I see it over and over again: learning new ways of behaving and communicating requires a whole lot of “unlearning.” The older we get, the deeper our neural pathways get! In today’s conversation, we talk about “unlearning” and how to make the process of emotional healing a little less painful and a whole lot more productive.
Unlearning is not about forgetting. It’s about our ability to choose an alternative mental model of paradigm. When we learn, we add new skills or knowledge to what we already know. When we unlearn, we step outside the mental mode in order to choose a different one.https://hbr.org/2016/11/why-the-problem-with-learning-is-unlearning
“I just can’t do it,” said Joyce. “The old feedback loop is stuck on ‘you aren’t enough. You really think you can do that? Impossible.'”
I listened carefully and once again saw how terribly painful and frustrating the transformative process of emotional healing can be.
“I know,” I said. “But, the key is forward movement. You have new tools and resources to continue rewiring that old negative feedback loop.
Without a doubt, the hardest part of transformation is unlearning.
To unlearn is “to discard (something learned, especially a bad habit or false or outdated information) from one’s memory. Russell Ackoff writes, “The only thing that’s harder than starting something new is stopping something old.”
Can I get an “AMEN?”
The Unlearning Process
Three simple steps to navigate the unlearning process:
- Recognize that the old mental model is no longer relevant or effective. Those “old ways” are false, unhelpful, unhealthy, toxic, hurtful and even harmful and ineffective. Were you raised by an authoritarian? A “my way or the highway” kind of parent? Now, you do the same, by mirroring your parent, and your children feel unsafe emotionally? Consider your family of origins. More is caught than taught.
- Create a new model that can better achieve your goals. That is WHAT we are doing here! New models, as in Non-Violent Communication, Boundaries, Practicing the Law of Kindness, etc.
- Ingrain the new mental habits. Need help clearing your neural pathways? Let me introduce you to Aroma Freedom Technique.
Additional Resources to Help you Unlearn
- Say What You Mean: A Mindful Approach to Non-Violent Communication by Oren Jay Sofer. My go-to book for healthy communication skills.
- Helpful phrases for implementing non-violent communication, PDF
- Watch this riveting “Backwards Brain Bicycle” Experiment with Destin Sandler Bring the WHOLE family in on this one!
- Listen to the meditative exercise, “The Waiting Room,”
- Listen to “The Three Letters,” to help you “unlearn” the old ways; leaving them in the “hallway of your past,” LETTER ONE, LETTER TWO, and LETTER THREE.
- Have some fun and DESIGN your own WAITING ROOM.