I have been interested in unlearning lately. Letting go of thoughts, behaviours, and knowledge that are no longer serving me, or perhaps no longer true.
Think about some of the things you probably learned in school that have since been disproven. Many dinosaurs had feathers covering all or some of their bodies, not scales or leathery skin. There are not different sections of the tongue for different tastes. And Napoleon was average height for a French man at that time.
It can feel pretty easy to unlearn these kinds of facts that change, especially when they don’t affect our daily lives. It’s not about trying to forget what you knew before, but rather acknowledging that it was something you knew before and now choosing to focus on and accept the new information. Reminding ourselves of the new information when we encounter the topic again until it becomes the dominant thought pattern.
But what about the things we’ve learned that do affect us? The kinds of learning that influence our daily patterns and choice-making?
I am highly motivated, for the sake of greater personal happiness, to unlearn some patterns of thought. The patterns that are getting in the way of me thriving in my life. To be at peace with myself.
For me, unlearning these patterns of thought started with looking at how these patterns developed over time.
- I had some information and this grew into knowledge.
- I came to believe that my knowledge was true.
- I accepted my thoughts as true.
- My thoughts became patterns of thought that affected my choices.
If I now know that the information I received wasn’t accurate, why isn’t it as easy to change that pattern as it is to change the belief that the tongue has different regions that can feel the different tastes? To simply focus on the new information and follow the same pattern development process?
If I’m aware of what I want to let go of, why is it that I cannot simply cause the old patterns of thought to disappear? The answer lies in a slightly different question as the starting point. It lies in my answer to the question “am I open to unlearning?”
Am I open to unlearning? I realize I have no clear answer for myself. It is a different question than I have asked myself before, which was “am I ready to let go?” That question seemed easier to answer with a yes. I believe this newer question “am I open to unlearning?” is more useful to me. It is not about letting go of a thought or an object. It is a willingness to unlearn so that a whole pattern of thoughts and related behaviors is no longer part of me.
I am choosing to ask myself every day “am I open to unlearning?”, expanding this question to everything I have learned. Not just the patterns that I already know I want to let go of. I believe that this will increase my curiosity about all things in life, leave me more open to possibilities as they emerge, and create greater freedom for me to be my whole self, in balance with myself.
Are you open to unlearning too?