Power Of Unlearning Or Getting Back To Ground Zero

There are two absolutely amazing fits a child manages in the first two years of her life. One is learning to walk. The other one is learning to talk. They acquire both of these skills seemingly effortlessly. Somewhere between all the other activities – eating, crying, soiling diapers, shacking rattles, and sleeping peacefully in their car seats, they learn.

How many adults do you know who, in the same time frame of approximately 2 years can learn both tight-rope walking and a foreign language? More importantly, what makes us – wise, self-sufficient, experienced and skilled adults – lose our ability to learn.

Well, maybe lose is too strong of a word here… Which word should I use then? Inefficient? Scared? Resistant? Do you notice a pattern here?

In my book, Just Give Your Head a Shake, I talk about children’s amazing ability to live in accordance with the universe with little or no effort. These amazing spiritual beings are yet to acquire judgment, criticism and negativity (hey, and where do they get that from, I might ask).

Once they start acquiring this baggage, they start developing fears, etc. The process accelerates with age and experience. Paradoxically, the more we learn, the more resistant and scared we become of learning.

Simply put, the wee little ones simply don’t know that learning to speak a language is supposed to be hard or that learning to walk or run or jump is dangerous and at times painful. They gain this knowledge as they go along, both from the world around them (I fell and it hurt) and from their parents and caregivers (Johnny, don’t do this; you’ll hurt yourself).

And so the beliefs and perceptions are born and firmly entrenched in our brains. The brain then takes all the information we receive – verbal, non-verbal, sensory – and structures and categorizes it for future use. It assigns labels that determine how we react to things many years later.

This is important work. Without it we’d have been overloaded with largely unprocessed information. And yet this work is not always beneficial. Here’s why. As our brain processes information, the result – perceptions and beliefs – can be both positive and negative.

If your beliefs are largely negative, you’ll see world as a pretty frightening, dangerous, disorderly and miserable place. Positive beliefs, on the other hand, allow you to see the world as mostly peaceful and beautiful, really a pretty good place after all.

Ok, let me explain with a more mundane example (I also use it in my book). Let’s say you and a friend went to an 80’s themed party. Your friend loves all things 80’s, down to the shoulder pads and the “Funky Town” cell phone ring. Needless to say he LOVED the party and promised to post lots of pictures from it on Facebook. You, on the other hand, are still cringing when someone mentions parachute pants. You hated the party and the idea behind it – what a waste of your evening!

It almost seems that the two of you went to two different parties. But you didn’t! You both went to the same party, listened to the same songs, ate the same food and talked to the same people. The only reason why you were miserable while your friend was elated is based in your beliefs and perceptions, in the largely negative labels your brain assigned to “the 80’s”.

The good news is everything you (and your brain) learned, can be unlearned and relearned. You can unlearn the 80’s as you know them. Your brain will remove the “embarrassing” and “just plain wrong” labels from your mental image of parachute pants.

And then, with your mind open, you will be able to look at the concept with an awareness you haven’t had before and make a conscious decision as to how you choose to perceive something.

How many times have we wished to be children again, to enjoy the magic and the possibilities, to experience the sense of wonder? The magic and the wonder come from the open mind with no preconceptions.

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