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Unread 02-06-2012, 11:46 AM   #1
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Thumbs up Inferiority and Learned Helplessness – How I am Healing From It

How do inferiority feelings really form in the first place? We all compare ourselves and the results of our efforts with everyone else – we do this from at least the age of 18 months. It is a built-in reality checking and learning mechanism. It has its uses. The thing is, we see ourselves fail in some regard where others are succeeding, and conclude we are doing something wrong (correct), but then further conclude this situation will be persistent (and that's jumping to conclusions!).

What are we doing wrong? Very often, we are simply dwelling on the negative (what we don't want) instead of the positive (what we do want), so our efforts start to slip compared to anyone else who isn't dwelling on the negative in a specific situation we care deeply about. The possibility that there may be something wrong with us on a fundamental, unchangeable level compared to others is what seals the deal. That's really something we don't want, because the implications would be so severe. That becomes another possibility to worry about, and so we begin to feel inferior.

Apparently, subtle things like body language and tone of voice begin to display weakness and submissiveness to others whenever we feel really down on ourselves. This makes matters worse, because others pick up on this and their own reactions are affected, often without them even being consciously aware of it. So, fears about inferiority begin to create experiences that only reinforce the fear, until we eventually basically brainwash ourselves into this hesitant, self-doubting, anxious state where we see everyone else treating us like second class people and we act more and more like it. To make matters worse, we can't help but eventually feel defensive and start to compensate for it by pushing back in various ways.

One way to stop this, I have found, is to imagine what would happen if I was literally the most powerful person on planet Earth, like Superman on steroids. What if I could snap my fingers and instantly create anything I wanted? What if I was incapable of ever failing at anything? What if I could simply will annoying or intimidating people out of existence? (please remember this is a playful exercise in absurd imagination, just so you don't worry, lol)

Would I really want to be able to create whatever situation I want with no effort? No – because that would be boring, there'd be no challenge. I wouldn't feel good about myself. All I really want is to be convinced I stand a chance of success with effort that doesn't exceed what I can do. Would I really be prepared to make other people simply vanish into thin air on a whim? No – that's a bullying, megalomaniacal abuse of power in my book. Have you ever been bullied or put down? Most of use have. Do you want to BECOME just like the people who did that to you? Probably not. It would also imply I had a horrible anger problem, wouldn't it? If I can't control myself, I can't control anything! I simply want to stop being so intimidated by others, so the playing field feels level.

However, if you were the most powerful person on Earth, you wouldn't have to be afraid anymore. Perhaps the only thing to be afraid of would be yourself.

This mental exercise reveals that what I really want is to be in control of myself – to say, “No, I will not be controlled by fear, frustration or anger today, or focus on everything I do NOT want instead of what I DO want. I REFUSE to accept that failure is personal, or permanent, or pervasive. I do not want to stuff my own emotions down, I want to experience them and deal with them. I want to CHOOSE how I react, what thoughts I focus on, and what I do in this moment. I want to exercise the right to be who I wish to be, rather than allowing my circumstances and other people's actions to define who I become.”

If I can do that, there's really nothing I cannot do. To realize I have the capacity to choose is very liberating. If I do not exercise that choice, I'm allowing myself to become a helpless puppet of people and circumstances. It's so easy to believe that we are helpless, though, isn't it? With so many other people believing the same and giving up or overcompensating (and insisting that this is just the way things are), we hardly have a legion of healthy role models. The trick is to realize we really DO have a choice – we really CAN have that much power.

Changing a mindset really is hard, but it is achievable with persistent practice. I'm still very much a work in progress, which is why this post isn't in the Depression Success Stories forum. I'd love to see anyone reading this go out there with their head held higher than before, and do something epic today!



Last edited by Onward2wards; 02-06-2012 at 12:22 PM. Reason: details
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Unread 02-06-2012, 04:21 PM   #2
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Default Re: Inferiority and Learned Helplessness – How I am Healing From It

Wow, I'm impressed by this wisdom. I talked to my T today, and she said Nobody is helpless! Why folks get the mindset that they are, sure takes away their personal power. Thanks for this great postings. Hug, bj
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Unread 02-07-2012, 01:59 AM   #3
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Default Re: Inferiority and Learned Helplessness – How I am Healing From It

Thanks for the post---I know this I have learned this, somehow I let it get away from me from time to time, I needed to read this today, it makes me feel recharged as I let my power get away from me when I don't have this reinforced in my mind. Thanks again!
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Unread 02-07-2012, 02:11 AM   #4
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Default Re: Inferiority and Learned Helplessness – How I am Healing From It

I often feel inferior to women. Or I feel/think that they are the superior gender. Then I attribute some of my shortcomings to being male. For example I haven't written a very good post here. Maybe that's because I'm a man and men don't do written communication as well as women.
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Unread 02-07-2012, 06:48 AM   #5
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Default Re: Inferiority and Learned Helplessness – How I am Healing From It

Quote:
Originally Posted by Onward2wards View Post
How do inferiority feelings really form in the first place? We all compare ourselves and the results of our efforts with everyone else – we do this from at least the age of 18 months. It is a built-in reality checking and learning mechanism. It has its uses. The thing is, we see ourselves fail in some regard where others are succeeding, and conclude we are doing something wrong (correct), but then further conclude this situation will be persistent (and that's jumping to conclusions!).
I have a wacky, potentially controversial yet thought provoking inkling as to the cause of these inferiority feelings. But first some background. I've often felt inferior at various times throughout my life, I was bullied every day for 8 years on the school bus. I'm Scandinavian Japanese American, which, despite my skin being a ghastly shade of pale egg shell, still makes me a minority, something inherently globally different. With this in mind, we can get on to my wacky idea.

In your opening paragraph you asked where do these feelings come from but, you also point out that these feelings or the mechanism responsible for causing them is useful. Perhaps it flew over my head but you never elaborated on how these feelings are useful.

These feelings have never really been all that useful to me. Sure, some peer pressure is healthy for reinforcing societal norms but the feelings you described which I do relate very much to, are of little benefit to our individual selves. Rewind a cosmic second (500 years) and they suddenly seem very useful. If you step back and watch the whole planet continue to rewind feelings of insecurity mushroom periodically all over the globe, typically on the ruins of a collapsed empire or infrastructure. Yet it's not the fallen emperors who feel insecure, it's the majority of the human populations. Now, this is where my idea might rub people the wrong way, but I suppose that because serfdom (including slavery) was treated as an inheritable trait, traits that are useful for surviving life as a serf long enough to produce offspring would unfortunately also be selected for in the evolutionary history of those people.

So what sorts of traits are useful to a serf or slave? Feeling inexplicably inadequate, aversion to making eye contact and protests, and having a preference for staying home. Serfs and slaves with these awkward traits would live longer then their peers who "stood up" for themselves against their lord's bullying, which included beatings for leaving the property with out permission (a punishment that could be very deadly in an era without accessible antibiotics and antiseptics). Resigning oneself to a life of grueling inferiority was sadly a key to long and successful life in those days.

It'd be nice to feel like a viking samurai, but the numbers are simply stacked against it, even for a Scandinavian Japanese American, all of my ancestors were exposed to some form of feudalism during their respective histories. Indeed the only thing that makes me feel powerful, truly, consistently and irrevocably, is designing 3D models and printing them. A pastime not unlike silversmithing or running a printing press which were vital to the success of the revolution. It's my profoundly colonial American flavor of technophilia & innovation that inoculates me against the tyranny of socially imposed genetic injustice.

It's probably different for you since you're originally from the UK.

lol & cheers



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Last edited by LibertyBelle; 02-07-2012 at 06:59 AM. Reason: wonky BB code
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Unread 02-07-2012, 08:36 PM   #6
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Default Re: Inferiority and Learned Helplessness – How I am Healing From It

LibertyBelle:

Thanks for replying. I didn't mean to imply that inferiority feelings themselves are useful, but that the social comparisons we make have a useful function.
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Unread 02-08-2012, 12:58 AM   #7
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Default Re: Inferiority and Learned Helplessness – How I am Healing From It

Learning helplessness often carries anxiety and depression. It is also proven that it doesn't come from no where. It's a learned behavior: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learned_helplessness

If the dog knows that it is going to get shocked, but believes it cannot get away it will huddle in the corner and wait for the shock. The dog's anxiety goes up. Anxiety an emotion that is physiological based. Once that fear is there, it is easy to generalize the fear. Any situation that resembles the situation with the shock causes that dog to be scared and for his anxiety to rise. This is a useful device to keep people in line. I agree, LibertyBelle that there are traits in one's personality that would make an individual more susceptible to learning this behavior, though.

However, On did something remarkable. Like the 1/3 dogs that learned they could get away from the shocks, On learned that his previous experiences don't need to define him.

I think this is very hard to struggle with because as you get older the behavior only gets reinforced. It is even harder when you're experiencing delusions that constantly tell you that you're evil, you're bad, etc...But it also shows that it's possible to accept those feelings of inferiority and reshape your cognitive perspective to acknowledge that maybe you aren't the best, but you are valued. (In whatever context that may be)

It's known that quality of life can change depending on how you view yourself. It's also shown that optimists live longer lives. (...but this is hard to pinpoint because there are so many factors that can determine how long you live...the idea is optimists are more willing to be more proactive in their healthcare)

I consider myself a 'recovering pessimist'. I tend to see the worst in situations/very critical of people, but I've stopped myself from worrying about those thoughts.
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Unread 02-08-2012, 01:27 AM   #8
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Default Re: Inferiority and Learned Helplessness – How I am Healing From It

It's ironic that this subject is here now, as all of my "learned helplessness" is coming down on my head right now. Where did mine come from? Probably from living in a no win family. Always having to validate my existance tends to drain a person.
Now it's becoming obvious that my family is toxic at the least, psychotic at worst. Even as an adult, I can feel the infant inside howling in dispair. It isn't easy to recover from a sudden realization like this at my age. I was always blamed for "making the family crazy" and I accepted that for many years. Now, I find it's slowly killing me to feel these feelings and question my self and my family's motives. It's totally crazy making.
I hope to lead a "normal" life at some point but for now, my main focus is to continue to live, however pathetic that sounds.
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Unread 02-08-2012, 01:33 AM   #9
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Default Re: Inferiority and Learned Helplessness – How I am Healing From It

Quote:
Originally Posted by Confusedinomicon View Post
Learning helplessness often carries anxiety and depression. It is also proven that it doesn't come from no where. It's a learned behavior: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learned_helplessness

If the dog knows that it is going to get shocked, but believes it cannot get away it will huddle in the corner and wait for the shock. The dog's anxiety goes up. Anxiety an emotion that is physiological based. Once that fear is there, it is easy to generalize the fear. Any situation that resembles the situation with the shock causes that dog to be scared and for his anxiety to rise. This is a useful device to keep people in line. I agree, LibertyBelle that there are traits in one's personality that would make an individual more susceptible to learning this behavior, though.

However, On did something remarkable. Like the 1/3 dogs that learned they could get away from the shocks, On learned that his previous experiences don't need to define him.

I think this is very hard to struggle with because as you get older the behavior only gets reinforced. It is even harder when you're experiencing delusions that constantly tell you that you're evil, you're bad, etc...But it also shows that it's possible to accept those feelings of inferiority and reshape your cognitive perspective to acknowledge that maybe you aren't the best, but you are valued. (In whatever context that may be)

It's known that quality of life can change depending on how you view yourself. It's also shown that optimists live longer lives. (...but this is hard to pinpoint because there are so many factors that can determine how long you live...the idea is optimists are more willing to be more proactive in their healthcare)

I consider myself a 'recovering pessimist'. I tend to see the worst in situations/very critical of people, but I've stopped myself from worrying about those thoughts.
A recovering pessimist I like that! The paragraph I highlighted is very true for me as the reinforced behavior has grown to such a degree it HAS become delusional. The rage I used to be able to feel at ones that hurt me is now turned inward. I work to be the best I can be, but knowing that I was never valued, hurts more than any pain I've ever known.
Maybe someday I can be a nihilist in recovery.
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Unread 02-08-2012, 07:52 AM   #10
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Default Re: Inferiority and Learned Helplessness – How I am Healing From It

Quote:
Originally Posted by Calista+12 View Post
I hope to lead a "normal" life at some point but for now, my main focus is to continue to live, however pathetic that sounds.
Continuing to live is never pathetic. Tenacity is admirable.

Nihilism isn't necessarily a bad thing. I'm an optimistic futurist but I also believe in nothing and have no religion. I admit I know nothing and consequently I question everything.

"I think it's better to have ideas. You can change an idea. Changing a belief is trickier." -Rufus in Kevin Smith's Dogma

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