"I will never be able to cope with this", "it's useless, nothing good will come out anyway" - have you ever had such thoughts? Have you ever been unable to stop actions that weren’t effective or to initiate something that was vital?
Perhaps, it was a syndrome of learned helplessness in those situations.
Learned helplessness is a condition in which the individual doesn’t attempt to improve his condition, although he has the opportunity to do so. Usually, it appears after several unsuccessful attempts to cope with the negative impact or avoid it.
This phenomenon was discovered by American psychologist Martin Seligman in 1967. To study the nature of helplessness, he and his colleague Stephen Mayer developed an experiment involving three groups of dogs.
Dogs were placed in a cage, where they were affected by a slight shock of electric current. The first group of dogs could avoid pain. To do this, the dog had to click on a special panel. So it was able to control the situation.
For the second group, disabling the shock device depended on the actions of the first group. These dogs received the same blow as the dogs of the first group, but their own reaction didn’t affect anything.
The third group of dogs (the control group) didn’t receive a blow at all.
For some time, two experimental groups of dogs were exposed to electroshock of equal intensity to an equal extent. The only difference was that some of them could easily stop the unpleasant effect, while others were convinced that they couldn't affect the trouble.
After that, all three groups of dogs were placed in a box with a partition, through which any of them could easily jump, and thus avoid electroshock.
This is exactly what the dogs in the first group did. They easily jumped the barrier, as well as the dogs of the control group, which weren't exposed to electroshock at all. However, dogs with experience of uncontrollability of trouble rushed around the box, and then laid down on the bottom, whined, and suffered electroshock of greater and greater force.
Seligman and Mayer concluded that helplessness is caused not by unpleasant events themselves, but by the experience of the uncontrollability of these events. A living being becomes helpless if it gets used to the fact that nothing depends on their active actions. Troubles occur by themselves and their occurrence can't be influenced in any way.
This principle works not only with dogs but also with people.
It is important to realize that often our fear or unwillingness to change something or to make another attempt - is the result of our previous experience. And just as experience can save you from frustration and disappointment, it can preclude you from becoming happier.
Remember, circumstances change. And by analyzing previous experience, we can change our strategies for achieving goals, making them more productive.