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Learned Helpnessness and the Glory of Failure

When a person fails, the become momentarily helpless, some recovering almost at once, with the symptoms of helplessness dissipating within hours. For others the helpless stays for weeks, months or years. Failure is a great modern taboo through which individuals feel they have lost the struggle and learn to become helpless, becoming passive, complacent with their ability to control future events distorted.Failure leads to learned helplessness, disrupting a person's subsequent problem solving skills with their motivation, emotion, cognition and behaviour affected. Our learning society and media is awash with materials/programmes on how to succeed, but not how to cope with failure. Failure leads to learned helplessness, which becomes a new form of exclusion, not replacing, but overlaying existing exclusion, creating new and more complex patterns of inequality, which are by their complexity harder to resolve.This project looked at this issue of learned helplessness and failure among differing target groups (offenders, ex-offenders, young people at risk including early teenage pregnancy, migrants, long term unemployed/sick and Roma communities). The partnership, over a two year period in this project developed tools/methodologies to highlight issues of learned helplessness as well as helping to tackle the issue. These tools were then tested with the differing client groups and results were then shared amongst the partnership and to a wider audience through the project website ( and at the Dissemination Conferences in partner countries.
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