Psychological Self-Help

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35
They had learned helplessness. Seligman said human depression with
its passivity and withdrawal might be due to "learned helplessness." 
This single study of dogs stirred enormous interest among
experimental psychologists who had heretofore ignored the ancient
idea of hopelessness. Amazing. However, I think we are seeing the
potential of research to slowly clarify and validate an idea. For
example, within a few years the "helplessness" theory was being
questioned because many people in helpless circumstances do not
become depressed and because this theory does not explain the guilt,
shame, and self-blame that often accompanies depression. How can
you feel helpless, i.e. without any ability to control what happens, and,
at the same time, feel at fault and guilty about what happened
(Carson & Adams, 1981)? 
A few years later, attribution and/or cognitive theory (Abramson,
Seligman, & Teasdale, 1978) came to the rescue with the reformulated
helplessness theory. This suggests that the depressed person thinks
the cause is internal ("it's my fault"), stable ("things can't change"),
and global ("this affects everything"). This is a very different theory
(no experimentalist had ever theorized that the dogs blamed
themselves). But soon there were more problems, e.g. research
showed that most depressed people, like dogs, see the causes of their
depression as being outside forces, not themselves (Costello, 1982).
Moreover, both the hopeless self-blamer and the hopeful self-helper
see the causes of their behavior and feelings as being internal. So,
internal causes may lead to optimism as well as pessimism. And,
finally again, how do we know that the feelings of helplessness or
hopelessness precede and cause depression rather than just being a
natural part of feeling depressed? 
To deal with some of these difficulties, Abramson, Metalsky, &
Alloy (1989) modified the helplessness theory into a still broader
hopelessness theory. The more complex hopelessness theory contends
that prior to becoming hopeless the person has (a) a negative
cognitive or attribution style (see next two theories) and (b) some
unfortunate, stressful experience. Because both of these factors are
involved, some people with depression-prone thinking don't become
depressed (by avoiding traumatic experiences) and some people go
through awful experiences without getting depressed (by avoiding
negative thinking). The hopeless person expects bad things will
happen in important areas of his/her life (pessimism) and/or that
hoped for good things will not happen, and he/she doesn't expect
anything to change that miserable situation. 
Considerable research has supported parts of the hopelessness
theory. For example, Metalsky & Joiner (1992) found that three
cognitive views: (a) attributing bad events to unavoidable and far-
reaching causes, (b) drawing negative conclusions about yourself from
a negative event ("it means I'm worthless"), and (c) assuming one bad
event will lead to others in the future, when combined with high
stress, are associated with depression. In another study, they found
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