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Jennifer Gillen

Psychology. Learned Helplessness. The Misconception: If you are in a bad situation, you will do whatever you can do to escape it.

Learned Helplessness

The Truth: If you feel like you aren’t in control of your destiny, you will give up and accept whatever situation you are in. In 1965, a scientist named Martin Seligman started shocking dogs. He was trying to expand on the research of Pavlov – the guy who could make dogs salivate when they heard a bell ring. Seligman wanted to head in the other direction, and when he rang his bell instead of providing food he zapped them with electricity. To keep them still, he restrained them in a harness during the experiment. After they were conditioned, he put these dogs in a big box with a little fence dividing it into two halves. You are just like these dogs. If, over the course of your life, you have experienced crushing defeat or pummeling abuse or loss of control, you learn over time there is no escape, and if escape is offered, you will not act – you become a nihilist who trusts futility above optimism.

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