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Hiba Khatkhat Video Thumbnail - July 17th

What Are You Doing To Make Life Easier?

In 2008, July was declared National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States to acknowledge and bring awareness to the unique challenges of underrepresented communities. 

There’s a stigma attached to needing help and asking for it in many diverse, deep-rooted, and underrepresented communities like mine. Often, white-knuckling through life and a hustling mindset is the norm. To need help can be seen and judged as weak, especially for mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness. This belief gets perpetuated and reinforced in a variety of ways. You may not even name your trauma or pain, so it goes unacknowledged for a long time. 

This week, in honor of this month, I invite you to re-evaluate this belief about needing and receiving help. You reclaim your power when you accept your need for this and then allow yourself to receive it.

Learned Helplessness: What is it? And, What Does it Have to Do with Getting Help?

In the 1960s, Seligman and Maier coined the term learned helplessness. During their research, they realized that ancient structures in the brain, under chronic stress, respond subjectively to it as an uncontrollable experience. These old structures don’t decipher between different types of stress, so they respond to it as a rigid state that feels out of control.

Later, Seligman further studied this phenomenon and discovered other brain parts, responsible for higher functions, can be activated to cool off these ancient structures. When this happens, your brain responds with control (aka, you feel in control to figure the problem out or to do something). This chain reaction is the neurochemistry and neurobiology of your internal sense of power.

When your brain can perceive the situation is under control, it gets activated to solve the problem. This activation is called mobilization. It is the subjective experience of choice. You can engage in this process, see which parts of the situation are in your control, and do something about them.

From this perspective, learned helplessness is the phenomenon of a perceived lack of control. We can acknowledge there are situations in life where you might be helpless. Having said that, learned helplessness from trauma and adverse life experiences can make you think, feel, and behave as if you are helpless more often than not.

In experiences of oppression such as racism, actual helplessness happens during the event or experience. Prolonged chronic exposure to racial discrimination can be internalized afterwards into learned helplessness as time goes on. Racism keeps you stuck when it gets internalized this way. It evolves into internal powerlessness. This is one psychological reason why it’s important for communities to mobilize, and why there’s power in the collective.

This is not to dismiss the systemic realities of racism and racial discrimination and the difficulties of systematic change. Nor the realities of privilege. But to shed light on how trauma from societal oppressions continues to be a significant consistent contributor to the experience of chronic stress and trauma on an individual level, and how this can manifest in your life.

How this Impacts Your Mindset and Attitude about Help

You have a mindset about seeking help based on your experiences and your biology. In psychological research, this is called your help-seeking attitude. Stigma and learned helplessness are two internal factors that affect it.

Learned helplessness contributes to prolonged suffering because, under these internal conditions, you won’t ask for help when help is available, perpetuating your internal sense of helplessness and powerlessness. When learned helplessness shows up, it affects how and when you ask for help and from whom. 

Learned helplessness can show up when you:

  • Ask for help in ineffective ways (i.e. not doing what works)
  • Engage in short-term bandaid solutions that put out the fire or crisis but don’t solve the main problem long-term. 
  • Act in non-assertive ways (e.g. passive-aggressive styles, total passivity, total aggression)
  • Avoid or escape (e.g. lying, appeasing, not communicating, storming off, leaving the interaction mentally and emotionally)
  • Feel like the victim in your relationships & feel stuck about changing this
  • Completely do the same thing over and over while not getting the changes you want

As a result, internalized helplessness keeps you stuck in unstable situations and unsatisfying relationships that perpetuate this cycle. 

How to Start on the Path to Change?

The Intention in Practice

You can reduce your suffering by becoming an active problem solver and an active participant in your life. You’re no longer playing the supporting actor role and you take the leading part in your own life.

You can become an active problem solver by:

  • Identifying the problem: being aware of it and naming it
  • Exploring solutions non-judgmentally: think of all possible solutions; don’t rule anything out just yet
  • Evaluating your options: which options are the best for your context/situation, timing, readiness, and resources
  • Selecting the choice that best fits you (including asking for help)
  • Putting your choice into active action (implement your solution)
  • Reflecting: what’s working? (keep), what’s not working? (toss or fine-tune this or ask for help)
  • Repeating the process

During this process, you may realize the solution is not completely in your hands or it’s not readily available. You can identify where you need help, and who or what might be helpful for you. Then, ask concisely and specifically.

The key components  to making this a more effective and successful process are:

  • Awareness and acknowledgment (of the problem or barriers)
  • Non-judgement (about needing help, the solutions available)
  • Openness (willingness to receive help)
  • Active participation and engagement

These factors allow that part of your ancient brain to cool off, and allow you to engage in problem-solving more effectively for both short and long-term options.

If proceeding with this non-judgementally is a challenge for you, you could check out this related post on what to do with judgements.

Sources of Support

Sometimes resources of support are limited. Or, access to them is. It’s important to consider who you think would be helpful. You might find yourself thinking of only individuals. But sources of support can be diverse. Who you need help from may be a community or communities you’re a part of or would like to be a part of.

You can build your support network through:

  • Self-help such as books, podcasts, and similar media materials. 
  • Professional support such as therapists, coaches, inspirational speakers, spiritual mentors, and similar health and wellness professionals.
  • Community: online or in-person such as your church, mosque, healing circles, and the like. These are settings where you can be inspired, get connected, access the power of the group, and feel uplifted.

As you move intentionally during your week, notice when learned helplessness shows up for you, and try some of the suggestions mentioned here based on your own context to see how this shifts your experience. When you find pockets in your life where you can practice this control and choice, you can start connecting to your internal power and reclaiming your space. 

Connect with me below to let me know:

  • What suggestions you were able to use this week?
  • What worked and why?
  • What didn’t work and why?
  • What changes have you noticed from this (no matter how small they may seem), in yourself or others?
  • What community/collective do you find helpful and why?

I personally respond to each message and I look forward to hearing from you each week. 

We only recommend products we use ourselves and all opinions expressed here are our own. This post may contain affiliate links that are at no additional cost to you, we may earn a small commission. Thanks

About the Writer
Hiba Khatkhat Video Thumbnail - July 17th

What Are You Doing To Make Life Easier?

In 2008, July was declared National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States to acknowledge and bring awareness to the unique challenges of underrepresented communities. 

There’s a stigma attached to needing help and asking for it in many diverse, deep-rooted, and underrepresented communities like mine. Often, white-knuckling through life and a hustling mindset is the norm. To need help can be seen and judged as weak, especially for mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness. This belief gets perpetuated and reinforced in a variety of ways. You may not even name your trauma or pain, so it goes unacknowledged for a long time. 

This week, in honor of this month, I invite you to re-evaluate this belief about needing and receiving help. You reclaim your power when you accept your need for this and then allow yourself to receive it.

Learned Helplessness: What is it? And, What Does it Have to Do with Getting Help?

In the 1960s, Seligman and Maier coined the term learned helplessness. During their research, they realized that ancient structures in the brain, under chronic stress, respond subjectively to it as an uncontrollable experience. These old structures don’t decipher between different types of stress, so they respond to it as a rigid state that feels out of control.

Later, Seligman further studied this phenomenon and discovered other brain parts, responsible for higher functions, can be activated to cool off these ancient structures. When this happens, your brain responds with control (aka, you feel in control to figure the problem out or to do something). This chain reaction is the neurochemistry and neurobiology of your internal sense of power.

When your brain can perceive the situation is under control, it gets activated to solve the problem. This activation is called mobilization. It is the subjective experience of choice. You can engage in this process, see which parts of the situation are in your control, and do something about them.

From this perspective, learned helplessness is the phenomenon of a perceived lack of control. We can acknowledge there are situations in life where you might be helpless. Having said that, learned helplessness from trauma and adverse life experiences can make you think, feel, and behave as if you are helpless more often than not.

In experiences of oppression such as racism, actual helplessness happens during the event or experience. Prolonged chronic exposure to racial discrimination can be internalized afterwards into learned helplessness as time goes on. Racism keeps you stuck when it gets internalized this way. It evolves into internal powerlessness. This is one psychological reason why it’s important for communities to mobilize, and why there’s power in the collective.

This is not to dismiss the systemic realities of racism and racial discrimination and the difficulties of systematic change. Nor the realities of privilege. But to shed light on how trauma from societal oppressions continues to be a significant consistent contributor to the experience of chronic stress and trauma on an individual level, and how this can manifest in your life.

How this Impacts Your Mindset and Attitude about Help

You have a mindset about seeking help based on your experiences and your biology. In psychological research, this is called your help-seeking attitude. Stigma and learned helplessness are two internal factors that affect it.

Learned helplessness contributes to prolonged suffering because, under these internal conditions, you won’t ask for help when help is available, perpetuating your internal sense of helplessness and powerlessness. When learned helplessness shows up, it affects how and when you ask for help and from whom. 

Learned helplessness can show up when you:

  • Ask for help in ineffective ways (i.e. not doing what works)
  • Engage in short-term bandaid solutions that put out the fire or crisis but don’t solve the main problem long-term. 
  • Act in non-assertive ways (e.g. passive-aggressive styles, total passivity, total aggression)
  • Avoid or escape (e.g. lying, appeasing, not communicating, storming off, leaving the interaction mentally and emotionally)
  • Feel like the victim in your relationships & feel stuck about changing this
  • Completely do the same thing over and over while not getting the changes you want

As a result, internalized helplessness keeps you stuck in unstable situations and unsatisfying relationships that perpetuate this cycle. 

How to Start on the Path to Change?

The Intention in Practice

You can reduce your suffering by becoming an active problem solver and an active participant in your life. You’re no longer playing the supporting actor role and you take the leading part in your own life.

You can become an active problem solver by:

  • Identifying the problem: being aware of it and naming it
  • Exploring solutions non-judgmentally: think of all possible solutions; don’t rule anything out just yet
  • Evaluating your options: which options are the best for your context/situation, timing, readiness, and resources
  • Selecting the choice that best fits you (including asking for help)
  • Putting your choice into active action (implement your solution)
  • Reflecting: what’s working? (keep), what’s not working? (toss or fine-tune this or ask for help)
  • Repeating the process

During this process, you may realize the solution is not completely in your hands or it’s not readily available. You can identify where you need help, and who or what might be helpful for you. Then, ask concisely and specifically.

The key components  to making this a more effective and successful process are:

  • Awareness and acknowledgment (of the problem or barriers)
  • Non-judgement (about needing help, the solutions available)
  • Openness (willingness to receive help)
  • Active participation and engagement

These factors allow that part of your ancient brain to cool off, and allow you to engage in problem-solving more effectively for both short and long-term options.

If proceeding with this non-judgementally is a challenge for you, you could check out this related post on what to do with judgements.

Sources of Support

Sometimes resources of support are limited. Or, access to them is. It’s important to consider who you think would be helpful. You might find yourself thinking of only individuals. But sources of support can be diverse. Who you need help from may be a community or communities you’re a part of or would like to be a part of.

You can build your support network through:

  • Self-help such as books, podcasts, and similar media materials. 
  • Professional support such as therapists, coaches, inspirational speakers, spiritual mentors, and similar health and wellness professionals.
  • Community: online or in-person such as your church, mosque, healing circles, and the like. These are settings where you can be inspired, get connected, access the power of the group, and feel uplifted.

As you move intentionally during your week, notice when learned helplessness shows up for you, and try some of the suggestions mentioned here based on your own context to see how this shifts your experience. When you find pockets in your life where you can practice this control and choice, you can start connecting to your internal power and reclaiming your space. 

Connect with me below to let me know:

  • What suggestions you were able to use this week?
  • What worked and why?
  • What didn’t work and why?
  • What changes have you noticed from this (no matter how small they may seem), in yourself or others?
  • What community/collective do you find helpful and why?

I personally respond to each message and I look forward to hearing from you each week. 

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We only recommend products we use ourselves and all opinions expressed here are our own. This post may contain affiliate links that are at no additional cost to you, we may earn a small commission. Thanks

About the Writer
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Hiba Khatkhat

A registered psychotherapist, life coach, and social justice activist. Born and raised in the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.), she immigrated to Canada and currently lives in Niagara. Hiba is passionate about Yin Yoga, interior design, travelling, dancing, and entrepreneurship.

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