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Axen Ft. Lauderdale Message Board › Learned Hope

Learned Hope

user 19537791
Group Organizer
Miami, FL
Hi AXENites,

I’m currently working on my business and there’s a lot of self doubt that’s been creeping into my mind and I feel like I’m fighting two opponents — the challenge of growing my business AND myself, the belief that I can do it and staying optimistic.

One of the things not discussed enough in any project, sport, challenge or entrepreneurial endeavor is how much self belief and optimism plays a roll in the outcomes I/we create.

I’m actively being confronted by my pessimism and a history of failures that I perceive as permanent states of being, when in reality I have many examples of the contrary. I catch myself thinking in black and white terms sometimes and the catastrophic thoughts lead to a self fulfilling prophecy of inaction that results in stagnation and poor results.

Im learning how to turn learned helplessness into learned optimism.

There is a psychologist by the name of Martin Seligman who experimented on the topic of learned helplessness in dogs in the 1960s (and later replicated with other animals). Specifically the excitement was on electrocuting the floors of cages where dogs were restrained. The purpose of the experiment was to see how the dogs would behave when released from being bound and helpless to the electrocution after they were free to jump over a barrier to avoid the pain of the shock. What occurred was a finding that has been replicated on many animals from bees, to birds, to rats, to shrews all with similar findings — animals will respond in a helpless manner.

“Directly from the Learned Helplessness Wikipedia:
Learned helplessness is behaviour exhibited by a subject after enduring repeated aversive stimuli beyond their control. It is characterized by the subject's acceptance of their powerlessness: discontinuing attempts to escape or avoid the aversive stimulus, even when such alternatives are unambiguously presented. Upon exhibiting such behavior, the subject is said to have acquired learned helplessness.[1][2]

In humans, learned helplessness is related to the concept of self-efficacy, the individual's belief in their innate ability to achieve goals. Learned helplessness theory is the view that clinical depression and related mental illnesses may result from such real or perceived absence of control over the outcome of a situation.”

Before you do vilifying Martin Seligman for shocking K-9s, Seligman also founded Positive Psychology based off of his research. Seligman found that hopelessness and hope are both learned behaviors that are reinforced by how we view the world and he discovered that there could also be a “Learned Optimism”, that would create a list of motivational factors that would provide tools for an individual to thrive.

Key among the lessons of optimism by the renowned Dr Seligman a professor at University of Pennsylvania are these simple 5 simple steps. “ABCDE” (taken from the learned optimism Wikipedia page):

A - Adversity: Someone cuts you off in traffic.
B - Belief: You think, "I can't believe that idiot was so rude and selfish!"
C - Consequence: You are overcome with anger, yelling profanity at the other driver.
D - Disputation. Disputation centers on generating counter-evidence to any of the following: the negative beliefs in general, the causes of the event, or the implications. D also means reminding oneself of any potential usefulness of moving on from the adversity. Disputation for the above traffic example might sound like this: "I am overreacting. I don't know what situation he is in. Maybe he is on his way to his daughter's piano recital and is running late. I'm sure I have cut people off before without meaning to, so I should really cut him a break. I am not in a hurry anyway."
E - Energization: connect to feeling energized, and should indeed try to actively celebrate, the positive feelings and sense of accomplishment that come from successful disputation of negative beliefs.

Disputation and Energization (celebration) are the keys to Seligman's method for learned optimism.

See you on the Mountaintop,

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