on learned helplessness: feel safer in an SUV?

upside down samurai

Quite ironic, isn't it, that some folks will buy an SUV because they want to feel safer?

This is like one of those stupid pet tricks.

Actually, says Dave Pollard, it's learned helplessness (via how to save the world).

You know, that "exaggerated feeling of lack of control, of enormous danger, of inability to respond to danger, that comes from repeated exposure to actual or apparent threats."

Pollard notes a compelling analysis by Malcolm Gladwell on this topic that focuses on our limited ability (as Americans) to "put risks, dangers and fears in proper perspective, especially when they hit close to home."

So, if you're afflicted with helplessness syndrome, how do you unlearn it? Pollard shows three ways.

  1. We could try getting our facts straight, says Pollard...starting with SUVs and safety.
  2. We could also try empowering ourselves, say, by reducing the risks we face -- once we've properly accounted for them.
  3. Oh, and, somewhere in that process, we're likely to learn more about how the world actually works (not the foxy fear-based models).

Says Pollard:

"The more you know about the systems that govern much of our lives, the more you will realize that it's less harmful than you feared and less in control (especially in a crisis) than you might hope. Learn especially about the power of communities working in common cause."

I love Pollard's tongue-in-cheek stuff, and commend to you his longer piece that includes some typically insightful chart material on 'life skills'. (Yeah, that's how you 'save the world'...)

Published by Ken on January 26th, 2007 tagged Systems Thinking

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