Can Help Depression by Learning to be Optimistic.
By: Dr. H. Paul Stanley, Jr., a psychologist
of the most hopeful discoveries of psychology is that you can help depression
by learning to stop pessimistic, helpless thinking and start optimistic, hopeful
means you can help depression by changing your thinking from pessimistic to optimistic.
SO TAKE ACTION
Seligman, while a graduate student, observed a group of dogs begin to behave as
if they were depressed. These dogs were being used in research focused on how
emotional behavior is learned. As a part of the research the dogs were repeatedly
exposed to a tone followed by a mild electric shock.
researchers wanted the dogs to associate the tone with the soon-to-occur shock.
Then they planned to teach the dogs to avoid the shock by jumping over a barrier
into a different part of their cage.
the dogs learned to avoid the shock by jumping over the barrier, the researchers
would see if the tone also caused them to jump over the barrier. Thus, they wanted
to know if the behavior used to avoid the shock (jumping over the barrier) would
also be used in response to fear of the soon-to-occur shock signaled by the tone.
Things were not
going as the researchers expected, however. Rather than learning to jump, the
dogs became passive, just laying down, whimpering, and waiting for the shock to
happen. Seligman concluded that the dogs had learned to be helpless. That is,
the dogs had learned that no matter what the did, bad things were going to happen.
They could not do anything to escape the negative circumstances.
dogs had learned to expect the shock. This expectation resulted in helpless, passive
behavior. Further research confirmed this learned helplessness.
Seligman and his colleagues, through additional research, found that when dogs
learned initially, as puppies, that they could avoid bad things such as shocks
from happening, they never learned to be helpless. This was true even when they
experienced adversive situations that couldnt be avoided latter in life.
The dogs learned
to expect to have the ability to avoid the shock. Thus, they had learned to be
optimistic. The optimistic dogs never learned to be pessimistic. Therefore, development
of learned helplessness had be prevented.
interesting finding was that the dogs that had learned to be passive and helpless
could, with much effort, learn to stop being helpless and to actively avoid the
shocks. This took a lot of effort on the part of the researchers, however. The
dogs did not learn to overcome their helplessness on their own. They needed help.
Then a graduate
student at Oregon State University began to investigate how learned helplessness
applies to humans. He conducted research much the same as Dr. Seligmans
but using human subjects. In the human research the subjects were exposed to annoying
situations that they could not avoid--such as noise.
in Dr. Seligmans research, once people learned that they could not avoid
the annoying noise, they became passive and helpless. They did not take action
to escape the annoying noise even when such action was possible and easy to accomplish.
that was discovered was that 33% of both the dogs and the humans could not be
taught to become helpless. They were resilient to the adverse situations and did
not give-up becoming passive.
that point the researchers began to try to find out what made these human research
subjects resilient. They found that the key was what the people said to themselves
to explain their circumstances when facing adverse situations.
people who explained their negative situations as
Things will never be any better.
My whole life is ruined.
Its all my fault.
became helpless and passive.
people who explained their negative situation as
Things will get better.
This situation is bad but much of my life is really OK.
This problem is just an unfortunate circumstance. Its not my fault.
were optimistic and active in trying to make their situations better.
Learning to be
helpless can have dyer consequences in a persons life. Helplessness researchers
have found that people who are pessimists become depressed more easily, underachieve
at work, get sick more often, and experience life as less pleasurable when compared
Seligman (1990) also argues very convincingly that depression is the same thing
as learned helplessness. Those who have learned to be helpless and those who are
a depressed mood
interest in usual activities
less physical and mental energy and, thus, think and move more slowly
themselves for problems feeling worthless and inept
have difficulty thinking, learning, and attending.
As bad as learned helplessness
is, this research brings hope. If a person learns to be helpless then he or she
can also learn not to be helpless. Stated differently, if a person learns to be
depressed then he or she can also learn not to be depressed.
resource that can help you identify and change negative, pessimistic, helpless
thinking into positive, optimistic, hopeful thinking and, thus, help depression
is The How to Transform Your Life E-Workshop. Learn more about how
you can use this E-Workshop to help depression Depression
Help for You Now!