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  • Lyn Reed

Stop being a victim: unlearn learned helplessness

When we feel helpless we often see ourselves as victims.  We may feel that someone or something is controlling us.  Somehow we can't seem to find a way to stop feeling this way.

One of my clients knew that her boyfriend was affecting her self-esteem.  He didn't seem to bring anything to the relationship - yet he seemed to have great expectations of her.  

He expected her to be there for him at all times.

He expected her to 'look good'.  

She, in turn, found herself continuing to text and 'talk to him', believing he was going to change his ways.  Even though he let her down - which he did on a regular basis - she believed his behaviour triggered her to self-harm.

What she was doing was giving him hope rather than asking him - firmly and consistently - to stop his abusive behaviour.  She needed to seek  help from others and get protection for herself.  

With clients I help identify 5 greater strengths in order to overcome what seems to be learned helplessness.  Strengths are the qualities we possess; we are proud of these.

So we could say:

-  'I am generous'

-  'I work hard'

-  'I care about others'

-  'I am a good mother'

You get it.

Identifying our strengths is often challenging.  Asking others how they see us can help.  If this is not a comfortable thing to do, we can think about the times when we were successful. Go back to those good times, and think about the feelings accompanying this success.  See if you can bring some those positive feelings back.  

We can build on this and help ourselves to inner strength.  We can feel like survivors rather than victims.  

We don't have to be stuck with learned helplessness.  We can unlearn it and relearn new ways finding strength within ourselves.


self-esteem victim behaviour

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