[박진영의 사회심리학] Overcoming helplessness is ‘small actions’ : Dong-A Science

When you fall into a swamp of lethargy and self-blame, there is a simple solution that can help you escape the pain. Courtesy of Getty Image Bank

I had a lot of thoughts and worries, but laziness was the problem. So, although there is a lot of anxiety, there was a time when, as always, I was worried and did not take any action for change, so the problem was that the anxiety kept piling up.

If we’re not going to do anything anyway, we shouldn’t have to worry about it, but our minds are so strange that even when we’re so exhausted and helpless, maybe that’s why it’s more like “Danger! Danger!” often sounds an alarm. In fact, anxiety and lethargy (lower sense of control and self-efficacy, low energy, and depression) tend to go together.

In the original case, there should be a virtuous cycle that leads to ① risk perception → ② anxiety → ③ even to reduce anxiety, starting action to eliminate risk → ④ reducing risk factors → ⑤ calmness and anxiety reduction. However, when something breaks down because of a hard heart, as usual, I perceive danger and feel a lot of anxiety, but the most essential steps 3) and 4) do not happen, so I just worry and do nothing and nothing gets better. As a result, it is like riding on a runaway locomotive that only amplifies anxiety.

At the same time, as a human being, the self-awareness function is still intact, so while consciously thinking about ‘I am anxious but helpless and not doing anything’, I thought that you (I) shouldn’t be like this about myself. They only spit out bad words that they can’t be saved. In the process, only the feeling of control that I can change the surrounding environment with my own power and self-efficacy, which is the belief in one’s own ability, is lowered, and the feeling of depression is increased, and the feeling of depression increases, and only goes through a vicious cycle of becoming more lethargic and unable to do anything again. If you fall into a swamp of anxiety, helplessness, and self-blame, you think harder than anyone else, but the more you think, the more painful your life becomes.

But the more complicated the mind, the simpler the solution. If we look at what started this constant anxiety and helplessness, it is often because we did not act. The thing to remember here is that actions to eliminate risk factors and anxiety always start small. For example, these are small actions such as asking people around or on the Internet for information related to the content of your worries, or taking care of your physical condition.

If you feel the problem is too big and your mind is complicated, you can do things that can help you organize your thoughts, even if it doesn’t help to solve the problem right away. Even small actions like everything else can be the first step towards solving a problem. Even 0.1 step is much better than zero step, and the beginning is always small. In fact, the first steps that many researchers recommend are small things, such as writing about your thoughts.

Nevertheless, trying to take the first step too ambitious also plays a part in making us do nothing and become lazy as a result. This is the case, for example, of perfectionists who don’t even start unless they think they can do it perfectly, and therefore perform less well than others. The stricter we are about the first step, the more we can do nothing and stumble in a swamp of anxiety from which we can’t get out. In the end, it is okay to be very small, so it is important to take even 0.001 steps.

In fact, people with good risk perception, and thus, even if they usually have a lot of anxiety and worry (if neuroticism is high among personality traits), are relatively free from the adverse effects of anxiety (anxiety has little effect on happiness and health). ), there was a study result. Even if you have a lot of anxiety and worry, it is enough if you can act immediately. The influence of anxiety and worry cannot exceed the power of action.

Even very small things are fine. Taking a deep breath or stretching, making a small note of what I want to do today will all be small steps.

※Reference materials

Kitayama, S., Park, J., Miyamoto, Y., Date, H., Boylan, J. M., Markus, H. R., … & Ryff, C. D. (2018). Behavioral adjustment moderates the link between neuroticism and biological health risk: A US–Japan comparison study. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 44(6), 809-822.

※ About the author

Park Jin-young He wrote 『I, a decent person as it is right now』 and 『To me who doesn’t love me』. Through books that are easy to understand and empathize with psychological research that is useful in life, he is constantly communicating with his readers. He is active online under the pseudonym ‘Gignon Nyong’. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Social Psychology at Duke University, USA.