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MindWithoutWalls
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16 Jan 2012, 1:32 pm

Hanyo posted a link in another thread to an artlicle on "learned helplessness", and some things I read there got me thinking:

Quote:
A similar experiment was done with people who performed mental tasks in the presence of distracting noise. People who could use a switch to turn off the noise had improved performance, even though they rarely bothered to do so. Simply being aware of this option was enough to substantially counteract its distracting effect.


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People with pessimistic explanatory style—which sees negative events as permanent ("it will never change"), personal ("it's my fault"), and pervasive ("I can't do anything correctly")—are most likely to suffer from learned helplessness and depression.


Quote:
Apart from the shared depression symptoms between human and other animals such as passivity, introjected hostility, weight loss, appetite loss, social and sexual deficits, some of the diagnostic symptoms of learned helplessness—including depressed mood, feelings of worthlessness, and suicidal ideation—can be found and observed in human beings but not necessarily in animals.


Quote:
Whatever their origins, people who suffer uncontrollable events reliably see disruption of emotions, aggressions, physiology, and problem-solving tasks.[14][15] These helpless experiences can associate with passivity, uncontrollability and poor cognition in people, ultimately threatening their physical and mental well-being.


It seems to me that learned helplessness is a psychological injury, along the lines of PTSD.

Also, given the way Aspies are treated by others, diagnosed or not (but with less to help them counter people's opinions if they're undiagnosed, especially if they don't even suspect they have it), it shouldn't surprise anyone at all to see this effect so widespread in the population. Generally speaking, it seems to me, Aspies are trained lifelong to think of themselves and their troubles in terms of "it will never change", "it's my fault", and "I can't do anything correctly", while at the same time being pressured to change to suit others. (There's that weird contradiction I'm sure we're all familiar with.)

So, in addition to the neurological difference we start with, there's this further experiential complication to exacerbate the situation. And yet, even learned helplessness is blamed, by the average person, on the individual who has it, because it's supposed to be that person's own fault for having a "bad attitude". Furthermore, anyone who thinks you might have learned helplessness might then decide it's your whole problem, thereby dismissing your claim of having Asperger's (or at least not seeing anything that might clue you in enough to get you looking for other answers to help explain yourself, if you've never considered the idea of Asperger's to begin with). I know that's due to ignorance, and people who don't know any better can't do any better. It just doesn't help.

This stuff also got me thinking about the need to control our environment. Sounds like a better and more useful idea to me now than ever before, as long as it's within reason regarding the way it affects others. Routines and stims, for example, can be better understood with this information at hand.

Yes, I realize I'm just repeating thoughts already expressed by others about these things at various times, but I thought bringing it all together into a thread might be useful. Anybody want to comment?


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Mindslave
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16 Jan 2012, 1:42 pm

For that same reason, if Aspies have solid structure and an outlet for their creativity and productivity, they will actually be better in most ways than the average NT.



Sweetleaf
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16 Jan 2012, 1:43 pm

Yeah I think I posted a thread about how I have this issue a while back I can't quite remember though...it made perfect sense when I learned about it in psychology, unfortunately understanding it does not make it any easier to overcome.


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Dunnyveg
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16 Jan 2012, 3:04 pm

"A similar experiment was done with people who performed mental tasks in the presence of distracting noise. People who could use a switch to turn off the noise had improved performance, even though they rarely bothered to do so. Simply being aware of this option was enough to substantially counteract its distracting effect."

I recall reading about this in a social psychology class. We don't mind noise as much when we control it, even obnoxious noise such as power equipment. But let our neighbor play our favorite song too loudly and it will be annoying; we can't turn it off. It's all about having power over our environment. This is typical to most people.

I think there is learned helplessness among aspies. I know in my case it was either become functional or live on the streets. I'm guessing a lot more aspies could become self-supporting if they had to, but certainly not all of them.



MindWithoutWalls
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17 Jan 2012, 6:59 pm

Dunnyveg, I see your point. I've said in the past that, while I don't recommend abuse for anyone, it sure can force you to look outside yourself and make an effort to adapt. So, if you're undiagnosed and misunderstood, I guess bad circumstances can push you either way. I think I got some positive result because of the weird contradiction of there also being so much genuine love, understanding of other sorts, and freedom of creativity in my family at the same time as the ugly, nasty stuff. Our family is a really mixed bag. Still, I could only get so far, and it couldn't change my wiring. Also, co-morbid conditions are a factor, and I have fibromyalgia, which I was diagnosed with at age 19. In addition, there's a difference between being able to keep getting jobs, even if you don't have them for long, and being able to keep a job long enough or have short enough gaps between employment to be able to support yourself. So, you're right about that, too. Not all would be able.


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Sweetleaf
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17 Jan 2012, 9:38 pm

lol lucky for people who have the option to 'become functional'....if my mom said either become functional or you're kicked out, well I suppose I'd be homeless.


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Apple_in_my_Eye
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17 Jan 2012, 10:16 pm

MindWithoutWalls wrote:
And yet, even learned helplessness is blamed, by the average person, on the individual who has it, because it's supposed to be that person's own fault for having a "bad attitude". Furthermore, anyone who thinks you might have learned helplessness might then decide it's your whole problem, thereby dismissing your claim of having Asperger's (or at least not seeing anything that might clue you in enough to get you looking for other answers to help explain yourself, if you've never considered the idea of Asperger's to begin with). I know that's due to ignorance, and people who don't know any better can't do any better. It just doesn't help.

I wish I had a more intelligent follow-up, but yeah, that ^.
Wikipedia wrote:
Learned helplessness theory is the view that clinical depression and related mental illnesses may result from a perceived absence of control over the outcome of a situation.

I think one problem there is that someone who isn't in your shoes may not be able to understand that you actually do have less control over the outcome of certain situations. They can't see that the 'cage' and 'electric shocks' are currently in effect, and assume that any action or lack of action that they don't relate to is necessarily an irrational result of conditioning (as opposed to an adaptive response built from experience).



auntblabby
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17 Jan 2012, 10:26 pm

a person can really be ruined by improper parenting and by having poor formative influences outside of family.



Verdandi
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17 Jan 2012, 10:34 pm

I am frustrated with learned helplessness. Once I got past my depression over not being able to be self-sufficient, and got past family members' judgment about that inability, I've found that a lot of people think I'm lazy and unmotivated and unwilling to do anything to improve my situation. This bothers me because I attempted college four times, and I ended up pushing myself so hard between work and school that I had a series of three consecutive burnouts over a 3-4 year period. That I would push myself until I could barely function, and then spend the barely functional time angry at myself for being so "lazy." But somehow, all I want is for other people to take care of me and am not willing to try to take care of myself. Never mind the books I could write on how difficult it is to do some basic things when living with people who actively interfere with some elements of that self-care.

I won't say I lack any learned helplessness, but I do not like the moral condemnation that seems to accompany it so frequently.



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17 Jan 2012, 10:45 pm

It's crap like this that makes me realize how much of an optimistic person I actually am.


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17 Jan 2012, 10:49 pm

SammichEater wrote:
It's crap like this that makes me realize how much of an optimistic person I actually am.


I was optimistic in my late teens. It took a decade and a half of repeated failures to ruin that.



SammichEater
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17 Jan 2012, 10:58 pm

I'm just saying, my overinflated ego and sense of self-worth seem to help me out far more than I realize.

Damn, I'm awesome. :wink:


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Ganondox
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18 Jan 2012, 12:29 am

I believe a lot more autistic people would be independent if a lot more autistic people HAD to be independent. I've learned a lot of stuff really quickly that for whatever reason I did not learn at that appropriate age once I was forced to actually do it.


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Mdyar
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18 Jan 2012, 12:30 am

SammichEater wrote:
I'm just saying, my overinflated ego and sense of self-worth seem to help me out far more than I realize.

Damn, I'm awesome. :wink:


Realistically, if you have AS, or are inattentive Sami, all the exuberance in the world won't offset executive dysfunction syndrome. The litmus test will come, once you are out of the nest. If you are that clueless now, a safe bet is you are at least 'inattentive' and don't have severe problems as of yet.



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18 Jan 2012, 2:28 am

Ganondox wrote:
I believe a lot more autistic people would be independent if a lot more autistic people HAD to be independent. I've learned a lot of stuff really quickly that for whatever reason I did not learn at that appropriate age once I was forced to actually do it.


Well the only thing keeping me from being homeless is I live at my moms house, and so far I don't seem to have any more skills then I did when I started college at the age of 19 thinking I could just overcome all the issues I had and as a result over-stressed myself by pushing myself too hard I should have dropped out after the first semester and remained dropped out. but no it took me three attempts to come to that conclusion.

So I see your point but I don't think forcing people into situations they can't handle is necessarily the best way to go about teaching them skills helpful for being fully independent.


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Verdandi
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18 Jan 2012, 2:38 am

Ganondox wrote:
I believe a lot more autistic people would be independent if a lot more autistic people HAD to be independent. I've learned a lot of stuff really quickly that for whatever reason I did not learn at that appropriate age once I was forced to actually do it.


I've been there, I've done that, and this wasn't true for me. Don't assume that particular things are true for everyone. When I was forced to actually do these things required for independence, they fell apart either because I was too disorganized to maintain them, because I didn't know how to do them in the first place and had trouble learning, or both.

Sometimes, I learned things. Sometimes I got stuck. I have over 20 years of adult life of trying and failing to live independently to look back on, and I have no hesitation in saying that you're wrong. You can call this learned helplessness or whatever if it makes you feel better, but I didn't believe I was helpless. I thought I could manage it, and tried hard enough to burn out. Speak for yourself by all means, but don't make sweeping claims about what it must be like for everyone.



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