In her poweful book, The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood talks about a future world and the reeducation of women—forcing them to become stupider, depriving them of the right to read, study, work and learn.
That’s a frightening prospect because education is power. There’s nothing like learning. There’s also unlearning. That is, unlearning old behavior that no longer works for us.
Here’s an example: one of my neighbors—I’ll call her Fiona—always used to panic because her son forgot his glasses every day before school. She’d then “have to” (her words) hop into the car and drive his glasses to school.
“I can’t not bring him in glasses,” Fiona moaned, very depressed and helpless. “What would he do?”
She kept doing this until it became obvious to her that if she kept rescuing her son, enabling him when he forgot his glasses, he’d never learn how to be responsible for himself. What she thought was being a good mother—going out of her way to help her kid—was working against him.
She had to unlearn her behavior. She had to sit with the discomfort that comes with unlearning an old habit and trying something new.
So much of what we do is automatic pilot. When we become aware that what we’re doing might not be in the best interest of others and ourselves we have to stop and unlearn.
Sometimes other people will be angry with our new way of being. But we can’t let the fear of other people’s disapproval stop us from thinking and living authentically.
What might you need to unlearn today?