Rebuilding Self-Esteem After Trauma: Overcoming Learned Helplessness

On various occasions, everyone experiences some sense of control in their life; where they can run and keep things the way they want them. However, repeated negative encounters such as; childhood trauma, job layoffs, loss of family members, illnesses unemployment, victimization, etc. can generate an automatic negative response which deprives an individual of the supposed power leading to helplessness. Learned helplessness is a behavior that is engaged in by people when they encounter a difficult situation and they learn to see it as their way of life without control over it.
The crucial matter is dependent on how individuals interpret the events rather than the occurrence of the events. Typically, the interpretation of the negative events can predict the future for most people in statements such as; it will never be okay again, it will last forever, etc. It is the power of such statements that create the act of surrender and the premature responses leading to loss of the internal locus of control.

Here are some identified symptoms of learned helplessness
• Enduring need to depend on others for basically everything in life including personal decision making
• Maladaptive passivity that allows individual to experiment with risky behaviors such as alcohol, gambling
• Depression is excessive moods that become maladaptive
• Low self-esteem and Lack of motivation
• Academic failure-poor grades or lack of focus and progress in academic work
• Bureaucratic apathy –feelings of fatigue, depression towards systems like government or work structures
• Premature death-suicidal ideations, death wish, or actual suicide attempt
Suggestive helpful activities
The best way to deal with learned powerlessness is to access long-term therapy which will help a person to; identify the causes of learned helplessness, resolve their conflicts on the traumatic events, learn new ways to cope, and make the right adjustments.
However there other simple activities that a person can engage in which will boast some level of control in their lives such as;
 Engaging in activities that restore control can be valuable. For example, a young person who struggles with low self-esteem can join groups that have activities they are passionate about.
 Treating oneself into simple perks that result in ownership like a new cloth, getting a new look that will bring enthusiasm in their lives.
 Identify the resulting behavior that one engages in when they are powerless and modify it.
 Externalizing (verbalizing or writing) the negative event can help one to have a balanced look and critical analysis of the situation.
 Taking a new class on childhood passions or activities of interest can increase an internal balance and joy that will result in some level of control. Over time the benefits from this one event can be generalized to other areas of life with consistent practice.

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