There is hardly a person who has not fallen into an "opa" situation, from which he simply does not see a way out, raises his hands and says "I cannot", leaving the problems of time or someone else to solve them. But even if someone does take the helm for us, the problem remains unresolved and will continue to deepen in the future. In transferring responsibility to other people, in practice we run away from the difficulty we face or simply bypass it. However, next time, help may not come. What do we do then? We continue to slip in one place and the problem grows bigger and our sense of inability to cope - even more tangible.


This is because we have developed the so-called "learned helplessness", that is, we have learned defeatist thinking and behavior. Most often, our sense of helplessness is formed by entirely new situations in which our previous experiences do no work. Then we feel a sense of hopelessness and stop thinking about the adequate solution, trapped in emotions. If in such a situation we are unable to find a way to handle ourselves, it is very likely that in the next similar situation we will react in the same way - by abdicating. This is how we fall into a vicious circle, from which there is no way out, and we learn, at every difficulty, to respond initially with 'I cannot'.


Our childhood is filled with new, unexpected situations. For the baby, practically everything is new and each of his actions forms his communication with the world around him, both in the present and in the future. That is why childhood is the ideal time for the formation of learned helplessness. And very often our failures today are due to this very defeatist thinking that we developed as children, failing to cope on our own with tying our shoes or math lessons. The latter is a classic example of learned helplessness. Every second person can immediately see himself in a math class, facing the big board with quadratic equations, or at home, in the company of his mother, who for the tenth time explains the task to him and he still does not understand it. And whenever he sees an equation, he stops thinking and says, "I can't."

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In fact, one can deal with the most difficult matter as long as one changes his or her attitude that he / she cannot handle it. This is the big problem, not the complexity of the task or any kind of life problem. The bad thing is that the task remains in the past, but our reactions to the new and the unknown remain for life, unless we consciously work to change them. People who suffer from learned helplessness doom themselves to failure in their minds. They are convinced that they have no control over their lives and cannot change it in any way.


But this condition can develop at any moment in life. For example, if we have been unable to find a job for a long time, we begin to think that the problem is within us, that we are, in fact, losers, who no one wants to hire and start believing that we will never find a job, in fact it happens because we have previously been doomed to failure. Going into an interview with the thought "it will be the same again, and it won't happen here", we immediately discard any chance of success because we have designed our failure in our mind. Of course, there are reasons beyond our control that we should not blame ourselves. Many companies announce vacancies they are not really looking for. In this case, the problem is not in us, and we must learn to know our strengths and weaknesses in order to judge whether we are really not suitable for the position or why they are not hiring us. But even if we are not fit, it is not to our detriment, but on the contrary, it is an occasion to seek our true calling. In fact, there is no situation we cannot control at all. We just turn off our rational thinking and do not see the paths and opportunities that are offered to us.

The learned helplessness is not only a trait of a person's character. Interestingly, the condition was initially noticed in the reactions of dogs undergoing various experiments at the University of Pennsylvania, similar to the Pavlov experiment, through which dogs learned that the red lamp's light meant food. In this case, the animals received a slight electric shock after the sound signal. The expected reaction was for the dogs to start running, but psychologists Martin Seligman and Stephen Mayer found the reaction to be different. They began to squeal, shrink from fear to the floor, and not move. And this was always repeated as soon as the animals heard the specific sound. Thus, scientists have come to the conclusion that learned helplessness is a learned behavior that, of course, can be changed by learning something else. However, in the experiments, part of the dogs gradually learned not to fear the oncoming threat, but to seek a way to escape. Which means that their behavior is strictly individual. It's the same with people.


The state of learned helplessness is directly related to other traits of character such as: self-esteem and confidence in one's own abilities, pessimistic attitude to the world, tendency to blame and self-blame, passivity, feeling of insecurity, etc. Such people find it much easier to develop learned helplessness, unlike self-confident and self-righteous individuals. It is difficult for them to influence the opinion of others, and their reaction to the new is rather a welcomed challenge that they cannot wait to tackle.


The learned helplessness is not something irreparable, and with the little behavioral therapy that behaviorists would suggest, the problem can be solved. Of course, it is best to try it first, because there is no better psychotherapy than self-suggestion and, above all, awareness of the real situation, rather than an unreserved acceptance of the one presented to us through the prism of fears. The important thing is to realize that our behavior is a matter of personal choice and we can change it by learning to respond to what is happening in another, more positive, way for us. To throw out the phrase "I can't" and start analyzing problems and finding a rational solution! Mind you, can we really not cope or is it just the fruit of our fears! Let us say that nothing is so complicated, and when the others succeed, so can we, because they are beyond us! Let's learn not to be so self-critical, but instead to cultivate the belief that we can!

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