From: Andrew Phelps <>


Sent: Sun Dec 30 12:35 -0800

Subject: Re: [RadPsyNet-Members] Messages of Hopelessness



On Sun Dec 30 11:10 -0800, Ttt sent:

How could "Learned Helplessness" ever be "good treatment"? It destroys a person's hope. It's like the experiment with the rat in a large tank of water. It could only swim up to six hours before it drowned but if you took it out for a few minutes every hour, it could swim up to 60 hours because each time it had hope that you wouldn't throw it back.

I have B.A. in Psychology (U.C. Berkeley, 1977) but in fact I learned that that advocacy was 'commonplace' in Tolman Hall (home of the Psych. Dept.). Even though Tolman had (historically) engaged rats from a different perspective, more akin to yours.

The actual read goes to the dog that was tortured, courtesy Martin Seligman.

My lived experience as an advocate was that many behavior managers and admins justified "treatment" regimes based on that original advocacy.

Later Seligman himself "backed down" and created a "positive psychology" approach that involved challenging the "learned helplessness" paradigm.

HOPE is one of the strongest motivators there is. Probably the next strongest motivator is the person's attitude about him/her self.

And you are a "radical" when it comes to behavior management. What you said here does IMHO go to the "root" of some of the concerns raised.

I went in and wrote WABI on the blackboard and explained to them that it is a Japanese word that doesn’t translate to English. It means that a work of art contains a flaw that makes it a priceless to collectors.

The difficult that PsySR experiences is worthy of analytic. What I was describing is the "creative maladjustment" of psychologists learning to engage the problematic of retraumatization, due to application of the "social responsibility" ethic. There's more complexity to social change than that (excellent) experience of the WABI. I think I posted on another list that I had a (math) student last summer who was in Fukushima at the time of the tsunami: He explained that he had quite a bit to think about.


ABO "Andrew Behavior Object"