Learned helplessness is a behaviour in which an organism forced to endure aversive, painful or otherwise unpleasant stimuli, becomes unable or unwilling to avoid subsequent encounters with those stimuli, even if they are escapable – From wikipedia
There are days I wake up struggling to get out of bed. A list of tasks from laundry to office projects line up my day when all I would rather be doing is reading a book under the shade. Do I do much to change this lifestyle, no, how can I? It’s not in my control, is what I tell myself and carry on through the day.
A chance conversation with my office colleague led me to this video. What I suffer from has a name it seems. Learned Helplessness. The acceptance of the inability to change and continue to endure.
“grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
You are studying; there are exams, tests, projects, but are you learning? You want to learn all sorts of eclectic stuff, but your brain is dulled by what you read and you forget that you could use the internet or the library to read about how Tesla invented their solar power battery or how Auther Conan Doyle penned down those mysteries.
You hope to grow up as fast as you can, imagining a free world, a life not bound by timetables. You enter your first job and realize there will never again be summer holidays or winter breaks (unless you are lucky to be teaching, but even then you would most probably spend these free days on term paper grading). The guitar that you had planned to learn to play, the heart you wanted to give away and the painting that begged to be drawn will remain as impossible targets, as you concentrate on achieving the projected quarterly targets.
Do you even dare to try something new?
A house to look after, kids to spend time with, a body that gets tired, a mind about to give up in fatigue. So, where is the time to do the thing you feel like? When weekends go in dusting the house or grocery shopping, how to go about kite flying or trekking in the wilds. Perhaps, you have wanted to learn salsa or golf or just wanted to watch a television show from the start. A part of you always wanted to learn acting. You gave up because you never knew how and you didn’t really try further.
You are bound by the fact that one day has twenty four hours and your to-do-list has atleast thirty items on it. You scramble to finish tasks and push out the ones you mark least important. What gets kicked out is usually what you would have liked to do for yourself. A spa maybe? Or just enjoying the sunshine on the porch. Keeping the phone aside and blowing bubbles in the wind while your daughter runs about catching them and delightfully giggling.
“Everything seems impossible until its done”
That cookery class by the corner that you long to join. The brewery you want to visit. The walks you plan to take. The new project idea you want to consolidate which isn’t in your current sprint, but something you want to prepare and present. Is the thought of trying to find time for meditation making you more tense? Do you add that to your list and never get around to it?
We accept the way things are and give up on a lot of things. Watching this video of eight minutes told me Rizwan Khan (K from the epiglotis) wasn’t crazy to want to go meet the president. The same way you and me are not crazy to want to do things. Sip coffee alone, feel the breeze, the heat of sun, hear laughter or the twitter of birds. And if I am to believe the video, I too can take control.
Now, as optimistic as I can be, I am still realistic enough to know there are obviously things that I can’t fix today, but I plan to tackle the helplessness within – that there seems to never be enough time. Cleaning my house could probably wait for a few hours and replying to office mails could probably wait for the weekday. Join me as I shrug away the duties and grab time for myself today without feeling guilty about it.
I plant to write, read and streak my hair burgundy today. What about you?
Video credit Veritasium channel on Youtube.