Causes Of Stress: Resignation

by Doc Orman, M.D.

This week, I’m going to highlight three very common causes of human stress: 

  • Resignation
  • Hope
  • Blame 

In this post, I want to talk about resignation

Resignation is a form of negative thinking.  When we are resigned, we believe nothing we (or anyone else) could do would make any difference to improve a difficult problem or situation we may be facing.  Sometimes, we can be resigned about a specific problem or set of problems we are facing, when we otherwise maintain more optimistic views about life. But for some people, resignation and hopelessness can be much more global. People who suffer from this type of pervasive resignation are almost always pessimistic and are frequently depressed. 

Resignation Is Rarely Justified 

As a form of negative thinking, resignation is rarely, if ever, truly justified.  Most problems in life do have solutions—either immediate ones, or ones that could be realized in the future.  However, if you believe there are no possible solutions, it may be very hard to find them. 

Even worse, many people who suffer from resignation believe they have accumulated lots of personal “evidence” throughout their lives to support their pessimistic viewpoints.  They may have valiantly tried to solve some major problems with little or no success.  They may have also heard stories from others, who were also unsuccessful at solving similar types of problems. 

But to take these experiences (both your own and others’) as proof that no solution is possible is a common error in reasoning that many people make. 

Where Are You Resigned In Your Life? 

Are there any pockets of resignation you may be harboring in your life?  Are you resigned about things like: 

  • Losing weight?
  • Exercising regularly?
  • Being happy?
  • Being successful?
  • Improving your relationships?
  • Improving certain illnesses you might have?
  • Politics?
  • Poverty?
  • World hunger? 

If you are, your resignation may not be justified.  There are solutions available today for many of these problems. And just because solutions may not be readily available today for some of them, doesn’t mean that solutions couldn’t be discovered or created in the future. 

Learned Helplessness   

Psychologists have investigated the phenomenon of human resignation and have related it to an experimental condition called learned helplessness 

For example, experiments have been done with rats and other laboratory animals, who were confined in specially designed cages.  A clear plastic partition was placed in the middle of the cage, with the animal trapped on one side and an attractive type of food on the other.  The smell of the food was allowed to reach the animal, but when it attempted to consume the food, it was blocked from reaching it by the invisible clear partition. 

As the test animals became more and more hungry, and more and more frustrated in their attempts to reach the food, the researchers waited until it appeared that the animals had “given up” and were no longer trying to get to the food.  Then, they removed the invisible partition and observed what happened. 

Consistently, the animals refused to go after the food, even though they were no longer blocked from reaching it.  Psychologists called this behavior learned helplessness, and they speculated that the same thing often happens for human beings. 

So always be suspicious when you find yourself held back by resignation.  Keep searching for solutions to your problems, even if you think that no solutions are possible.  More often than not, you’ll find out that your automatic negative assumptions tend to frequently be wrong.



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