Will someone please rescue me?

This post is about learned helplessness. At work I help my Clients with long-term physical and mental health conditions to achieve their potential; and in the vast majority of cases this involves coaching them to return to work or to sustain work. Every week I recognise when my Clients are stuck with learned helplessness: this is the thought  that an insurmountable barrier means we can’t possibly achieve our goal. I empathise with my Clients and offer up a range of techniques to overcome these mental barriers to achievement. These techniques range from visualisation, to exploring values, fear of failure, ensuring goals are SMART and so on. And it works: up to 90% of people we work with make measurable progress.

In this audio I discuss how, despite my  own ostensible life achievements, I have a learned helplessness right at the core of my self. It is illustrated in my obsession with trying to work out who my adoptive mother was. She died in May. She was the wife of my abuser. I pinned all my hopes of rescue on her: indeed I believed until last night that she held the key to my perfect recovery. She would erase all my states of helplessness: she would erase helplessness in the face of

  • My birth mother literally disappearing and leaving me at about 12 months
  • Sexual abuse
  • Rejection by white and black society
  • And so on ….

I have always believed that someone will rescue me and now I have to learn the hard lesson. Perhaps I am condemned to feel rejected, abandoned and helpless all my life. No one will come.

In the audio I talk about the elephant and its lifetime chain. Here is a representation of that story The lifetime chain of the baby elephant

How do you experience helplessness? Do you hope for rescue? How have you overcome the need to find a rescuer?


PS the picture is of a lonely barn in Teesdale, County Durham