Individuals’ ability to have a healthy mental structure depends on their ability to maintain high self-esteem. In order to achieve this, it depends on their ability to successfully fulfill the tasks and responsibilities they have taken in life. When individuals fail to accomplish the tasks, they are responsible for, they will feel mentally and incapacitated. This will lower the self-esteem of individuals. This will cause individuals to be unhappy and uneasy and to feel guilty. When individuals do not want themselves to be known as incompetent, untalented and lazy, there are strategies to take refuge in. The two most important strategies are learned helplessness and self-handicapping. Individuals who do not have a healthy mental structure try to cover up their mistakes and irresponsibility in their tasks by using these two strategies. Individuals using this strategy often depend on the focus of external control. Their failure is due to fate, fortune, parents who do not educate him, teachers, and God. In this study, the learned helplessness literature from 1967 to this side and self-handicapping literature from 1978 to this side are overhauled to show how learned helplessness is transformed into self-handicapping.
Learned helplessness is behavior exhibited by a subject after enduring repeated aversive stimuli beyond their control. It was initially thought to be caused from the subject›s acceptance of their powerlessness: discontinuing attempts to escape or avoid the aversive stimulus, even when such alternatives are unambiguously presented. Upon exhibiting such behavior, the subject was said to have acquired learned helplessness. Over the past few decades, neuroscience has provided insight into learned helplessness and shown that the original theory actually had it backwards: the brain’s default state is to assume that control is not present, and the presence of “helpfulness” is what is actually learned . In humans, learned helplessness is related to the concept of self-efficacy, the individual’s belief in their innate ability to achieve goals. Learned helplessness theory is the view that clinical depression and related mental illnesses may result from such real or perceived absence of control over the outcome of a situation .
Self-handicapping is a cognitive strategy by which people avoid effort in the hopes of keeping potential failure from hurting self-esteem. It was first theorized by Edward E. Jones and Steven Berglas, according to whom self-handicaps are obstacles created, or claimed, by the individual in anticipation of failing performance
. Self-handicapping can be seen as a method of preserving self-esteem but it can also be used for self-enhancement and to manage the impressions of others. This conservation or augmentation of self-esteem is due to changes in causal attributions or the attributions for success and failure that self-handicapping affords. There are two methods that people use to self-handicap: behavioral and claimed self-handicaps. People withdraw effort or create obstacles to successes so they can maintain public and private self-images of competence .
Sameer Babu M & Selvamari S  defines self-handicapping as “a process of employing unique verbal and/or non-verbal strategies of carelessness on, lethargy in, and withdrawal from the academic duties and responsibilities which leads to lower academic standards”. Self-handicapping is a widespread behavior amongst humans that has been observed in a variety of cultures and geographic areas. For instance, peoples frequently participate in self-handicapping behavior to avoid feeling bad about them if they do not perform well in class. Self-handicapping behavior has also been observed in the business world. The effects of self-handicapping can be both large and small and found in virtually any environment wherein people are expected to perform. As a form of procrastination, academic procrastination is a prevalent self-handicapping strategy among academics in the face of
academic tasks. It has been associated with lower academic
motivation and self-regulation and decrease in academic efficacy
and achievement. Therefore, understanding the nature of this
phenomenon could enhance the academic outcomes of academics.
American psychologist Martin Seligman initiated research on
learned helplessness in 1967 at the University of Pennsylvania as
an extension of his interest in depression . This research was
later expanded through experiments by Seligman and others. One
of the first was an experiment by Seligman & Maier: In Part 1 of
this study, three groups of dogs was placed in harnesses. Group 1
dogs were simply put in a harness for a period of time and were
later released. Groups 2 and 3 consisted of “yoked pairs”. Dogs in
Group 2 were given electric shocks at random times, which the dog
could end by pressing a lever. Each dog in Group 3 was paired with
a Group 2 dog; whenever a Group 2 dog got a shock, its paired dog
in Group 3 got a shock of the same intensity and duration, but its
lever did not stop the shock. To a dog in Group 3, it seemed that the
shock ended at random, because it was their paired dog in Group
2 that was causing it to stop. Thus, for Group 3 dogs, the shock
was “inescapable”. In Part 2 of the experiment the same three
groups of dogs were tested in a shuttle-box apparatus (a chamber
containing two rectangular compartments divided by a barrier a
few inches high). All of the dogs could escape shocks on one side
of the box by jumping over a low partition to the other side. The
dogs in Groups 1 and 2 quickly learned this task and escaped the
shock. Most of the Group 3 dogs – which had previously learned
that nothing they did had any effect on shocks – simply lay down
passively and whined when they were, shocked .
The basis of Seligman’s personality theory is derived from
his first interaction with learned helplessness. Seligman defines
helplessness as an intuitive notion that entails the belief that
nothing one does will matter; one believes that their actions are
futile . Through multiple experiments with dogs, Seligman
solidified his theories on learned helplessness when repeated
results of passiveness and helplessness were found. Using
these results of learned helplessness, Seligman developed his
personality theory, which employed two explanatory styles
– optimistic and pessimistic. Basically, if a person adopts an
optimistic explanatory style, he/she will prevent helplessness; if
he/she adopts a pessimistic explanatory style, then helplessness
will be spread through all facets of life .
Optimistic people typically attribute problems in their lives
as temporary, specific, and external. Pessimistic people typically
attribute problems in their lives as permanent, pervasive, and
internal. An optimistic explanatory style is related to higher
levels of motivation, achievement, and physical wellbeing, along
with lower levels of depressive symptoms . These explanatory
styles are important when it comes to defining a person’s
personality. They also can have a significant impact on the health
of an individual. The brain is probably more comfortable where
it always knows it and tries to maintain this familiar situation as
much as possible. The brain has adjusted its entire system to the
current situation. Even if there is a tiny, tiny change in its condition,
it has to change all its processes to adapt to this new state again.
So, the first reaction of the brain to change is to show as much
resistance as possible. Because it’s neutral about the problems in
its system. It does not qualify as positive or negative. It just tries
to keep his system in balance. Self-Handicapping is more or less
common. We all have an upper threshold, a level of happiness
that it cannot handle. The important thing is whether the window
is narrow or wide? This window affects both thresholds. Those
who have a low tolerance for happiness are also more intolerant
of adversity. The simplest way to be happy is to stop looking for
happiness, to experience it.
The concept of learned helplessness defines an escape or
avoidance deficit after uncontrollable stress and is regarded as a
depression-like coping deficit in aversive but avoidable situations.
Based on a psychological construct, it ideally complements other
stress-induced or genetic animal models for major depression.
Because of the excellent face, construction and predictive validity,
it has contributed to the elaboration of several pathophysiological
concepts and has brought forward new treatment targets . Selfhandicapping
behavior allows individuals to externalize failures
but internalize success, accepting credit for achievements but
allowing excuses for failings. An example of self-handicapping
is the people who spend the night before an important exam
partying rather than studying. The student fears to fail his exam
and appearing incapable. In partying the night before the exam,
the student has engaged in self-defeating behavior and increased
the likelihood of poor exam performance. However, in the event of
failure, the student can offer fatigue and a hangover, rather than
lack of ability, as plausible explanations. Furthermore, should the
student receive positive feedback about his exam, his achievement
is enhanced by the fact that he succeeded, despite the handicap.
According to the (DSM-III R), describes Self-Handicapping
Personality Disorder as: “A pervasive pattern of self-handicapping
behavior, beginning by early adulthood, and present in a variety,
of contexts” . The person may often avoid or undermine
pleasurable experiences, be drawn to situations or relationships
in which he or she will suffer and prevent others from helping him
or her. This personality disorder is exhibited through behaviors
that are harmful or defeating and provokes a negative response
from the behaving individual’s physical or social environment
. Those with self-handicapping personalities are more apt
to place themselves in situations in which they are defeated
and helpless. The results of such experiences are likely to cause
them to make attributions consistent with the theory of learned
Learned helplessness results when feelings of incompetence
are acquired which are often from repeated failure experiences
 and, usually follow in the wake of uncontrollable events .
The thoughts and attributions which are acquired are typically
internal (It’s my fault), stable (It’s going to last forever), and
global (It’s going to undermine everything I do). It was further
discussed in Abramson, Seligman, & Teasdale’s study  that
the generalization of expectations of uncontrollability across time
and tasks depends on the attributions the person makes for their
Seligman  developed a scale to assess the theory of learned
helplessness. The questionnaire consists of 12 hypothetical
good and bad events pertaining to achievement and affiliation.
In each case, subjects are asked to imagine the event happening
to them. They then write the one major cause of the event and
rate it in terms of internal (something about the person) or
external (something about the situation) explanations; internal
explanations are associated with a loss of self-esteem; stable
(non-transient factors) or unstable (transient) explanations for
bad events; stable explanations are associated with long lasting
helplessness deficits; and global (various situations/tasks) or
specific (circumscribed cause) explanations of bad events; global
being associated with pervasive deficits [13,14].
In these studies, attempted to determine whether or not the
more self-handicapping a person is, the more learned helplessness
whether they were found. Given their chronic self-handicapping
patterns that fail to lead to reinforcements in achievement and
interpersonal situations one would expect that the stronger
peoples, the more characteristics they have found of learned
helplessness . Oddly, we often neglect the impact of emotions
on the learning process. Humans are emotion-driven animals and
our emotional behavior has developed at part of the evolutionary
process, so why would we overlook such a vital part of the jigsaw.
There are many ways that emotions might help or hinder learning
in our students – and some of them might surprise you .
While the relationship between fear of failure, selfhandicapping,
and academic achievement is complex; researches
do tend to agree that those students with higher levels of fear of
failure are more likely to employ self-handicapping strategies.
Academic self-handicapping (or academic self-sabotage) relates
to pre-emptive strategies used by students to avoid failure and
safeguard self-esteem. For example, a student might say they were
ill so they couldn’t revise for the test – this makes any failure the
results of ‘being ill’ rather than not being “clever enough” .
In order for peoples to be successful in their jobs and to fulfill
their duties and responsibilities effectively, they should love
themselves, accept themselves and respect themselves, in other
words, they should have a positive sense of self. In this respect,
having a positive sense of self is an aim that individuals always try
to achieve. Individuals strive to achieve this goal and sometimes
use self-handicapping strategies to protect self-perception. These
strategies, which the individual initially uses to protect his / her
own self, can harm the self of the individual after a while. In this
context, it is important to understand these strategies that are
effective in the short term, but which harm the individual in the long
term . According to Chen, Sun & Wang , the main objective
of individuals avoiding performance is not to be perceived as a
failure by the people around them. Therefore, in order to protect
their self-esteem, they will connect their failures to the obstacles
they put on themselves rather than their abilities. Although the
main purpose of learning avoidance orientation is to improve
knowledge, abilities, and skills, individuals with this orientation
also include fear of not being able to understand or fail. Although
the aim of performance-approach orientation is successful, the
main factor is the perceptions of others about themselves. As a
result, it can be said that individuals with learning-avoidance and
performance-approach orientations may change themselves by
different environmental conditions and individual factors.
As a result, it can be said that learning-approach orientation,
academic external locus of control and performance-avoidance
orientation are important variables predicting self-handicapping.
In this context, it is possible to stimulate the peoples’ feelings of
curiosity towards gaining knowledge and skills, to focus on their
own personal development and to increase their self-awareness.
Therefore, the self-handicapping behaviors of the people’s whose
internal locus of control is increasing and aiming to gain mastery
of success will decrease .
There are some basic motives that are effective in each
individual’s life and that drive it. One of these motives is to be
sufficient and superior. Although individuals are constantly trying
to develop themselves under the influence of this motive, they may
sometimes experience some psychological problems due to these
motives. One of these problems is the negative self-perception
that arises due to the perception of inadequacy, Adler (2005). Selfperception
is formed by the influence of the social environment
experienced in a significant proportion. In this respect, some
people succeed by doing the best they can, develop a positive
self-perception and are accepted by society. On the other hand,
some people fail to succeed, and their self-perception is negatively
affected by this . Individuals with this condition use certain
strategies to avoid the negative effects of self-perception. One of
these strategies is self-handicapping and learned helplessness.
The helplessness model has been used to make sense of a variety
of failures of human adaptation: depression, academic failure,
victimization, athletic setbacks, poor work performance, illness
and even early death [22-28]. However, questions can be raised
about the reasonableness of some of these applications [28-29].
Some may be too zealous, assuming that each and every instance
of observed passivity is the result of the processes hypothesized
by the learned helplessness model.
These ideas provided the point of departure for the present
studies, which concerned themselves with helpless behavior
and how to conceive it. The learned helpless model defines
helplessness in terms of the processes that give rise to it, i.e.
uncontrollable events + expectations of response-outcome
independence + inappropriate passivity. According to Berglas
& Jones , self-handicapping is defined as “all behaviors that
provide an opportunity to externalize (or excuse) failure to
internalize success.” According to Midgley & Urdan , people
actively use a strategy of self-sabotage to show that when they
think they are going to fail, failure is due to the conditions they are
in rather than their own inadequacies. People prefer to be seen as
victims of the conditions they are in and do not want to be seen as
incompetent and incompetent.
Higgins  and Zuckerman, Kieffer & knee , according
to the learned helplessness and self-handicapping strategies the
ultimate goal of a person’s self-esteem and self-efficacy maintain
or to increase positive feelings about the self and thus provide
a continuum of despite the fact that, after a while, causes a
decrease in the success of the individual and personal self-image
is damaging. In short, individuals are able to maintain a modicum
of their mental health by taking refuge in either learned strategies
of desperation or self-handicapping in order to hide their failures
and inadequacies and thus protect their self-esteem [32-39].
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