Of course we learn from experience, more often our own than that of our elders and society’s wise and well-known; even though the advice and guidance is given in plenty and our observations of choice and consequence are giving us instruction it seems to be human nature to need our own experience to teach us. Just talk to any teen about that.
In my work with clients I give considerable attention to the impact of experience on their attitudes, emotions and behaviors: because from our earliest days outside the womb, and possibly while still in it, we begin to collect data and impressions about the world, about people, and about ourselves. We develop an extensive data base, and while we are too young in the beginning to interpret the meaning and importance of those memories, we store them for future reference. As we begin to develop consciousness…we are mostly subconscious until to around six years of age… our subconscious feeds our conscious minds with references to experiences we have had as we collect more data from our daily existence. Our conscious minds begin to construe from that input the significance, or lack of based on previous data, which of course includes the responses and behaviors of those around us towards our self and others.
The reason the first five to six years of life are called the formative years is because during that era we are forming our concepts of the world and people, developing our autonomy, conscience; the dos and don’ts and expectations, learning physical and psychological survival tactics, concepts of ourselves and much more. Our conscious minds begin to influence our subconscious by reinforcing concepts and beliefs instilled by experience and by others via language and behavior. We begin to think for ourselves, too.
Therefore we can safely say that we learn from experience.
The problem is that experience isn’t always a good teacher.
In fact all too often it’s a terrible teacher: it teaches fear, poor self-image; a sense of inferiority, anxiety, intolerance, prejudice, and so many other often faulty lessons about us, other people, and the world and about life. If we don’t succeed at a given task what does that experience teach us? Of course a lot depends on the attitudes we have developed about success and failure from parental, sociological and the cultural environment. Regardless of the origins and instigators of these preconceived notions, they none-the-less hold many people captive in the past with an eye to the future based on that one undesirable experience.
A child who is severely reprimanded about his ability to accomplish what’s expected of him develops a fear of failing; confidence is diminished every time he fails to live up to parents expectations until confidence is non-existent and anxiety becomes a part of every task he faces. A woman who is abused by a man may believe all men are dangerous; a child who is laughed at when he’s spoken up in school may develop a social phobia or fear of public speaking. Naturally we don’t want to repeat mistakes, or undergo any more trauma or discomfort: psychology 101 tells us it is human nature to seek pleasure and avoid pain. However, the avoidance of pain causes a great deal of anxiety and emotional pain. It might be called counter intuitive; it’s actually irrational in a vast majority of cases.
If everything we learn about ourselves from day one is based on just one experience, we would never be walking and talking, for in the process of learning to walk we fall down many times and when learning to talk we fail to communicate effectively. If only everyone would think like that toddler, there may be no fear of failing, only determination to get up and move forward. A youngster learns quickly not to touch a hot plate; he also learns not all plates are hot.
So many people come to me for help to overcome anxiety, lack of confidence, and self-esteem issues, and even Post Traumatic Stress Disorders (PSTD) because experience has taught them hard and painful lessons that continue to impact their lives; until we alter their responses to those lessons and facilitate healing on the deepest levels of mind, their lack of confidence restrains their use of their talents and abilities. Of course the nature of the lesson makes a huge difference. Repeat lessons of the same content can certainly reinforce the negative. Is it because the person didn’t learn from the first experience, or because life seldom provides exactly the same situation through which we are able to construe with some accuracy a possible outcome?
Few people set about with the intention of repeating the same mistake. Although some people don’t get the meaning of the lesson until it’s repeated several times. Learning about yourself as much as the situation is crucial to becoming wiser and stronger from experience. For we take with us into every relationship and situation our own unique perspectives and response styles.
Rightly or wrongly most people make assumptions based on experience. I.E., if it happened this way before it will happen this way again. So I explain it this way, regarding an experience that conjures up bad memories, memory equals fear equals expectation equals in part acceptance and in part programming. If you eat a certain food that causes you a nasty stomach ache, you fear eating it again because you expect to get a stomach ache if you do, and therefore you have accepted this premise as a fact and subsequently programmed your mind regarding this food. These are cybernetic loops/ neurological pathways in your brain established by your mind; they act on automatic; that is until you start to challenge them, and erase them. And that applies to both good and bad of course.
So when people tell me experience is a good teacher, I want to know who the teacher is, what the lesson was, and how does the person feel about that when he or she thinks about it logically. I ask them to apply intelligence to the issues and realize that we humans are known to generalize a great deal; one size fits all kind of thinking. A lot of what I do is to facilitate the intellectual rational objective common sense mind to educate the emotions. So the emotional aspects of a person are able to absorb assimilate and integrate what the intelligent mind already knows. My Whole Mind Hypnotherapy enables me to accomplsih this in fairly short order
However, you can begin to question for yourself whether or not your experience has taught you correctly and whether or not you are generalizing about life and people based on one, two or a few experiences; your own or someone else’s.
Your conscious mind has an enormous amount of power to help your subconscious develop new ideas and associations. Unless you correct erroneous ideas (cybernetic loops/neurological pathways), your subconscious is obligated to act on them. Yes, hypnosis done right can make that easier and quicker. However, the conscious mind needs to know just how (in all of its naiveté and ignorance) runs interference on its own positive intentions and prevents the subconscious using its recourses positively. That’s why I teach many of my clients, Mind Mastery and readers of my book The Mind Is Willing how establish a good working relationship with their subconscious and to communicate with it effectively as they go about their every day lives; they are therefore helping to undo the damage of the bad lessons they have had in their lives.
Start today rethinking some of the lessons you’ve learned in life, if they have resulted in anxiety, lack of confidence, or anything that has prevented you for achieving your goals; then question their validity. Ask yourself if you are generalizing, if you have developed wrong notions that are in the way of you being all you aspire to. And one more thing: even the most painful lessons that have left open wounds within you can be healed, and you can learn lessons about yourself that will help you move forward wiser and stronger, such as, just as the body was designed by nature to heal and repair itself, so were the mind and emotions too.
And, just because it happened that way before it doesn’t mean that it will always happen that way again. The best lesson is the same for you now as when you were just beginning life. So go back to your innate ability to fall and pick yourself up, brush yourself off, heal and get going again.
TTFN from Elaine Kissel