Cognitive Pearls #046 Shevat 23, 5775 February 12, 15

Without going into the whole story of Martin Seligman’s experiments on learned helplessness, suffice it to say that our epistemological drive leads into that terrible state. Whether we are those pathetic dogs in Seligman’s laboratory or our poor ancestors enslaved in Egypt, we become trapped by the stories we tell ourselves. Granted that there are always very persuasive (what some might call ‘real’) circumstances, there is always room for choice, even if that choice is a change of attitude towards that which beyond our control.  Our central task as cognitive therapists is to offer a beacon of possibility out of these stories, to make room for some magic.

I’ll close with one of my favorite quotes from the great Victor Frankl, reflecting the grandeur of human possibility:

We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms-to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.