In 1967 Martin Seligman conducted an experiment (in simple words, it has as follows): he put some dogs in cages giving them a certain amount of pain by means of electroshocks. The dogs, in the beginning, reacted intensely. However, as they were unable to escape, they gradually accepted their situation. They endured the pain in a sluggish way that resembled a state of depression. …
The bad news is that this condition applies to humans as well; we all suffer, more or less from having accepted passively a reality that we cannot change –or more accurately, that we believe we cannot change. In many aspects of life, we have lost our initial inspiration, passion, energy, anger or dreams because of “life’s pain” and the fact that (we believe) we cannot do anything.
…Seligman then, offered the dogs the opportunity to escape simply by allowing them to jump over a small partition. Surprisingly, the dogs did not jump. On the contrary, they continued suffering the electric shocks, despite the fact that they could now escape.
This condition is called learned helplessness. It applies on human as well, as certified by researches following Seligman’s experiment. Moreover, people can learn to be helpless just by observing others who experience a situation they cannot change or simply by suggesting themselves to think that they are inadequate to deal with something. To put it simple, although we can escape from many of the things that hold us down, or although we can do many of the things we dream, we actually do not, because we have learnt not to feel like or not to believe that we are able.
The good news is that in the same way we learned to be helpless, we can unlearn…and that’s all!
On the next posts there will be some really simple tips on how to unlearn our helplessness.