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Helplessness: On Depression, Development and Death [Paperback]

Martin E. P. Seligman
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

8 May 1975
This volume demonstrates how learned helplessness develops and operates, and how it can lead to depression, anxiety, childhood failures, lack of motivation, and in extreme cases, sudden death. This is no "cure yourself" guide, but the theory Dr. Seligman presents does should offer hope, suggesting that depressed adults and children can "unlearn" helplessness and regain control of their environments. It offers important information for those who suffer from depression, their families, and anyone interested in one of the most pervasive of all psychological disturbances.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Product details

  • Paperback: 250 pages
  • Publisher: W.H.Freeman & Co Ltd (8 May 1975)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0716707519
  • ISBN-13: 978-0716707516
  • Product Dimensions: 22.4 x 14.7 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 369,587 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A concept too long ignored by our society 30 May 2009
By Peter Buckley VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book has consistently influenced me for many years. I read it in connection with my work, but have found the theory of Martin Seligman's of great personal benefit also. It deserves to be better known in the UK. If you are looking at the book having read one of the more recent books, I think this quote might explain its purpose. " Learned helplessness refers to three things: First, an environment in which some important outcome is beyond control, second, the response of giving up, and third, the expection that no voluntary action can control the outcome". Who has not been there at some point?
The case examples given are illuminating, if seemingly extreme, and question preconceptions. "In 1967 a woman entered Baltimore City Hospital a few days before her 23rd birthday. She and two other girls, born to different mothers assisted by the same midwife, in Florida on a Friday 13th. The midwife (voodoo?) cursed all three babies, saying that one would die before her 16th birthday, the second, before her 21st birthday, and the third, before her 23rd birthday. The first, at 15, had died in a car crash, the second was accidentally shot to death on the evening of her 21st birthday. Now she, the third, waited in terror for her own death. The hospital somewhat skeptically admitted her for observation. The next morning, two days before her 23rd birthday, she was found dead in her hospital bed, physical cause unknown."
This example alone demands an explanation. I accept this theory, of learned helplessness, to be the best possible, if not the only rational explanation. To quote Seligman: "Perhaps our modern self will come to see that its inordinate preoccupation with itself, while gratifying in the short run, is destructive of its well-being in the long run". Do not be put off by the textbook style, it is more than worth the effort, it certainly will change your thinking on the power of optimism.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Academic reference, with a good point 10 Jan 2008
Format:Hardcover
I was referred to this by Joel Spolsky's reading list. It is a serious book about a psychiatric condition and goes in to a level of detail that many readers will not need.

However, the basic point is a useful one; that people who don't have any control of their own situation and destiny will become depressed. This has pretty serious consequences for us in the 21st century where things are so complicated that an increasing number of us fall into that category.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good 20 Oct 2011
By chrysa
Format:Paperback
Just in time, in very good condition.I was very pleased by the service and the seller. I will definitely buy again especially books.
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Made me see a blind spot in myself 26 Jun 2012
By Mothra - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Disclaimer: I've only skimmed the book, but wanted to post a 5-star rating ASAP, because it opened my eyes. Hopefully others out there with similar issues will learn from this book too.

During the course of my skimming, I alighted upon a single passage describing the enrichment value of *control* in infant monkeys' environments. Those deprived of control over their environments, "do not explore and manipulate their world". My mother (a self-described "house freak") decorated my room. Not only was I not allowed to rearrange anything, I didn't realize until this year how unusual it was for a child not to have ANY say in their room's appearance. At age 51, THIS PASSAGE revealed to me that *I never have* "explore(d) and manipulate(d) my world". The option to do so never even hit me, despite the fact that numerous people throughout my life have commented on my lack of interest my surroundings--my office, my home, everything. This revelation about one of my blind spots *and* its possible sources was HUGE.

I borrowed this book from the library to determine whether or not to invest the $$$ and, more importantly, the scarce bookshelf space in it. I've just finished buying it from Amazon Marketplace.

There are more anecdotes about helplessness in this book than there are in Seligman's best-selling, _Learned Optimism_. Several of the specific anecdotes, rather than Seligman's summary, have proven to be enormously revealing to me about areas of helplessness in my own life that have existed for decades. I've grown entrenched in ignoring these blind spots and was shocked to discover them today. However, thanks to this book and to _Learned Optimism_, I am becoming more aware of the nature of the cell in which I have lived, ignorantly, for decades.

You can't escape from a prison if you don't know you're in one. Becoming aware of the size, location, and thickness of the walls of my prison WILL enable me to tear them down, if it's the last thing I do.

When my book arrives, I will read it through in detail and hope to update this review.
17 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good reading for a Psychologist or Clergyman 15 Oct 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Just for the readers information I am a Ministry and Theology freshman major in college. I choose this book to do a review on; and I gave the book the typical stereotype of being just another boring book about Psychology, but I was proven wrong. Martin E. P. Seligman uses many examples and explains what he writes for those of us who don't have a large vocabulary. If you need a book that explains the facts and opinions about helplessness, then Helplessness by Martin E. P. Seligman is the book for you.
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