Melinda’s Brew : Unlearn What You Have Learned

Melinda’s Brew : Unlearn What You Have Learned

Luke is muddy, sweaty — obviously looking like he has been putting his body through vigorous exercise. Currently, he is upside down, balancing on his hands. Yoda is perched atop one of Luke’s booted feet. The Jedi Master is directing Luke to move a nearby stone — all in an effort to teach the Jedi-In-Training that which he must learn if he is to become a Jedi. The lesson takes all of Luke’s concentration — which soon is broken by R2D2’s frantic beeps and squeals. Luke’s X-wing has just slipped beneath the surface of Dagobah’s murky lake.

“Oh no. We’ll never get it out now,” Luke complains.

Yoda is not happy with Luke’s defeatist attitude. After a little pep talk, the aged master urges: “You must unlearn what you have learned.”

No easy task that is. No, not at all.

Unlearning a lifetime of life’s lessons — whether that lifetime be 5, 20, 70 — or even 800+ — years is quite an undertaking. Is it possible to unlearn what one has learned? Life’s experiences count for something. Think about it. Learning is a HUGE part of life. Gaining knowledge through various means comes in pretty darn handy. We learn what works in certain instances, and what doesn’t work. We learn, too, where our efforts really pay off. Why expend a great deal of energy trying to do something that just isn’t going to pan out? There was a time in my life when I thought it would be wonderful to follow in my father’s footsteps and become an architect. I used to love to watch him work at his drafting table when he occasionally worked at home. Perched on the edge of my parents’ bed, I’d sit quietly watching him use his odd-looking drafting tools as he’d put down on paper the images his mind’s eye envisioned. One day — I think I was about 13 years old — I said to my dad, “I wish I could be an architect like you, Dad.” He turned around, and smiled. “That would be wonderful, Melinda. You can do anything you want!” When I added I really didn’t think I could be an architect because I didn’t have the artistic ability to create beautiful buildings, Dad replied, “Well, there’s a lot of technical creation that goes into designing a building. You can learn that easily enough. And the rest would just follow.” I must point out something here. My dad was an exceptional architect — and incredibly talented artistically. What came naturally to him was not passed down the gene pool to me. 😉 The mathematical acumen alone would have stopped me from pursuing such a career, 😉 but I just never had the ability to do anything artistic (when it came to drawing). I knew my limitations even then. I cite this as an example of the difference between knowing when it’s prudent not to expend the energy to do something and the topic at hand.

Can an old dog be taught a new trick? Is it possible to unlearn what one has learned?

I say, “Yes!” However, it isn’t easy. Nothing worthwhile ever comes without effort. That’s the kicker. There are so many obstacles that we put in front of us that may — will, sometimes … oftentimes — keep us from attaining our goals. It doesn’t matter how big or small a goal might be. Learning a new language, how to play the piano, losing weight, breaking a bad habit or the cycle of a detrimental/harmful behavior. It all takes effort, and — yes — in many cases, unlearning.

Yoda refuses to allow Luke to give up on himself. When Luke attempts to point out that “moving stones around is one thing,” and lifting a huge, heavy starfighter from the depths of the lake is entirely different, Yoda proclaims: “No! No different! Only different in your mind.” At first, Luke doesn’t say anything, but you can tell by that fleeting look that crosses his face just before he says he’ll give the task a try, that he has his doubts, that logic and experience tell him it is impossible to lift something that big out of the water.

The roadblock is put in place. And when Luke responds with an amazed “I don’t believe it!” after witnessing Yoda do what he (Luke) couldn’t, it’s no wonder Yoda admonishes: “That is why you fail.”

Not everything has to come easily. Like I said earlier, that which is meaningful oftentimes takes a long, uphill battle to accomplish. I’ve been trying for years to shed the extra poundage I’ve put on, especially in the last 15 years of my life. I’ll do well for a while, and then I slide back into old habits. I know how to eat healthy. I don’t even particularly eat large portions at any one meal. However, I allow my busy lifestyle and inactivity get in the way of doing what I know is best for my body. When it dawns on me that I have become lazy in my quest to shed all this extra weight, I reemerge with a rekindled drive not necessarily to “diet,” but rather to readopt a healthy approach to life (and my well-being). I refuse to give up the fight! 🙂

I recently picked up a copy of “Dr. Andrew Weil’s Guide to Complementary Therapies”. For many a year, I have been a huge fan [for lack of a better word 😉 ] of Dr. Weil’s approach to wellness. One of the therapies detailed in the publication is The Alexander Technique, a therapy developed in the 1890s. The technique concentrates on “unlearning poor habits related to posture, movement…” as outlined in the publication, “replacing them with steady, tension-free movement.” Those in music and dance often learn the Alexander Technique, retraining their bodies to move properly. Ever watch a dancer walk? It’s no wonder dancers move so gracefully — and that they’re able to get their bodies to do what they do! Unlearn what they have learned indeed!

Despite my failings in my continued quest to lose weight, I am a HUGE proponent that yes, one can unlearn what one has learned. What I am about to tell you is in no way meant even to imply that I am a better parent than anyone else. My intent only is to illustrate that one can unlearn what one has learned.

A little backstory… Growing up, the form of discipline used in my home was spanking. As I grew up, and especially after I got married, I knew that if I ever had children of my own, spanking was not going to be my approach to discipline. By the time Tom and I decided to start a family, time-outs were touted as a viable means of discipline. Quite frankly, I didn’t see merely having a child sit in a special chair for a specific period of time as a practical means of getting him/her to change a behavior. However, it was a step in the right direction as far as I was concerned. Building on that approach, I decided to expand on that idea — coupling the need for explanation for the time-out (both from the parent’s and child’s point of view) as a way to facilitate a change in behavior. (This was born of the fact that I never liked being told “because I said so” as a reason why I should or should not do something.) It has been my experience that such an approach works. Change will not occur overnight, but with commitment, consistency, and patience, changes in behavior can occur — without laying a hand on a child. 🙂

That’s not to say that, at first, I was not tempted to spank either of my girls. There were times when I thought: “Gee, I was spanked, and I turned out okay” (by my own admission). Luckily, that thought was followed immediately by: “That is not the promise I made to myself. I will not lay a hand on my girls if it is not a loving hand!” For me, it was enough being on the receiving end (when I was growing up) to drive me to unlearn what I had learned (to be acceptable), and adopt a new way of doing something.

So, yes, it is possible to unlearn what one has learned. Luke obviously learned that because he went on to become a Jedi. He finally earned the mantle that both Obi-Wan and Yoda thought he was capable of attaining. Onscreen, we don’t see the training Luke endured between TESB and ROTJ, but we can surmise he finally got what Yoda was talking about all along — one can unlearn what one has learned, and accomplish anything. All one needs is belief in oneself.

Until next time, MTFBWY 🙂

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