Have You Learned to be Helpless?

Suppose you were asked “Do you want to learn how to make more money than you are currently earning? What would your first reaction be? What did “that voice” in your head first say?

Was it there must be a trick or you must be a crook to make money or it couldn’t be THAT easy?

That voice in your head can help you or hinder you in EVERY aspect of your life. How many times have you intellectually known you could do something, and you didn’t go ahead without knowing why? Was it just “because”, or did a little voice remind you that you had tried things like that before and they hadn’t worked, or your 2nd cousin’s wife tried to do that and she lost her life savings? Or, I never finished high school and I’m not really that smart?There are so many programs out there showing people how to change their lives, make more money through investing in shares, property development or trading. The knowledge is freely available; the training is regularly presented by amazingly successful people. Then, why is it that the majority of people don’t go on to learn these skills and utilize them in their own lives?

This little voice can sometimes hinder you in one aspect, but help you in another. The idea is to master that voice and become the commander rather than the commanded.

Have you heard the story of the baby elephants?

Elephants in captivity learn their place in the world, their “limitations” as a baby. A heavy metal chain is attached to their back leg, so they can’t wander away. Elephants are very intelligent creatures, and after struggling with the chain for a while, the baby elephant quickly learns that struggling not only causes pain, but they cannot get loose. The baby elephant finds that they can move only as far as the length of chain allows. Eventually, they will grow tired of pulling at the chain and stop trying altogether.

As an adult, the chain used is much lighter, and even though this adult elephant is capable of easily pulling out the stake and chain, it has been conditioned to accept a limitation on its freedom! The mature elephant has learned the lesson well: the chain limits their experience of the world.This limitation is securely installed in the elephant’s brain as a conditioned response, or a “belief”.

Have there been times in your life as an adult that you have allowed yourself to be shackled to a childhood belief? You may have become your limitations. You have learned the lesson well – just like the baby elephant.

If you say “I can’t handle this”, you more likely can’t. This is because your subconscious mind tends to believe the thoughts it hears. You can limit your abilities by telling yourself you “can’t”, that “this is too hard” or that you “shouldn’t even try”.

When you tell yourself you can’t handle something (or some other self-limiting thought), you tend to stop looking for solutions. For example, notice the difference between telling yourself you can’t handle something and asking yourself how you will handle something. Doesn’t the second thought feel better and produce more creativity? Negative self talk tends to be a self-fulfilling prophecy!

How would you like to learn how to master that voice, and recognize the beliefs that have been holding you back?

First of all, you need to take notice of your self-talk. Most people are unaware that this talk goes on in their head constantly. Take notice of what you are saying and also how you say it. This is extremely important. How often have the words spoken been negated by the tone in the voice or the body positioning? Is your self talk critical of yourself or others? Do you complain about your life and what others have done to you to “make ” your life miserable?

Also listen to the thoughts you speak, and share with others. Do you talk about being “at the end of your tether?”, or do you always get tongue tied when you are speaking to some-one in authority, or say that people who are living a fulfilled life have all the luck?

How is this voice treating you? If one of your friends or work colleagues continually spoke to you in this manner, what would you do? Most likely you would limit the time you spend with that person. However, your voice is with you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 12 months of the year. Unless you train that voice to be kind to you, the voice will rule you.

Some of words coming from your self talk may have come from early childhood. You may not even consciously remember these incidents, but your unconscious mind does, and replays those tapes in your head over and over. Your father may have said, “You will never amount to anything”, “Work hard at your job, and you will be successful”, “You are just like your mother”. These memories have a powerful impact on your moods and attitudes in life without you being consciously aware of it. In effect you don’t need those people to tell you what to do anymore, they are living inside your own head!!!

Negative self-talk can be debilitating, and until you become aware of it, the tapes play in the background and affect everything in your world.

So, what can you do about these limitations and negative self-talk?

First of all, recognize that all people have some type of self-talk going on in their head. The difference is the type of self-talk they listen to.

To begin with, you must become aware of the self-talk. Many people are not really conscious of what is being said, until they stop and listen. Begin to pay attention to what you think. Notice any repetitive thoughts.

Next comes the understanding that you do not have to react to these thoughts in the same way. You have a choice. You may listen and act on the negative thought as you have in the past or you may choose to do something different.

A simple way of starting to make the change is when you notice negative self-talk, you can alter these thoughts by saying to yourself “Stop”. It is best to say this aloud because this makes you more aware of how many times you are having negative thoughts, and the situations in which they are arising.

Some people wear an elastic band around their wrist and pull on it every time a negative thought enters their mind. This action may hurt a little bit, but will also help you become more aware of your thoughts. You are starting to train your mind to limit these negative thoughts. Replacing the negative self -talk with different words can have a huge impact. Remember, everyone has self-talk, there are just different types, some very negative and some very positive.

Try using less emotive words. The words, “hate, anger, pain, and suffering” have an immediate negative affect on most people. Try replacing these types of words with milder wording like annoyed and discomfort. These milder words cause less emotion in your mind.

When a seemingly annoying event occurs, you know the ones, where you immediately become angry, stop and think (Maybe you need to say stop and pull on the rubber band!). See if you can come up with a neutral or positive replacement thought.

Another method of changing this negative talk is to change your statements into questions. When you find yourself saying things like “I can’t handle this anymore!” or “I’ll never be able to do this” your mind actually stops looking for solutions to the situation. Why not change the statement into “How can I handle this?” or “How can I do this?” This opens up your imagination to new solutions and possibilities.

You may also help yourself develop more positive self-talk by bringing positive energy into your life. Be aware of the people you are spending your time with, and listen to the words they use. Are they providing you with a positive or negative feeling? Do you feel good being around them, or are they bringing you further down by their negativity.

Changing self-talk may bring enormous changes to your results. The methods may seem simple, but most things in life are, as long as you do “those simple things”. Try it and see if it makes a difference to you.

About Brenda

Read more about Brenda on the About Brenda Freeman page.
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69 Responses to Have You Learned to be Helpless?

  1. Fatima says:

    Hi, I just heard your site being promoted on a radio show! Awesome job. Your information is excellent and I have added you in bookmarks.

  2. diana says:

    I just wanted to let you know I like your site, and have enjoyed reading your posts. Thank you very much.

  3. Dianne says:

    Thanks for the reminder. Sometimes I do things and then wonder why I did them and realize its because my Mom and I have always done it that way. Talk about Learned Helplessness

    • Brenda says:

      Recognition is the first step Dianne.

      Not everything we do from habit is wrong, but simply by recognizing these habits and evaluating whether we want to keep them in our lives or not is extremely liberating

  4. george says:

    What a refreshing way to look at this concept. We have all learned to be helpless in certain situations. Time for me to stop and reflect.

  5. Catlain says:

    I twittered this – fantastic post

  6. Jaquelyn says:

    This is a great post. I especially liked the story about the elephants. It made me think about some of the things I think I can’t do – maybe I can

  7. brayden says:

    This is a fantastic post – It made me stop and think about the things I do. Maybe I have become the Baby Elephant?

  8. Lucas says:

    I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I kept following what I was doing when I was younger. Just followed the group – told what to do, what to say, what to think. It was difficult to leave that type of life, but I have learned so much, and realized that people are just people no matter what religion, what color and what age. A pretty good lesson learned for me.

  9. Solomon says:

    I think your article was a solid start to a potential series of posts about this topic. A lot of people pretend to comprehend what they’re talking about when it comes to this stuff and most of the time, hardly anyone actually get it. You seem to understand it however, so I think you need to start writing more.

    • Brenda says:

      Thank you Solomon. I appreciate your comments. Our habits can appear to be complex, but once we recognize them and make a decision to change – the difficult becomes simple

  10. Rose says:

    We really like what you write about. We try and visit your blog every day, so keep up the good posts!

  11. Chrissy says:

    I’ve really noticed the voice in my head speaking out. I thought I would try and get it under control. Thanks for this article. It helped. (The voice in my head told me!)

  12. Sammy says:

    This article touched me. Thank you.

  13. Robyn says:

    Fantatstic post! I’m going to share it with my friends! I just loved it.

    • Brenda says:

      Thank you Robyn. I appreciate you sharing this post…a simple but very effective message and reminder to us all to be aware of what we are telling ourselves

  14. Sue Mitchell says:

    I agree with everyone else that this is an important post. I had never heard that about elephants…it’s a great analogy to what we do with our self-talk.

    I love your suggestion of changing “I can’t ___” to “How can I ___?” It’s important to remember, too, that when we ask ourselves questions like that, we don’t necessarily need to answer instantly. We can mull it over and let our subconscious work on it for a while. Eventually, the way becomes clear.

    Another great way to rephrase our self-talk is to consider what we would say to a dear friend or our child in the same situation, and then say that to ourselves!

  15. Brenda says:

    Great suggestions thank you Sue.

    Like with everything in self development, people need to determine what best suits them. Gather as much information as possible, and most importantly….ACT….Do something different and evaluate your daily thoughts

  16. Samuel says:

    Great post Brenda! I love this post! Your post really touched me! I need to bookmark your blog. Keep the good work up. Thanks a lot. Have fun.

  17. Aloha Brenda, very well thought out and presented. I like the elephant analogy, it sorta reminds me of the captivated flea in a bottle, was conditioned over time and resisted to escape, due to hitting the top of the lid. I know this can relate to a lot of us, being conditioned with time from child to adult. And hopefully we break the habits that doesn’t help us in life. I enjoyed your post. Thanks for sharing! Lanikee.com

    PS..come by and visit me and leave me a sweet comment. The benefits are sharing is caring. Mahalo! 🙂

  18. Michael says:

    Hi Brenda

    First of all thanks for taking the time to visit my blog and leaving a comment. You have a blog that immediately says welcome and from what I can tell a very supportive and enthusiastic community.

    I enjoyed reading this post immensely. The analogy is terrific and your advice on how to fine tune our self talk by limiting our use of words like ‘hate, anger, pain,’ et.al is right on the money.

    Talk soon


    • Thank you for your kind words Michael. I also loved the elephant analogy, and it something that I remind myself of regularly.

      Words are powerful, and so I would like to thank you for sharing your thoughts on my site. Welcome and I will look forward to you visiting again soon.

  19. Pingback: Bumping Around — This Eclectic Life

  20. Scott Simson says:

    Great post Brenda! I absolutely agree with you. Change your thoughts and you will change your life! Thanks.

  21. Hi Brenda,

    I enjoyed the baby elephant analogy. So true it is.

    Taking close inventory of our thoughts is the BIGGEST SECRET to accomplishing ANYTHING! It’s important to learn what thoughts “deserve to be entertained”… and which ones we should “kick out” upon arrival.

    Great post. I’ll be passing it along 🙂

    • Thank you Roshanda. I like your words “about learning which thoughts deserve to be entertained and which ones should be kicked out upon arrival” Always be on the alert which thoughts you open your mind to 🙂

  22. Val Wilcox says:

    Great subject. I had heard this before, yet it is always a great reminder. 🙂 We are not always aware of how destructive those simple thoughts can be to our over-all well-bring. Limits are self inflicted, not placed there by anyone else but us. I like the idea of the rubber band on the wrist. It truly brings attention to the words we speak to ourselves.

    Keeping awareness on our emotions helps us to gauge when our thoughts turn downward. If we are happy, our thoughts are encouraging and good. When we are discontent, our negative thoughts are coming to the fore front. I like your explanations of balancing it all out.
    Val 🙂

    • Thank you Val. I agree “we are not always aware of how destructive simple thoughts can be to our over-all well-being”.

      I appreciate your insightful information here and on your own site. Thank you.

  23. I love your web site Brenda! I am going through a rough time dealing with my sister right now, and your articles have been very helpful.


  24. linda says:

    Hey, this really opened my eyes to things I have been doing also. Now time to take action and bring some changes to my life. Thank you

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    I just wanted to drop a comment and let you know I really enjoy coming to your website! I can tell you put a lot of effort and hard work into it. Thank you 🙂 Cheers

  27. Olive says:

    This made me stop and think about what I have been doing – thank you

  28. Joseph says:


  29. Cherie says:

    Its like you have read my mind! I related to this story so much – thank you

  30. Candy says:

    I like reading your site! This article in particular hit the right buttons for me. Yikes

  31. Erika says:

    Ouch – this hit home

  32. Yvonne says:

    Yes – I was someone who allowed another person to take away my ability to make decisions on my own. It took me many years to realise it wasn’t them but me that allowed this to happen

  33. pam says:

    I recently came across your site and have gone through and read nearly all your old posts. Great reading – thank you

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    Sending a smile. 🙂

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  42. Alisha says:

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