Words TRAIN YOUR BRAIN: “I Can’t Help It” is Powerlessness

There are four words in the English language, I hate the most.  It’s these words: “I can’t help it.”  I literally shudder when I hear them.

Think of your brain (and all human brains) like clay that can be sculpted with small incremental shifts—which will then pivot your life in one way or another.  The words we use are powerful training tools for our Brain Clay.

“I can’t help it” may seem like just a small phrase, but it can become a belief, which will then become an action, which will then become a way of life. You are training your brain in learned helplessness, powerlessness, and blame-shifting.

Researchers found that blaming others for one’s misfortune is associated with impairments in emotional well-being and physical health. Not taking responsibility is based on learned helplessness and excuse theory.

Getting that phrase lodged in your brain (and then believing it) is dangerous.

So, instead, use phrases that are empowering:

  • Say: I can (and will) make a better choice next time. (Instead of “I couldn’t help it.”)
  • Say: I don’t know the answer, but I can find it for you. (Instead of “I don’t know.”)
  • Say: I don’t know everything, but I am certainly capable of learning. (Instead of “I don’t get it.”)
  • Say: I learn from my mistakes.  I’m a fast study.  (Instead of “I should have known better.”)
  • Say: My mistakes have given me wisdom. (Instead of “That was stupid of me.”)
  • Say: I am accountable for my actions and their consequences. (Instead of “I can’t help it.”)

Our words train our brains.  We are incrementally sculpting our beliefs with our language choices.  So never train yourself in learned helplessness and say, “I can’t help it.”  Choose empowerment instead.

Tennen, H., & Affleck, G. (1990). Blaming Others for Threatening Events. APA PsychNET, 108(2), 209-232. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/3r7DRBo


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