Defeatism, or "Learned Helplessness".

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Fnord
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10 Dec 2019, 4:23 pm

I also think that the dumpload of invalidation I received in childhood set me up for "Learned Helplessness" later in life. But knowing that my future was entirely up to me motivated me to make improvements in my attitude and actions -- it was either that or remain helpless, become homeless, and end up lifeless. I chose to get up, get out, and do what I have to do to not only survive, but to succeed.

I'm reminded of a scene from Gone With the Wind -- "As G-D is my witness, I will never be helpless again!!"

I still have things to complain about, but only when I can't "fix" them on my own.

According to
this Medical News Today article:

Learned helplessness in children

Often, learned helplessness begins in childhood. When caregivers do not respond appropriately to a child's need for help, the child may learn that they cannot change their situation. If this occurs regularly, the state of learned helplessness may persist into adulthood.

Children with a history of prolonged abuse and neglect, for example, can develop learned helplessness and feelings of powerlessness.

Some characteristics of learned helplessness in children include:

• low self-esteem
• low motivation
• low expectations of success
• less persistence
• not asking for help
• ascribing a lack of success to a lack of ability
• ascribing success to factors beyond their control, such as luck

Learned helplessness in adults

In adults, learned helplessness presents as a person not using or learning adaptive responses to difficult situations.

People in this state typically accept that bad things will happen and that they have little control over them. They are unsuccessful in resolving issues even when there is a potential solution.

How to overcome learned helplessness

People with learned helplessness can overcome it. The most common treatment is therapy, especially cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT helps people overcome these types of challenges by changing how they think and act.

In therapy, people can:

• receive support and encouragement
• explore the origins of learned helplessness
• develop ways to decrease feelings of helplessness
• identify negative thoughts that contribute to learned helplessness
• identify behaviors that reinforce learned helplessness
• replace thoughts and behaviors with more positive and beneficial ones
• improve self-esteem
• work through challenging emotions
• address instances of abuse, neglect, and trauma
• set goals and tasks for themselves

Some research suggests that exercise can prevent learned helplessness in animals. Though there is no research into this particular effect of exercise in humans, physical activity usually benefits mental health and can reduce or prevent anxiety, depression, stress, and other health problems.

Eating a healthful diet, meditating, and practicing mindfulness are other lifestyle changes that can boost a person's mental health and outlook.


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Last edited by Fnord on 10 Dec 2019, 4:39 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Twilightprincess
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10 Dec 2019, 4:31 pm

I’ve just been thinking about Gone With the Wind recently.

“I won’t think about that now. I’ll think about that tomorrow.”

Sometimes I say that to myself when I’m dwelling on negativity. Hopefully, by tomorrow I’ll have moved on and won’t think about it then, either.



SharonB
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10 Dec 2019, 7:00 pm

Fnord wrote:


Thank you for that. I would have thought I would have been offended, or scared, or otherwise shrunk from that information (e.g. my delay in posting to this post), but to my surprise I found that information quite helpful and feel good about it.



Fnord
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10 Dec 2019, 7:32 pm

SharonB wrote:
Fnord wrote:
Thank you for that. I would have thought I would have been offended, or scared, or otherwise shrunk from that information (e.g. my delay in posting to this post), but to my surprise I found that information quite helpful and feel good about it.
That’s my intent — to be helpful.

Sadly, there are those who need much more help than I can give.


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purpose of diplomacy is to prolong a crisis.”

— Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock, in the Star Trek
episode "The Mark of Gideon" (ep. 3.16, 1969)


ASPartOfMe
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10 Dec 2019, 7:41 pm

Fnord, I think you really hit on something relatable with this thread.


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Fnord
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10 Dec 2019, 7:51 pm

ASPartOfMe wrote:
Fnord, I think you really hit on something relatable with this thread.
Thanks! When I first read about Learned Helplessness, I had an epiphany almost as strong as the one I had when I first read about Asperger’s Syndrome. Nearly everything I read about either subject was experiential to me, and I could identify with almost every testimony given.

It’s just too bad that there are so many people IRL and here on WP who seem to display the defining behaviors, but I can’t do anything more to help them than “raise a flag” and alert everyone else to it.


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purpose of diplomacy is to prolong a crisis.”

— Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock, in the Star Trek
episode "The Mark of Gideon" (ep. 3.16, 1969)


skibum
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10 Dec 2019, 8:22 pm

It's a great flag


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10 Dec 2019, 9:39 pm

If CBT was about giving people better coping mechanisms as opposed to having an irresponsible tendency to negate and trivialise people's experiences (The 'It wasn't as bad as you think it was. It's just your faulty thinking that makes you think it was' mentality) I'd have more time for it .


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magz
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11 Dec 2019, 3:12 am

firemonkey wrote:
If CBT was about giving people better coping mechanisms as opposed to having an irresponsible tendency to negate and trivialise people's experiences (The 'It wasn't as bad as you think it was. It's just your faulty thinking that makes you think it was' mentality) I'd have more time for it .

That's the problem with poorly applied CBT, especially to neurodiverse people - invalidation of unpleasant experiences instead of acknowledging them.

I'm still impressed by my current therapist who, after I told her how I fear people when I'm low on mental resources, asked me what exactly I fear.
I described her having a meltdown in public, seen from the inside.
She decided, my fear of people when I'm close to a meltdown is healthy and adaptive and it doesn't need any treatment, it needs to be followed - especially because I don't fear people when I'm feeling well.
That was so... different from what I heard from everyone else. And helpful.


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11 Dec 2019, 7:32 am

@magz, what does "it needs to be followed" mean? This is similar to my fear of "being squooshed". I'm this strong confident person and then when stressed I'm afraid I'm going to be squoosed, e.g. last night in the city (overstimulated) and afraid husband was going to yell at me (which he didn't and ironically might have in an unhealthy response to my increasing anxiety).

@firemonkey, yes the old "don't think that way, think this way" is hurtful. The newer "yes, that's understandable, you will have thoughts like that, and what subsequent thoughts would be helpful?" is where I can start to improve. The book the "Confidence Gap" has that premise (the thoughts will come, which ones are useful to grab hold of?). I try to assess which thoughts to take action on and which is let go.



magz
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11 Dec 2019, 7:42 am

SharonB wrote:
@magz, what does "it needs to be followed" mean?

I need to hide from people and avoid them when I feel like that.
It's a healthy fear that protects me from a real danger, not a phobia requiring treatment.


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11 Dec 2019, 10:03 am

firemonkey wrote:
If CBT was about giving people better coping mechanisms as opposed to having an irresponsible tendency to negate and trivialise people's experiences (The 'It wasn't as bad as you think it was. It's just your faulty thinking that makes you think it was' mentality) I'd have more time for it .

At my support group an extern gave a six part lesson/therapy session on CBT. My impression was it was another way of saying “Don’t worry, be happy” with scientific language designed to appeal to aspies. That was five years ago or so. To my surprise it is more popular then ever. I really expected it to be a fad like EST in the 70s.


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11 Dec 2019, 10:41 am

My experience with therapy was not a good one . There were 2 trained psychologists/ therapists who adopted the "If you want to be a good person " approach ,as though I was a criminal , rather than making any attempt to help me cope better with situations .

Then there was the untrained (in therapeutic approaches) day centre worker who was assigned to help me with anxiety etc .
She told me I lacked self esteem ; while doing her utmost to paint me in a negative light . After a while she announced she was a member of a small religious sect. I gave her a no holds barred set of notes which was meant to help her understand me better. It upset her religious sensibilities , so she threw a hissy fit and dumped me .


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magz
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11 Dec 2019, 11:05 am

firemonkey wrote:
My experience with therapy was not a good one . There were 2 trained psychologists/ therapists who adopted the "If you want to be a good person " approach ,as though I was a criminal , rather than making any attempt to help me cope better with situations .

Then there was the untrained (in therapeutic approaches) day centre worker who was assigned to help me with anxiety etc .
She told me I lacked self esteem ; while doing her utmost to paint me in a negative light . After a while she announced she was a member of a small religious sect. I gave her a no holds barred set of notes which was meant to help her understand me better. It upset her religious sensibilities , so she threw a hissy fit and dumped me .

That's bad.
I wonder what the two psychologists wanted to achieve... when was it? My uncle had sort of similar experiences with school psychologists in late 1960s / early 1970s. Completely unhelpful.


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11 Dec 2019, 11:08 am

First was 1999 I think. Second was 2002. The last 2009.


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