COMPLEX ptsd Workbook : Helplessness




“When there is no way to stop an abuse, end a situation of domestic violence, or convince a parent to stop drinking, a child feels powerless.

Persistent childhood trauma is characterized by a state called learned helplessness.

This term was initially introduced to describe how animals that were repeatedly exposed to an unavoidable shock would make no attempt to escape, even when given an opportunity to exit.

Psychologist and researcher from the University of Pennsylvania Dr. Martin Seligman later extended an understanding of learned helplessness to people who feel and behave in a helpless manner when they have no control over a threatening situation.

He suggested that learned helplessness was the base of a pessimistic attitude.

He identified the 3 P’s of pessimism: Personalizing, Pervasiveness, and Permanence.

In other words, it’s like saying: “It’s my fault, I mess everything up, and I will always be this way.”

When you have been raised by untrustworthy caregivers, it is common to generalize your experience—you may feel as though no one can be trusted or that the world is completely dangerous.

As you heal from C-PTSD, it’s important to recognize that you are safe now and have choices now.

You are no longer stuck in the powerlessness of your past.

Dr. Seligman suggests adopting a positive set of thoughts he calls “learned optimism.”

One response to this post.

  1. Posted by rudid96 on May 28, 2022 at 2:55 pm

    My head tells me that I’m no longer stuck in the powerlessness of my past. However, societal gas lighting, learned helplessness, and relational ruptures, all erode a corroded Ego. Adopting a ‘positive set of thoughts’ is what we always do to get along. We don’t need more superficiality. Finding places for gratitude is more helpful than counseling a survivor with ‘don’t worry, be happy.’ That’s self- gaslighting.

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