What is learned helplessness?
Uncontrollable negative events that occur frequently or continuously in people’s lives causes people to believe they are helpless to control important outcomes in their lives. It causes them to lose the motivation to try to control or manage situations in their lives.
They become conditioned to believe that a bad situation is unchangeable or inescapable.
What are the key symptoms of learned helplessness?
- Low motivation (low self-esteem, failure)
- Passivity (give up trying, no belief in self)
- Indecisiveness (struggle to make choices)
Examples of learned helplessness
1. A woman in an abusive relationship believes the beatings will never stop and gives up trying to ask for help or get out even when help is available.
2. A child who struggles to perform well in school, gives up trying to improve.
3. An older person who loses independence or mobility, gives up on the smaller things they could still do.
4. An overweight person gives up trying to lose weight after failed attempts to do so.
What can you do to counter learned helplessness?
- Know that you learned to become helpless – therefore you can unlearn it.
- Understand what caused you to become helpless- was it a traumatic event, frequent negative events, toxic parents?
- Become aware of how you explain things that happen to you every day. Are your explanations optimistic or pessimistic?
- Discover your self-worth: treasure and embrace that.
- Write positive self-talk for yourself to read daily. [Write a Self-talk]
- Practice being independent – learn to deal with stuff on your own.
- Practice making choices. Start small, set S.M.A.R.T. goals (must be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely) Be consistent and stick to what you decided. [How to set SMART goals]
- Practice mindfulness – focus to live in the present.
- Celebrate your successes.
- The most common treatment is therapy, especially cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT helps people overcome these types of challenges by changing how they think and act. Albert Ellis developed the ABC method to help you change the way you think. [Change your thinking worksheet]
You may chat with a counsellor for more help: LIVE CHAT