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Caught in resignation

Life means constant development and sometimes just struggle. This applies not only to adults but is especially true for young people. They must first find their place in society and then define and claim their position within their own circle of friends again and again. It is not really surprising that many people, in the face of daily challenges, eventually run out of the desire to make this happening. You feel overwhelmed and helpless from all those trials and tribulations of life. In psychology, there is a term for this state of mind: resignation. But what is resignation exactly - and what makes it so dangerous, especially for children and adolescents?

Resignation - Burnout - Anxiety - Depression
Resignation - Burnout - Anxiety - Depression
©: shootingankauf - Fotolia

The term resignation derives from Latin, from "re-signare" what was formerly a capitulation to war opponents. However, taken exactly literally "re-signare" means "remove its signature." Thus, the term was also used to revoke the signature from a contract, and thus withdraw from it.

Today, when we speak of resignation we primarily mean a psychological phenomenon in which the person concerned carries a sense of “giving in, succumbing” regarding a hopeless and inevitable situation. As a result, he lacks drive that can be expressed in either wrath or unusual calmness.

The concept of "learned helplessness."

In the 1970s the American sociopsychologist, Martin Seligmann examined the background and the expression of resignation in detail. In this context, he also coined the term impotence syndrome, which he described to as "learned helplessness". It is about people who are convinced of not being able to change anything in any given situation. This learned helplessness entails several psychological disorders that can be predicted and defined as follows:

Loss of motivation

Resignation equals passivity. Seeligmann found that if the events are uncontrollable the affected person is liable to passivity. He loses the motivation, to at least trying to influence his situation positively. The heightened form of this passivity is apathy in which the person concerned hardly or no longer perceives changes about his situation or his entire environment.

Learning disability

The loss of motivation and subsequent passivity also ensures that the person concerned is no longer able to learn new things, solutions, etc.. He eventually develops more passivity, which creates a vicious circle or the so-called a self-fulfilling prophecy. Therefore, some learning disabilities are rather psychological.

Anxiety & Depression

The increasing sense of hopelessness and the assumption, not being able to change the situation, initially express itself by fear. With progressive intensity, it creates the so-called depression hopelessness, in which the person completely gives in to his fate.

Symptoms of resignation (the helplessness syndrome) in children and adolescents

In this day and age children and young people often feel overwhelmed. The school requires more and greater performance, and even the private life of some students resembles more that of a midsize company manager.

No wonder then that more and more children and young people show symptoms that suggest a resignation with all its consequences. These symptoms may be as follows:

  • Your child withdraws and speaks only with you.

  • Previously enjoyed recreational activities are suddenly neglected.

  • The child breaks off contact with friends.

  • The decline of school performance.

  • Loss of appetite and or weight loss.

  • Your child neglects his appearance.

If you notice any of these signs or several of them in your child, this could be resignation, but, of course, it does not have to be just that.

The reasons

Basically: Some people are more prone to resignation and helplessness than others. This depends on the corresponding genes, as well as on the experience gained so far through life.

By the way: Exactly these genes and experiences are also capable of having a positive influence on people and make them optimists. However, the optimist might not necessarily have that much impact on his situation, as one might think. However, the optimist is open to experiences that enable him to exactly figuring this out. -Pessimism, on the other hand, prevents new experiences because the person concerned withdraws in resignation and loses all motivation. Thereby the pessimist indeed prevents further failures, but also successes. In summary, it can be stated: Optimists have more failures, but are also more successful.

How to counteract the discouragement in your child

You can do a lot in advance so that your child does not even come in the risk of suffering from resignation, hopelessness, and depression. Particularly important: Always keep a dialog with your child. Talk to him, talk to him about specific situations and give him the chance to tell you what is going on in his life, what his recent challenges are. Build on your mutual trust, encourage him and let him know that you value his achievements. Once a task is completed, you should not hold back on with praise - but only then! Too much praise or praise at the wrong time loses its effect and can have a reversed effect.

Explain to your child that most failures usually are based on changeable causes. Concretely this means: A task could be too difficult, you simply had bad luck, or you were in a bad shape on that particular day. These are all factors you just cannot generalize. Therefore, you can be in a perfectly good mood again for your next tasks. Not changeable causes the other hand would be a lack of talent, for example, or lack of ability to cope with a task. It is important that the child does not get the feeling that his failure was due to any of such factors.

However, if your child is already too deep into the above-described situation and suffers from a resignation, you can get help through an appropriate therapy with a psychotherapist. Experts agree: Positive thinking and optimism can be learned and trained!

Youth Work: Dealing with children who resign too soon

Surely every youth worker has experienced a child in the youth group, which resigned quicker than other children. The child might be reluctant or even evade a task because it doesn’t trust himself enough. Some youth worker might blame that on "laziness" or "the child can’t be bothered". However, it is also possible that we are dealing here with a child, which just doesn’t have as much courage as others do. In order not to attract any whatsoever attention the child avoids the situation entirely. Alternatively, he might stop whatever he is doing, even walks away saying, "I'm tired."

You can help the child by encouraging him not to give up. If something doesn’t work out the way it was planned, refrain from criticizing the child negatively. To learn from failure means not to give up and create a sense of achievement. This is what those children and young people would need to get out of their resignation, this feeling; I can’t do that; that will never work.

[ © | 2000 Games and Ideas for Youth Work ] - 2000 Games and Ideas for Youth Work
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