“The theory of learned helplessness was then extended to human behavior, providing a model for explaining depression, a state characterized by a lack of affect and feeling. Depressed people became that way because they learned to be helpless. Depressed people learned that whatever they did, is futile. During the course of their lives, depressed people apparently learned that they have no control.”
“Learned Helplessness“, Duen Hsi Yen (1998)
“Although we experience the world in bits and pieces, the sequence in which we experience them flows together and we feel the world around us in a continuous panorama. When we try to communicate about it, we have to break it down into bits and pieces. Perhaps a large part of our trouble starts there.”
“Communications: The Transfer of Meaning”, Don Fabun (1968)
“[Psychologist Harry Harlow’s revolutionary experiments on maternal deprivation] found monkeys who had soft, tactile contact with their terry cloth mothers behaved quite differently than monkeys whose mothers were made out of cold, hard wire.
“Harlow hypothesized that members of the first group benefited from a psychological resource — emotional attachment — unavailable to members of the second. By providing reassurance and security to infants, cuddling kept normal development on track.”
Original Source: Harry F. Harlow, “Love in Infant Monkeys,” Scientific American, 1959
“thanks for writing that and
helping me feel less retarded.”
a comment left by the incomparable “dw” on my last post
I think I need to expand a little on my last post. I think some of it has been misinterpreted and I think some of it was overlooked and I think it’s because I didn’t use enough words.
The post wasn’t meant to be about compliments and money, but those two issues were what most people concentrated on in their comments.
But the difficulty I have accepting, and especially believing, compliments and acknowledgements, as well as budgeting my income, are symptoms of something much larger. They’re not the disease.
Compliments, as I wrote in my comment on the post, do feel good. I do encourage them. I have received them in the past and I’m still alive and, without a doubt, better off for them. My problem is not being able to believe them, or to be able to accept them as they’re generally meant… as acknowledgement of having done something well.
Again, this comes from a lack of self-esteem brought on by a number of factors, including over a decade of untreated manic depression and several family factors — which I get into later in this post. But my inability to accept praise is not the ultimate problem, it’s a minor symptom.
As is my current budgetary lapse which, as I pointed out in the post, has actually become an anomaly. Having no money halfway through a month for only the second time in a year is significantly better than I’ve done over most of my adult life.
The medications and the appointments with my psychiatrist over the past four or five years have helped immeasurably. I am recovering. In fact I am so far into my recovery that I can examine the behaviours I have shown in the past and how self-destructive they have been.
I can also see how current behaviours are remnants and continuations of the behaviours which started a long, long time ago. How I’m dealing with the diabetes is very close to how I initially avoided dealing with the manic depression. In that I’m not dealing with it at all. I’m missing appointments, I’m missing medication doses and I’m not monitoring my blood sugar.
Just like how, between 1988/9 and 2003/4 I was unable to take control over the manic depression. Except then it was almost entirely due to the disease, and now it’s because of the behaviours I learnt living through so many years of suicidal thoughts and the extreme lack of self-worth which comes from all it implies.
Living with that level and frequency of random, crippling and suicidal depression meant isolating myself from friends, it meant not caring enough about living in order to shower, floss, exercise, cleaning my apartment, washing my clothes, making sure I had sheets and a whole lot more.
And now, even with the manic depression mostly under control for barely a year, those learned behaviours still aren’t.
Neither are these the symptoms of underachieving. Underachieving is the ‘swollen glands’ of self-destructive behaviour… it’s just another symptom of a much larger disease.
All of that comes from the manic depression. But then there are the self-destructive issues and behaviours which come from how I was raised.
I believe many people have some or all of the same self-destructive behaviours I continue to exhibit. At least the less immediately self-destructive ones, like the flossing and the cleaning. Maybe even some of the ones I have written about in previous posts, like the changing of jobs every six months, or moving apartments so often I’ve lived in fifty-two houses and apartments.
But I don’t believe most, or even many, people have the behaviours so ingrained or that they go so deep.
Just like the previous symptoms had a cause in the manic depression, there are two central causes for my non-bipolar self-destructive behaviours. One: I was raised in a cult based on various forms of communism. Two: my mother was sick and hospitalized for a significant amount of time during my first three to four years.
Very early in my life it was decided by the cult no child would have bonds to any specific parent over those of the group. It’s a Maoist thing, but Marxism comes close to the absolutist Mao stuff. So I spent the first eight years of my life having only a vague idea who my specific parents were and, although my mother did try her best to be a mother within the group, my care was a designated chore to the cult members.
I’m not going any further into the weirdness of that, other than as a cause for my self-destructive behaviours.
However, as an example of what went on, the mother of a newborne was told she would not be allowed to breastfeed, as it would cause an intimate connection between the two which the cult could not equal. Then, after some deliberation, they bought her a breast pump.
My father, who was the head of the cult, has never had anything to do with me… even while we lived in the same house. After my mother escaped with my brother and I, we were cut off from my father’s side of the family. No grandparents, no cousins, no uncles… but that had already been the case as the cult became more paranoid and cut off ties to their own families.
On my mother’s side of the family her mother, my grandmother, was abusive towards me and my grandfather was neglectful. The only father-figure I had while growing up, my moms fiancé of two years, died from an aneurysm when I was seventeen.
So my self-doubt, lack of self-worth and self-esteem, were bred into me. Because, as child reading studies have shown, people do not grow when all they’re offered is a wire parent.
How I react to people, girlfriends, friends, teachers, has been set from childhood. I cannot get close to people because when they do something innocent, like tell me they’re busy tonight and can’t come over, or they don’t react ‘properly’ to my compliments, or to my kindness, I’ll withdraw from their life.
The self-destructive behaviours which come from my childhood are set in the same marble as those which come from the untreated manic depression.
…there’s a whole lot more of course, which I’ve already written about and which I’ll write more on later on. I just wanted to add some things to the last post, because despite what I wrote there’s more to this than me leaving the sink full of dishes for almost three months.