The learning problem

February 21, 2019

The learning problem

We know how to brush our teeth because we were taught how. We know how to use syntax and punctuation because we were taught how. We know how to ride a bicycle because we were taught how. It’s kind of bizarre that we’re taught so many things growing up, but we’re never really taught about our emotions. Somehow, everything around how to process, understand, and deal with the constant chatter of thoughts in our head never made the cut.

Hiding

Society often portrays the view, both implicitly and explicitly, that we’re supposed to suppress or get rid of our negative emotions.

This can be exemplified in cases such as if you grow up with certain religious or cultural beliefs (like me - growing up in an Indian immigrant family!), as well as environments where stereotypes of old-school masculinity (why hello there - born and raised in Australia!) are perpetuated across sports and popular media. We’re seen to be strong if we hide our struggles and negative emotions, and weak if we choose to show or express those difficult feelings. This couldn't be further from the truth, but usually by the time we realize this (if we’re fortunate enough to ever do so), there’s been several years or decades of conditioning around suppressing negative emotions, not communicating how we feel to those who matter, and choosing avoidance over the more healthy methods available to us.

Habits

The mind is a system of habits - at the start it’s about habit formation, after which those habits tend to play themselves out over and over again.

We can intuitively understand that good habits such as exercising and eating healthy lead to these behaviors becoming easier and more entrenched in our lives, whilst less desirable habits such as smoking or excessive drug use also become more entrenched and tend to become harder to break over time. What we sometimes don’t realize as intuitively is that this same principle also applies to our beliefs and thoughts. Psychodynamic therapy for example, is one of the disciplines that analyzes the role of unconscious psychological processes and childhood experiences in creating beliefs and views that are strengthened over-time as we grow older, even if those beliefs and views no longer hold true.

As a result, we need to unlearn not only some of our bad habits, but also some of our core beliefs around how we view ourselves - both in isolation as individuals, as well as in our relationship with the broader world. While this unlearning process doesn't come easily, it is possible, and going through it allows us to rewrite the internal narrative we hold about ourselves.

Amol Avasare, Co-Founder and CEO

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