Dear Stacy,

You are weak.

I despise weakness of the spirit, the kind of weakness that makes people like you roll over and take the punches as if you were somehow deserving of them. However, I know your weakness is not entirely your fault and so I am writing this to you with the hope you will take something from it.

In psychological terms, your particular brand of weakness is what's called 'learned helplessness'. I will try to explain. There is an animal model (rats, not surprisingly) of anxiety and depression called the Tail Shock. In this model, rats are put in a rather confining box with their tail sticking out one end. In front of them is a wheel, which they can turn with their front paws. There's a cue (a light flashing or some kind of noise) after which their tail is hit with a mild electrical shock. Not painful, but most assuredly unpleasant. After what is a surprisingly short time, the rats realize if they spin the wheel after the cue, they receive no shock.

But alas, the experiment continues to where no matter what the rat does, spin or no spin, the shock will come. After a few trials like this, the rats just give up. They no longer spin the wheel hoping that it will prevent the shock. They have learned to be helpless. Nothing they do makes a difference so why bother.

This is you, Stacy. I know in your life you have received many of these little shocks. From Sandi, the rest of the Fashion Club, probably from the whole school. Hell, I'd guess even your family got in a good jolt or two. So the fact you no longer even attempt to escape the hurt is not surprising.

You know what the really sad part is, though? If you take those rats- the ones who learned nothing they do can help them anymore and put them back in the box where if they did spin that wheel, they wouldn't get a shock, they still don't try. Really, why should they? Nothing mattered before, so why would it now? You can even have them watch other rats spin the wheel and avoid the shock and they still believe nothing they do matters and will just lay there, helpless.

But rarely, very rarely, one will try. Just once, and find out hey! It worked! No shock! It's uncommon and honestly, not something researchers like to explain when they're writing up papers, but there it is. In humans, we call this spirit. And oh how we love to see it triumph. Think of all the movies you've seen where the beaten hero gets up just that one last time.

I'm going to flip the switch, Stacy. What happens next is up to you.

-A