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The Power of “Learned Helplessness.” How to Spot it and What to Do

 
 
 
Hello Reader,
 
Do you have a friend or relative who consistently screws up, forgets things, fails to follow through, or in one way or the other doesn’t take care of their own “life business”? If so, you may be in the presence of “learned helplessness.”
 
Unless these people are clinically depressed or physiologically compromised, this state often has more to do with someone operating at a “youngest sibling” level, expecting that others know more, are more capable, and can assume responsibility for things. They have usually developed unconscious life “scripts” about being inept, or ignorant or incapable, often not challenging these deeply held beliefs. As a result, they lack a sense of “agency,” the courage to try new solutions, and the ability or willingness to try to act effectively on their own behalf.
 
Your friend or relative may make lame decisions or procrastinate endlessly, and is likely to create a need on your part to take over and rescue them. If you feel that you’re watching someone who operates like a train wreck in slow motion, and that you can’t seem to help yourself from taking over to fix things, then you may be a target of their “learned helplessness”! People who demonstrate this are usually experts at training the people around them to go into overdrive “rescue” mode.  They often don’t directly ask for help, but seem to be so helpless that the people around them feel they have to take over.
And don’t be fooled – their “helplessness” is generally very powerful! They get you to take over, pay for things, organize things, make appointments, ask the right questions, and generally fix whatever problems they are faced with.
 
So, if you’ve been feeling exhausted in a relationship which plays out with this “parent – child” dynamic, and feel that there’s a lack of reciprocity, or that you’re pouring lots of effort down a bottomless pit, watch out! You may be feeding someone’s “learned helplessness”! Consider backing off into a more supportive or facilitativrole, allowing them to struggle more directly with problems, and learn that they can direct their power more appropriately into developing solutions for themselves. You’ll be doing yourself, your friend and the relationship a giant service. 
 
If you feel that you need help to deal with this issue in any of your relationships feel free to contact me for an appointment.
 
Cheers,
Susan

[email protected]                                                                 603-431-7131

“Marital Peace After An Affair” – BlogTalk Radio Show Wed. 7/27/16 8:30 PM EDT

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In this thirty minute episode I’ll co-host with Dr. Laura Louis, author of the popular book, “Marital Peace,” which is a valuable resource for supporting couples throughout the challenges of marriage.

Dr. Louis has specialized in helping distant couples heal after infidelity, and in the program discusses some of the ways she recommends rebuilding trust, rekindling intimacy and enhancing communication. Her therapeutic approach has been influenced through trainings in Brazil, Mexico, London and Haiti, as well as hundreds of transformative seminars all over the world.

Don’t miss this vital program if you and your spouse have endured or feel at risk for an affair! Learn some key tools to not only help avoid infidelity, but to restore trust, build forgiveness, and promote growth after an affair. You too can achieve marital peace after this traumatic development.

Call in live with questions or comments at 877-497-9046.

If you can’t make the live show you can listen to the podcast afterward at: www.BlogTalkRadio.com/SusanLager

One way or another, I hope you can join us!

Ashley Madison Hack: Divorce Not An Inevitable Outcome!

If you or your spouse has been exposed as using the Ashley Madison site to seek an affair, stop and take a deep breath! (Apparently thousands of people have already flocked to lawyers to pull the trigger on impulsively decided divorces).  Driven by the hurt and humiliation of public exposure and profound betrayal, as a discovering spouse you are understandably experiencing the first waves of trauma that this news usually brings. Vengeance and assuaging the broken trust through divorce may seem like the only solution to you at this point.

As the unfaithful spouse you are probably traumatized in different ways: what may have seemed like a discreet, compartmentalized adventure without victims now feels real in its damaging consequences. You are now either bathed in shame and fear, or furious that you can no longer “have your cake and eat it too.” However justified you may feel for your infidelity you know that your world is about to become unravelled. You are about to take the hit for everything wrong with the marriage, and cannot imagine ever being forgiven. If you stay married you imagine a lifetime in the “doghouse.” Whichever end you’re on, the impulse on both sides is often to give up and get a divorce, convinced that healing and reconciliation would be impossible.

As a couples therapist who, for many years has worked with thousands of couples reeling from infidelity, I have a few strong pieces of advice:

  • Slow down!
  • Take some deep breaths!
  • Don’t make any rash decisions now!
  • Don’t impulsively file for divorce!

Here are some things you may NOT be aware of:

  • Many marriages can not only be saved, but strengthened after the trauma of infidelity. It requires a lot of determination, hard work, vision, and a good couples therapist the spouses both trust.
  • Many couples who impulsively divorce deeply regret that decision later on.
  • Children are often the biggest victims, especially in a contentious divorce.
  • If you don’t know what direction to take regarding your damaged marriage there is an alternative to couples therapy called Discernment Counseling. This is a brief treatment designed for couples where one spouse is leaning toward a divorce and the other wants to stay married. It is not geared toward tools and skills for repair, but instead focuses on helping partners make a decision about a direction for the marriage. Only trained Discernment Counselors can provide this service.
  • There are terrific books and support groups for couples wrestling with infidelity.
  • If you do decide to get a divorce you can have a healing, constructive process through Collaborative Law. Divorce doesn’t have to be an impoverishing dog fight.
  • There may be hope. There is help.

Anyone in the greater Boston area wanting more information, feel free to contact me at The Couples Center PLLC, in Portsmouth, NH: 603-431-7131.

 

Wednesday, June 3rd 8:30 PM BlogTalk Radio episode “Life Your Way” – A Talk with Author Amy Wood”

Don’t miss my next 45 minute BlogTalk Radio episode, “Life Your Way” – A Talk with Author Amy Wood.” We’ll discuss this prize-winning, vital book which provides a compelling approach on how to manage the constant “Go! Do! Be Better!” stresses of 21st century American life.

Get some really useful insights on how you can use your instincts and intuition to find balance and confidence, and how to move more intentionally toward a happier, more fulfilling life.

Call toll-free 877-497-9046 to join us on the air with questions or comments, or to just listen and benefit from the conversation about such an important topic.

Can’t make the live show? Catch the recording afterward at: www.BlogTalkRadio.com/SusanLager

When Things Fall Apart: BlogTalk Radio Episode 9/17/14 8:30 PM EST

Don’t miss my next BlogTalk Radio episode tonight about the subject of dealing with life when things fall apart. We’ve all had the experience at times of dealing with crises which create a sense of chaos and uncertainty – maybe the loss of a loved one, or a debilitating health issue, or the loss of a job or business. It always feels horrible and destabilizing, and often creates a story of victimhood or bitterness for us. But the fact is that misery is just another part of life – it inevitably comes with the joy, relief, and triumph that are also part of our story.

Tune into this half hour episode tonight and join the discussion or just listen in, and hear about some attitudes and behavioral tools which may help you to accept some of these hardships as part of being human, and move through these experiences with more wisdom and perspective. Call toll-free 877-497-9046, or if the lines are busy call 760-542-4114. I hope you can join me! If you can’t make the live show, listen to it online at your convenience by going to the web player on my website, www.SusanLager.com or at www.BlogTalkRadio/SusanLager.com

Hats Off to Market Basket Employees And Their Champion, Arthur T. Demoulas

If you live in New England as I do, unless you’ve been hanging out under a rock, you’re probably aware of the enormous drama playing out between the employees of the Market Basket supermarket chain and the corporate players who orchestrated a hostile takeover of the company, away from Arthur T. Demoulas, the beloved CEO of many years.

Apparently, a  relative, Arthur S Demoulas, was instrumental in the takeover, playing out an old, generational financial feud with the Arthur T. side of the family. The feud has unfolded now into the current vision for the supermarket chain, with Arthur T. representing a more humanistic, personal, more employee-friendly and neighborhood-friendly mission for the company, while Arthur S. is viewed as the embodiment of corporate greed, planning to radically raise prices, and streamline employee policies, among other things.

What has been amazing to watch as a consumer and as a therapist, is the level of love, loyalty and support this ousted family-friendly CEO has garnered from not only employees, but shoppers all over New England. The unfolding “strike” among non-unionized workers, and the boycott of all the stores, lobbying for Arthur T.’s reinstatement, has been an awe inspiring example of what can happen when people have felt respected and cared about – how they will risk everything to stand up for people who represent ideals which are important to them, especially when those values are now threatened. This unfolding drama also illustrates how much difference one person can make in a system, how much impact we all potentially can have!

I would think it would be a wake up call for all employers about the huge impact treating their employees well can have, not only on morale, but also on the profitability of their businesses. Happy employees = good business. Employers who think they can motivate their staff with bullying, intimidation, and punishments are themselves relics of the Dark Ages. Inevitably, they will fail because employees need to feel appreciated, respected and defended, otherwise they will understandably be disloyal and unproductive.

And so, hats off to Arthur T., and to all you Market Basket employees for your courage, tenacity, and loyalty, in standing up for what your deserve and what you value. May you and Arthur T. prevail! ….And may all the rest of us take inspiration from your example.

Leaving Your Comfort Zone

I’ve recently returned from a Couples Retreat I conducted with Meredith Richardson on Star Island, NH.  Suffice it to say that the whole experience was a smashing success for not only the couples who participated, but for Meredith and myself as well.

For the couples who participated it was an exercise in moving out of their own routinized ways of seeing issues and behaving with each other. It was also an exercise in opening up with the other participants, and being vulnerable in a more public way. For me, it was an experience of leaving my own comfort zone in several ways: staying on an island for several days with a bunch of strangers, working closely with a colleague who brought very different credentials, skill sets, and ways of operating, and “roughing it” in a rustic setting without hot water, without a private bathroom, with limited shower times, and with “community meals.” And guess what? No one got killed!

As a therapist I understand the value of trying new things toward creating new “grooves” in your brain, and even how novelty can ramp up pleasure and bonding for couples. I was reminded in a direct way however, about how valuable it can be to move out of one’s comfort zone, challenge the status quo, and to try new things in the service of growth. Unless you’re jumping off a cliff, what have you got to lose?

(Now, stay tuned for more terrific Couples Retreats on and off the coast of New Hampshire and Maine)……

“What To Do When You Hate Your Job” BlogTalk Radio episode 11/6/13 8:30 PM

Hate your job? Or does your spouse hate his/her job?

If so, you don’t want to miss this episode featuring guest career expert Andrea St. Jean. We’ll be looking at the impact of job misery on individuals and their partners, and how certain attitudes and actions can make all the difference.

Call toll-free 877-497-9046 to just listen in or to join us live on the air with questions or comments. If you can’t make the live show, go to www.BlogTalkRadio.com/SusanLager to find the recording.

Hope you can join us!

“Surviving and Thriving After Trauma With A Partner’s Support” BlogTalk Radio Show Tonight 2/27 8:30 PM EST

Don’t miss my next BTR episode, “Surviving and Thriving After Trauma With A Partner’s Support” airing tonight, 2/27 8:30 PM EST.

I’ll be co-hosting with Michele Rosenthal, PTSD specialist and author of the critically acclaimed PTSD recovery book, Before The World Intruded.

We’ll be discussing Michele’s personal journey through trauma, and focusing on the strategies she used to help her overcome PTSD. We’ll also be exploring reasonable expectations and appropriate roles for partners in this process.

Call in toll-free 877-497-9046 at 8:30 PM EST to just listen, or to join us on the air with questions or comments.

Hope you can join us!

Try New Things In 2013!

(If you’ve been wondering where I’ve been for the last few weeks, I’ve been shoveling.) Only, kidding, that’s just been the scene for the last few hours, getting ready for yet another snow storm, so the new ten inches doesn’t collapse the deck with the 6 inch ice base underneath. Ah, New England……..

Now that all your presents are unwrapped, (and hopefully, already paid for), the guests have gone home, (or if they’re leaving from New England, they are TRYING to go home amidst this second post Christmas blizzard), the leftovers are in the fridge, (hopefully you have leftovers, and didn’t eat it ALL), you’re filled with more good memories, (hopefully it wasn’t a nightmare holiday), and you too, are looking forward to the New Year, with new chances to do better, or to just do some new, adventurous things.

As for me, I’m about to publish my second workbook called, “Become Relationship Smart Without A Lifetime Of Therapy.”  It’s all about how to do better in all your key relationships. It’s been quite a haul getting it done, but I think you’ll love it as I do, and benefit tremendously from the tools and insights I’ve provided in the book. You’ll be able to buy it on Amazon in late January 2013!

So, what’s the point? Try new things in the new year, or you’ll get stale and rusted! What’s the worst that could happen? Failure? Mistakes? So what? Unless we get hit by a truck, there are usually more chances to do whatever it is better, or to let it go. Mistakes, as I say, are “valuable information potentially used for new learning”. Here’s to courage! Here’s to mistakes!

Gotta go help with more shoveling. The snow has arrived, and the Snowblower Guy, my husband, probably could use the moral support.

Cheers,
Susan Lager

Blog Talk Radio Host

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Susan Lager

I am a licensed, board certified pyschotherapist and relationship coach in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Through my psychotherapy or coaching services, I can provide you with skills and tools to transform your life.

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