Can we unlearn things?

   Today I’ve met this idea that we whatever we learn, we can unlearn so I’ve started to wonder how would this be possible and what would we want to unlearn? I always thought that we should keep learning things to move forward and to get better each day so why would we want to unlearn things? Well, the short answer is that we’ve might bad ideas and habits that were reinforced in time. These things can hurt us so I think it would be better to get rid of them especially when those things are not reflecting the reality.

   For example, we may have learned that we’re not good enough. If we get depressed because of this idea, it is bad for us and we might need to unlearn it. If because of this idea we strive to constantly improve, it might be a good idea we need to keep.

   So how are we going to unlearn something? We either try limiting the interaction with whatever we want to unlearn or we can replace that with something better for us. Let’s say you want to quit smoking but you think you can’t (but you really want to quit). It’s obvious that the sudden stopping won’t help that much because the body will have withdrawal symptoms and it will make things worse. One of the best ways can be to smoke one less cigarette per week. So if you smoke 20 cigarettes per day, try smoking 19 per day this week. Next week try going down to 18 cigarettes per day and so on. If things get tough add some nicotine patches, but keep the descending trend.

   Similar strategies can be applied when we try to get rid of some thoughts that hurt us. We cannot stop thinking those things because the automatic thoughts appear without our control, but we can counter them. For example, the thought I’m useless whenever we f*ck something up, can be modified to I f*cked up this thing, but I’ve learned something important from this situation so I’ll get better in time. I’m just a human. Anyone could scr*w this up. Practicing this every time the wild thought appears can help with lowering the amount of time this thought appears.

   We can unlearn anything by limiting the interaction with those things we want to unlearn and replacing them with things that are better for us. What would you like to unlearn and why?

40 thoughts on “Can we unlearn things?

  1. A teacher in school always used to say “Practice makes permanent, not perfect”, his logic being that if you practice something incorrectly, you learn it incorrectly.

    So yes, we definitely should be able to unlearn. I guess it’s more a case of ‘re-learning’ though; you are learning something different in relation to something else. Our experiences of something we want to ‘un-learn’ help us find the correct path, so it’s important that we remember their impact.

    1. Yes, I totally agree. It is important for us to realize what we’ve learned so far and how big of an impact those things have.

  2. To “unlearn things” – that’s good idea! I see it’s no new one, but all the way cool. You made my day.

    For example it’s useful to unlearn all about Newtonian Physics.

  3. I think it’s important to remember our “teachers” (in a broad sense) are not all-knowing-Gods but just a researches. All we have are just theories.

      1. Yes, this is philosophical approach.

        We are love to be a believers. I guess society actively uses our inclinations to be believers and not researches. For example. I don’t like news, hearing many times one thing. It’s a boring. I think if some thing is repeating many times it zombies you.

  4. Unlearning the negative stuff, although difficult (especially when you don’t see its negative), can be so much more beneficial then learning new stuff. You need free space to put the new stuff anyway. Great post 🙂

  5. I am a little torn on this subject! Although I do agree with you on certain aspects…I also feel that everything I have learned up to today has made me the person I am. And although there are things about me that I don’t necessarily like…or feel that something “wasted my time” in the past…they still have affected me in a positive manner because I have learned from everything…and I am happy with me.

    1. I agree with this aspect. What I want to mention here is that we might have things that still hurt us. For example, we may have learned over time that we’re not good enough so whenever we do something not so great, that idea (also known as core belief) comes into place and we feel bad about ourselves and we also take that idea as being real. I believe this is something we need to unlearn so we can stop beating ourselves up for each mistake we make. We are only humans so mistakes should be seen as lessons to learn. Yes, obviously we can feel a little bad when things don’t go as we want to, but the idea “I am a looser” should be unlearned, in my opinion.

      1. “Loser” is just one of words made to abuse. Just like: “You are a scoundrel!”, “You are an idiot!”.
        Just one of four-letter-words.

        > we might have things that still hurt us
        – I am afraid we can’t “unlearn” them. We already heard them. We can make no acceptance of a bad idea.
        It’s not “unlearn”, it’s Not to let inside. imho.

        I am afraid we sometime should prove something to self.
        (For ex.: I’m not a looser, I’m not an idiot. If the thing got inside once).

        Learning is a process of getting knowledge. Feelings is an other Realm. I think.

      2. Maybe we already accepted them because we knew nothing better. It’s getting knowledge about yourself, even though is not real. We’ve learned about ourselves that we are idiots or whatever. Now we’re acting based on it. It is awesome to not letting them in from the first place, but what if we already acquired that “knowledge” about ourselves? I agree with you that we should counter them when they appear. It’s tricky.

      3. Just now read this! Oops! Exactly why I said “agree on certain aspects” LOL I agree that if we have brought this into our lives (no matter how it happened…willingly or not) we can do what we can to push it back out!

  6. > but what if we already acquired that “knowledge” about ourselves?

    – To prove yourself that you are not. Fight. Analyze. Find an antidote.

    1. To find who said it. Who make a wound. Call him an enemy. Say “f*ck him”.
    2. To find what arguments were made by an enemy. To fight the arguments. To prove to himself they are false.
    3. To make something which would prove an opposite point of view. (For example: I am not an idiot but smart, not a looser but lucky one). To get The Feeling of Victory. To cultivate this feeling.
    To say appraise to himself when you deserve it.

    That’s how, I guess.

  7. Did you hear funny thing: Who lives is lucky because he already made the biggest win – has got as spermatozoon inside and and overtook millions of others?

  8. 5. To Grow upon yourself. Anyone could hurt you if have some inner doubts for himself.

    For example, if you are not sure you are good looking – the abuse would hurt you.
    If you somewhere deep inside unsure you are a good parent or son, the abuse of not being good son or parent would strongly hurt you.

    Do you remember childish abuses and care about them? Possibly not. Because you are grown out of them. You became wiser.

    So to be wise is a good thing too. 🙂
    More integral personality.
    You never be able to abuse a wise man.

  9. Hey, nice post!

    Much of the behaviors and thought patterns you mention are subject to ‘Learned Helplessness’. This is a condition (firstly discovered in animals) in which one develop a limiting/Irrational beliefs about oneself and hence gains ‘victim mentality’ (e.g. I’m not good enough, therefore I’m not worthy of love hence I’ll never find a partner).

    Some good strategies that help you UNLEARN behavior/LEARNED HELPLESSNESS:

    1. Look out for new references. If you genuinely think you’re not good enough, find people or friends that will see your worth and value and tell you that YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH. Social contacts can have a HUGE impact on how you think about yourself. We are social animals and our inner state often is very dependent on who we surround ourselves with.

    2. Realize that YOUR PAST IS NOT YOUR FUTURE! Often we have a belief about ourselves that, in reality, just comes from something that happened in our past. For instance, you may have joined the cross-country team in high-school, broke your ankle during the first training session, and therefore think running ‘just isn’t for you’. Its normal that we build these beliefs from past experiences – They are so-called ‘cognitive shortcuts’.

    Always try and hold yourself open to the future with an open-mind and daring to risk a new experience!

    Thanks for the post!

    1. Thank you for your insights on this! These are great strategies! It’s not our fault for the way we are now, but it is our responsibility for what are we going to be.

    1. Hi! Well, I do daily posts, I read and answer to each of my comments and I also read other blogs which I find interesting. It takes time, but I’m sure you’ll get where you want to be. Be committed and have patience.

      1. Well, writing daily and reading and liking posts from other blogs helps with the traffic. It’s all about interacting with this wonderful community.

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