Learning About Learning About Learning

Accepting the process of learning: difficult at times, but at other times, easy, natural, instinctive, simple. The carrying out of life is fraught with inconsistencies and surreal coincidences and I don’t understand any of it but I’ve still learnt. When I’m older, I might better understand the circumstantial variables, today I merely need to be able to see them.

Many obstacles are perceived but don’t exist. Others are invisible and remain so, until I know where to look. Insecurity is incredibly cruel in its creation of distractions and illusions. My negative self-talk will never be satisfied, I will never be good enough. It’s constructed purely to find any and every possible way to hate myself. Human beings have developed these thoughts from our first behavioural and cognitive evolutions as a survival mechanism, and that mechanism continues today in new challenges. While in the process of learning, I must remember I will always be a prey animal.

When taking control of my knowledge and perceptions, it is with compassion, elsewise my false control is merely a new predator attacking my fragile inner self. I will flee or I will shut down. There must be temptation of reward and a sense of security. 

Knowing when to push harder and when to ease up can be tricky. As I begin to accurately identify signs of burnout before I fall apart, I gain the courage to continue when they don’t appear, even if I’m anxious or tired. I become better acquainted with myself. Limitations are a constant flux but I will flow as well.

I can research and believe to understand how a plant’s root absorbs water but there will always be ever-increasingly niche jargon that I don’t understand, and those words and definitions are only science’s best guess in an unknowable existence. If I don’t understand what a colligative property is, do I actually know the basics of osmosis, and do I really know how a plant’s roots work? 

I have many misconceptions of myself, one being that my interests are too spread out for me to become adept at any. Throughout my life I’ve never been able to focus on just one thing. But how can I have the time to look up colligative property when I’m also trying to learn pyrography, mycology, epistemology, yededah, blah blah blah? Well, there’s always time.

There is no rush to know. I seek no specialized career. I seek security, nourishment, I experience relief in the shelter of awareness, I find joy in exploration. 

Temperance is key. I don’t deny myself any urge to learn but I do maintain boundaries. Impulsive ideas are given attention but not undue time. To not be stretched out too thin, I focus primarily on what is relevant. What subjects better the quality of life of myself and others, what connects me to the world, what’s feasible for me and my resources, what practices compliment each other? Learning is both education and healing. There will always be more to do, but to neither be overwhelmed nor stifled, there must be balance.

I dig deep inside my psychological damage and start many healing processes, but there will always be more layers. If my goals are too specific, they will be unattainable and the rest of my problems slide out of my control. If too vague, I will be overwhelmed and aimless. There will always be more hidden trauma and maladaptive coping, different ways I need to change or accept, new and old problems which hold me back from being my healthiest self, blah blah blah. As with my research, I simply put the work in and follow my instincts. What is crucial to prioritize? What hinders my daily life? What root problems will solve a multitude of smaller ones? As I work, yes, more issues appear but this is a process of becoming aware. Most have always been there, merely hidden by ignorance, insecurity, and denial.

I can tap into the brief excitement at discovering something new and let it be not so brief. Excitement for the future has worked concurrently with love and stability. I learn as a practice of joy, being with my fiancé creates a safe nest in which I can allow myself to be brave and trust in positive emotions. I’m heard, and I listen to the clearest voice that’s ever reached my ears. The natural exchange between us brings me more confidence and happiness than anything ever has. I strive to be as patient with myself as my fiancé is. Here, I am able to learn more than I have in all my life. 

Formal education has not been kind to me. My attendance in middle school and high school was far, far below minimal and I dropped out of art school. Extreme stress and concentration problems were debilitating in group learning environments, especially with vital social elements. There was little to no patience or accommodation.

My confidence in my ability to learn was shattered until I gave my independent research the value it deserved. It always felt like goofing off. Demeaning myself is addicting, it’s a way of sustaining a sense of responsibility-less inferiority. ‘I can’t do anything, nothing I do is real, why bother trying, I’m not good enough, I’m too (insert varioust ableist pejoratives here).’

Everyone absorbs the cultural institutions surrounding us and everyone must self reflect on how this has influenced them. My process of unlearning an ingrained racist, misogynistic, ableist understanding of the world has unlocked new awareness of the ways I’ve internalized stigma around mental illness, autism, etc. I’ve actively striven to be socially conscious since my earliest teen years but we’ve entered an age where information regarding prejudice is more accessible than ever, and it’s becoming increasingly obvious how critical thorough self evaluation is.

I say things to myself I would never say to any other person. This is the way most of us live, ‘I’m the exception’. There are no exceptions. So long as anyone is subject to abuse, even self-abuse, it is being perpetuated. If I strive to never belittle others for not living up to the expectations of an oppressive, prejudiced, capitalist, colonialist society, why do I hold myself to those inhumane standards and punish myself? If I don’t believe in any of the values which would call me inferior, why do I believe myself to be inferior?

External influences will always undeniably affect my relationship with myself, so I cannot deny that they are. Once I face these facts, I can internally influence how I’m affected and be more prepared. Building a structurally sound inner world with thorough reasoning, self awareness, and understanding transforms what would be a damaging influence into a challenge— one which further proves the validity of that inner world.

‘Your hyperfixations are burdening you.’ I experience great fulfillment from research, and my attention issues (hyperfocus and distractibility) are managed with medication and timer systems. My hyperfixations are related to who I am as a person, core values being expressed as autistic people often express them.

There is no more need for proof, because my actions support my statements. A strong inner world manifests in how someone interacts with the outer world.

I’ve always loved learning but as a child, I didn’t realize I was learning. It often felt like playing pretend, even rebellion, because I had freedom and choice (something I never found in school settings). I loved encyclopedias, textbooks, handbooks, manuals, field guides, dictionaries— I collected them. I was hardly a savant, I didn’t finish reading a single one and rarely made it through a page without getting lost, but the passion was there.

I’ve been most alive when I’m seeking. It didn’t feel like real work because nothing was forcing me to finish a page, a chapter, I did so because I wanted to. Unfortunately, I believed my wants were worthless. Therefore, if my wants have no worth and I want to read, my reading is worthless. Self doubt becomes stagnation. Sometimes my brain only turns off for an hour or for a day, sometimes even a week, a month, and when I was younger, debatably for years.

No one ever stops learning though. Even when my conscious mind had given up, my unconscious prey-animal mind continued to absorb mass amounts of unanalyzed data which would eventually become many of the destructive patterns I now untangle and unlearn.

There’s many steps to making peace with yourself. Getting to know myself has been the best choice I could have made. 

I think, maybe, everyone both has a natural desire to learn and an immediate rejection of the desire. There’s too much crossfire of influences. What’s safe, what’s productive, what’s meaningful, and then comes the stagnation. Taking a step away from cognitive distortions and reviewing my internal world critically has brought me to potentials I never thought possible (I’m brave enough to read the whole handbook or manual now).

I can also accept the pain and fear I’ve often repressed. When I’m digging through my brain like I’m digging through an encyclopedia, I can notice relevant information the same way. The emotions are still felt and I don’t try to avoid feeling them but they don’t stump me. I can begin learning instead of faltering, running away. 

In my research, when stumbling upon something I’ve never heard of or taken the time to understand better, I take a moment to stop. I isolate the subject and go backward until I meet my level of understanding, then start advancing it again. The same process occurs in my psychological healing when I’m overwhelmed by a realization or nagging thought, for example, tonight: ‘I’ve been traumatized by open spaces and closed spaces, the physical shape of the world around me and my interaction with it has instilled deep fear, what the hell am I supposed to do with this knowledge?’

I can bring myself back into my window of tolerance, back to where I’m comfortable, by deconstructing the subject ‘The form of the world and my interaction with it is the basis of all my trauma (eg, the form of institutions, physical harm, abusive personalities). My agoraphobia and claustrophobia stem from both real experiences with space and from unrelated manifestations of insecurity. The substance of space enclosed or exposed is not what has harmed me. The threats which have forced me to occupy those spaces without choice are what has harmed me.’ And then move forward. ‘I live with residual symptoms of agoraphobia and claustrophobia, but I have made peace with space and substance, and I continue to use coping skills to manage my anxiety.’

I habitually place meaning where it doesn’t belong. It isn’t productive, healing, or aligning with my values if I’m creating additional/avoidable stress. Revelations have many uses in deconstructing the elements of traumatic experiences, such as facilitating confidence in an understanding of physical space and how to navigate the world. Worrying about the nature of being scared of small or open spaces doesn’t aid learning, but being curious about it does. ‘What am I supposed to do with this knowledge?’ Learn from it.

How do I advance in my many fields of interest? Manage my time, find a cycle of neglect and attention which fits natural waiting processes in practices, complete projects, return to old projects, keep an open mind. How do I heal my many traumas and neuroses? Pay attention to my internal and external habits, avoid avoidance and repression, be patient, compassionate and curious, seek support, and keep an open mind. 

When something new to learn arises, take the opportunity. When a problem comes along, apply what’s been learnt. Don’t assume nothing can be done. Real and perceived obstacles will always arise. How I learn from them is my choice, how I react, how I respond. As a human being, I will never know everything. As a self repairing machine, I will never be perfect. As an aging being, I will learn more, I will change— this process is current and ongoing.

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