Friday, September 4, 2009

Two Extremes: Learned Helplessness and Resilience - You Choose

I recently read that road rage is the perfect illustration of learned helplessness. People get annoyed to the point of lashing out because their goals are blocked. They become frustrated and then give vent to their frustration with often disastrous consequences.

“Learned helplessness is the giving-up reaction, the quitting response that follows from the belief that whatever you do doesn’t matter” –Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Defensive reactions are generally linked with a sort of learned helplessness—a forlorn acceptance that whatever I do won’t make the slightest of difference to the overall outcome.

I think everyone would agree that this is not the best way to live. And that is the key. We all get a choice as to how we want to live our lives. Disempowered and frustrated or empowered and resilient against all that might come against us.

When I think of the resilient I think of Schwarzenegger and also of West Coast Eagles head coach, John Worsfold. Add to this list two cricketers, Justin Langer and Steve Waugh. Add to these the qualities found in Special Air Service personnel.

Each of these epitomises the depth of quality of the person who can rebound even when all seems gone. It’s when there’s nothing left, a reserve of strength and resourcefulness is suddenly (almost miraculously) found. Only afterwards are we left wondering, ‘How did they do that?’

The resilient have squashed flat and rendered ineffective any powers of learned helplessness over themselves. For these, almost nothing is impossible. The harder things get the better they like it.

And this is my personal goal—to achieve this level of resilience that when life gets tough I might simply smile more and rebound straight away.

In this, nothing can stop us. And this is what a life of faith is all about.

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