Psychologist Martin E. P. Seligman’s article “On Learned Helplessness” talks about what happens when people go through traumatic events and how the handle the situations. Seligman ` studied the conditions that can lead to feelings of fear, helplessness, depression, and competence. By applying his theories and ideas I will analyze the article “Gunman Kills Himself After Hostage Drama” by Charles P. Wallace and Tim Waters.
In the article by Wallace and Waters, a twenty-six year old man named Robert Rose killed himself in a Hollywood hotel early on a Saturday morning after a night long hostage situation. Rose was apparently depressed after he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. In the article, it appeared Rose did not take this traumatic news lightly and the diagnosis left an “inescapable trauma” that he struggled to deal with. Already mentally fragile and undergoing “intensive psychiatric care” (584) according to his mother, Rose could not reconcile this new illness that he knew meant a slow, painful physical decline culminating in death.
Seligman states, “fear, I
believe, is the dominant emotion accompanying this state. If he learns to control the trauma, frenetic activity gives way to an efficient and nonchalant response” (585). Unfortunately, Rose handled the stress in his life differently than most people in a similar situation. Rose became overwhelmed by his fear.
In the article, Rose attempted to get everyone’s attention and to control every situation knowing that he was a dying man no matter the end results. To that end, he found a hotel in
Hollywood far away from his home near San Diego, kidnapped a seventeen-year old girl made her strip naked, and threw her clothing out of the hotel window. Rose’s actions are a sign of what Seligman describes as “competence”. Seligman states that “the need to master could be more pervasive than sex, hunger, and thirst in the lives of animals and men” (586). Basically, Rose is...
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