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Why It’s Difficult to Defend Ourselves

What is learned hopelessness, how to identify it and what to do?

We have all been able to observe a little dog, a kitten, or perhaps a little deer, that through a process of life reaches helplessness.

The defenselessness is characterized because they do not defend themselves, do not avoid any negative stimulus, or some attack, which in normal circumstances would cause the escape, defense or counterattack.

We have seen that, despite being subjected to kicks, blows, lack of food, they only bend their heads, shrink and allow this situation to continue.

The question is: Why don’t they run away, why don’t they attack back, when instinctively this should be the answer? It is indeed a very particular phenomenon.

Then, we can define learned helplessness as a condition, even call it a syndrome, in which there is an inhibition of the subject’s natural responses, no matter what integrity, even life, is involved.

In truth, it is an alarming and incomprehensible situation, it seems incredible to us, when we think that a simple movement could avoid that attack.

Now let us bring this condition to the human being, let us contemplate the victims of war, where, without a response, these people, without even a gesture, bow their heads, bend down and most of the times accept the punishment without a visible response, many times without tears or other apparent manifestation.

Let us look at women, who accept in the same way, blows, outrages, shouts, insults and do not give an answer. For any of us it is very simple to disqualify them, to criticize them, to despair before such an attitude, we even go so far as to say: “you have well deserved it.”

Of course, this condition also applies to men, children, adolescents, adults, and the elderly. And the question arises, is it a disease? Is it a deficiency? A maladjustment? A deviation? Is it genetic? Cultural? Imposed? Or what is it?

As its name indicates, it is a learned condition, which based on repetition of negative conditions, undoubtedly tinged by previous experiences, educational training, personal structure, among other factors, are shaping the type of response of the individual, which leads to a feeling of powerlessness, impossibility, incompetence, before the events.

A behavior of impassivity and of impossibility to react ensues.

One stops believing in one’s own capacity, one develops the belief that nothing can be done, which is practically one’s destiny. Of course, the quality of life of those who show this condition is very bad, and in this situation, there can be no happiness.

Now we ask ourselves, does it have a cure, the answer in NO, it is incurable because it is not a disease.

How does it develop?

It is a process that, based on repetitions and the lack of results of the answers shown, configures the condition, in which one arrives at the conviction that nothing can be done, nothing can help, deriving in lowering one’s arms and settling with one’s destiny.

The spouse, who every time tries to participate, to take control of his or her own life, is, if not beaten, then humiliated, insulted, despised, ignored. At first, the spouse protests, tries to rebel, and in the end is overwhelmed, until the moment they no longer trie to get out of that trap, accepting that this is life.

It is the same case of the child who in his home suffers the consequences of mistreatment, accompanied by injustices, illogical impositions, which conforms a series of personality traits that may color their life.

I am constantly questioned about the duration of this condition, if there is a way out, the truth is that this situation can last a lifetime, to the extent that it is not consciously addressed, either by the person who suffers it or by someone close to them who could influence it.

The good news is that this situation can be overcome, given that it is a learned condition, which based on these repetitions strongly affects self-esteem, self-love.

It will be necessary to seek professional help, initiate a process of unlearning of behaviors that have been established, continuing with the selection and consequent learning of new, assertive and positive behaviors.

Clinical hypnosis can help.

From my professional experience, hypnosis helps by facilitating change and achievement of the desired goals.

If you’d like more information, please don’t hesitate to call our office. 

Guillermo Castañeda Sr., Professional Hypnotist
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