“Do you believe, “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself?” This frustration comes when others don’t do it “the right way,” which is basically our way. Unknowingly, we are creating learned helplessness in others because we aren’t willing or able to release control, fear, and perfection. We had an initial look at learned helplessness with a focus on the workplace in Episode 11, but today we’re navigating even deeper, especially to help parents better manage the time and encourage the talents and skills of children. Arlene and Crystal Clay help us determine if we already are in a learned helplessness cycle. And if we have, Crystal teaches how to break free from it because learned helplessness can trickle down to the next generations. Before that becomes the legacy you pass on, tune in and learn how to cut it off to better your life and the lives of those around you! Learned helplessness feeds on a ground where growth is stifled. Protect yourself and your immediate and extended family by growing together toward fuller, happier lives.
“Use this time to grow together before you go together.” -Crystal Clay
00:32 Getting Stuffs Done the “Mom’s Way”
04:46 Learned Helplessness in Action
06:45 How to Break Free From Learned Helplessness
12:32 How to Identify Your Triggers
16:49 Potential Accountability Partners
20:52 What Comes After “Sorry”
22:16 Listening versus Hearing
33:59 Protect The Next Generation for learned Helplessness
37:28 Grow Together
Did you know “learned helplessness” manifests itself in many ways? Join @arlene_gale and leadership expert, Crystal Clay to identify learned helplessness in ourselves and break free from the cycle. #BookWritingBusiness #BusinessBuildingBooks… Click To Tweet
05:52 “Rather than enabling incompetence for other people, empower people to feel confident in themselves, teach them that they are able to do it.” -Crystal Clay
12:08 “Make sure that your intentions and your impact are aligned.” -Crystal Clay
18:56 “A lot of our language comes from having good intentions in terms of what we’re communicating, but the way in which we communicate has a negative impact.” -Crystal Clay
19:48 “You can’t argue with how somebody feels.” -Crystal Clay
20:10 “When you begin to de-escalate the situation and are able to express yourself in a way that communicates your feelings rather than communicates judgment, then you have more of a sense of listening and the person can hear you better.” -Crystal Clay
22:10 “If we stop to listen, we’ll find that we have more in common than not.” -Arlene Gale
22:34 “You can listen and wait for the right time to jump in to respond, or you can listen to hear the person’s heart.” -Crystal Clay
29:25 “In order to move from a learned helplessness stance, shift to a peacemaker stance.” -Crystal Clay
31:48 “Just to say that you’re okay is not okay when internally you are in turmoil.” -Crystal Clay
40:36 “Use the time to grow together before you go together.” -Crystal Clay
Connect with Crystal:
Crystal Clay is the founder of Olive Branch Consulting. She is an Executive Coach, Facilitator, and Consultant. Crystal is committed to extending growth and development support to individuals and organizations in alignment with their business, personal, and career goals. She partners with leaders to enhance leadership effectiveness as they impact their teams, organizations, and communities. Crystal’s experience spans the financial services industry, public sector, non-profit, faith, and educational institutions in North America to include Bermuda, U.S., and Canada. She is passionate about Women’s Leadership and is committed to empowering women at various stages and ages to leverage their strengths to fulfill their dreams and thrive in their full potential.
Arlene Gale: Hi everybody, welcome to Mindset Meets Mastery with Arlene Gale. And I’m wondering, have any of you said or heard this quote, “If You Want Something Done Right, You Gotta Do It Yourself.” Yeah, well, I was having a conversation with a friend a couple days ago who was really upset because her children were lying around the living room doing nothing. And there were dishes in the sink, and there were piles of laundry that needed to be done, the goldfish tank needed to be changed, the hamster needed to be taken care of, all of these things around her, and the more things piled up, the more upset she got. And I just asked like: “Well, why don’t you get the kids up to do something? Teach the kids to load the dishwasher, teach the kids to sort laundry and put it in the washing machine.” And that’s what she said to me, “If You Want Something Done Right, You Gotta Do It Yourself.” And that just really bothered me.
So after having that conversation, I reached out to a friend of mine who also happens to be very brilliant on topics of learned helplessness. So let me introduce Crystal Clay. She’s the founder of Olive Branch Consulting. She is also an Executive Coach, certified Diversity Trainer through the Harvard’s Conflict Management Group. She’s a Gallup Strengths Coach, certified expert in Emotional Intelligence and a member of the International Coaching Federation. So again, that just shows you how brilliant she is.
So welcome crystal. Thank you for your time today.
Dr. Crystal Clay: Thank you so much. It’s great to be here. It’s always great to speak to you.
Arlene Gale: Well, thank you. So tell me, what do you think of that quote? Let’s talk about the subject of learned helplessness. And what does that quote tell you about the speaker, the person who says it, and then the people that she’s talking about, “If You Want Something Done Right, You Gotta Do It Yourself.”
Dr. Crystal Clay: That’s right. Well, what it tells me about that person, of course, they have good intentions. However, they are expressing a lack of confidence and the person that they were speaking with. And I’m putting myself in the position of maybe the child who was being addressed. And when I put myself in the position of the child who’s being addressed, I’m thinking, I’m not capable of doing it. I’m not capable of doing it right. So that person has just given me a message that I’m not qualified to do a good job at doing the dishes, the laundry, picking up the cat litter or whatever. Therefore, because I’ve already had a message in my brain that I’m not suitable, or qualified, or capable of doing it, I’m not even going to try. So that message just continues on in my life concerning either those kinds of things or other things if I continually get that message. And that conjures up this idea or this concept of learned helplessness where I give up before I even try. It’s a giving up reaction. It’s a quitting response. It’s believing that, you know what? Doesn’t matter what I do, it’s not going to be good enough so I have no control over the outcome. And that is what learned helplessness is. It’s a mental state where someone is forced to bear repeated adverse situations and just becomes unable or unwilling to avoid these situations, and the belief that we can change the course of negative events, that failure is inevitable. So that’s the outcome of that.
Arlene Gale: Okay. I know mothers all over the world, and I am a recovering control freak myself, so I will just make that confession. Whereas parents, especially moms, because we run ourselves ragged, and we’ll run ourselves to a health crisis in order to just get everything done and get it done just right. So as parents, especially women, where does that mindset of learned helplessness come from that invades our way of life? Our thinking?
Dr. Crystal Clay: Well, it really comes from past experiences that made you believe that you don’t have the ability to avoid them. So we train ourselves so that we have no control over the situation. And as you said, I think you said your parents and you pass it on from generation to generation. I was coaching someone this week and she was wondering, she was thinking about her relationship with her mother and why she’s the way she is at work. She doesn’t trust anybody to do a good job. She has to do it herself and it’s constrained relationships with other people. And she said that that was really heavy on her because she didn’t want to be that way, but she just couldn’t help it because that was ingrained in her that “if you want something done well, you have to be the one who does it yourself.” So it’s recognizing that identifying that behavior and being intentional and deliberate about stopping it rather than enabling incompetence for other people, empower people to feel confident in themselves that they are able to do it, whatever it is that they were attempting to do.“Rather than enabling incompetence for other people, empower people to feel confident in themselves, teach them that they are able to do it.” -Crystal Clay Click To Tweet
Arlene Gale: Well, I’m speaking for me because the way I grew up, in the family that I grew up in, if you didn’t do something, then there were negative physical consequences, and there were verbal tirades and temper tantrums thrown by the adults, the parents in that situation. So for me, becoming an adult and having my own children, it was ingrained to me that that was the way you showed love. That if they weren’t yelling at you or throwing things at you, then they loved you. Which meant that the more I did, the more they loved me. But that got me into what I felt is a cycle of learned helplessness. So how does someone like me who’s in that cycle first become aware of doing it and then breaking that cycle?
Dr. Crystal Clay: Well, two things, understanding what your triggers are, what are the things that caused you to move into, I have to gain this control. And once you understand what your triggers are, especially when it comes to specific things that are really important to you, that you feel like the stakes are quite high and you have to control over, you have to have control over it because the stakes are high, you cure a lot about something. So think about your own triggers, and what that is for you? And then also to create accountability partners in your household. If you are working on this particular behavior, give your family permission to say, listen, if you see me doing this, or if I start to get into a rant about something, just do a timeout or give me a clue that would give me a cue that I’m headed in that direction. And if you give them permission to do that, then they have the freedom to be able to work with you to resolve that issue.
Arlene Gale: So give me an example of what you mean by triggers.
Dr. Crystal Clay: Hmm. Well, a trigger is when you’re thinking about it in terms of emotional intelligence, you’re thinking about it in terms of being hijacked, the amygdala part of your brain gets hijacked. And if you feel yourself, for example, breaking out in a sweat, if you feel yourself getting quite anxious, if you feel perhaps your mouth can dry, if you feel like your precious going up, if you feel your face going red, for example, those are signs that something is triggering you. Or sometimes it’s an uneasiness in your tummy or something like that, that your piece is gone, that your calmness has been disrupted, and that is usually a sign that you’ve been hijacked.
Arlene Gale: Well, that’s very interesting. I didn’t really mean for this to turn into a personal therapy session. For me, I notice that somebody starts whining or saying, using words that trigger me, I punch my tooth and I bite down so hard that it’ll start hurting my jaws. But it’s those verbal things. Oh, I cannot stand whining. So when somebody comes to me and starts whining, I can feel it. I could just feel it.
Dr. Crystal Clay: Absolutely. Therefore, you know what triggers you. And that’s the first thing to say, what is it really that bothers me? And for some people, some people can just receive an email from someone. And as soon as they see that email in the inbox, that’s the trigger. It sends them in a completely different mood. Sometimes it could be a car coming down the road, if it’s a member of your family that’s stressing you, and it’s important to be able to understand, okay, what are my triggers? And what is it that I can do to address these triggers? So you’re really slowing your brain down from the emotional side of your brain to the rational side of your brain and slowing down your response.
Arlene Gale: So is that counting to 10 before you say anything?
Dr. Crystal Clay: Yeah, absolutely. Or some say go to the balcony, take a sip of water, whatever it is that you need to do to slow yourself down from feeling to reacting, but responding in a way that you want to respond rather than reacting.
Arlene Gale: Right. Responding in a way, so first of all, first thing then is to figure out who is it that you want to be? What do you want to be? For me, it’s how do I want to be remembered? I don’t want to be remembered as grrrr. I want to be remembered as the person who took a deep breath, walked away and came back. Because I’ll tell my children, when I ask you to do something, just please go do it. If you want to come back later and discuss it, we can do that. But in the heat of the moment, there’s no discussion to be had. I’m the mom, please go do it. So that gives us both time to separate so we can both cool off and then come back and have a more logical non-emotional conversation because the emotions seem, at least for me, to be a trap.
Dr. Crystal Clay: Yes. Can be. Yes, that’s right. Can it be used for good? Or bad? If you respond, if you react without thinking, that is when trouble starts. That’s when relationships are strange, because you say things that you really never meant to say and things that you may regret. So what you’re talking about here is being self aware about your triggers, and then exercising self control once you are aware so that you can maintain good relationships. And have the kind of legacy that you intend, and you want to make sure that your intentions and your impact are aligned.“Make sure that your intentions and your impact are aligned.” -Crystal Clay Click To Tweet
Arlene Gale: Intentions and impact are aligned. I like that. Intentions and impact are aligned.
Dr. Crystal Clay: They’re aligned. Yes, that’s right.
Arlene Gale: I’m gonna go write that on my bathroom mirror. When I brush my teeth in the morning, I can get that in there and maybe sticks for the day.
Dr. Crystal Clay: That’s right.
Arlene Gale: So most of them, the triggers, we can learn to identify because there’s some physical response to whatever’s going on.
Dr. Crystal Clay: Yes, yes. There is a physiological response in your body. Things that are happening are based on your neuroscience in your brain, and you want to make sure that you settle yourself down so that you can think clearly. And you might notice that if somebody in the morning cuts in front of you and your hijack, gets you really upset that morning, and then you find that your mood is off for quite a few hours, it goes right back to you getting off balanced from that one incident.
Arlene Gale: And sometimes I find that, as parents, we’re hard on ourselves. But it’s funny to me because we’re hard on ourselves, but we’re teaching our children good things. And then in the heat of one of those moments when the child feeds back that coping mechanism, for example, my son would fall and he’d hurt himself, or he’d look at me for a reaction and I’d go brush it off, just brush it off. And something happened one day, and somebody cut me off, and they honked their horn and gave me all sorts of sign language that wasn’t very nice, it was like I honked my horn, I went, started going and my son goes: “Mom, just brush it off.” Because I think sometimes as parents, we’re really, really hard on ourselves. We’re trying to do the right thing. We’re teaching our children good things. You know, sometimes we get mad when they throw our words back at us. I learned it. No, it’s not a reason to get mad. That’s a good thing, because what they’re telling us is they’ve learned what we’re teaching them. They’re applying it properly, and he got me calmed down. So that one person in that one car didn’t ruin my whole day.
Dr. Crystal Clay: That’s right. Out of the mouths of babes.
Arlene Gale: I know, listen to those children. They’re pretty smart. So we’re going to take a quick break Crystal, and then we’ll come back. I want to talk about some examples of accountability that we can share with our children and our spouses about our triggers. And then also, how do we recognize the learned helplessness and then keep from passing it onto the next generation. What are some solid concrete things that we can do right now so that we can stop this trap of learned helplessness. So we’ll be right back.
Hi everybody. Welcome back with Arlene Gale, and my guest today, Crystal Clay. And we’re talking about learned helplessness, if I’m understanding, really shows a need for control and a lack of trust. Does that kind of narrow down the definition? Or am I missing any piece of that?
Dr. Crystal Clay: Yes, it’s a lack of trust in yourself. And when you learn to have a more of a fixed mindset that you’re not able to do something versus having a growth mindset that you’re able to push through. So it’s a sense of giving up before you even try. And your belief that your actions have few titles. That can happen over time based on failures in the past.
Arlene Gale: So the bad news is it’s a mindset that we’ve got to learn to recognize. But the good news is it can be changed. Right?
Dr. Crystal Clay: That’s right. Yes. So before the break you talked about, how can we recognize it? And what does it look like? And how can we build accountability? And in children in particular, you can recognize it because it comes out as low self esteem. It shows up as a passivity. It shows up as poor motivation, particularly in schools where we might be seeing that quite a lot now in the Covid-19 situation, and lack of effort. And it’s so interesting because a parent might even see that, then that’s a trigger for the parent. And then the parent gets upset, and the child gets upset. And then the parent thinks that they have no ability to influence this child, and the child is getting more upset. So it becomes this cycle that we see happening quite often. And we’re experiencing that quite a lot now during this particular pandemic as parents are trying to homeschool their children. And it’s quite a vulnerable time because they’re going through their own insecurities in terms of, I haven’t been to school in over 20 years and I don’t even know how to do this, some of this work. And they’ve already told themselves some of these messages, and then some of this frustration they’re experiencing, and then the children are experiencing the same kind of frustration.
Arlene Gale: So before the break, we talked about accountability partners within our home and how our children can help hold us accountable. How our spouses can help hold us accountable. Can you give me an example of how a spouse, how do we talk to a spouse to help them understand what we’re feeling, and how do we set up something that they can hold us accountable without making us mad and making the situation worse?“You can’t argue with how somebody feels.” -Crystal Clay Click To Tweet
Dr. Crystal Clay: Yeah. Language is really important. A lot of our language, earlier, I was talking about intent versus impact. A lot of our language is, we have good intentions in terms of what we’re communicating, but the way in which we communicate has a negative impact. And rather than making a judgment such as, you’re hurting me, or you’re trying to ruin my life, you’re disrespecting me rather than using a language of judgment to step back and use more objective language and say, when you do this, this is how I feel. Now, they can argue about whether or not they’re disrespecting you, or whether they’re hurting you, et cetera, but you can’t argue with how somebody feels.“A lot of our language comes from having good intentions in terms of what we’re communicating, but the way in which we communicate has a negative impact.” -Crystal Clay Click To Tweet
Arlene Gale: Right.
Dr. Crystal Clay: So to be able to express yourself in terms of identifying the behavior, and how the behavior makes you feel, it’s undeniable. I cannot tell you how you feel. So when you begin to deescalate the situation and be able to express yourself in a way that communicates your feelings rather than communicates a judgment, then you have more of a sense of listening, and the person can hear you better.“When you begin to de-escalate the situation and are able to express yourself in a way that communicates your feelings rather than communicates judgment, then you have more of a sense of listening and the person can hear you better.” -Crystal Clay Click To Tweet
Arlene Gale: Well, an excellent point that I think a lot of people miss when somebody comes to you and say, when you do this, I feel this, what I want to feel instead is this. That is not the time to say, I didn’t mean to make you feel that way. Because it’s not your job to make someone feel anyway, their feelings are theirs. They own them, right?
Dr. Crystal Clay: That’s right. And speaking of own them, another thing that we do that triggers, we will rationalize why we did something. After we apologize, then we’ll say, I’m sorry, I did it because X, Y, Z, X, Y, Z. And again, you’re making an excuse for your behavior and that’s another trigger for someone. So if you’re going to apologize, apologize and stop yourself, which is really difficult to do because our tendency is to want to give a good reason why we do something. And you’re actually falling back into the same trap of having a difficult conversation and inducing emotion in that conversation.
Arlene Gale: And I assume that most people mean well, they’re not intentionally trying to damage their relationship with their spouse or with their children. But I think one of the things that’s missing so much from the way we communicate these days is the listening part.Everybody’s yelling, everybody’s accusing, everybody’s making excuses, and people don’t stop to listen. And I think that if we stopped to listen, we’ll find that we have more in common than not.“If we stop to listen, we’ll find that we have more in common than not.” -Arlene Gale Click To Tweet
Dr. Crystal Clay: Yes, absolutely. And the thing about listening is we get the words mixed up, listening and hearing. And we say, I hear you. And what does hearing mean? Are you just hearing? There are different levels of listening. You can listen just to respond, or you can listen to really hear the person’s heart and what is behind what they’re trying to communicate. What’s the statement behind the question? Or what’s the heart behind what it is that they’re saying? So if you’re listening at the highest level, you’re really listening to understand. And that is the highest level of listening. Oftentimes, we’re listening at the lowest level. We’re just listening in order to be able to come back. Come back and figure out how are we going to respond, or how are we going to react, or thinking about our side of the story rather than going all the way and really just trying to understand what it is that they’re saying. That means that you may have to ask some questions while you’re listening. What I think I hear you saying is this, is that correct? Is that what I’m really hearing? So slowing yourself down to be able to move to a place of inquiry versus conclusion. Moving up the letter of conclusion rather than starting down here at, these are my facts, these are your facts, but find a way to get to the truth. Because everybody tells a story in their head oftentimes in difficult conversations. What is the story that you’re telling yourself? Is it true? Is it your story? So it’s really important to be able to get to the truth of the matter. And sometimes it means mapping your contribution. And if you have, for example, been part of any kind of conflict, okay, what is my contribution in that? And sometimes just acknowledging your contribution even though you might not think that you’ve contributed anyway. If you have waited too long to raise the issue or the challenge, whatever it is, how you’re feeling in some way that you’ve contributed to the situation. So think about what it is that has been your contribution, and acknowledging that, and owning that. You talked about ownership earlier, and that is part of it, like I own my part in this conflict.“You can listen and wait for the right time to jump in to respond, or you can listen to hear the person’s heart.” -Crystal Clay Click To Tweet
Arlene Gale: Absolutely. And I think maybe, correct me if I’m wrong, I’m thinking about a specific example in my life where I spent all day working with kids, and then I come home, and I start talking to my husband like he’s one of the sixth graders I just spent the day with, and he doesn’t like that, it just drives him crazy and it makes him angry, and it damages our relationship. So he comes to me and he says: “When you talk to me that way, (and gives me a specific example) it makes me feel like a child. I don’t want to be a child. I don’t want to be your child. I want to be your spouse. I feel disrespected.” So now what do we do with that? I heard what you said. I apologize. Then I try and make excuses while I apologize. I’ve been with sixth graders. He doesn’t want to hear that, he doesn’t care. Then I start thinking, well, it’s my job to fix how he feels. And it really, it isn’t. He needs to come to me and tell me what he needs from me so that he doesn’t feel that way. Is that right or wrong? What do you think?
Dr. Crystal Clay: That is right. And part of it is your interest, his interest. And his interest is like, what are his needs? And his needs are to feel respected as a husband, as a man. And when you speak to him like a six year old, perhaps, I can’t speak for him, but perhaps he feels emasculated.
Arlene Gale: Yeah.
Dr. Crystal Clay: Understanding the roots of where he’s going with that, and addressing the root even beyond his words.
Arlene Gale: This was not resolved in one conversation. It was a conversation we had to revisit because I didn’t want to hurt him, he didn’t want to be hurt, but we didn’t know how to fix it. So when something would happen, we would have to sit down and talk about it. Well, maybe this wouldn’t have hurt my feelings, or this wouldn’t hurt my feelings. And for me, I wasn’t even conscious of doing it. I was in the process of trying to cook dinner, do dishes. I was just moving and my mind, well, maybe my mind wasn’t working. My mouth was working, my hands were working. So something just came out. So what we finally discovered after several conversations was, okay, you can hold me accountable and draw my attention to what it is in the moment if you just say, yes, ma’am. Because that’s how we’re teaching children to address adults, right? Yes, ma’am. No, ma’am. So when he says, yes, ma’am, that tells me, oops, what I just said made him feel this way. So the more he said, yes, ma’am, the less I did it because it made me conscious of what I was doing.
Dr. Crystal Clay: Oh, that’s so interesting. When you were talking, I was thinking about this idea of learned helplessness in terms of being a peacemaker versus the keeper, And oftentimes, in what I was talking about, how do you recognize learned helplessness? And sometimes you can recognize it through passivity. And if you want to avoid conflict, then you learn to be helpless. I can’t deal with this conflict. I don’t know how to have difficult conversations. Then you can fall into this issue of, you know what? Everything I try, it doesn’t work. It doesn’t make sense. If I say anything, this is going to happen. So therefore, I’m going to just avoid it altogether. I’m just going to give up because I have no control over this. And then you say to yourself, or you can rationalize to yourself that I’m a peacemaker and that is a story that you tell yourself. And in fact, you might say that you’re a peacemaker, or you have peace? Or are you in a state of denial about where you are in your relationship, in your home, in your environment, and what you’re enabling? So you’re enabling a one way conversation, and is that really what you want? So in order to move from that, from this learned helplessness passivity stance, then you can shift to a peacemaker stance. And in order to make peace, you have to be able to communicate how you’re feeling as well. And the kind of example that you just shared with your husband is quite a good example. Because you have agreed to have a conversation around accountability and ownership. When you say this, then this is how I respond. And when you say, yes, ma’am, I know that I’ve done something that you’re not quite pleased with. So that creates an ownership. And then over time, then I’m going to change that behavior. It takes time, so you have to be patient with one another as you shift behaviors because it doesn’t happen overnight. And it doesn’t change overnight, it takes time.“In order to move from a learned helplessness stance, shift to a peacemaker stance.” -Crystal Clay Click To Tweet
Arlene Gale: Well, and I can’t tell you the last time he said, “Yes, ma’am” to me because I’m so much older and wiser.
Dr. Crystal Clay: That’s the beauty of it, right?
Arlene Gale: That’s right. That’s right. So let me make sure I understand this, so the difference between a peacemaker and a peacekeeper is peacemaking starts from inside out and it’s a feeling I have versus a peacekeeper is something that I’m keeping peace on somebody else’s terms? Am I understanding that right? Or can you help clarify that for me?
Dr. Crystal Clay: It could be peace on somebody else’s terms because you’re not saying anything. So the person could just be in a peaceful state because they don’t know that they’ve offended you, or they don’t know that they’ve hurt you, or they don’t know that they’ve really upset you, or disrespected you in any way so they’re quite happy go lucky. So there’s no disruption, and they’re going along their way. But internally, you’re holding resentment. You may say outwardly, and you may look outwardly like you are peaceful and you are okay, but just to say that you’re okay is not okay when internally there is a turmoil. So that is the difference, peacekeeping is I’m just going to hide everything under the rock. I’m going to put everything, I’m going to suppress everything in order to keep calm, like carry on. As the thing goes right, keep calm and carry on.“Just to say that you’re okay is not okay when internally you are in turmoil.” -Crystal Clay Click To Tweet
Arlene Gale: Don’t rock the boat.
Dr. Crystal Clay: Don’t rock the boat and we’re just going to keep the peace. But the issue with that is, if you continue to do that and build internal resentment over time, then one day, there could be a trigger and it’s completely blindsided. And you’re saying, well, where did this come from? I didn’t know that there was an issue. I didn’t even know that you had that much anger, Arlene. I didn’t know that you had that much fire, and you’re like, what happened? Like you’ve lost it and then go off.
Arlene Gale: We have cameras in my house. That was the old me. I’m much better now. I’m older and wiser. Did I say that?
Dr. Crystal Clay: Yes, you did actually. Now let’s just see if your husband –.
Arlene Gale: Well, we’ve been married, let’s see, June will be 37 years so I’m his cross to bear, and he’s mine so it works. We take turns.
Dr. Crystal Clay: Absolutely.
Arlene Gale: We are mutually blessed. I promised everybody before we left, because of the circumstances we’re in right now and everybody is under one roof, a family trying to be happy together but not always succeeding. And we’re getting ready to go into summer where everybody’s still going to be together. The kids are still not in school, and the parents may still be at home. So can you, it seems to me that based on our conversation, the first thing about learned helplessness as we’ve got to recognize it in ourselves, and we’ve got to understand what it is. I just completely lost my way.
Dr. Crystal Clay: Yes. Giving up.
Arlene Gale: Giving up.
Dr. Crystal Clay: You have no control over the outcome. Yes.
Arlene Gale: So how do we keep from passing this on to the next generation? What are some concrete things that we can do, even if it stretches us and makes us uncomfortable that we can do for our children, or model for our children so that we don’t pass learned helplessness onto them this summer?
Dr. Crystal Clay: Well, one is you can, especially with parents who are homeschooling and feeling a sense of learned helplessness themselves, you can reframe the situation and think about your narrative, first of all. And what is the narrative that you’re telling yourself in these times? And I know people are saying things like, I need to become my children’s teacher, I need to be perfect, I need to make sure that I have everything in order, I need to make sure that they keep up. So all of these things are your expectations. So one, think about your expectations during this particular time. We’re in a time that we haven’t experienced in a hundred years and may not hopefully experience in another long period of time so lower your expectations and be realistic in terms of what you were expecting from the family, and what you’re expecting from yourself. And secondly, you don’t have to be perfect just because you are looking to make sure that the family’s okay. It’s okay not to know all the answers. You are not perfect, no one expects you to be perfect. And you don’t have to replicate the school system, for example. You are not the teacher, you don’t have to do things exactly as the teacher. And you don’t have to compare yourself with somebody who may seem like they have it all together with the color coded family chart, et cetera. But use this time to leverage your strengths. What is it that you do have that can help you during this time? For example, if you are quite creative, you can navigate some paths. Explore with your child, have fun learning, create some structure, but have empathy for the kids and have empathy for yourself. And don’t underestimate your child. Kids are smart, so you want to make sure that you give yourself some grace in terms of making sure that you work out a schedule that works for the whole family, how we flow as a family? It might be different to somebody else’s flow as a family, but what’s our playtime? What’s our structured time? What’s our rest time? And what’s the time that we can be most productive and work out a schedule that works best for you? So leverage your strengths and leverage the strengths of your children during this critical time.
Arlene Gale: It’s a great opportunity to figure out what our children want to do, or like to do. And that P word, that perfection word, none of us are perfect. So stop pretending that you are. Our children can see right through that. I’m convinced of it. And I think that it creates a lack of confidence in them when we’re trying to be perfect and they know we’re not.
Dr. Crystal Clay: That’s right. Exactly. I don’t want people to miss this moment, these are precious moments with their children, with their families. And families are bonding together. They’re discovering, as you just said, Arlene, this is a time where you can get to know your children, what they like, and what they’re good at, how they learn. And it’s a great time to understand your family in a whole new way. And to really understand what they’re capable of, and even what you’re capable of. So use it as an opportunity to have a growth mindset. What is it that we can learn together as a family about each other as we grow together?
Arlene Gale: Ourselves, we just want to relinquish control and trust them to do it. Which means that if we assign them to load the dishwasher and they don’t do it, quote unquote, right, which is basically your way, it’s okay. Let it be.
Dr. Crystal Clay: Absolutely.
Arlene Gale: I used to get mad because I was in the kitchen while my husband and the two boys were in the backyard kicking the soccer ball or laughing. I could hear the laughter through the windows, and it would make me angry. And I thought, well, by God they’re going to come in here and they’re going to help me cook dinner. And I was doing it for all the wrong reasons because I was angry. And when they came in, one of my favorite times when all of my family gets together is when we’re together in the kitchen and it’s like, we’re going to make this for dinner. You do this, you do this. One son loves to make salads, and this child can make gourmet salads that will,–
Dr. Crystal Clay: Absolutely.
Arlene Gale: Yeah. The other one loves to, he loves meatballs. Well, I had to get over the fact that meatballs do not have to be all the same size. Pancakes do not have to be round. And if they’re going to make a pie, it’s okay. If the meringue is an eighth of an inch thick, and the lemon underneath is two inches thick, it’s okay. It’s not the end of the world.
Dr. Crystal Clay: Yes.
Arlene Gale: We did have an incident where my oldest son put up a red t-shirt with white t-shirts and those became t-shirts that we, our pink t-shirts that we did yard work in, and he learned a lesson, but it’s about teaching them and for us to let go and let them.
Dr. Crystal Clay: That’s right. How will they learn? How would they learn how to–
Arlene Gale: And take care of themselves, and feel pride and ownership.
Dr. Crystal Clay: That’s right. It builds character. Yes, absolutely.
Arlene Gale: And I think we give them the opportunity to learn and grow. And in turn, we’re learning and growing too.
Dr. Crystal Clay: We are.
Arlene Gale: Does that pretty much sum up how to recover from learned helplessness?
Dr. Crystal Clay: It does. I think you’ve done an excellent job. So I would say to grow before you go. Grow together as a family before you go back out into the hustle and bustle, and just the hurriedness of everyday life. Seize the day, you are capable of this, use the time to grow together before you go together.“Use the time to grow together before you go together.” -Crystal Clay Click To Tweet
Arlene Gale: Absolutely. That reminds me of another funny, I think it’s funny. When we first had children a hundred years ago, my oldest one’s almost 25, I would give my kids a bath and I would start washing them from the hair down. And I walked in one day, because it was my husband who started to give the child a bath, and he was washing the feet and washing from the bottom up. It’s like, that’s not right. You can’t do it that way. And he said, you know what? I haven’t drowned the child yet, and if you can’t stand in here and let me do it, then please don’t come back. So like, okay. And the child’s getting ready to be 25, so he never drowned them so it was okay.
Dr. Crystal Clay: He’s still here.
Arlene Gale: Recovering from learned helplessness goes, I guess, to let go of the small stuff.
Dr. Crystal Clay: That’s right, don’t sweat the small stuff.
Arlene Gale: There you go. Such great wisdom, and I really hope and pray that today’s conversation with you, Crystal, has given parents hope to recover from learned helplessness, and also given them some tools to strengthen their relationships with their spouse and with their children. Because time goes by so fast. I mean, I went from thinking about my 25 year old to thinking about when he was a few months old and giving him baths. I mean, the time just goes so fast. Let’s enjoy it.
Dr. Crystal Clay: Absolutely. Absolutely. There’s no time like the present, and this time is a present.
Arlene Gale: It is. It really is. So thank you, thank you, thank you for your time here today. Before we go, tell people where they can find you, your website, your social media so they can connect to perhaps acquire more great wisdom from you.
Dr. Crystal Clay: Thank you so much. You’re so kind. olivebranch.bm or drcrystalclay.com. And my Instagram is at Dr. Crystal Clay, and that’s where you can find me. I am really focusing on the idea of learning helplessness and helping women in particular to overcome learned helplessness as they transition and try to reinvent themselves. So I have a program called “Take Two,” it’s for those women who are in transition who are trying to reinvent or re-position themselves but really just don’t know how to get started, or don’t even know if they’re capable. And that program is just for them. So I’m really excited about that opportunity, and about that program. So yes, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on my website olivebranch.bm.
Arlene Gale: Is your program available online?
Dr. Crystal Clay: It’s a one-to-one, and it’s also part of a group. Actually, I haven’t put it online, but you can actually take the course, or you can have one on one coaching.
Arlene Gale: Because in case somebody didn’t pick it up, the .bm stands for?
Dr. Crystal Clay: Bermuda.
Arlene Gale: Bermuda.
Dr. Crystal Clay: It’s not any code word for anything.
Arlene Gale: No, it’s just you’re in Bermuda. So if they can take your course, they can check out your website. If you need more one on one time than that, get with Crystal because I highly recommend a trip to the Island. It is a beautiful Island with beautiful people inside and out.
Dr. Crystal Clay: And I do want to clarify that one-on-one, they are online courses. Well, this is actually online. So there are people that I’m communicating with over Zoom, one-to-one, who are in different parts of the world. And that’s the beauty of–
Arlene Gale: Absolutely.
Dr. Crystal Clay: So yes, anyone from anywhere can be a part of this.
Arlene Gale: That’s awesome. Okay. So everybody now you know. Get ahold of Crystal Clay and help her brighten your day. Oh, I just made a poem. How about that? Crystal Clay can brighten your day because she’s beautiful inside and out, and full of wisdom. So again, Crystal, thank you so much for your time with us today. It was very, very eye opening.
Dr. Crystal Clay: Thank you so much.
Arlene Gale: Before I leave, I want to leave everybody with this thought. “Do not take ownership of the things that people say you can or cannot do, it’s your story. You get to live it everyday. You get to write it down and look back and see how you made those wins and how you learn to be different and better. Learn how to share your expertise with the world because you get to decide what you want to do, how, and where you will get it done. It’s your story.” Have a great day.