On Learning the Conditions for Learning
A great “Aha!” in the history of psychotherapy came with the recognition that the “lifting” or resolution of emotional disturbance did not mean a necessary turn toward emotional well-being. The effect of the original disturbance had blocked learning. If well-being was to be achieved, productive and healthy experiential learning was essential.
Since that time, the expanding range of “learning how” has been the cross-disciplinary problem before us all. The first step is a receptivity to learning. Here again, the therapeutic example is instructive. The necessary effort for the suffering individual to manage emotional disturbance required the building of a rigid system for coping. But the system itself prevented real learning about the world beyond .
Often, to ensure emotional comfort, we simply pre-select what we think we know. And the rules for our pre-selection preserve our emotional safety— often at the expense of being wrong.
What we think we know is only a small subset of our real knowledge capability. The question becomes: how do we access what we really can know? How do we leverage knowledge to expand our horizons?
The first step in “learning how” is in finding a comfort zone that allows readiness to learn. Not only must this allow readiness to receive incoming information from the outside. But also, and equally crucial: it must allow our internal readiness to loosen our defensive habits in order for that incoming information to be transformed into useful learning.