Monday, May 23, 2016

Learned Helplessness

I wonder if the “learning submission to the will of God” that was extolled in The Family was akin to the learned helplessness of Martin Seligman's hopeless, shocked dogs? 

In 1965, back in the days when scientific experiments on animals were not considered as morally reprehensible as they are today, Dr. Seligman conditioned dogs by putting them in a cage, ringing a bell, and then sending an electric current through the floor. Randomly. Again and again.

When a dog got used to that, he put it in a cage with a little fence dividing the two halves. He rang the bell and then shocked the half of the floor where the dog sat; it just sat there, sad eyed, tragic. It didn't even try to jump to the other side where, unbeknownst to the dog, there was no possibility of a shock. 

Had it learned “to submit”?

In the cult, we were taught, repetition ad nauseam, to yield our wills to God, to submit to the will of God in our lives and to our leaders, to not trust in ourselves. "Don't lean to your own understanding." 

Our only hope was to give up control.  

What happens when a person finally gives up control to God? They learn that they are not "the master of their fate, the captain of their soul," but merely a tool in God's hands, "a grain of dust floating on God's air," to quote Berg.

In a word: helpless. 

Engendering submission is one more of the barrage of tactics used to make mindless followers out of ordinary people.

After years of this, it takes concerted effort and time to take control, to feel that we are not "sinful" for doing something for ourselves, to realize that we indeed can be, and must be, the captain of our souls. 

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