Learned helplessness, Cycle of increasing depression and dependency


By —— Bio and Archives August 24, 2009

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In the 1960s and 1970s, psychologist Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania found that animals receiving electric shocks which they had no ability to escape or prevent, were unable to take action in future distressing situations, even when avoidance or escape was possible.

Expanding his research to humans, Seligman came to the same conclusions.  A human’s drive to initiate action is thwarted by a sense of a lack of control over his surroundings.  Seligman labeled this phenomenon learned helplessness and found that it hinders normal development and leads to emotional disturbances, most predominantly, depression. 

In other words, people are most vulnerable to depression and other emotional disorders when they perceive a lack of control over their circumstances.

Jeffrey Folks (American Thinker) writes about his time in Yugoslavia in the 1980s:

“Anyone who has lived inside the demoralized, unproductive, gray prison of a communist state, as I did in the mid-1980s knows to what depths of impoverishment the egalitarian fantasies of socialism inevitably lead.  They lead to decades of frustrated poverty and lifetimes of untreated illness culminating in early death.  I remember the columns of death notices for men and women in their forties and fifties that appeared in the local newspaper.  Gradually I learned to associate those death notices with the lack of fresh foodstuffs, the travesty of state health care, and the pervasive demoralization of an enslaved population drowning itself in cheap alcohol and cigarettes. “

Folks’s exposition makes plain what life is like in a culture that forces learned helplessness on its citizens by way of governmental over-control.  When an omnipotent government strips away individual liberties, abject depression is the inescapable consequence.

In fact, liberty is an essential element for happiness according to Arthur C. Brooks, author of Gross National Happiness

“Economic freedom is an essential element in national happiness.  Freedom causes happiness.  Liberals tell us that a free market economy causes misery and we would all be happier without the vagaries of capitalism.  Like all liberal economic theories, the reverse is true.  The freer the economy, the happier the population”  (Brooks, Pg.  90).

Hence, Obama’s embrace of calamitous economic policies.  The most rudimentary review of history provides more than enough unambiguous proof that collectivism simply does not work.  If it did, millions of innocent lives would not have been taken to prevent citizens from seeking freedom; armed guards would not be executing those who would risk all to escape oppressive governments in Cuba and Iran.

The Left’s phantasmagorical foolishness about leveling the playing field will not only bankrupt us and lower our standard of living, it will make us, collectively, miserable.  The same policies that are tolerable to Europeans will be anathema to free-spirited Americans. 

Tyrants like Obama want people to believe that they can’t make it on their own without the government.  Jobs are scarce and should you actually find one, your employer will exploit you.  Only the benevolent government can be trusted.

For all the liberal caterwauling about exploitation by the evil rich in America, the reality is that Americans are at their happiest when they are working.  We are not necessarily working simply to accumulate wealth; one of our distinctly American traits is our ability to derive genuine joy out of the creation of value irrespective of the financial worth attached to our labor.  Naturally, most Americans want to earn good wages but our inner happiness is pegged to our sense of accomplishment in the creation of value, not to an arbitrary number.  (Brooks, Pg.  102).

One of the myriad of ways in which Obama plans to induce gross national misery is by creating massive unemployment.  Over taxation and burdensome regulation drives employers to reduce staff, go out of business or flee the country.  Liberals view these as positive outcomes.

“Involuntary unemployment is a disaster for happiness because-beyond the economic misfortune it creates-it strips away the sense of control people need in their lives.”  (Brooks, Pg.  102).

The only thing that could make you more miserable than being involuntarily unemployed would be to receive “help” from your government.  The receipt of government assistance seems to have an especially deleterious impact on human happiness.  No other single factor has been found to account for predicting unhappiness as reliably as government assistance. (Brooks, Pg.  167).

The more government does, the less happy we become

Government assistance has an immediate impact on the individual psyche.  Over the long term, it induces learned helplessness.  Obama’s policies represent a singularly efficacious mechanism for inducing collective national depression.

Americans do not become depressed due to perceived inequalities in income distribution.  We are quite happy with our lots in life provided we have a sense of the possibility of upward mobility.  Being poor at this moment does not create misery.  A belief that we have no ability to change our circumstances is what creates lifelong despair.  An over-controlling government is by far, the most potent purveyor of gross national misery. 
Economists have studied the impact of government spending on public happiness and found that as government grows, the percentage of the population that is satisfied with life shrinks.  (Brooks, Ibid).

The more government does, the less happy we become.  People look around and become frustrated with government pork and wasteful spending.  Resentment over excessive taxation builds.  And as regulation becomes ever more burdensome, while accomplishing little of benefit, the inevitable rise in unemployment fuels learned helplessness leading to a cycle of increasing depression and dependency that is distinctly un-American.


Joy Tiz -- Bio and Archives |

Joy Tiz, Joytiz.com, has been quoted by Ann Coulter, as heard on Lou Dobbs radio, The Rusty Humphries Show, Bill Cunningham, KSFO in San Francisco, WOR in New York, Premiere Radio Networks, Air America and other major shows.

Joy was born in Chicago, long enough ago to remember when many democrats were actually normal people who were just wrong about everything. Joy holds a M.Sc. in psychology and a JD in law.  Joy hosts The Joy Tiz Show  Wednesdays at 2 pm Pacific/5 pm Eastern.

Email:  .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or Twitter at: Joytiz

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