“Age wrinkles the body; quitting wrinkles the soul.”
― Douglas MacArthur
In 1965, Martin Seligman and his colleagues were doing research on classical conditioning, the process by which an animal or human associates one thing with another.
In the experiment, he would ring a bell and then give a light electric shock to a dog. After a number of times, the dog would react to the bell before the shock would even be administered.
Then something unexpected happened.
Seligman put each dog into a large crate that was divided down the middle with a low fence the dog could easily see and jump over if necessary. The floor on one side of the fence was electrified, but not on the other side of the fence.
When Seligman put the dog on the electrified side and administered a light shock, he expected the dog to hop to the non-shocking side.
But instead, the dogs lied down.
They learned from the first experiment there was nothing they could do to avoid the shock, so they gave up in the second experiment.
So he tried again on dogs that hadn't been through the classical conditioning experiment and they quickly hopped over the fence to escape the shock.
For the first dogs, Seligman described the condition as learned helplessness. The act of not trying to avoid a negative situation because the past has taught them they’re helpless anyway.
Like the dogs, history has shown that people who've experienced negative events in the past can lead to a feeling of helplessness in similar future events, despite the new situation.
Is there anything uncomfortable you're avoiding because it didn't work out well in the past?
If you choose to lie down, are you not also choosing to surrender any control of improving the situation?
What can you do this week to choose power instead of passivity?
A reminder from your friends - you're not helpless. We believe in you if you do.