Creatures may not have this problem in the wild, but let us at them, and ...
Learned helplessness - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
'In part two of the Seligman and Maier experiment, these three groups of dogs were tested in a shuttle-box apparatus, in which the dogs could escape electric shocks by jumping over a low partition. For the most part, the Group 3 dogs, who had previously "learned" that nothing they did had any effect on the shocks, simply lay down passively and whined. Even though they could have easily escaped the shocks, the dogs didn't try. [...] However, not all of the dogs in Seligman's experiments became helpless. Of the roughly 150 dogs in experiments in the latter half of the 1960s, about one-third did not
become helpless, but instead managed to find a way out of the unpleasant situation despite their past experience with it. The corresponding characteristic in humans has been found to correlate highly with optimism
: an explanatory style
that views the situation as other than
personal, pervasive, or permanent. This distinction between people who adapt and those who break down under long-term psychological pressure was also studied in the 1950s in the context of brainwashing
Curious, that 1/3 figure: the same as that in the Milgram obedience experiments, if I remember correctly. I hadn't noticed this before (and it might just be coincidence).
---------- Post added 05-28-2010 at 03:35 PM ----------
Victor Eremita;169885 wrote:
"To be in despair is not only the worst misfortune and misery - no, it is ruination." - Anti-Climacus, 1849
Roughly summarized, despair is having the negative desire of wanting not to exist or lacking the positive desire to want to exist. Suffering, tragedy, and misery does not entail despair, unless such suffering leads to the person wanting to die or lacking the desire to live. For Kierkegaard, the latter is just as serious as the former in terms of despair.
However, even if one wants to live, that is still not sufficient to allieve despair. For Kierkegaard, to want to exist as ourselves is the very opposite of despair. [...]
To avoid despair is to have the conscious desire to want to exist as ourselves regardless of whatever life throws at you. Even if one knows one is going to die eventually due to human mortality, as long as one has the desire to want to continue to exist as ourselves in spite of our mortality, it would not be considered normal Kierkegaardian despair.
My idea of despair (a state of mind with which I am intimately familiar) seems to be so close to Kierkegaard's as to be identical; but perhaps it is worth stating it, all the same, to see if there is indeed no difference.
One can be in a war, but with no hope of winning; and the inevitability of death seems to show that each of us is in fact fighting just such a war; but that fact in itself is no cause for despair.
To be in despair is to be caught up in a war without any belief that there is anything worth fighting for (still less dying for) - unless perhaps one is on the wrong side?
Put simply, to be in despair is to be without purpose.
However, 'purpose' is a mysterious concept. In a world which seems so obviously random (tsunamis, earthquakes, twins born with their skulls and brains joined together), how can an apparently insignificant human creature have a purpose, or have purposes?
I don't mean those mundane purposes he devises for himself
, in order to stay alive for a time, and pass (or kill) that time with as little suffering and as much enjoyment as possible.
I mean, what purpose(s) he
has. What is he for
Is there any rational
way of thinking the thought, "I have a purpose"? (Or "I have purposes"?)
Leaving my own thoughts aside for the moment, what is not clear to me from the above description of Kierkegaard's concept of despair is what he means by the 'self' - because that is another mysterious concept.
I know that K. was a Christian, and I am hovering on the edge of Christianity (just as I am also hovering on the edge of despair), so it is not altogether unlikely that our two concepts of despair are indeed closely related, if not identical.
I do not at all
want to exist as myself, if 'myself' means (as Sartre, for example, would presumably have me take it to mean) that entity which exists in relation to others. In relation to others, and indeed in relation to myself (a far from vacuous or trivial concept, but a paradoxical one), I am pretty much a complete turd. Thus, I am in despair, in K.'s sense.
But I have a notion of a 'real' self, and this notion of what is 'real' in the self is somehow bound up with my vague notion of 'God'. This 'real' self is not a fait accompli
(that would seem to be the schizoid mistake, as described in Laing's The Divided Self
), but rather something to be struggled for - almost
, but not quite, in a sense, self-created, as Sartre would apparently have us believe.
So, the "very opposite of despair", for me, if not for Kierkegaard, is: to have a purpose, or purposes, in which one really believes; to have a real self, which one struggles to be (also struggling not to crucify it - so to speak); to be part of God. Something like that, and all very vague, I know.
How close do I appear to be to K.'s way of thinking, to one who, unlike me, has actually read K.?
P.S. Sorry about the (entirely unintended) fact that this article has got joined on to my previous one. I see that salima has thanked the other one - I wouldn't want it to seem, by default, that she has thanked this one!