Imagine the floor your feet are touching right now suddenly gave you an electric shock. You’d move outta there pretty quickly, wouldn’t you?!
But what would happen if you couldn’t move? What if you had to sit through the shocks?
This was part of the scenario of a series of psychological studies done in the 1960s with dogs.
These days, the experiments wouldn’t pass ethics standards but, that aside, they provided amazing insight into some of the ways we learn how to be helpless.
At first, the dogs were unable to escape the jolts. Later, they were put in a different room where half the floor was not electrified. Surprisingly, the dogs who were originally exposed to the shocking floor did not move. They just took it. But another set of dogs who had never before felt the jolts quickly moved to the safe side of the floor.
So what is the difference?
The first group of dogs had actually learned how to be helpless.
Long story short, psychologists believe that we humans are susceptible to learned helplessness too. Along the way, we get into unavoidable negative situations and end up believing that nothing we do will change the situation.
To make it worse, we extrapolate that out into other scenarios. We learn helplessness because we assume the entire floor is electrified.
Of course it is not.
Knowing that, in fact, you need only move a few feet – or in other words, change your perspective or actions – to get back on track can give you renewed motivation to make positive changes in your life.
Action – Explore one area that you feel helpless in. What have you told yourself about the situation that keeps you stuck? What are you assuming?
How have you electrified the whole floor?
(Does this ring any bells in your life experience? Feel free to share by leaving a response in the comments box.)