Friday, July 8, 2016


Learned helplessness is behavior typical of an organism (human or animal) that has endured repeated painful or otherwise aversive stimuli which it was unable to escape or avoid. After such experience, the organism often fails to learn escape or avoidance in new situations where such behavior would be effective. In other words, the organism seems to have learned that it is helpless in aversive situations, that it has lost control, and so it gives up trying. Such an organism is said to have acquired learned helplessness. Learned helplessness theory is the view that clinical depression and related mental illnesses may result from such real or perceived absence of control over the outcome of a situation.
Recent cases like Alton Sterling and Philandro Castile - fatal police shootings in which the victim was non-violent or out and out law-abiding - are horrific in themselves. There's probably ripple effects beyond that. Psychological effects. The actual odds of being in a violent confrontation with police may be low, statistically. But there's no way for some Americans to assure they won't be singled out. And then it's out of their hands. It's not a healthy situation, not for anyone.


susan said...

My opinion is that police used to be normal people with a desire to help. While there have always been some who used excessive violence it seems much more evident now than in previous decades. Most people who join police forces these days have graduated from military service where respect for local people has been either lax or non-existent. Then too, the old saying ‘as above, so below’ is another factor; when our leaders act with impunity it would be remarkable if the police force didn’t follow their example.

It's one of those subjects ripe for long conversation, isn't it?

Ben said...

I'm sure there are many factors. There's also an "as below, so above" pattern. Waves of hysteria over drugs and terrorism may make average citizens feel they have to go along with things they otherwise wouldn't, while police feel empowered and maybe obligated to ignore any limits on their power. Of course old fashioned racism can't be ignored either.

It could be ripe for conversation, but I feel I'd veer off into another topic before too long.