Look around you. Almost everyone is miserable. And generation after generation of people have remained miserable too. It is so rare to find someone who is not miserable that it seems unbelievable to run into anyone who is happy for any length of time. People are in general so miserable and they are tangled in it so deeply, that don’t believe that any escape is possible. So like a deer stuck in a hunter’s trap, they sit and engage in learned helplessness.
This reminds me of a popular Psychology experiment where there was a floor that could pass an electrical charge at certain points. Then a dog would be placed in the room. Then the part of the floor he was on would give him an electric shock. Naturally, he would jump to another place in the room which did not have a “shocking” floor. Next, the experimenter would shock the floor the dog was now placed on. Of course, the dog would jump again. After a short time, the dog would just stop trying to avoid the electricity and sit there and absorb the shock and the resulting pain. Even if all the other spots on the floor where not “shocked”, he would still not move.
In Psychology textbooks, they termed this behavior as “learned helplessness”. The dogs concluded that there was nothing they could do to help their own situation, so they gave up and became too depressed to even exert any effort to escape the situation. This behavior can be ascribed to human beings easily today. Most Americans feel trapped and helpless in their situation, and just as the dogs in the experiment, developed learned helplessness.
Recall Sigmund Freud, who committed suicide by asking a fellow physician friend to administer a lethal dose of morphine to him. After being one of the most learned men in history, he concluded at the end of his life regarding human existence, “Life as we find it is too difficult for us. It involves too many disappointments, impossible tasks…” Freud declared that by man’s very nature, he cannot be happy, so he basically told us all to give up hope. His conclusion was not that of some philosopher. It was his own observation of thousand of patients that led him to his conclusions. Freud was not born a pessimist.
Rather, after observing thousands of humans, and writing down everything about them, he discovered that people are made in such a way/ or raised in such a way that modern man has a built in process… like a machine… that spits out unhappiness in the way that society is structured to be. At most, Freud noted that people can be content, but lasting happiness would be impossible. Through science, political change, a rising Dow Jones Industrial Average, maybe man can at best become a bit more “convenient”… but to be at peace? To be serene? That is just a dream. Unless you choose to change your mind and thus change your life in a way that is not in the manner that everyone else engages in.