Ever used that phrase: I couldn’t be bothered?
That’s the start of learned helplessness.
Learned helplessness is when you feel a sense of utter powerlessness – that no matter what you do, it won’t make any difference, so there’s no point even trying.
Learned helplessness compounds – the more you experience it, the deeper it sets in and takes root.
The reason why it is ‘learned’ is perfectly illustrated through the story of the captive elephant.
The elephant was born into captivity, and from the start was tethered by the ankle to a stake in the ground. No matter how much it struggled, it could never escape.
Over time it learnt that struggling led to nowhere, so not only did it stop struggling, it stopped even trying.
As it grows the elephant remains tethered. And even though we know its strength is more than enough to pull that stake out of the ground and trample its captors in its bid for freedom, it does not have the belief in its ability to do so, so it does not even try.
It has learnt helplessness.