One of the hardest things you can do — that anyone can do, really — is to try to unlearn something.
Especially something that you aren’t even aware that you’ve learned.
This sounds like an impossibility; how can you have learned something without being aware of having learned it? But in practice, it’s like the old David Foster Wallace talk This Is Water; you aren’t aware of it because we have been swimming in it for all of our lives.
And so it is with a host of toxic ideas about life, about manhood and masculinity, about women, even about how to live and behave. You have. I have. Everyone who lives in society has. It’s something that we have all been born into, something we’ve been so immersed in for so long that almost everyone is unaware of it and many folks push back when it’s pointed out to them.
Even people who become aware of all of those beliefs and lessons we’ve learned over time — myself most certainly included — can still buy into them. It’s not just a question of being aware of having learned these lessons. It’s about trying to unlearn them… and, in the process, replace them with the right ones.
But it’s a difficult process… and one that often leaves you frustrated, even angry at times. It’s one that we each have to go through, and if any of us do so with good faith, we have to do so without expecting a reward or even congratulations. And it requires looking at aspects of ourselves that we often aren’t comfortable with. Like Luke Skywalker in Empire Strikes Back, we often have to come face to face with the fact that sometimes the thing we’re struggling with the most is ourselves.
But the fact that it’s not easy points to just how important it is to do it; for yourself and others. Like trying to turn the Titanic, the sooner you start, the more likely you are to avoid the iceberg.
So let’s talk about unlearning what you have learned.