Creativity’s Terrain, Part 2: Minimize the Toxicity of Learned-Helplessness

You have less control over your environment and the environment in which your children grow than you think. The variables are infinite. For two weeks I’m writing about Creativity’s Terrain and the variables you can control. Yesterday I wrote about Apathy.

My 11 yr. old sits on her hands on a standard issue metal chair, kicking her feet.  She isn’t on the blue mats kicking along in Taekwondo class with her siblings, because I won’t let her join. 

This class is for my 6 yr. old. She swallowed a deep fear of strange men one day, when we waited for the 11 yr. old to come out of art class nearby. Standing at the open door of a Taekwondo studio, she watched and she introduced herself to the Master when he paused his practice.  She knew to call him Master from the movies. She even almost bowed.  She said,

Master. Could you show me some moves?

So, he took her on as a student for one free hour, after which she ran exuberant to hug me and ask,

Could I please, mom, please take Taekwondo? Please?

Of course I said, Yes!

It kills me to say no to my older daughter, but the 6 yr. old needs respite from the sometimes toxic, competition with her faster, stronger, quick-to-learn sibling.  Her chance to fly unencumbered, to focus on what she is capable of instead of how little she can do,  is too rare to pass up.  She knows it, too, because she said,

Frankie. How about you learn Karate?  Or another Martial Art? You can show us your moves and I can show off mine!

This solution seemed to satisfy all.

You cannot control each situation a child encounters or how he will respond. You cannot live entirely toxin free.  Sometimes what is toxic in one case, is fertilizer for growth in a different situation.  But the toxicity of a given situation is clarified by its effect: learned helplessness, and that, with love and planning, can be minimized. Learned helplessness can sometimes even be overcome.

Feelings of helplessness trigger GABA receptors in the central nervous system and may lead to depression.

Depression is the opposite of Creation.

Depression actually shrinks the hippocampus, the brain structure that channels signals between the right and left hemispheres of your brain. A healthy hippocampus allows you to connect ideas, images and feelings to language.  It allows you to Create.

Minimizing situations in which you or your child learns helplessness opens you both up to Creativity.

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