Blog

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

“Avoid the 3 Mistakes Many Women Make that Repel Love” BlogTalk Radio show Wed., 6/14/17 noon

Tune into this 30-40 minute episode I’ll be co-hosting with a unique relationship mentor, Valerie Greene, who helps couples to stop fighting and fall in love again, and who helps women inspire their husbands or partners into deeper love and intimacy, not relational dread. Providing a highly successful alternative to relationship therapy, Valerie helps women and couples move beyond problem-solving and communication skills to create a secure emotional CONNECTION.

Tune into this special episode to learn more from Valerie about how to transform relationship conflict into deeper intimacy, avoiding the relational moves that repel love.  Join us live with your questions or comments by calling into the studio at: 877-497-9046. If you can’t make the live show simply go to: www.BlogTalkRadio.com/SusanLager to hear the recording afterward.

How Your Lens Effects Everything

 

This is a pretty winter scene, wouldn’t you say? When you look at it do you see stillness, silence, the beauty of nature imposing itself on a cityscape, maybe a snow day off to relax and refuel? Or do you see a frigid, lonely, oppressive, colorless storm aftermath with probable power outages and traffic shutdowns? Well, it’s all in your lens, or the way you take in the visual experience and the meanings you give it. If you’re a Southerner, or a pessimist you probably zone in on all the discomforts and possible inconveniences associated with this scene. If you’re a hardy New England nature lover, or just an optimist, you probably see the exquisite beauty in the scene. You might view it as an opportunity for a snowshoe hike or a hilarious snowball fight. It’s all in not only what you pay attention to, but the meanings you assign to your selection.

The 2016 election was, (and continues to be!) a perfect example of this issue. You hear from three Trump advocates / surrogates about his behavior in a particular situation and they frame it as “take charge,” “authentic,” “strong,” “warranted.”  You then hear from three liberals about the same events and they frame his behavior as “authoritarian,” “deceptive-lying,” “bullyish,” and “provocatively inappropriate.”  The two sides, based on their lenses can’t even agree about the occurrence of the same exact events.  (To this point, we now even have a new term called “alternative facts” coined by the incoming administration).

Whether you’re a democrat, a Republican, an independent or apolitical, how you see political events and the world in general entirely depends on your lens.

As a psychotherapist part of my work is to a) encourage clients to notice what they pay attention to, and b) challenge the lens through which they take in events, or the meanings they give their experiences. I try to practice what I preach, knowing how radically it effects my moods, energy states and world view. I would encourage you to do the same!

“5 Foolproof Ways to Ruin Your Holidays” on BlogTalk Radio 12/14/16 8:30 PM EST

Don’t miss my next 25 minute BlogTalk Radio episode on Wednesday, December 14th at 8:30 PM EST

If you’ve been telling yourself a story about all the stresses, expenses, difficult relatives, ridiculous gifts, cards to send, the hassles of putting up and decorating the tree, Chanukah forgotten, cleaning the house, making flights on time, too much eating and drinking, getting too fat, cleaning up the house, no time for anything, then this episode is for you!

I’ll give you 5 sure methods to make all the negative spin come true, individually, and as a couple. Enough chirpy info about how to do better! Let’s look at how you can SABOTAGE any fun, joy or meaning!

Tune into www.BlogTalkRadio.com/SusanLager for live streaming, or for the recorded episode afterward, OR to join me live on the air with your own Grinch stories or ideas call into the studio at: 877-497-9046  I’d love to make it a conversation!

The Curse of Self-Doubt

It was finally time after almost ten years, for me to part ways with my trusty old office couch. It was beautiful and comfy, but badly soiled and worn, as you can see, after being the repository for thousands of hours of client’s struggles and triumphs. Oh, the stories this tired old couch had heard!

I’d spent months noticing how the cushions were getting more frayed and soiled, obsessing about whether I should have it re-upholstered, (and how would I ever do that?), or to just let it go, hopefully to a new home. Back and forth, decided and undecided I remained for months and months. Now the issue was less about the condition of the couch but my lack of confidence about the “right” decision!

I finally pulled the trigger, after days of measuring and re-measuring, (I’d bought a couch in the past I had to return because they couldn’t get it in the door!) I found what I thought was a perfect replacement and made plans for the Salvation Army to pick up the old couch.  Before they arrived I was caught in yet another wave of self doubt: Did I measure correctly? Would it fit? Would the new one match or be comfortable enough? Did I really do my homework diligently about all this? Was it fair to just discard a couch that had served my clients and me so faithfully? (Does this kind of self-doubt feel familiar to you?) After several agonizing hours I decided to try to trust my perceptions and diligence, and move forward.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t rewarded for the moment of decisiveness when the Salvation Army rejected the donation – “too worn.” With the new one arriving the next day, should I keep the old couch if I had nowhere else to put it? More indecision, and I’m the therapist?

I finally broke the bad trance, deciding this issue wasn’t about world peace, and that I should try to trust my perceptions, as I’m usually a very thorough person. Worst case scenario, I’d have two couches, one parked in the waiting room, and a new one in my office. I put a “free couch” sign on the old one, and within an hour a mother took down my number, exclaiming how perfect this old couch would be for her son who was moving into his own apartment. He wouldn’t be put off by the optics of it, but would love the functionality, especially since it was a full size sleeper as well. Long story short, the new couch arrived the next day, fit perfectly in my office and looks beautiful, and the kid came the next day to pick up his new treasure.

I can only guess what fun he and his roommates will have imagining the therapy dramas his new couch holds. Hopefully, he won’t doubt his own decision to give the old girl a new home just because she’s a little worn out. And hopefully, next time I won’t invite the curse of self doubt into what could be an exciting decision. Maybe? Maybe not…….

Learn About EFT for Couples from the Experts on BlogTalk Radio 11/16/16 8:30 PM

Have a happier marriage when you harness the tools of Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT). Learn from the experts all about this powerful form of brief treatment aimed at helping couples transform their interactions from anger and distancing to connection and deeper understanding.

Tune into BlogTalk Radio Wednesday, 11/16/16 at 8:30 PM EDT at: http://tobtr.com/s/9608805 to catch the podcast live streaming or listen to it afterward at your convenience.  Even better, call into the studio live with your questions or comments at 877-497-9046.  Hope you can join us!

Are You a Time Optimist?

My husband and I still have a ridiculously predictable ritual: We agree to do some errands together on a weekend, often involving returning or searching for an item in a Marshalls or T.J.Maxx store. I tell him I’ll be ten minutes, he says “ok,” and half an hour later I’m still in the dressing room frantically trying on deals of a lifetime while he’s outside, aggravated, saying he should have brought a book! As someone who is generally considerate of other people’s feelings, I apologize and we agree not to shop together in the future, because I lose all sense of time, and he hates to wait. He forgives me, and all is well, until…..the next time.

Here’s another similar scenario: I have a family member (whom I won’t mention by name), who is joyful, highly creative and full of intense energy. He does everything with tremendous passion. Unfortunately, that usually means fixing or building something, or solving some complex problem “in no time” while he makes his wife wait for him to go somewhere or do something else. He’s a loving, thoughtful husband who somehow lives in the doghouse much of the time in his marriage. Luckily, he too has a forgiving spouse who adores him.

Are we folks who chronically underestimate the time it takes to do things really just inconsiderate of others? Do we all have ADHD? Are we disorganized or are we just “time optimists”? I like to think that it’s the latter category – chronically underestimating the time it takes to do things. When our son was about eight years old he remarked one day that I seemed to always be “missing ten minutes!” How astute! – yet it took me another nine years to realize that I could leave for work ten minutes earlier and not be crunched for time – that inevitably, en route to work I’d get caught behind a school bus or an old lady driving fifteen miles an hour, no matter how well intentioned I was about not being late for clients.

These days, I still try to add at least ten minutes onto the estimate for the time needed for just about everything in life. I’ve relinquished myself to the “higher power” of Geologic Time – that no matter how fast I can do things, the world still moves very, very slowly. I can tell you that this practice lowers your stress level, makes everyone around you feel much less irritated, helps you enjoy the scenery behind old ladies and school buses, and can even improve your marriage! The only thing that I can’t vouch for is what happens when you hit a sale in your favorite store….

Obsessions, Manias, Fixations and Preoccupations

I haven’t been blogging for more than a month, not only because of the holiday busyness, but because I have an overactive brain which got hijacked by an obsession for grain-free, low carb cooking and baking. I’ve discovered several websites which tout tons of recipes for healthy, wheat-free, sugar-free breads, cakes, soups, muffins, appetizers, candy, etc., all part of the “Wheatbelly” crusade. I’m hooked. I’m like a junkie on crack. I’m often up till 1:00 AM immersed in a world of other “junkies” who spend every kid-free, husband-free, (I’m not being sexist, it’s mostly women), moment making these healthy treats, and blogging about it on their sites. I call one bunch the “Mad Midnight Popsicle Mavens.” (They really started me on this mania, with their mouthwatering pictures of their mostly sugar-free creations).

This obsession actually started for a logical reason. I’d been suffering with acid reflux and asthma for several years, often rudely injecting itself into sessions with clients, with me either wheezing or choking for a period of time, on their dime. Clients were always very understanding, but I couldn’t tolerate feeling like an old coot, so I did my homework and found out about grain-free eating  as an antidote in the Wheatbelly research. Thankfully, this way of life has helped enormously, but with the mixed outcome of creating a new “mania,” as I like to think of it – not a mental illness, but a happy passion. So happy, in fact, that I could forget to sleep, if I allowed myself, but I generally don’t.

So, what’s the point of this tale? To let anyone out there know that if you too are prone to fixations, preoccupations and manias, to be aware of how and when you allow them to rule your world. Do you forget to pick up your kids at daycare because you’re in a happy shopping trance? Does your obsession with learning an instrument trump paying the bills? Do you neglect your spouse because you’re fixated on a new puzzle? It’s all a consciousness and balance game.

Anyway, I gotta go. The grain-free cookies are calling….

Are You a Shopaholic? Take the Test Wednesday 11/18 on BlogTalkRadio 8:30 PM EST

If you’ve ever wondered if you have a shopping problem, or if it’s just benign “retail therapy,” and you’re readying for the holiday spending season, then this next BlogTalk Radio episode is just for you.

Tune into my next 30 minute BlogTalk Radio episode “Are You a Shopaholic? Take the Test Before the Holidays; Get 7 Tips for Help” – Wednesday, November 18th at 8:30 PM EST. Call toll-free 877-497-9046 to join me on the air with questions, comments or (horror?) stories. Learn about whether you may have Compulsive Buying Disorder, or if your 75 pairs of shoes is just a love of style.

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

 
 

BlogTalk Radio episode about conflict in the workplace airing Wednesday, 9/23 8:30 PM

Due to technical issues with BlogTalk Radio, unfortunately last month’s episode, “Workplace Relationships: Dealing with the Dreaded Drama of Conflict” never aired, and has been rescheduled to Wednesday, September 23rd at 8:30 PM.  My apologies for any inconvenience.

DO tune in to the rescheduled episode if you’ve experienced conflict at work and have felt dread and indecision about what to do. Or, if you have a manager who doesn’t handle conflict productively, you end up getting the short end of the stick, and again, dread dealing with the issue, then this show is for you!

My co-host Pattie Porter, The Texas Conflict Coach, is an expert in the field of conflict management, and will share her insights about the issues, along with some critical tools you can use to manage these situations more confidently and effectively.

Call 877-497-9046 to join us live on the air with questions or comments. If you can’t make the live show you can listen to the recording afterward at your convenience at: www.BlogTalkRadio.com/SusanLager

Blog Talk Radio Host

Get My Free Original Articles

  • - Communication
  • - Resolving Conflict
  • - Intimacy
  • - Relationship Tools

Contact Me

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

About
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.

Connect With Me


Find My Office

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.