Unlearning Helplessness
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Unlearning Helplessness

Kabbalah Centre
December 8, 2014

A man applies for job after job, each time getting passed over for another applicant. Within a couple of months, he gives up his job search.

A woman repeatedly fails the entrance exam to a professional program she hopes to begin. After the third time, she gives up and decides to alter her career plans.

For some of us, repeated failure can result in what psychologists call learned helplessness, a state of mind that occurs when an individual feels a lack of control over the outcome of a situation. Learned helplessness often happens after a series of negative events, leaving an individual to wonder, What’s the point in trying? However, kabbalists teach that we have more control over events than we think; there is nothing helpless about us.

When we apply the wisdom of Kabbalah to our daily lives and see no results, helplessness can flood our minds. It doesn’t work, we think to ourselves, and all our good work seems pointless. These are simply reactive thoughts. Not only should we resist these thoughts, but we should resist even seeking results. Whenever we look for an outcome, we lose momentum by cutting off the positive mindset that draws in the Light. Suddenly, our focus changes from what we are sharing to what we are receiving.

The difference between how much we believe we can do and how much we can actually do depends a great deal on our state of mind. The feeling of helplessness comes as a result of negative thoughts and feelings that we allow to take over. But those thoughts and feelings can be changed. All it takes is consciousness. We control events in our lives by choosing the Light over negative feelings, thoughts and reactions. When we steer our thoughts towards the positive, we extinguish the negative. This is not always easy, especially when we experience repeated hardship or failure. It takes diligence and practice.

Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, the creative team that put together Chicken Soup for the Soul, were rejected 140 times before a publisher finally took a chance on their collection of inspirational stories. Steven Spielberg applied to the film school at USC twice without being accepted. He went on to graduate from Cal State Long Beach. Vincent Van Gogh only sold one painting in his lifetime, yet was prolific enough to complete over 800 pieces of artwork. His most valuable painting is priced at $142.7 million dollars. Clearly, these creative people experienced painful setbacks that might have led them off-course had they not placed mind over matter.

The following three exercises can help us reframe our perspectives and stave off helplessness so we can continue to embrace an energy of sharing.

First, identify a negative belief that you’d like to alter. For example, I’ll never get into medical school. Then mentally rewrite the thought as a positive affirmation: I am going to be accepted to a reputable medical program and have a rewarding career in medicine.

When you recite your new affirmation, take note of what thoughts and feelings come up. At first you may have a negative response. Remind yourself that this is just a reaction to an old belief that you are now releasing. Repeat your new affirmation daily, even multiple times a day if necessary. Over time, we can begin to internalize the affirmation and actually believe it, essentially unlearning helplessness.

By being proactive and reminding ourselves that what we think is reality is actually our perception, we can reroute our thoughts and thus the events in our lives. It’s very simple: Our thoughts dictate who we are and where we are headed in life.

We have the ability to be conduits for the Light of the Creator but only if we believe this is so. When the feeling of helplessness creeps up on us our job is to let go of that limited thinking. This is a choice we make every day. We are not defined by our shortcomings. Our constant consciousness should, therefore, be in resisting the feeling that there is little hope and little reason to try. There is a bigger picture that is falling into place, which includes other people, not just ourselves. In seeing that bigger picture, we can begin to unlearn the feeling of helplessness and begin to define a more positive path, one that is illuminated by the Light of the Creator.