In this topic, we’ll be talking a little about Learned Helplessness and how, generally, it can be applied to the (Just) Don’t’ Get It portion of society or what we’ve termed the ‘sheeple’ in relation to being prepared.

First, let’s talk a little about Learned Helplessness. This behavior is typical in animals that were subjected to painful and aversive stimuli that it is unable to escape. After being repeatedly subjected to this behavior, the animal does not seek escape or avoidance, essentially failing to learn these methods of avoidance and relying on acceptance and the fact that it has lost control of the situation. The Learned Helplessness Theory applies to humans in regard to clinical depression and other related mental illnesses and discusses a real or perceived absence of control over the outcome of the situation. Learned Helplessness is sometimes called Conditioned Helplessness.

How does all this psychological concept and theory relate to Preparedness?

Preparedness puts a level of control in your hands. That means that you are taking proactive steps to minimize any financial, emotional, and physical effects from a disruptive event.

Wow, does that sound like an awesome responsibility or what?

How does one take control when it comes to a disruptive event? How does one attempt to minimize or mitigate for those effects related to that event?

There’s that word again, mitigate. That’s a word that sounds really official and just kind of rolls off the tongue. Mitigate. Let’s all say that together; mitigate.

The definition of mitigate is to make milder or less intense or severe.

Apply that to Preparedness.

How does Preparedness mitigate a disruptive event?

Preparedness is a form of mitigation. You are attempting to make an unplanned, disruptive event less severe or intense. Who wouldn’t want that?

Here’s where some of the Learned Helplessness theory comes into play. Most people, when confronted with an event that is outside their perceived normal bubble of life, something that changes their worldview or creates a sense of losing control, have no idea how to deal with that event. Therefore, a sense of helplessness permeates along with a feeling that they can’t avoid or escape, hence the lack of preparedness when related to a disruptive event. While avoiding a disruptive event is possible to some extent, based on the event, escaping unscathed completely from such an event totally depends on the event and your level of preparedness. No matter how well prepared you are, you will still feel the effects of the event.

Let’s look at some events that can cause a sense of loss of control.

Death in the family. This is a big event especially if it was a close family member and not some half remembered relative.

Loss/lack of employment. This can throw a lot of people for a loop especially if there was minimal or no forewarning at all that this was going to happen and they were living paycheck to paycheck.

Vehicle breakdown. Depending on what caused the breakdown and where you are when it happens can usually cause some kind of emotional response along with a financial impact.

Structure fire. If the structure was your primary residence, yeah, that’s a big blow, financially, physically, emotionally all wrapped up in a nice package.

Other disruptive events. These events could be a power outage, a snow storm, some other kind of natural or man-made event that disrupts your life. The more severe the event, the more the loss of control is heightened.


While the above list if very general, these events can cause a mental/emotional issue and a sense of loss of control. Some mental health ‘experts’ claim that control is an infantile illusion. Other mental health ‘experts’ will claim that everyone has a level of control, it’s how that control is applied.

As the average citizen with an interest in preparedness, how can one even begin to plan, or take control, for any or some of the events listed?

For a death in the family; life insurance, pre-planned funeral arrangements, a living will, or a will can be a good start.

The loss or lack of employment through layoffs or outright downsizing (being fired or let go) can be generally dealt with if you adhere to a few, common sense methods. Budget what you make, bank what you can, don’t overspend your budget, keep your resume updated, consider taking classes that might assist you finding a better, more stable line of employment. One can also consider the work at home possibilities if that is their desire.

Vehicle breakdowns can be a total pain in the ass. The only sure way to keep a vehicle from breaking down is regular maintenance, oil changes, filter changes, tune ups and if need be, a newer or more mechanically sound vehicle if your current one is becoming a money pit. Right along with the employment listing, consider working closer to home or being able to telecommute if wear and tear on the vehicle is becoming an issue. Of course, this won’t work for everyone and this is just a few options to consider.

Structure fire. This one is somewhat easy to deal with. Smoke/fire alarms and a rated fire extinguisher for the garage, kitchen or any other rooms that you feel require such a device. Research will be your best friend here. Spend money on safety equipment now instead of having to spend money on rebuilding or buying a new home later. The money spent on that equipment far outweighs the cost of attempting to rebuild or replace.

The other disruptive events are also part of research as you will need to know what commonly happens in your area so that you have a base or foundation to start your preparedness planning. Without that basic knowledge, the knowledge of what’s in your area, what has happened in the past (annual event like hurricane, snow storm, etc) and what could happen in the future, you have no starting point to begin you preparedness.


Learned Helplessness comes back into play when you see how the citizens of an affected area react to a disruptive event. For the most part, the average citizen has no idea what to do when something happens that changes (disrupts) their normal routine. Here’s one that might throw you. In my local area there was some road construction. For me, not an issue as I know of alternate routes that I can take. For others? Not so much. Case in point: the main road to the small town in my area was being repaired and traffic was being rerouted around that section. The only small grocery store in the town had a skeleton staff because some of the employees didn’t know how to get to work due to the road closure. Basic preparedness is knowledge of alternate routes to get home, to work, to school, etc, in the event something as simple as road construction (or weather) closes the main road that you usually take.

Learned Helplessness shows us that those that are unaware of some of the simple things that can happen, road construction being the example, can make that person feel a loss of control and mentally shutdown, not dealing with a change or making any attempt to ‘escape or avoid’ due to that feeling of a loss of control or helplessness.

What you need to ask yourself today: are you a sheeple stuck in the rut of Learned/Conditioned Helplessness where if you can’t get help via your smart phone you have no clue what to do?

Or are you someone still in control and willing to take steps to mitigate against disruptive events?

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  • Which reminds me .... I do believe that I need to make some new pack straps for my basket .....

  • There have been many 'disruptive' events which I've experienced in my life, some more so than others.

    One thing which has helped is to immediately stop all action (as long as it's safe to do so) and take inventory of my gear, starting with my possibles, then my shooting bag, my haversack, and then my pack basket.

    I also do a check on my black powder weapons, condition and readiness.

    Experience has proven out, repeatedly, that as long as I've got that equippage, I'll be fat and sassy on the other side, when things settle down again.

  • Damn! This topic is perfect for me. When the power went out, Michael and I almost ate each other. OK, I'm exaggerating, but it's a great discussion nonetheless. :)

  • Awesome read! I have PTSD so going through this reminded me of a few things. What you say here is exactly what my shrink had told me years ago. Thanks for such a Great Refresher


    • I enjoy that little privilege myself, one of the things which has helped me over the years (aside from a good dog, and a wife with the patience of a saint) is to make my preps based on 1800's tech. 

      Most of that gear is, or can be, handcrafted yourself; a good place to start is by making a possibles bag, or even a haversack, to keep your EDC gear in. Eventually you may even graduate to larger products such as saddle bags, pack baskets, fish traps and the like.

      Having an intimacy with your equippage like that, can bestow a lot of confidence when things get ugly, particularly if those are why you get through, in style!

      Just something to consider .....

  • Great topic!


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