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  • Writer's pictureScarlett Demy

Unlearning Learned Helplessness

In a deplorable experiment in 1967, researchers by the name of Martin Seligman and Steven Maier et al. decided to test some theories on classical conditioning.

After incidentally discovering that certain dogs within a two chamber compartment with a low fence barrier, one electrified and the other not, escaped to the non electrified side while dogs who previously were shocked without any escape did not attempt to escape at all, they evolved the experiment into analyzing why this occurred.

They created 3 groups of dogs:

  1. Dogs in Group One were strapped into harnesses for a period of time and were not administered any shocks;

  2. Dogs in Group Two were strapped into the same harnesses but were administered electrical shocks that they could avoid by pressing a panel with their noses;

  3. Dogs in Group Three were placed in the same harnesses and also administered electrical shocks, but were given no way to avoid them.

Once these three groups had completed this first experimental manipulation, all dogs were placed (one at a time) in the box with two chambers. Dogs from Group One and Group Two were quick to figure out that they only needed to jump over the barrier to avoid the shocks, but most of the dogs from Group Three didn’t even attempt to avoid them.

Based on their previous experience, these dogs concluded that there was nothing they could do to avoid being shocked.

This experiment gave rise to the term known in psychology as learned helplessness. People as well who have been conditioned to experience patterns of unfavorable situations with no escape, will later believe while in ESCAPABLE situations that there is no escape.

This ranges from the mundane conditioning on a mass level of people being put into inescapable classrooms from 8:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. to then feeling there is no escape from an office/retail store/restaurant from 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. or whatever hours apply, to being a child in a dysfunctional home with no escape and then later in a dysfunctional relationship with no seeming escape.

The applications of this type of learned helplessness are numerous:

“No point in trying to talk to women, I always get rejected.”

“No point in trying to find a relationship, it always fails.”

“No point in trying to make more money, I’ve never been able to.”

“No point trying to have companionship, I’ve been alone for so long.”

Etc, etc.

The important thing to note is that these mental and emotional states are a product of conditioning. The reality provides an escape, only the mind is unable to perceive it because of deeply ingrained conditioning.

The good news is, what has been conditioned may be unconditioned. Was has been learned can be unlearned.

Trauma, negative experiences, chronic abuse and long-sustained conditioned states require careful and repetitious DECONDITIONING in order to counter the negative effects and imprints they leave.

Yogic and hypnotic practices are extremely powerful at rewriting the neural pathways that lead to learned helplessness thinking.

Once your mind is right, everything improves from there.

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