Friday, 23 November 2018

Learned Helplessness


There's a theory about learned helplessness, put forward by Seligman, a researcher into human behaviour, which teaches that as long as minimum requirements are met, many (most?) people are willing to put up with conditions they feel they can't escape from.  Of course, sometimes they really can't escape. A hostage with a violent, volatile captor does their best to avoid being noticed. They may empathise with their captor, appease them in some way and hope to avoid more pain. Or they may bide their time and wait for a chance to escape.

In my book THE MARSH PEOPLE,  published by Victorina Press, Scummo leaves the soulless city he has lived in for most of his adult life, taking with him a child.  Recently there have been some news items about newborn babies having immediate skin contact with their mothers and the fact that this contact aids lactation, bonding and emotional well-being, and I know from my own experience that many psychological and physical processes are begun by this simple act of touching, holding, in effect bonding, with a baby, even if it's not your own.

My first baby, born distressed by the use of forceps and having his cord round his neck, was taken away for 'cot rest' for the night. In pain and half doped, I tried to get to him, desperate with a primitive, instinctive urge to reach him, touch him, hold him. I was led back to bed and he was brought to me, but later when a doctor took a sample of blood and pricked his heel, I had to fight  the impulse to batter her. Instincts are there to be noticed and at that moment I became illogical, irrational and overwhelmed by a primitive instinct that welled up and would not be denied.

Scummo, in my story, has an instinctive need to care for this little girl, who represents something of his past - his own mother, perhaps. Something in him is awakened and responds to her need.

If it's a choice between sink or swim, the characters in THE MARSH PEOPLE know that their survival depends on them pitting their wits against the Masters and upholding their right to be free men, no matter what. And the women, with their protective, nurturing, natures are essential for the  survival of the tribe.

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