Learned Helplessness/Demand Resistance

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spryte

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Learned Helplessness/Demand Resistance
« on: September 30, 2014, 01:47:23 PM »
Does anyone have any experience, or resources they could point me to in regards to "learned helplessness"? I think this is something that I'm fighting hard with at the moment and it's holding me back big time from a lot of the self-care stuff that I want to be doing. I guess identifying it is the first step, but I don't have any idea where to go with it from here. I haven't talked to my therapist about it yet, but up to now, she hasn't been particularly helpful in any practical ways so I'm researching.

Thanks!
« Last Edit: October 07, 2014, 01:16:59 PM by spryte »

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Rain

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Re: Learned Helplessness
« Reply #1 on: September 30, 2014, 03:42:30 PM »
Hi spryte.  Excellent question.  I have seen nothing directly in my reading.  However, I personally find the grief work that both Pete Walker and Karyl McBride detail as critical in our recovery addressing that directly for me.

In other words, with all this reading of books, articles, and the posts on the forum and applying it to what I went through, I then have day after day of pieces of the puzzle clicking into place.
« Last Edit: January 01, 2015, 01:40:13 AM by Rain »

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Rain

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Re: Learned Helplessness
« Reply #2 on: September 30, 2014, 03:44:24 PM »
I think this is something that I'm fighting hard with at the moment and it's holding me back big time from a lot of the self-care stuff that I want to be doing.

what is the learned helplessness looking like for you these days, spyrte?

Re: Learned Helplessness
« Reply #3 on: September 30, 2014, 04:35:27 PM »
What rain said.

The only thing I've disccovered is that the pomodoro method helps some. But then I usually forget to apply it, because my Inner Critic convinces me that it'll fail anyway because I'm simply just an inactive person. Which probably means I'll have to first work through my trauma-related goo. Hooray. :-/


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spryte

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Re: Learned Helplessness
« Reply #4 on: September 30, 2014, 05:29:07 PM »
I'll have to check out the pomadoro method SC.

Rain - sigh, these days it's looking like me having zero motivation to clean, do laundry, take a shower, go grocery shopping, make myself healthy food, do work at work, or go to bed on time.  I'm just sitting there, watching myself not do these things and it's driving me crazy.

I KNOW that I'm doing a lot of really hard internal work, and that none of this stuff is super important. I'm working on patience and compassion for myself. I'm working on trusting in my process. And having faith that the more of this crap I clear out, hopefully the more motivated I'll be to get stuff done.

But, while I'm working on the other stuff, I'm still watching myself not do these things, and it's just...frustrating. A few weeks ago, I ran into the concept of "demand resistance" which, I think might go hand in hand with learned helplessness, although I haven't quite figured out how.

Demand resistance - a chronic and automatic negative inner response to the perception of pressure, expectations, or demands (from within or without). 

This is me, through and through. My mother was controlling and critical and I learned at an early age to be sneaky and not do the things I was supposed to, but only in areas where I knew she'd never know...not brushing my teeth...and I can see that pattern emerging on through my adult hood and into my relationships. I was a fawn...people pleasing to the nth degree...but the minute anyone actively WANTED anything from me, created an obligation, I would just...shut down. It even went so far as just...normal social contract obligations. The minute I felt..."Oh, I should call so and so, I haven't in a while." Newp. It immediately became an obligation, instead of me doing it because I WANTED to.

And, the critic managed to turn every fun thing that I've ever wanted to do into an obligation..which means that I want to do it long enough to get involved, pay money for art/craft supplies...and then the first time "I should do that." crosses my mind, I've lost interest. It's been that way with everything in my life. I don't honestly know how I managed to keep myself motivated long enough to get both a massage licence, and a bachelors degree...except that I had the external motivation of grades.

Which makes me wonder how learned helplessness/demand resistance and external motivation connect, because what I've discovered...today as a matter of fact, is that because I was a Fawn for so long, everything I've ever done was done because of the external motivator of someone else. I was doing it to please someone else.

The minute I was alone...on my own (which happened three years ago), I began to struggle with doing these simple tasks. Cooking, cleaning, showering, grocery shopping, and watching entirely too much tv. Some of it has to do with escape. I escape into TV to manage my anxiety, or to end run loneliness...therefore not leaving myself time or much motivation to do any of those things...but there's also this element of helplessness to it too.

I FEEL helpless to change it. I watch myself doing it, and I feel helpless to do anything about it. And, I remember how helpless and afraid of the Big Huge World I was when I left my last long term relationship. I was extremely emotionally sheltered in that relationship, and being on my own for the very first time in my life was terrifying.

I feel better about it now, I've got three years of taking care of myself under my belt, and I'm in a wonderfully healthy relationship that is anything but emotionally sheltering...and yet I'm still fighting this.

Still looking for the key to it, but I feel like I'm beating my head against the wall. It's really affecting my health. And back a few weeks ago, when I said that I found that demand resistance stuff...I had my biggest breakthrough with my critic than I had had in...well, ever. The minute I realized that ALL of my language towards myself was "should" "need to" "why aren't you" "you suck because you aren't" "not doing it right" "not doing it well enough" "not doing it at all" - you get it, it could go on and on, but basically revolving around all the stuff that I thought I should be doing, all these obligations that I was piling on top of myself....I just stopped.

I told myself ok...fine, I'm just...not going to push myself to do anything. If I want to eat ice cream for dinner, I will, and I won't castegate myself for it. If I want to subsist on caramel apples for the next week...fine. We'll try this out for a month and see what happens.

What happened was that my brain got quiet Like...quieter than it's ever been. I felt lighter, and noticed a dramatic reduction in my anxiety. And suddenly, all my "I love you" mantra's to myself sounded genuine. It was kind of crazy.

And the world has not burned down, I've even managed to do a few things just because I wanted to, not because I pressured and guilted myself into them. There are still far too many nights though that I am still laying on the couch at 3 in the morning, watching TV, when I have to get up at 6:30, and paying the price for it the next day.

So...just looking for ways to change that behavior. I figured there might be some kind of therapy/books that were specifically geared towards learned helplessness that might shed some light on it.
« Last Edit: September 30, 2014, 05:47:27 PM by spryte »

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keepfighting

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Re: Learned Helplessness
« Reply #5 on: September 30, 2014, 06:07:38 PM »
Learned helplessness is all part of the complex web that's CPTSD. I could find no tips how to overcome it easily; most experts seem to agree that the key to unlearning learned helplessness is (re)gaining a sense of control.

Here's a link I found, maybe it helps a bit to get started:

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-02-19/features/sns-201302191830--tms--pagliarictnrp-a20130219-20130219_1_negativity-state-lotteries-helplessness


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spryte

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Re: Learned Helplessness
« Reply #6 on: September 30, 2014, 06:50:26 PM »
Rain, thanks for sharing your experience.

I did write this though, "What happened was that my brain got quiet Like...quieter than it's ever been. I felt lighter, and noticed a dramatic reduction in my anxiety. And suddenly, all my "I love you" mantra's to myself sounded genuine. It was kind of crazy."

I don't feel like I've heard my inner critic in weeks, and when she does speak up...she is easily subdued. The moment I dropped all the judgments about what I was or was not doing, she shut up. So, unless you just missed that part....I'm not sure what you're seeing in what I wrote that leads you to believe that that's whats going on. Would you point it out to me?

The thoughts that I'm having about me not doing this stuff is really much more objective. I mean, obviously all of these things are hindering my life in a lot of really practical ways, and it worries me that I'll just stay "stuck" here, regardless of whether or not I'm crushing myself into the ground about it. I just figured, well...it's either going to continue, or it's not...but either way, beating myself up about it isn't doing me any good. And I let that go. And I feel a LOT better about it.

I don't know, I feel like maybe I'm just on the verge of learning how to do things because I WANT to do them...and it's going to take me a little bit of time to learn how to do that.

Keepfighting hit it on the head - with BOTH learned helplessness, and demand resistance (assuming they are two different things) the key to both of them seems to be for me to learn that I am in control again. Or, well...not again as I don't believe I ever HAVE been in control. I think maybe using some mindfulness techniques and just slowing down with each of these choices and asking myself really...what do *I* want. I don't know. It's like a rubicks cube. I'm going to keep twisting.

Have you become more productive since that time, if you don't mind me asking.

Re: Learned Helplessness
« Reply #7 on: September 30, 2014, 07:26:15 PM »
Oh wow. Demand resistance, that's it. I'm doing (or rather, not doing) the same things you do (or don't do). I'm watching myself NOT do things and go "....hng? What?! I'm a grown-up, I've no problem usually doing all those things... so why don't I?" Then I list all the reasons why I should do laundry / exercize / paint / write more etc etc, and I go "right. RIGHT. NOW I'm going to do them! Today! Yes!" And then I... don't. It's baffled me so far, but whoa hey, here's the answer. Thanks for that, spryte.

I did the same thing you did with the food! Hugely liberating!

So maybe my inactivity is actually about emancipating myself from my FOO's many unreasonable "should"s and "have to"s. Never looked at it like that. It seems like a helpful starting point though. Really interesting, this connection to a sense of control. It makes sense. My FOO was all about the "should"s and "must"s. The locus of control was with them, not with me. My preferences were brushed aside. That I should now have trouble digesting "should"s that come from outside is only logical, seen in this light.
It also explains some of the things that have helped me in the past to overcome my demand resistance (I'm very proud of my shiny new word and will use it whenever I can  :phoot:). They're all ways of wresting back control from my internalized "should"s. They're not working now, but I'm hoping they'll work again once my Inner Critic has shut up a bit more.
« Last Edit: September 30, 2014, 08:42:12 PM by schrödinger's cat »

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spryte

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Re: Learned Helplessness
« Reply #8 on: September 30, 2014, 07:26:44 PM »
Ahh...haha, that's funny. I actually wrote about that in my journal the other day. That I was afraid that if I tried to start setting goals for myself again, that it would start up again. That I would inevitably fail again, like I have all the other times. Then I contemplated the nature of the trust relationship between me and myself.

Re: Learned Helplessness
« Reply #9 on: September 30, 2014, 07:32:29 PM »
I hear you. But in my case, it's not about the trust relationship. It's that I wouldn't be sure that those goals are really my goals. Other people's expectations might start to influence me again and then they'd maybe take over. It's fear, mostly, I think.

Re: Learned Helplessness
« Reply #10 on: September 30, 2014, 07:40:56 PM »
I just realized this moment why several of the fantasy novels I've written over the years feature attempts at mind control. Sooo obvious, in hindsight. This fear of being taken over seems to be rather deep-seated. How weird that I never noticed.

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Rain

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Re: Learned Helplessness
« Reply #11 on: October 01, 2014, 01:14:25 PM »
I am incredibly grateful you brought this Learned Helplessness topic up, spryte
« Last Edit: January 01, 2015, 01:37:44 AM by Rain »

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spryte

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Re: Learned Helplessness
« Reply #12 on: October 02, 2014, 11:53:38 AM »
Rain - you're welcome, and I'm so happy that what I wrote about resonated with you! I'm a full believer in the fact that we learn what we need to learn most from other people. There is something so profound about sharing experiences, whether it's these experiences or any others. I'm going to have to pick up those books soon.

So, there was one book, and I don't remember which one it was but there was a quote from a survivor that has stuck in my mind. I might be paraphrasing, but it was something like, "My parents gave me all the tools I needed to continue abusing myself long after I left their house."

It. Is. So. True.

With the demand resistance stuff, I was seriously shocked to suddenly have such clear perspective about how much I was abusing myself on a daily basis with all the "should's" "need to's" and "must's"

And SC, I totally understand where you're coming from although I hadn't thought about it from that perspective before. I think that's what I've been doing with the DR stuff, is sort of looking at all the things that I have been requiring myself to do and decide who's requirements they are. It's hard, like having to go through everything one by one to determine, "Yes, this is something I want to do, should actually be doing."

Actually, let me rephrase that because writing that out I just understood it better.

I never subscribed to a lot of my parents "should's". I have JUDGED myself by them for years, but at as soon as I was able to, I rebelled against them. I don't subscribe to their religious, social, or economic beliefs. Whether it was a direct act of rebellion or not, I don't care. I am happier with my actual beliefs...they make me a more compassionate, open minded person and I've had a lot of great experiences because of them. That has not, as I mentioned, kept me from judging myself based on their beliefs though. Which is weird and convoluted, I know - and not exactly the point I'm trying to make.

So for me...going through all of these "requirements" it's not so much about figuring out whose they are, theirs or mine, but instead discovering that I actually "want" to do any of them. I was never allowed or able to do what I "wanted" to do. Anything of import was directed by them, I never had the opportunities as a child to make any kind of meaningful decisions, fail or succeed, and get the satisfaction that's inherent in making good decisions for myself...or even learn from making bad decisions. All of my decisions were based on whatever the opposite of theirs were. Some turned out well, lots of others...not so  much.

So for me, when I look at those decisions now, I have to figure out the "want" aspect. Yes I "want" to do my laundry, because I "want" to have clean clothes for work, not because I "have" to (because they made me). Apply that formula to everygoshdarnthing. *sigh*

Mindfulness. Mindfulness. Mindfulness. I am finding that an invaluable tool for digging through all of the DR and LH stuff.

Also, regardless of our reasons for needing to sort through this stuff, what you talked about...

"But in my case, it's not about the trust relationship. It's that I wouldn't be sure that those goals are really my goals. Other people's expectations might start to influence me again and then they'd maybe take over. It's fear, mostly, I think."

Just an observation, it may or may not be true for you, but trust in ourselves comes in many forms. For me, it's trusting that I won't fail myself. Which is fear. For you, it could be that you don't trust yourself to be strong enough not to allow those expectations to start influencing you again. With my boundary setting, I closed myself off, cutting off a lot of uncomfortable for me, but not toxic, relationships because I couldn't trust myself to protect myself emotionally.

In any situation, trust is only built (once it's been destroyed) in tiny little increments. Small steps that, when successful will reinforce our trust. And, when not successful, (because we WILL fail sometimes) are small enough not to be devastating and easier to work through emotionally.

^^ that is what I am contemplating in learning how to trust myself again in regards to setting goals for myself again. I'm not there yet, so that's all theory. But, I'm thinking that at some point, I'm going to have to set a tiny goal for myself, and meet it. Set a tiny goal for myself, and meet it. And keep doing that to build up my personal "trust" bank. In the meantime, I'm going over in my mind all the times that I haven't let myself down, to perhaps put things in better perspective.

Re: Learned Helplessness
« Reply #13 on: October 02, 2014, 06:36:57 PM »
Spryte, that's an interesting point you're making - that it's very possible to judge ourselves (harshly) using our parent's standards even if we're not actually agreeing with those standards consciously, or following them. I'll have to see if I'm doing that.

Having to find out what I want vs what I think I should do - or what I think I should want - hmyes, that's VERY familiar, too. Surprisingly hard work, too. One should think it's a fun, easy job. But it's like having to deprogram oneself from some Pavlovian conditioning. It's definitely a shock to see how thoroughly one has continued the work of one's abusers, I absolutely agree.

Quote
For you, it could be that you don't trust yourself to be strong enough not to allow those expectations to start influencing you again. With my boundary setting, I closed myself off, cutting off a lot of uncomfortable for me, but not toxic, relationships because I couldn't trust myself to protect myself emotionally.

I'm starting to learn how to do that, too. You see, my CPTSD is mainly due to emotional abuse, emotional neglect, and social exclusion. And how do you protect yourself from that? How do you even see any danger signs? It's all so subtle, so invisible. It's creeping up on you by increments. That's probably why snapping back into my old behaviour is also subtle and incremental, a slow shift, almost a kind of gentle undertow. So it's a worry that this will start all over again and I won't notice it until I'm in the middle of it. (That it's subtle and slow has got its advantages though. Changing things for the better is easier, too. There's rarely one big step that I'm having to take. It's less like leaving a cult, more like learning a new skill or losing weight.)

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Rain

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Re: Learned Helplessness
« Reply #14 on: October 02, 2014, 07:48:03 PM »
I have this out so I see this everyday from the http://anupturnedsoul.wordpress.com/2013/11/02/being-a-child-of-narcissists-breaking-the-silence/  web site.

I read it all the time is the "we are programmed to self destruct if we counter our parents" message (even when we are adults...the programming is still there in us).
« Last Edit: January 01, 2015, 01:44:54 AM by Rain »