Life Coach Magazine

Psychopedagogics. Learned Helplessness: Accepting What is Inacceptable

By Aqualed @aqua_led
Psychopedagogics. Learned helplessness: accepting what is inacceptablePsicopedagogía. Desamparo aprendido: Aceptar lo inaceptable.
Having started my course on psychopedagogics, I found interesting to post a short comment on an old concept proposed by Dr. Martin Seligman (1975) (cited in Feldman, 2006): Learned helplessness, which in simple words is the learned belief that it is not possible to take control of the circumstances that define the surrounding environment.
Let´s recall the description of the experiments used by Seligman to explain the concept better (see Feldman, 2009 for a complete reference on the topic).
Stage 1. A first group of dogs are exposed to electric shocks, from which the dogs are not permitted to escape. At the beginning of the experiment, the dogs try to escape, but after several attempts, they accept the electrical shocks understanding that the situation is unavoidable.
Stage 2. A second group of dogs are set into a box with two compartments separated by a barrier that is easy to jump over (i.e., there is a way to escape). Then, the electrical shocks are applied to this second group of dogs, but they are allowed to escape onto the second compartment were there are safe from the electrical shocks.
Stage 3. The first group of dogs, which at the Stage 1 were placed into a compartment with no escaping compartment, are placed into the compartment which has the escape zone. Then, the electrical shocks are again applied to this group of dogs. The result: Surprisingly, the first group of dogs do not try to escape from the electrical shocks. In other words, the first group of dogs accept their fate, helplessly.
What I find interesting about this concept is that it can explain the attitudes that some of us have, or will eventually have to face some time in our life. The learned helplessness sets the boundary between a developed mind and a developing one; it takes the young student to pursue a career on which the student has limited information; it takes the young student to accept the curricula established by the academic department, knocking out the inner entrepreneur. The implications are wide, but the solution seems simple: to incentive and teach the young professional to see beyond, which is perhaps one of the most relevant lesson that I learned at the graduate school.
Seligman, M.E.P. (1975). Helplessness: On Depression, Development, and Death. San Francisco: W.H. Freeman. ISBN 0-7167-2328-X
Feldman, R. (2006) Understanding Psychology. Mc Graw Hill.

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