Learned Helplessness

Learned Helplessness

Psychology was, I admit, not my strong suite back in my pre-med days, the one class that ruined an otherwise exemplary report card.

The only thing I took away from my psychology class was the concept of learned helplessness, perhaps because that describes a lot of medical education. To quote the ever helpful wikipedia,

Learned helplessness is a behaviour in which an organism forced to endure aversive, painful or otherwise unpleasant stimuli, becomes unable or unwilling to avoid subsequent encounters with those stimuli, even if they are escapable. Presumably, the organism has learned that it cannot control the situation and therefore does not take action to avoid the negative stimulus.


I think of learned helplessness every time I see someone abusing an animal by jabbing it with useless needles aka acupuncture. I know it is projection, but every time I see pictures of animals getting acupuncture, I see a depressed animal with learned helplessness.

Do any of these poor animals look happy with their acupuncture?  Not to my eye.

The most recent animal to undergo well intentioned, and we know what the road to hell is paved with, torture are Spanish owls.

1200 injured owls are brought every year to a hospital in Spain where, for the last 6 years, then have been tortured with needles once a week for 10 weeks. Although they brag that 70% survive, I wonder if the added stress helped to kill the remaining 30%. 10 weeks of weekly torture cannot be good for wild owls. More likely they are improving in spite of the acupuncture rather than because of the acupuncture and given the lack of gloves in the punctures, I wonder how many died of inadvertent infections.

They give the ususal nonsense reason for use and the usual denial of harm:

“It stimulates self-curing mechanisms in the organism. It does not cause side-effects”

Don't you think before you inflict pseudo-medicine on animals you would want to do a study not only to show efficacy, but to prove that you are killing the animals with the added stress?  I would.

Poor owls. I am not a PETA kind of guy, but I am sympathetic to all the animals needlessly abused without consent with ‘theraputic’ and experimnetal acupuncture.

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