Turn off learned helplessness: No matter what I do, is it wrong?

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Text comes from: Warum uns das Denken nicht in den Kopf will: Noch mehr nützliche Erkenntnisse der Alltagspsychologie (2013) from Dr. Volker Kitz, Prof. Dr. Manuel Tusch, published by Heyne Verlag, Reprints by friendly permission of the publisher.
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In an experiment conducted by American psychologist Martin Seligman with dogs, it was shown that helplessness is often only learned. And can also be forgotten again. What's up with yours? Manager to do?


Here writes for you:


Dr. Volker Kitz fawnDr. Volker Kitz is Spiegel-Best-selling author, psychologist and ex-lobbyist.


Here writes for you:


Prof. Dr. Manuel TuschDr. Manuel Tusch Professor at the Münster University of Applied Sciences and director of the IfAP.


From the author:




Learn that you can defend yourself

Martin Seligman had a comparative group in his famous experiment: in it were dogs, where the lever in the first cage worked. When they pressed it, the surge actually stopped. They learned the dogs quickly.

And when they came into the second cage, they were again looking for ways to escape the surge. Because this group of dogs had learned: I can do something against these annoying bumps. And they quickly found out what: They just went through the flap into the cage next door.

No matter what I do, it's wrong?

Martin Seligman called the fate of the first group a “learned helplessness”. Someone once found out that he is apparently powerless against a stressful state - and at some point he stops trying to do anything about it. Even if he could actually escape this state easily.

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Now let's assume you are the person you are. Does the situation with the dogs from your own life seem familiar to you? It is not uncommon for someone to say to themselves: “No matter what I do, everything is always wrong. I can't change my situation. ”

The baby experiment

Learned helplessness was later detected in humans. With babies, for example, a similar experiment was performed as with the dogs. No, without electric shock. But they shook them violently in their crib, that was quite different.

Some could do it with a head movement, a sensor in their pillow. Others did not have a sensor. Both groups reacted the same way as the dogs. And one group went to the dogs. Even beyond the baby's age we show similar reactions.

See the way out, if there is one

Now there are situations like that with the Manager in the example from above. Since we are exposed to the arbitrariness of others and may actually be helpless.

The problem in this case is that we see no way out even if there is suddenly one, for example when the old boss leaves and a new boss comes. Even then we continue to think: "What I do doesn't count with those up there anyway."

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Where do you find the studies?

  • Seligman, MEP, Maier, SF (1967): Failure to Escape Traumatic Shock. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 74, 1 - 9.
  • Seligman, MEP (1979): Learned helplessness. Munich, Vienna, Baltimore: Urban and Schwarzenberg.
  • Hiroto, DS, Seligman, MEP (1975): Generality of Learned Helplessness in Man. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 31, 311 - 327.

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  1. Frederic Jordan

    RT @jobcollege: helplessly delivered to the boss 2/3: No matter what I do, it's wrong ?: In our last post… # B…

  2. Beatrix Schwarzbach

    Learned helplessness, I can imagine, is an ugly, crippling thing. Since you want competent people who can observe well and help those affected in conversation and new experiences back on their feet.

    • Simone Janson

      That's right, the biggest problem for many people is that they don't see the forest for the trees themselves, that is, they don't recognize the problem. Indeed, outside help can be useful - for example, from friends, acquaintances, family or a competent coach.

  3. Wolfgang Struensee

    “Some people wait until they are up to their necks and call it fate.

  4. Competencepartner

    Helplessly delivered to the boss 2/3: No matter what I do, it is wrong ?: In our last post… #Beruf #Education

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