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Overcoming Depression: a Science-Based, Commonsense, Natural Approach

(that doesn’t involve drugs, tons of money, or years of therapy)

Article by LiveReal Agents Blake and Thomas

Let’s talk about overcoming depression.

Depression can be a tough, complex topic with many dimensions.

But for now, let’s just explore one approach to overcoming depression that:

- is science-based
- makes sense (is rational, logical, commonsense, reasonable)
- doesn’t involve drugs
- isn’t expensive
- doesn’t involve years of therapy

…and an approach that can also, by the way, actually work.

(And also by the way: when we say “science-based” here, we aren’t talking about a label that’s been slapped on by a marketing department somewhere (based on a “study” commissioned by that very marketing department.))

This approach has been tested and re-tested in the halls of academia, and validated, verified, and peer-reviewed exhaustively.

And to the best of our knowledge, it’s passed those tests, multiple times and in multiple ways, and with flying colors.

(If you’re familiar with CBT, you’ll probably recognize much of this, because it’s what helped launch the entire movement.)

To be clear, what we’re talking about isn’t a panacea. We don’t want to overpromise here. This approach doesn’t claim to be a cure-all for every situation. Again, depression can be a complex condition with many different causes and manifestations. This approach can be more effective for certain types of depression more than others. (This isn’t the ideal approach for existential depression, for example, or severe cases.)

That said: this approach, in the right conditions, can be surprisingly effective.

If the experience of depression can feel something like “carrying a heavy load,” this approach is akin to stopping, thoroughly examining that load, and getting rid of unnecessary weight. Instead of carrying a bag of bowling balls through the desert, this approach is about dropping them and leaving them behind, one at a time. It can help folks who are working to combat depression, and it can even help folks that aren’t.

Sounds OK, right?

Let’s explore.

The story begins several decades ago with a few dogs.

(Editor's Note: Take the below as if it's coming from a friend that you're talking to while you're out getting coffee or ice cream or a beer. Meaning, we aren't pretending to be psychologists or therapists here. See this more as a guy who read a good book and now won't shut up about it. Which is to say: take it for what it's worth, don't take our word for it, and see for yourself. And enjoy that beer and ice cream.)

Scientists figured out how to make those dogs depressed.

Literally. They figured out how to take a normal, happy, healthy dog. And make it depressed.

Every time.

(Sounds mean, right? Agreed.)

OK, so they figured out how to make a dog depressed. So now instead of just depressed people, we have depressed dogs, too? How is this helping us, exactly?

The thinking seemed to go something like this:

If we discover how to systematically create depression in animals, then that means we could potentially understand how to create it in humans. And if we truly understand how to “create” it in humans, then that means we could potentially understand enough to “uncreate” it.

Makes sense, right?

If we understand how to “make” depression, then maybe by reversing that process, we can “unmake” it.

So, how did this work?

The brief story of discovering how to manufacture depression.

(The extremely short version.)

A dog would stand in a certain spot, then receive a mild shock.

The dog would naturally move to a different spot.

And the shocks would stop.

Problem solved.

But then the experimenters would change it up.

A dog standing in a certain spot would receive a mild shock. He’d then move to a different spot. But this time, the shocks would keep coming.

So the dog would move somewhere else. And again: the shocks would keep coming.

(See, we said this was mean. Not unlike life.)

This process would continue. And if it would go on for long enough, the dog would eventually learn that nothing he could do would relieve the shock.

Eventually, the dog would just stop trying.

The poor dog would just give up, lie down, and allow himself to be shocked. He seemed to decide, apparently, that he was helpless to stop them. (And in this situation, he wasn’t entirely incorrect. But more on this later.)

The researchers named this condition “learned helplessness.”

(Quick technical aside. Again, to be clear: the above is a gross summary and simplification of this entire process. The actual experiments were extensive, carefully planned, much more complex, and took place over a long time. And further, what they were manufacturing here were the apparent symptoms of depression. This was back in the days when behaviorism dominated psychology, and only observable behavior was deemed scientifically “real.” Which is to say, researchers weren’t claiming to know what was actually going on inside dogs’ “minds.” (Or even that they had “minds” at all. They weren’t claiming to access the subjective experience of a dog. They only noted that the external, observable behavior looked a great deal like depression.)

So to return to our story…

With almost complete predictability, the researchers were able to create a state of (what looked and acted exactly like) depression: learned helplessness. And they were able to do it basically every time.

OK, so they made dogs depressed. Now what?

Let’s look at what this might mean.

Other theories of depression at that time were Freudian (depression is anger turned inward) or biochemical (depression is a disease of the body/brain.)

What Martin Seligman, the lead researcher, discovered here challenged both of those approaches.

Those dogs weren’t angry, and turning that anger inward.

Those dogs had no apparent “disease” of the body/brain. (In fact, their body/brain biochemistry followed their experiences of certain conditions.)

If the learned helplessness model turned out to be correct, it would have meant that these models were at least – and possibly to some degree – inaccurate or incomplete.

It would have meant that at least some aspects of some types of depression are learned behaviors.*

And that might mean it can be unlearned.

But how?

The experiments deliberately invoked a state of learned helplessness.

Researchers defined “helplessness” roughly as “a state of affairs where nothing you do can affect what’s happening to you.”

It’s a state where you seem to have no control of what you experience.

Let’s imagine (purely as a speculative thought experiment) what the dog might be thinking.

“Nothing I do matters. I can move here, I can move there, I can move somewhere else, but either way, it doesn’t matter. No matter what I do, I still get shocked. So, to heck with it. I might as well lie down and do nothing.”

In other words:

1) the experience (being shocked) seemed to lead to
2) a condition of thinking, feeling and action/non-action (learned behavior) which looks very much like what we could describe as
3) a state of depression.

OK, so that’s the problem.

What’s the “solution”?

Let’s look at the “lessons learned” from those experiments.

Let’s describe this process slightly differently. There’s

1) the raw experience;
2) the interpretation of that experience; and
3) the result.

Let’s call #2 in that sequence – the interpretation of that experience – our “core personal narrative.” (This is our term for this, not Seligman’s. We explore this idea more deeply in Inner Work.)

So your interpretation of what happens is critical.

Let’s imagine a slightly different scenario to illustrate this.

The story of Little Timmy and the hot stove.

Let’s imagine that Timmy, a 3 year-old boy reaches up and (No, Timmy!! Don’t do it!) touches the hot stove with his finger.

(Raw experience.)

How does he interpret that experience? How does he explain it to himself?

As it turns out, he can interpret it any number of ways.

For example:

Interpretation 1: He cries for a few minutes. Then he gets distracted by a shiny object, and pretty much forgets about the incident. Although next time he gets close to a hot stove, he’s a little more cautious. Hopefully.

Interpretation 2: He vows to never to touch a stove, ever again.

Interpretation 3: He vows to never touch anything, ever again.

The raw experience is identical in each case. But the interpretations of those experiences are wildly different.

And the way we interpret our experiences is critical.

Poor Little Timmy interprets his encounter with the stove one way (#1), and he’s fine. A little wiser, maybe, and in need of a Band-Aid and boo-boo-kiss. But for the most part, he’s perfectly OK.

But let’s say when it comes to interpreting his experience, he chooses route #2 or #3, and vows never to go near a stove, or even touch anything, ever again.

Suddenly, his entire life might have just became much harder.

His mom might try to explain to him: “Hey, Bud: not all stoves will burn you. Just don’t touch the hot part, OK? And by the way, not everything is a stove. Most things, actually, won’t burn you. Just don’t touch the hot parts of stoves, when they’re on. OK?”

But Timmy isn’t having it.

He points, through his tears, to all the evidence he needs to refute her: the red mark on his tiny little finger.

And how can she argue with that? Next to that, all of mom’s wild rantings and abstract, intellectual, far-fetched, speculations fall utterly flat.

We can say this: in those (latter) cases, Timmy isn’t interpreting his experience very well.

Which is to say, not all interpretations are equal. Some interpretations are better than others. (This might seem obvious, but needs to be said these days.) Some interpretations of raw experience are more empowering, less dysfunctional, more inclusive of reality, more conducive to human flourishing, and so on.

In these cases, Timmy is overgeneralizing.

That is an error – a kind of cognitive bug – that can lead to unnecessary suffering. Unless it’s fixed.

And it can be fixed.

Fairly easily, even, in some cases.

Now let’s apply this again to depression.

Researchers call this your “Explanatory Style.”

Your explanatory style is basically “the way you interpret or explain events.”

What the researchers eventually found was that folks have two broadly different styles that we can describe as “optimistic” and “pessimistic.”

A person with the “pessimistic” style, according to this definition, tends to interpret raw experiences in a way that makes it seem like bad events:

1) will last a long time;
2) will undermine everything that person does, and
3) are entirely their own fault.

To extract the core qualities of the above, someone with a “pessimistic” style will ten to see bad events as:

1) Permanent (they will last a long time)
2) Universal (they apply to everything, not just this specific situation), and
3) Personal (they are about me, or are my own fault)

Seligman and other researchers then asked how these explanatory styles affect depression. Does an optimistic explanatory style make a person less likely to be depressed? Did a pessimistic explanatory style make depression more likely?

They conducted a great deal of research to test this (which again, we’re skipping over here.)

The answer: “yes.” The effect of explanatory styles on depression was clear and powerful.

So, one important key lies in becoming aware of your typical explanatory style.

Because then you become able to change it.

(Which can be done, by the way. Seligman and company, being the thorough folks they are, tested it.)

But here’s the thing: instead of taking control of their own narrative or “explanatory style,” some folks allow it to run on autopilot.

Which means life just happens. Things happen, experiences get interpreted however they do, and chips then just fall where they may. Unless a person is somewhat naturally philosophical or thoughtful, alternate ways of interpreting their experience don’t always enter the picture.

But modifying your explanatory style can transform things dramatically. Which includes potentially making a huge difference with depression.

But before changing it, first we need to really understand it.

This is the meat of the approach here, so let’s dig deeper.

There are three explanatory styles.

1) “Permanence Verses Temporary”

Folks with optimistic explanatory styles tend to explain good events in terms of permanent causes (traits, abilities, “always’s”), and bad events in terms of temporary ones.

Folks with pessimistic explanatory styles are exactly the reverse: they tend to explain good events in terms of transient causes, and bad events in terms of permanent ones.

(Note: we’re using the words “good” and “bad” loosely here, as in, “how X event seems to you,” for the sake of brevity. That life is always messier than theory is a pretty good rule of thumb.)

For example:

Bad raw experience: a tired feeling.
Optimistic (temporary) explanation: “I’m exhausted right now.”
Pessimistic (permanent) explanation: “I’m all washed up in life.”

To unpack this a little, and make sure the above terminology is extremely clear:

In the above example: I have a “raw experience” which is “a tired feeling.” I can explain this raw experience in roughly two different ways. An optimistic way would be to say “I’m exhausted right now.” A pessimistic way would be to say “I’m all washed up in life.” (I’m a has-been, I’m over the hill, etc.)

Again: notice in the example above how the raw experience is the same. (The tired feeling.) The only difference is in how a person explains that experience.

Neither explanation is necessarily more true than the other. We don’t know what "the truth" is in that specific aspect. Either explanation could be valid. And since either explanation is valid, it becomes a question of which explanation we want to use.

Let’s look at a few more examples.

Bad raw experience: a diet didn’t work.
Pessimistic (permanent) explanation: “I can’t lose weight.”
Optimistic (temporary) explanation: “This diet didn’t work.”

And another:

Bad raw experience: a setback/failure.
Optimistic (temporary) explanation: “That didn’t go well.”
Pessimistic (permanent) explanation: “Nothing I do ever goes well.”

See the difference? Again: either explanation (optimistic or pessimistic) is valid. The question becomes which you decide to use.

This – “permanence verses temporary” – is one dimension of three.

2) “Universal verses Specific”

Folks with pessimistic styles tend to make universal explanations for negative experiences, and specific explanations for positive ones.

Folks with optimistic styles tend to do the opposite: they tend to make universal explanations for positive experiences, and specific explanations for negative ones.

For example:

Good raw experience: success on a math test
Pessimistic (specific) explanation: “I did OK on that math test.”
Optimistic (universal) explanation: “I’m smart!”

And another:

Bad raw experience: a stove burns you
Pessimistic (universal) explanation: “Life hurts you!”
Optimistic (specific) explanation: “That stove will burn me when it’s on and I put my finger right there, on that spot.”

And another:

Bad raw experience: a relationship ends badly.
Pessimistic (universal) explanation: “My relationships always fail.”
Optimistic (specific) explanation: “That relationship ended badly. But maybe the next one won’t.”

(Note also that this is not denial or abstract, mindless positivity. (Eg: “That relationship ended badly, but everything always works out for the best!”) This approach isn’t about either of those. Rather, what we’re getting at here is specific, targeted, and very practical – less like magic and more like engineering.)

That – “universal verses specific” – is the second dimension of three.

3) “External verses Internal”

When bad events happen, folks with a pessimistic explanatory style tend to explain it for internal (personal) reasons, while those with optimistic styles tend to attribute it to external (impersonal) reasons.

When good things happen, it’s the reverse. Those with pessimistic styles tend to explain good things as happening for external (impersonal) reasons, while those with optimistic styles tend to give credit to themselves.

For example:

Bad raw experience: someone loses at a game.
Optimistic (external) explanation: “That other team was really great.”
Pessimistic (internal) explanation: “I have no talent.”

And another:

Bad raw experience: someone didn’t get hired for a job.
Pessimistic (internal) explanation: “I’m too unqualified to ever get hired.”
Optimistic (external) explanation: “They didn’t think I was a good fit for them right now.”

And another:

Bad raw experience: someone makes a bad decision.
Pessimistic (internal) explanation: “I’m a terrible person.”
Optimistic (external) explanation: “That was a difficult situation with no easy answer.”

And that – “external verses internal” – is the third dimension.

Now we face the crucial step: applying this to ourselves.

Everything here is meant to translate over directly and concretely into the bumps, shocks, and struggles of real life.

After all, we do this already. Meaning, we already encounter raw experience, and we already try make sense of it (via our explanatory style.) Our effort here is simply, first of all, to do it consciously instead of unconsciously.

And second, once we’re aware of it, if we’re so inclined, we can take control of the process and work to deliberately shape it in a more positive, life-enhancing direction.

If you’re brand new to this, translating it over to “real” life might feel like a bit like learning to ride a bike. It’s awkward at first – like trying to think of a hundred different things and remember a hundred others while doing a hundred others, all at once. But with patience and practice, it comes. Before long, you’re zooming around like Evil Knievel with pedals.

One key is to avoid applying any of this as hard-and-fast, ironclad, very literal rules. Again, like with the bike, it’s best to stay a little loose, and to try to get the feel of it. It’s often more about spotting faulty thinking and avoiding that than imposing any kind of rigid doctrine.

It takes practice.

But if you stick with it for long enough, eventually this can become natural and even relatively effortless.

The process looks like this:

1) Catch a thought.
2) Become fully conscious of it (eg, become able to put that thought into words)
3) Examine the thought as objectively as possible
4) Test it with the above criteria: am I overgeneralizing, universalizing, internalizing?
5) Arrive at an answer (Eg, “Yes, I’m overgeneralizing there.”)
6) Clarify, simplify, and summarize: “I thought X. I decided X isn’t accurate. Instead, I’ll think Y.”
7) Repeat.

While the above might seem laborious at first, with practice, it can all run, start to finish, within the space of a few seconds. It becomes like an automatic reflex muscle-memory, or a computer firewall that runs in the background of your mind, keeping toxic, depression-inducing thoughts out.

This might seem deceptively simple.

Essentially, “pay attention, and swap bad ideas for good ones.”

But of course, simple is good. And there’s actually a lot going on here under the surface.

The simple act of observing yourself – watching for negative thoughts or ideas is really a form of mindfulness: pay attention to and be fully aware of your own thoughts.

But there’s an element of psychotherapy here as well: making the unconscious conscious. Or more simply: become aware of things in ourselves and our experience that we previously weren’t aware of.

And there’s a third element as well: good, old-fashioned philosophy. Like what Socrates and the gang used to do, back when there weren’t smartphones: take ideas and question them, examine them, test them, expose flaws in them, revise them, and seek out better ones.

This process can lead – usually via a curvy, winding, indirect path – away from unconsciousness and lost-in-the-fog-ness and closer to standing in clear light with full, clean awareness.

In a way, this could be described as a kind of mindful self-directed therapy, with a dash of clear thinking (or philosophy.)

Once you get the hang of this, it can be powerful.

You might start to believe that we’re aren’t ruled by brain chemistry as much as ideas.

(After all, the platitude “depression is caused by brain chemicals!” is itself an idea. And a depressing one, that can foster depression.)

You might start realizing the powerful effects that certain thoughts can have on you, whether you’re fully aware of them or not.

You might start realizing that sometimes half-conscious thoughts or ideas that were nearly imperceptible – caught only in momentary, fleeting glimpses – were still able to impact your feelings, moods, and overall state of mind. Sometimes the barest glimpse of a single idea (eg “this will never work!”) can affect a mood, a state of mind, even a worldview that can last decades.

And with practice, you can start catching toxic, erroneous, pessimistic thoughts and ideas early, way ahead of the curve, before they even reach you.

So it makes sense to have a strong sentry at the gate.

This can act as a kind of immune system that safeguards your optimism and inner health.

After all, we hear plenty about building strong physical immune systems for our bodies. But we rarely hear about the need for a strong psychological immune system for our hearts and minds. Which is, arguably, way more important.

Adopting “bad” ideas can have toxic effects while adopting “good” ideas can have invigorating ones. Not unlike the way junk food and healthy foods affect our bodies. Some make us stronger, some make us weaker.

(Describing them as “good” and “bad,” of course, is a shortcut we’re taking here to simplify things. In practice, it’s usually more complex and less clear-cut. But you probably sense what we’re reaching for here.)

The implications of all this, too, are interesting. Psychology seems to have re-discovered – and demonstrated experimentally – that we can adopt bad ideas, and when we allow those to run rampant, they can wreak havoc on our inner selves, like the proverbial bull in a china shop.

This approach invites us to challenge bad ideas – to bring them out of the dark for interrogation like mischievous little scamps. This helps instill discipline and order within the ranks of our thoughts. For example, if the idea “nothing is worth doing” becomes dominant, we can question it: “is that really true? Do I know that for sure?”

– and sometimes, simple questioning is all it takes. That alone can break the spell.

This has the potential to unclog and redirect the flow of vitality that can seem buried or lost during some episodes of depression.

That said: let’s not take all this too far.

As we often say: every good insight eventually gets misunderstood, misapplied, and taken too far. Often to the maximum extent possible.

So, how could this approach be misused?

First of all, there’s the matter of oversimplifying what can be an extremely complex situation.

For example, none of this is meant to translate into something like this: “Oh, you’re depressed? Well you should just be more positive!”

Hopefully the flaw in the above phrase is excruciatingly clear.

Some folks with no real experience of or genuine knowledge of depression might take a superficial glance at this approach and miss the point by boiling it down to a simply platitude: “Be more positive!” (Hopefully folks can understand that barking something like the above to someone who is depressed is typically less than helpful. And it definitely isn’t what we’re going for here.)

Hopefully what we’ve conveyed here is a concrete, thorough, systematic method – and injunction, which described a process of work – that is much more complex than anything that could fit on a bumper sticker.

In the same way, if someone is severely depressed – say, to the point of not getting out of bed for days on end – this approach shouldn’t be seen as a panacea. Barking “just think different!” – even to ourselves – is different than actually thinking differently. And while this can sometimes work quickly, this approach won’t necessarily magically fix everything overnight. Harvesting the fruit of this approach can take time, effort, practice, and patience.

So, those are two ways this approach could be misunderstood.

There’s one more way this can go south.

The core idea here is to interpret raw experience – roughly, to think – in a way that serves your highest ideals and fundamentally strengthens you.

It’s not about building a fantasy world and trying to live in it.

Some folks could take some of the advice above, take it all a bit literally, twist it to some degree, and use it to try to convince themselves that “all problems are temporary, nothing I ever do is ever wrong, if there are problems it’s always someone else’s fault,” and so on.

That, also, is not what we’re going for here.

The idea isn’t to deny reality or encourage self-delusion. Exactly the opposite.

To state a few hopefully obvious points, and a trigger warning: not all truths are flattering, some problems are genuine, and sometimes asking if we’re wrong in some way is the best question we can possibly ask.

Let’s remember, an honest admission of raw experience is the starting point. And being as perceptive, realistic, and honest as possible about that raw experience is a critical piece of the puzzle. The heart of the matter is how we interpret that raw experience. Denying, distorting or deliberately misunderstanding that raw experience isn’t what we’re going for here. We want as clear, comprehensive, and accurate a view of that raw experience as possible.

That usually still leaves plenty of room for unknowns in those interpretations.

So the idea here is a strategic use of uncertainty.

There’s what we know. And there’s what we don’t know. And there’s often endless confusion between the two.

We often just declare things we don’t really know, all the time, and assume them to be true.

And sometimes, those things we assume to be true make us miserable. (And depressed.)

The idea here is questioning those assumptions. Then testing them with rigor whenever possible. Then, when there’s no clear answer but we have to make sense of things anyway, it’s deciding on an interpretation of events that doesn’t assume the worst. That assumes the best, even.

The approach here isn’t for someone to question whether a raw experience really happened (“I didn’t touch a stove!”) or to encourage magical thinking (“No stove can burn me!”). It’s to question bad interpretations of our experience (“I should never touch anything!”) and replace them with narratives that don’t undermine us.

In a nutshell: don’t assume the worst. (There's a bumper sticker we could ride with.)

This is turning uncertainty to our advantage.

And finally, there’s the question of how life “shocks” us.

With the dogs in those highly controlled experiments, the sources of the pain were straightforward. The pain came from the “shocks,” and the shocks seemed to induce a state of helplessness.

Real life, of course, is lot messier.

Where do our “shocks” come from, out in the real world?

A lot of times, we don’t even know.

They could come from our environment, our relationships, our diets, our habits, our own psychology, even our own selves.

A dose of optimism can clear away fog and shine some light which can hopefully liberate us into a state where we can think more clearly, act more vigorously, and feel like we have the freedom and ability to plenty of attractive, enjoyable, worthwhile options.

What should we do, then, with that newfound freedom?

Well, here’s one suggestion: if we aren’t clear on where the “shocks” are coming from in our world – whatever sources of pain we might be exposed to – we should find out.

It might be as simple as watching less television or spending more time on the smartphone.

Or we might want stronger medicine. Becoming more optimistic while in an abusive relationship or with heavy drug use, for example, can be like trying to accelerate with a foot on the brake. This approach, ideally, can help uncover hidden sources of toxicity and allow you to navigate away from them and toward more conditions of flourishing.

Investigating our own experience, like a detective on a case, can sometimes reveal life-sapping sources of pain (our own personal “shocks”) – that we can learn to avoid and overcome. Call it “upgrading our moral intelligence,” learning more about “how to live,” or whatever you want, it can be a key element of maintaining that optimism once we get it.

If you practice this over time, the results might surprise you.

If your inner self is like a kingdom, learned helplessness can be seen as a state-of-the-nation where pessimistic, life-sapping thoughts and ideas reign.

But (at risk of taking this metaphor too far) overthrowing that regime and establishing a new and vigorous age of meaning, purpose and vitality can happen through a relatively peaceful transition of power.

Not through force, but simple awareness, and just a little tweaking.

A drill sergeant simply walking into a room full of soldiers, or a parent walking in to a room full of rambunctious children – that alone can be enough to change the dynamics of the situation.

When bad ideas are seen clearly, they’re exposed. This alone can cause them to lose their power, and from there they can simply whither, melt, and fall away. And the more aware you become, the more they fall away, leaving a natural clarity, optimism and vitality in their place. A new order can spontaneously appear all by itself.

And those depressed dogs from the study?

As Martin Seligman, the lead researcher describes:

“…we decided to show the helpless dogs that they had control over shock. We dragged them across the shuttle box and out of the shock that they were passively enduring. We showed them that getting to the other side worked. After a few draggings, the dogs perked up and began to jump on their own. This was true of every dog, a 100 percent cure.”

This approach can make the heavy load of depression lighten.

Or even disappear altogether.

* A Brief Semi-Technical Appendix

Much of the above is our interpretation of Martin Seligman’s research as described in the book, Learned Optimism. Seligman is about as close to universally-respected as it gets in this game. He eventually went on to become president of the American Psychological Association, and has played no small role in rescuing psychology from the dark days of fundamentalist behaviorism and Freudianism, and more.

Since Learned Optimism was published decades ago, research has continued, and progress has been made in some areas. In Seligman’s most recent book, The Hope Circuit, he describes a few revisions to the Learned Helplessness theory.

Briefly, he states that in his original experiments, helplessness wasn’t actually being “learned.” Being helpless, rather, is a “natural, unlearned, default response to prolonged shock.” In their experiments, “the dimension detected and learned about was the presence, not the absence, of control.” There’s some brief speculation about neural pathways and etc, but for the most part – unless we’re missing it – that’s pretty much what he says.

Maybe these new developments will be revolutionary at some point, and maybe we’re just missing some of the bigger implications of what he’s trying to say, or maybe they’re all a bit of hair-splitting about how to interpret exactly what is going on under the hood.

Either way, to our knowledge, everything in the article above is still valid and still applies.

Research will continue, no doubt, and hopefully some progress will be made.

And we’ll plan on staying on top of it.

For a more in-depth dive on the above, we’d recommend Learned Optimism (published originally in 1991) and/or The Hope Circuit, published in April of 2018. (Learned Optimism is a deep dive into the stuff discussed above. The Hope Circuit includes a brief summary of the learned helplessness days, but is a broader review of Seligman’s overall career.)

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