Saturday, June 6, 2009

Learned Helplessness

Learned helplessness is a behavior, a mental condition that psychologist Martin Seligman has been studying for years. A person who repeatedly encounters irresolvable crises may learn, over time to behave helplessly. Stuck on the elevator? Cry out: "We're stuck on the elevator and we need help!", or "Oh this always happens to me!" In my work with rural communities struggling with economic down turn I occasionally come across this in groups and organizations.

People with this perspective feel they have no impact on their environment. Unfortunately, this behavior, developed from past experience often prevents the person (or group) from recognizing, or acting upon, opportunities to improve a problematic situation in the present.

Sorry my last 'Adversity' post hung there so long. 'Things' picked up at a rapid pace on a number of fronts and ‘blog gardening’ took a back seat. It was an over to the top, ’poor little me’ whine. Me, ... temporarily stuck on the elevator. I knew it at the time but sometimes you are just too darned close to see much more than the tire tread. Turn the microscope around and voila! The petri dish of dismay becomes the cosmic buffet of opportunity.

I got a couple nice supportive notes, re-learned the lesson that in our time whatever it is we are going through often casts a shadow much longer than the ogre deserves, and l found great encouragement that the ‘real’ reality show is one in which people are incredibly kind and supportive, just by their nature: like in randonneuring when your fixing a flat by the side of the road and 95% of the riders who pass you ask if everything is all right. I also reacquainted myself with the power of drugs.

Friends Make The Best friends!
A nice note from a friend who has experienced similar sinus issues tells that he’s getting past his symptoms. He gave me a few tips, and offered support and encouragement. He also mentioned that his ride plans for the year are moderating somewhat as he is now supporting a close family member who is suffering through cancer treatment. Oh yeah, my runny nose is the biggest thing on the planet. When will I ever get over myself?

There is aging and then there is maturing. I can't do much about the former, but I really need to focus on the later. I’ll save that note as both inspiration and a metaphorical dope slap up side the head. it reminds me that caring for a loved one with a serious illness changes you and what you do. the things you want to do, the things yo think are important, they just take a back seat to what is really important. It weighs on you but it is a good lesson in humanity.

Similarly, On Sunday after a couple days of ‘respiratory distress’, my loving wife ‘coaxed’ me to call the advice nurse at the HMO. We talked over my symptoms and as a result Mrs. C drove me up to urgent care in Olympia on a beautiful sunny day. I had a chest X ray (neg) and the doc upped my dose of steroid anti-inflammatory meds, A LOT, and I had an onsite ‘breathing treatment’; shades of caring for my mom in her final years! The net effect is, I am breathing pretty well now, and I am now getting restful sleep at night ... in a bed. Prednisone has many different side effects: for me it is a killer stimulant (I was mowing the lawn, though doggedly that night till 8:30). It reminded of August 2007: More than anything else the drugs were probably responsible for my finish at PBP 07 (an asterisk in the ‘great book’ for a PED assisted finish!)
On the down side, Mrs C now has a bronchial infection and has that 'barking seal' cough that makes your ribs sore by noon. I care for her as she will let me.

I also took some inspiration from Eldon’s Fat Cyclist post, reminding me of something I already know: People will help. They want to, it’s in their nature. Check out the pics of his twin girls learning to ride bikes. If you ever helped a kid, particularly one of your own in this transformative life event you know how this can almost be more fun for you than for them. The giggles and unstoppable grins are the first thing you see on a bike, and in short order all you see of the kid is his or her back side receding into the distance as they ride off to explore the wider world, at least that is how I remember it. The bike is both a link between you and the kid, and a vehicle that expands the distance between you.

Curio rando had a nice post on the notion that health insurance and health care are two different things.

And during the middle of the week I made the long trek back to Neah Bay to work with the Makah Tribe. I stayed the night at Hobuck beach. An incredibly pretty place.

I also took time to make the hike out to the end of the Cape Flattery tail. From there you look out at Tatoosh Island and beyond there, the big old Pacific ocean. The place abounds with wildlife; puffins, cormorants, murres sea otters, sea lions. It was the first time I've been there when the Ocean was so peaceful.

Oh yes, learned helplessness? How about Mark Thomas on the Oregon XTR 600 last weekend! Now there is a case of 'hard head meets brick wall'.
More recently we are we are back at it with the pond.

FINALLY doing a little prettying up! It is funny how big an impact on the psyche a little well place success can have. (the other side of learned helplessness!) I’ll be very happy to get this project in the books, both to be done with it, but also because the difference between done and working on it is like the difference between a grub and a butterfly.

1 comment:

  1. I'm TOTALLY digging your pond. What a beautiful little spot for respite and refreshment. I can imagine you and The Chairman hanging out on a chaise lounge near sunset with a good book, a bottle of porter and a can of sardines (well, you know...). Nicely done.