your past mistakes and fight back.
  • Take Charge of Your Life: Your life is your own. Do what you like, and not what others like. Yes! There could be angels but at least you need to take an effort to find them.
  • And Finally, Let Go: This is the best thing to do, as we know we cannot control or own anyone. There is no point in holding back to any grudges and past events. Everyone makes mistakes, just let it go. However, make sure you put your point across and you need not be suppressed by anyone.
We often blame the Fairy Tales for taking us away from reality and leading us to a dreamland. But I believe that fairy tales can come true. It has come true for so many people, without them even realizing that they are living one. Let's not blame the fairy tales and realize the efforts they took and how they fought against all odds to get their way. Didn't they deserve it. You can live your fairy tale too, just believe that you will.
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