Hello friends! As we reflect on this past year, we see changes happening all around. Change can be good or not so good for us, yet always represents the end to something. The unknown of what’s ahead can be like a huge mountain in front of us and may bring up emotions of uncertainty, anxiety and fear. When in this place we react by not taking steps towards what needs to get done. We get into a victim mindset, and fall into a pattern of learned helplessness (which happens when we feel powerless from repeated stressful situations, traumatic events or a failure to succeed.) This typically shows up as low self-esteem, no motivation and a lack of persistence. Learned helplessness occurs when we believe a situation is unchangeable and we have no choices; we do the same old things and feel stuck.
I thought about this and wondered what might happen if we focused on the opposite, which could be called something like learned HOPEFULNESS? I’d never heard of this concept, so was quite surprised to find out that it’s not new. Engaging in learned hopefulness is the ability to take from past experiences and use that knowledge in a way that brings hope for the future. As a life coach, this is my jam! I love seeing the shift in my clients as hope arises when they work on something they CAN control: their thought life. It begins with pausing in awareness when something happens that shakes you up, causing heightened negative emotions. Working on developing new thought patterns allows you to keep going when you encounter setbacks and gives you the strength to continue fighting for what you believe in. It’s having faith that things will improve, even when the worst has happened.
Years ago when I was emotionally paralyzed in trauma, a friend spoke words that I have never forgotten. After listening to all of the distressing things going on and validating my pain, she gently said: “Carrie, just don’t park it there.” She challenged me to not stay in a familiar place of helplessness, and invited me to a place of hopefulness. I hung on to these words throughout dark and difficult days, and the truth of them provided me strength on my healing journey.
Some believe the past has no influence or power in their life today; others believe the past is everything and never move on from the pain from it. The reality is that we all have a choice before us; to hold onto pain of loss and stay immobilized or rise up ready to climb. We can choose to try new things which get us out of old unhelpful patterns. We can choose to discover our identity and engage our personal strengths in who God has created us to be despite any circumstance we face. We can choose to take time to notice what we’re actually thinking, letting go of unhelpful thoughts and keeping ones that are right, true, pure, lovely and in alignment with who we are. Not an easy process, but it is indeed possible as we head towards our personal mountain one step at a time.
- How has learned helplessness shown up in your life?
- What might it be like to engage in learned hopefulness?