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Voluntary Action

BLOG - Grandmaster Gedo Chang


Freud said that the main motive of human action is “Wish” WISH. However, my viewpoint is different. Wish plus positive expectation is the prime motive for voluntary action. In other words, without the positive expectation that I can control any problems around me, one will not act voluntarily and will become inactive.

The Galileans believed that all animals act voluntarily in nature, by the so-called instinct. But the Aristotelians’ viewpoint is that all animals, including humans, definitely need incentive for voluntary response. I am very much attracted by Aristotelians’ theory. What I mean is that this voluntary action will occur when I have faith that my action will be successful. If not, when I realize that controllability is impossible, I will naturally become inactive.

The main motive in voluntary action requires an incentive. I call this confidence. For example, when someone is being bullied, if he or she has no confidence, they will become inactive. However, an even more serious problem is when he or she perceives the uncontrollability of the situation and automatically becomes depressed, because this creates hopelessness, which often becomes the main cause of suicide.

Many experts who have studied the importance of voluntary action have talked about the need or drive to master the environment. The need to master the environment could be more pervasive than sex, hunger, and thirst, in the lives of animals and human beings. For instance, even play among young children is motivated, not by biological drives, but by competence drive. This means a drive to avoid helplessness.

When cockroaches fight, the loser naturally becomes inactive and becomes helpless. Even though there is no physical injury, the cockroach that lost in the fight soon dies. This is a very interesting fact to us.

I would like to introduce the results of a very particular experiment done by a psychologist named CP Richter in 1957. The experiment was done with wild rats. He took the wild rats from the same litter and divided them into two groups. Group 1 was the squeezed rats. Group 2 was the un-squeezed rats. The experimenter put a rat from group 1 in his hand and started squeezing. Of course, the rat in his hand struggled to escape from his grip, but the experimenter would squeeze harder and harder whenever it struggled to get away. He repeated this several times. Afterwards, the rat became inactive. After that, the experimenter opened his hand and left it open, but the rat did not escape -- it just trembled in his hand.

In other words, the circumstance was now good for the rat to escape, but the rat had the idea that it was impossible to escape because of the negative expectation that he could not escape from the grip. This is called “Learned Helplessness”. The experimenter put the helpless rat in a water tank to see how long it would swim. The squeezed helpless rat was about to drown 30 minutes later. He also put the un-squeezed rats from Group 2 in the water tank -- the un-squeezed rats swam for 63 hours before they drowned.

However, a more shocking fact is this: The squeezed rat that swam for only 30 minutes -- the experimenter picked it up right before it drowned and put it in his hand. Of course, the rat did not want to escape, remaining helpless. The experimenter intentionally trained the helpless rat to escape the open hand. Reluctantly, the rat jumped out of his hand, not because he wanted to, but mainly because the experimenter forced the rat to do so. But because of this one successful escape, the rat became confident. Whenever he put the rat in his hand, the rat now jumped out voluntarily. Then he put the rat back into the water tank again. Amazingly the rat swam 63 hours, just like the Group 2 rats (the un-squeezed rats). Thirty minutes versus 63 hours is a tremendous difference. This is because the squeezed rat regained the innate capability.
This is called in psychology, “Behavior Immunology.”

Ladies and Gentlemen, not only adults but our children are the beings that have been squeezed, at one time or another. Parents often say, “Don’t do this,” or “Don’t do that,” or “Don’t go near the water, you might drown.” Always threatening.
Instead we should say “Try it,” “Do it,” “Go for it,” and “Try again”!

We should teach them how to swim! We must educate and raise our children as confident people. So please don’t say to your children or to others, “You are stupid (or dumb).” Don’t make someone feel helpless by saying, “You cannot do anything correctly.” We should stop this type of talk because it will cause helplessness in our children, and they will naturally become hopeless and depressed.

When our children are suffering from helplessness and depression, their life span becomes shorter. This is a well-known fact discussed by many experts. Their immune system becomes weak and vulnerable, so that they become sick both mentally and physically. And not only that, at the same time, motivational and intellectual despair are caused.

Dr. Martin Seligman, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, proved this phenomenon. Dr. Seligman warned parents, teachers and leaders not to treat children in a way that causes helplessness and depression. If we see this type of behavior, we must push our children to overcome it. Psychologists advise us to be forceful with our children where lack of confidence is concerned. We must push them until they can regain confidence, like the squeezed rat in the water tank.

Behavior therapist James Geer said: “If I have a helpless patient like this, I would give him a swift kick to get him going.”

There are many parents who educate their children by saying “If you want to, you can do it” or “If you don’t want to, you don’t have to.”. This method will have a negative effect on our children. It will cause inactive helplessness and depression. If our children have faith that their parents are always taking care of them, it is okay to have that faith, but they need to be more active and confident with that faith. No matter what kind of faith you may have, always be active, positive, and do your best.

An empirical philosopher from England, Francis Bacon, once said: “Look at the dog, he has caught a lion with the belief his Master is standing behind him.” Ladies and gentlemen, don’t worry and be happy!

Your children at Chang’s Hapkido Academy are doing wonderful! They can catch lions. Confidence development is the main goal of Chang’s Hapkido Academy.

Thank you very much.
Master Gedo Chang

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