Defeatism, or "Learned Helplessness".

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Fnord
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04 Dec 2019, 3:59 pm

"Learned Helplessness" - A condition in which a person suffers from a sense of powerlessness, arising from a traumatic event or persistent failure to succeed.  It is thought to be one of the underlying causes of depression.

I googled the term "Learned Helplessness", and learned of a series of (barbaric) experiments performed on dogs...

(Source:
David McRaney / November 11, 2009)

Quote:
In 1965, a scientist named Martin Seligman started shocking dogs.

He was trying to expand on the research of Pavlov -- the guy who could make dogs salivate when they heard a bell ring.  Seligman wanted to head in the other direction, and when he rang his bell instead of providing food he zapped them with electricity.  To keep them still, he restrained them in a harness during the experiment.

After they were conditioned, he put these dogs in a big box with a little fence dividing it into two halves.  They figured if they rang the bell, the dog would hop over the fence to escape, but it didn't.  It just sat there and braced itself. They decided to try shocking them after the bell.  The dog still just sat there and took it.
The dogs had learned that the electric shocks were both unavoidable and inescapable. However...
Quote:
When they put a dog in the box which had never been shocked before and tried to zap it -- it jumped the fence.
Learned helplessness seems to be a condition that many of us have acquired.

For instance, being sexually abused as a child may teach a girl that the only kind of man she can attract (or "deserves") is a man who abuses her. She may also feel as an adult that it is pointless to try to attract a kind, caring man who actually loves her for herself, because "That just ain't gonna happen".

Classmates' reactions to a boy being physically clumsy and socially awkward may teach that boy that the only kind of woman he can attract (or "deserves") is a woman that is mean, insulting, and indifferent to his pain. He may also feel as an adult that it is pointless to try to attract a kind, caring woman who actually loves him for himself, because "That just ain't gonna happen".

All over the Internet are stories, articles, and research papers on Learned Helplessness (some may call it "Defeatism").  I have found over 50 characteristic signs of this disorder, many of which I once exhibited, and some of which I still do. Here are 10 of the ones I found.

... you believe "try, try again" is for suckers.

... you believe any difficulty or delay in attaining your goals means you have already failed to reach them.

... you believe every failure is personally damaging.

... you believe nothing is ever going to go your way, and that there is nothing you can do about it.

... you believe past failures are indicative of future failures.

... you believe you cannot succeed no matter how hard you try.

... you do not try new things for fear of failure.

... you expect to fail even before you attempt to succeed.

... you often ask yourself, "Why do bad things always happen to me?"

... you often say to yourself, "Nothing good will ever happen to me."

Do you see yourself as a victim of Learned Helplessness? Do others see you this way?


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Twilightprincess
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04 Dec 2019, 4:44 pm

I have a fair amount of learned helplessness going on.

I think it can be really hard to go through an extremely difficult rough patch and to know when you are ready to move on and try new things. Sometimes one briefly tries only to regress or to not succeed in that particular attempt.

Then a person can totally give up.

I guess I’ve learned that progress isn’t a smooth slope. It’s jagged with lots of ups and downs, but with effort, the overall trend can be up.

Some of the downs can be really scary for people who have experienced past traumas because then the current problem somehow becomes associated with past trauma.

Also, I think that lacking some emotional insight (as some of us do) can make all of this more complex because then you can’t effectively approach the problem.

Given the complexity, learned helplessness can be a really challenging thing to tackle.



Fnord
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04 Dec 2019, 4:48 pm

Twilightprincess wrote:
... Learned helplessness can be a really challenging thing to tackle.
I think the keys are to ask myself "Why do I want to give up?", to never actually give up, and to learn from my failures.

Now that I know more about Defeatism, I can try to catch myself at it and put a stop to it.


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“I must acknowledge, once and for all, that the
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)


Twilightprincess
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04 Dec 2019, 5:14 pm

Fnord wrote:
Twilightprincess wrote:
... Learned helplessness can be a really challenging thing to tackle.
I think the keys are to never give up, learn from my failures, and ask myself "Why do I want to give up?"

Now that I know more about Defeatism, I can try to catch myself at it and put a stop to it.


For me, it’s also an anxiety thing in which the attempts were so triggering and difficult to manage that I lost any desire to want to try again for a long time. Then it eventually loops back around to wondering when or if I’m ready to try again. It’s this viscous cycle.

Mental health diagnoses can be really challenging, but I’ve learned that they don’t necessarily preclude success.

It’s not about going from 0 to 100, either. It helps to make small, manageable changes and to set small, manageable goals. This helps mental health problems from swinging out of control.

For example, if someone is thinking about getting a job, he or she could start looking on Indeed a little each day and think about what she would like to do instead of jumping right in and applying to every opening in the area. Also, limiting interviews to one a day might be smart.

With socialization, one can start by just doing something small that’s outside of his or her comfort zone like try to start a conversation with someone in a coffee shop or with someone standing in line at a grocery store.

It’s bad to think in absolutes. Instead of dwelling on the fact that you failed to get a girlfriend that day, think positively about the small things that you (hopefully) did to put yourself out there more.



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04 Dec 2019, 5:33 pm

Fnord wrote:
Do you see yourself as a victim of Learned Helplessness?

No, I can see what you're getting at though.

I can't help those people, my hearts not really in it, how about you?



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04 Dec 2019, 5:42 pm

domineekee wrote:
... I can't help those people, my hearts not really in it, how about you?
I want to help people like that, but I am not a psychotherapist. Besides, people stricken with LP are the only ones who can break the cycle of "self-fulfilling prophesy" that keeps them stuck in failure mode. I had to learn this for myself, and it was a hard lesson to learn.


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“I must acknowledge, once and for all, that the
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)


Fnord
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04 Dec 2019, 5:48 pm

Twilightprincess wrote:
... It’s not about going from 0 to 100, either. It helps to make small, manageable changes and to set small, manageable goals. This helps mental health problems from swinging out of control.

For example, if someone is thinking about getting a job, he or she could start looking on Indeed a little each day and think about what she would like to do instead of jumping right in and applying to every opening in the area. Also, limiting interviews to one a day might be smart...
Yes, small steps.

Set a future ultimate goal and ask yourself, "What do I need to do to make this happen?" Then set that as your goal and ask the same question. Repeat continuously until you arrive at the present and say "I'm ready" and begin the process, working back along the path of goals until you reach the ultimate one.


_________________
 
“I must acknowledge, once and for all, that the
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)


Twilightprincess
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04 Dec 2019, 5:58 pm

Another factor that can keep people in this negative mindset is family members.

If you’ve got family members aiding and abetting you by saying: “Yeah, you can’t do that,” it can make climbing out of that hole even harder because it appears to confirm your beliefs.

The thing is that you can’t know that you can’t do something unless you try (and I mean really try), and if that particular route or path doesn’t work out, it’s always worthwhile to try something else.



Fnord
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04 Dec 2019, 6:02 pm

Twilightprincess wrote:
Another factor that can keep people in this negative mindset is family members.

If you’ve got family members aiding and abetting you by saying: “Yeah, you can’t do that,” it can make climbing out of that hole even harder because it appears to confirm your beliefs...
Yeah, I had to leave my parents' home and endure 12 years of marriage and a divorce before I actually "climbed out of that hole".


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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)


domineekee
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04 Dec 2019, 6:04 pm

Fnord wrote:
domineekee wrote:
... I can't help those people, my hearts not really in it, how about you?
I want to help people like that, but I am not a psychotherapist. Besides, people stricken with LP are the only ones who can break the cycle of "self-fulfilling prophesy" that keeps them stuck in failure mode. I had to learn this for myself, and it was a hard lesson to learn.

Me too, I've gone through the same thoughts and stagnation and it can be frustrating to see in others. Luckily help Is at hand from other quarters.



Twilightprincess
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04 Dec 2019, 6:43 pm

domineekee wrote:
Fnord wrote:
domineekee wrote:
... I can't help those people, my hearts not really in it, how about you?
I want to help people like that, but I am not a psychotherapist. Besides, people stricken with LP are the only ones who can break the cycle of "self-fulfilling prophesy" that keeps them stuck in failure mode. I had to learn this for myself, and it was a hard lesson to learn.

Me too, I've gone through the same thoughts and stagnation and it can be frustrating to see in others. Luckily help Is at hand from other quarters.


I think this thread is helpful, though, because we don’t always realize that’s what’s going on so we don’t seek out help when we should.

I think it’s good to bring awareness to this issue on here and there’s nothing wrong with talking about some things that have been personally beneficial although I certainly recommend seeing a mental health professional for anyone who is struggling with depression.



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04 Dec 2019, 8:02 pm

I probably do have some of this. After growing up constantly being told that I wasn't trying hard enough, didn't care, or simply didn't want to do something when I failed to live up to NT standards despite the fact that I'd actually been trying my hardest (all people see is the fact that I fail, not the amount of effort I put in just to fail anyway), I think I've come to believe that my best is never good enough for anyone.


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04 Dec 2019, 8:19 pm

dragonsanddemons wrote:
I probably do have some of this. After growing up constantly being told that I wasn't trying hard enough, didn't care, or simply didn't want to do something when I failed to live up to NT standards despite the fact that I'd actually been trying my hardest (all people see is the fact that I fail, not the amount of effort I put in just to fail anyway), I think I've come to believe that my best is never good enough for anyone.
Replace “NT” with “my father’s”, and you could have been telling my story. Growing up in the 1960s and 1970s meant that there was no Asperger diagnosis, and anyone with autism was just another “retard” (their word, not mine). This also meant that being physically clumsy, socially awkward, and needing a methodical approach to education meant only that I “wasn't trying hard enough, didn't care, or simply didn't want to” do well in school, and I actually believed that crap!

I was in my 30s before I figured out that it wasn’t my fault, and it took another 20 years to find out why. Now I’m trying to share that understanding with others (and not doing well at it, I’ll admit).


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“I must acknowledge, once and for all, that the
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)


Twilightprincess
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04 Dec 2019, 8:24 pm

They always said I wasn’t trying hard enough when the social expectations were extreme to say the least, not easy for a person with typical social skills.

I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 30.



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04 Dec 2019, 8:34 pm

Mine is hugely in a form of guilt, attachment and forms of uncertainty than merely helplessness and dependence.

Overall, I'm aware of it. Yet when in such state, I'd lose sight of what's actually been happening.



I've been in a state where there's no unconscious voice advertising mistakes and failures -- not even the fear of death. :|
What held me back is the sentiment of not letting others down or accommodating others in general.

I don't have a negative household and community, I got a clueless and overly attached ones instead.
Yet a part of me, always looking forward to persecutors and persecute me, just to prove that I can be held accountable. It mattered a little that it contradicts with fear and not wanting to be persecuted.

I had already been aware that the world is not the issue, it's myself.
I get filtered with twisted messages of pride and shame, instead of gratitude and acceptance -- to resolve and move on completely.

So the goal in my case, is how to reach and hijack this apparently unreachable side of myself, that's been not been doing it's job properly and kept working against myself back away from my fullest potential. :|


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