Learned Helplessness..
A tragedy

Learned Helplessness

This article is about a real person and a real event. It's about the death of a beautiful and talented young life. I wrote it just over a fortnight ago, but hesitated from publishing it online for fear that it may seem insensitive. If it seems that way to you then I am sorry that you see it that way. I've decided however, that if relating the tale can get one person in a desperate state thinking differently then it really is worth it.

Vicky Harrison
Vicky Harrison
click picture for tribute page
I read a tragic story this week that immediately struck me as a learned helplessness example. It shows the destructiveness and waste that such a power can wield. The saddest part is that it needn't have happened.

The story concerns an attractive 21-year-old young woman called Vicky Harrison.

Vicky had had a pretty standard life until recently. She had gone to school, had done well with her studies, and had left school with 10 GCSE's and 3 'A' Levels.

Her A levels gave her entrance to London's South Bank University to study Media with the hope of moving into TV production.

It wasn't to be.

Vicky made the decision that university life and it's promises were not for her and left during her first year. She hoped to return home and find work.

Over the next two years Vicky applied for some 200 jobs, in essence anything that would earn her some money and a little self-respect.

It didn't happen.

Students in England study for the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) over two years, from the age of 15, and take GCSE exams at the end of this period.
A levels (A for advanced) are studied typically between the ages of 16-18 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. They remain the most popular route into UK higher education institutions
Reportedly turned down by supermarket chain Tesco as a shelf-stacker, and by McDonald's and WH Smiths amongst many others; Vicky finally received a rejection for a job in a nursery and faced signing on for welfare benefits the following day.

Very sadly, that didn't happen either.

Vicky was found dead in her mother's lounge with empty pill bottles by her side and three suicide notes, one each for her parents and one for her boyfriend.

They read:

'It's just that I don't want to be me any more.

'Please don't be sad. It's not your fault. I want everybody in life to be happy.'

- - o O o - -

How close have you been to that level of desperation?

I really hope that it's not very close at all. Sadly, for many people it's something that is easy to relate to.

Vicky's story raises lots of questions about our education system, our treatment of jobseekers, our economy, our politicians and our priorities in society.

For me the real tragedy of Vicky's story is that in a situation of overwhelm, of despair and of complete and utter anguish it was the mental and emotional process that ended in Vicky's suicide. Vicky had reached that point of learned helplessness. And, without the knowledge to cope with that, had gone somewhat beyond that to self-destruction.

Learned helplessness:

This is how Anthony Robbins explains learned helplessness:

"Maybe you've had the experience of trying everything you knew to get a job, to help your family, to find your soulmate, or just to feel happier. But nothing seemed to work.

When we try a new approach, try our best, yet still we fail to reach our goal, often we fear trying again.


Because we all want to avoid pain!

And nobody wants to fail again. Nobody wants to give his or her all, only to be disappointed.

Often after many of these experiences of disappointment, we stop trying. We get to the point where we believe nothing will work.

If you find yourself at the point where you're not even willing to try, you've put yourself in a place called "learned helplessness." You've literally learned - or taught yourself - that you're "helpless."

Arnold Schwarzenegger put it far more simply:

"Learned helplessness is the giving-up reaction, the quitting response that follows from the belief that whatever you do doesn't matter"

- - o O o - -

To get past this desperate situation we need to realise that Vicky's death resulted from the learned helplessness belief:

"Whatever you do doesn't matter"

"You've literally learned - or taught yourself - that you're "helpless."

It's tragically sad that Vicky's death resulted from that thought, from that belief.

Vicky died from a thought!

What's so tragic is that it needn't have happened. Thoughts can be changed.

Your thoughts can be changed. Your perceptions can be changed. Your decisions can be changed, and your actions can be changed. Most of all your results can be changed.

Change your thoughts by thinking something else.

Change your perceptions by seeing it from someone else's point of view.

Change your decisions by making a different decision and following through.

Change your actions by doing something different or differently.

Change your results by trying various combinations of the previous four.

And please if you meet someone who has learned helplessness

Please.. PLEASE.. let them know this message!



Learned Helplessness - A tragedy
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