Today’s Table Talk is by our wonderful friend Kathleen Fischer. She always has something up her sleeve to inspire and direct us as we navigate the often interesting road of parenting tween/teens. She references Dr Seligman who coined the phrase “learned helplessness” – something that we need to recognize and use as motivation every time we stop ourselves form stepping in and doing for our kids. Here’s a brief definition from a 2011 NYT article on teh topic:
In observing people’s need for accomplishment, Dr. Seligman says, he’s reminded of his early experiments that famously identified the concept of “learned helplessness.” He found that when animals or people were given a series of arbitrary punishments or rewards, they stopped trying to do anything constructive.
“We found that even when good things occurred that weren’t earned, like nickels coming out of slot machines, it did not increase people’s well-being,” he said. “It produced helplessness. People gave up and became passive.”
Anyway, I hope you enjoy Kathleen’s latest take.
Thanks, Kathleen!… And thanks for walking the road with me.
I don’t know about you, but I just LOVE to learn new things. Especially things which explain life and help me get a more positive understanding.
You may not know the name Martin Seligman but he’s a professor at U Penn and the founder of “positive psychology.” Make no mistake, Dr. Seligman is not a la-la kind of psychologist. But his fascination is with questions like: why do some folks thrive; who flourishes and why; how can we not just avoid despair but how can we savor a joy-filled, meaning-filled life? He’s my kind of guy!
Anyway, recently, Dr. Seligman was retained by the U.S. Army to study post-traumatic stress among our soldiers. Undertaking a study of hundreds of thousands of soldiers, Dr. Seligman arrived at a stunning conclusion. Imagine a Bell curve. . . you know the kind where “typical” is depicted at the height of the curve and represents about 68% of any given population. Now imagine a “tail” to the left and a “tail” to the right. What Dr. Seligman found is that, indeed, there is a group of soldiers who suffer “post traumatic stress,” represented by the left-hand tail. The majority of folks, that 68% in the middle of the Bell, actually return to their previous level of well-being about 3-6 months post-combat.