Overcoming Learned Helplessness

              Life can be difficult. In fact, there’s some people who experience such levels of adversity that they end up developing a sense and belief of learned helplessness. There was some research done through atrocious experimentation in the 1960s that established this fact. I’m going to spare you the details on those experiments (look into them at your own discretion), but essentially it showed that when we move from a place of pain into another place of pain, coming to the realization that there’s no escaping, we can be inclined to give up and stay where we are at because we perceive there’s no freedom from our suffering.

              How do we overcome this? Perhaps a story from my own life can illustrate this. I developed depression for the first time when I was 9 years old in foster care. I was praying that God would bring me back to my parents and in my 9-year-old mind I came to the belief that neither my parents were coming to get me nor God. That belief of being abandoned and alone caused me immense suffering. It was as if a dark cloud descended upon me in an instant. I felt frozen, unable to do anything to make things better. I believed I was ineffective and that my life didn’t matter. My hope had died.

              As a child I didn’t have the resources and experience I do now. When I became older, I realized that I could either stand in the pain or I could take action and do something about it. It didn’t take the pain away, but it reduced it. With time, I began to recognize that while I wasn’t fully escaping my pain, I was mitigating and reducing it. As my perception on the issue changed, I was able to see that my actions were effective and they did help. Hope was being restored. Now let’s consider ourselves for a moment. Let’s consider the areas in our life we feel ineffective. Have we given up? Is it because of the way we are seeing the problem in the first place? What can we do to make the best of an unideal situation?

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