I recently came across the idea of learned helplessness, and wrote about it in Reject Learned Helplessness. Be at the IUB tomorrow.
As expected, I would estimate forty people did show up at the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) to express their opposition to the construction of carbon pipelines in Iowa. Which is about what those of us working for change have come to expect. But that’s a ridiculously small number when the entire state of Iowa will suffer the consequences if those pipelines are built.
According to the American Psychological Association, learned helplessness occurs when someone repeatedly faces uncontrollable, stressful situations, then does not exercise control when it becomes available.
They have “learned” that they are helpless in that situation and no longer try to change it, even when change is possible.What is learned helplessness? by Jayne Leonard, Medical News Today, May 31, 2019
Learned helplessness has helped me understand, a little, why so many people seem to have given up on working for change. Any change, anywhere. It is an understatement to say we face “uncontrollable, stressful situations” today. Situations that have significantly worsened in just the past few months. To name just a few:
- a collapsing economy
- significantly rising gas prices
- impacting the personal budget of everyone
- affecting the prices of all good
- global, dangerously high air temperatures
- widespread drought and significantly diminished rivers and lakes
- domestic terrorism
- abusive policing
- paralyzed legislatures
- rogue Supreme Court
This blog post has gone in an unanticipated direction, but that’s often the case. I had intended to discuss the many positive effects of Mutual Aid. It looks like that is going to be delayed. Because it won’t do much good to talk about the positive changes Mutual Aid can bring about, if people are really stuck in learned helplessness. If they will not change.
In May 2018, I was blessed to hear Arkan Lushwala speak about “Indigenous Ways of Restoring the World” during a call sponsored by the Pachamama Alliance. “Arkan Lushwala is a rare indigenous bridge of the global north and south, carrying spiritual traditions from the Andes in his native Peru as well as being adopted and initiated by the Lakota people of North America.”
The answer to “what can I do?”
Speaking about what is happening on Earth right now,
many of the conditions of life that we used to take for granted,
now are really out of balance.
Hopefully we still have time to get back into balance
so life may continue.
I travel around the world and meet people and talk to people
from all different cultures.
And everywhere people ask, “what can we do?”
The question, what can we do, is the second question.
The first question is “what can we be?”
Because what you can do is a consequence of who you are.
Once you know what you can be, you know what you can do,
and we cannot afford wasting time;
we have little time.
We need to be precise now.
When someone sincerely asks, “what can I do?”
my humble answer,
the only answer that I find in my heart to be sincere is,
“First find out what you can be.”
Action is extremely necessary at this time.
This is not a time just to talk about it.
The most spiritual thing now is action.
To do something about what’s happening.
To go help where help is needed.
To stand up when we need to stand up,
and protect what is being damaged.
And still, this action needs to be born
from a place in ourselves that has real talent,
real intelligence, real power,
real connection to the heart of the Earth,
to universal wisdom,
so our actions are not a waste of time.
So our actions are precise,
our actions are in harmony with the movement,
the sacred movement,
of that force that wants to renew life here on Earth
and make it better for the following generations.