Unlearning Helplessness: Take Charge of Your Life

There are ways to overcome learned helplessness.  The ways to overcome learned helplessness are: recognizing that you are practicing learned helplessness, learn to stop this behavior, and, last of all, stop being helpless.  Find an area of your life that needs an overhaul, plan what you can do with week to take responsibility and take an action today.

Do you know someone who’s always having a problem? Some people are totally helpless. They can’t file their taxes by themselves, but it’s too much bother to get someone to do it, so they don’t file until it’s too late.

They don’t renew their license plates, and would rather pay multiple tickets than do it, because they “don’t want to mess with it.” They live in homes that need attention, because they can’t fix it themselves and “don’t have the money” to hire someone else – though money may be plentiful for frivolous uses.

Everything in their life is a mess, and they can’t do anything about it. They won’t use a computer because they don’t know how, but they won’t go to a class because they don’t have time, and they can’t learn from a book because they don’t have one…

This may be a slight exaggeration, but honestly, not much of one for some people. The annoying thing about these people is that they are only helpless because they choose to be.

It’s learned helplessness. They’ve gotten by with it their whole lives because no one has challenged them on it. People who really care about them ignore it, and everyone else leaves.

I think we all have a touch of this learned helplessness, in some areas of our lives, and I also think we can overcome this learned helplessness in three very simple steps.

The first step is just to recognize that you’re practicing learned helplessness. You can ask someone you really trust if they see this behavior in you at times. You can also start noticing when you tell yourself you can’t do something when in fact you really just don’t want to. Whatever method you use for recognizing your helpless behavior, it’s important that you do recognize it.

Second, you can then begin eliminating this behavior simply by committing to stop. Like anything else, you have to want to stop acting helpless, but fortunately, once you realize you are doing this, you’ll be so annoyed by your behavior, yourself, that you’ll be very eager to get rid of this pattern of inaction in your life.

And of course the third step is to stop acting helpless. Of course, it’s not that easy. I would suggest that once you’ve identified an area in which you do not take responsibility (which is all learned helplessness is), you first find someone who can help you learn the things you need to do, if you don’t know how, then make a practice of doing one thing in that area every day. If it’s not something that needs doing every day, then spend time every day learning or writing about that area of your life.

When I say “area,” I don’t mean that if your computer is messed up or you haven’t figured out how to program the DVD player you should spend endless hours fixing these things. But if you can spend time on that area of your life. Learn what it takes to take charge of those technologies or hire someone else to do so. This way, you’ll be using the technology for what it was intended for instead of watching it gather dust and cursing at it and the world in which we live. Spend time on the maintenance areas of your life.

How can you take charge of your life and overcome learned helplessness today?

  • Find one area of your life that needs an overhaul
  • Plan what you can do this week to start taking responsibility
  • Take an action today

Thanks to Debra Moorhead.com for including this post in the Carnival of Healing: Healthy Living.

NEWSFLASH: I’ve added another chapter to my life by joining C.A.S.T. Recovery, a Los Angeles based outpatient drug rehab program which specializes in designing highly individualized recovery plans with appropriate professionals to support a client’s health, accountability, and success.

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