Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

Mariana Plata
Mariana Plata

The Power of Unlearning

Because, sometimes, that's the most authentic path towards our inner world.

Source: Unsplash

I've written about therapy before: its impact, its reach, and its benefits. And, though I might need many more posts to fully explain how beneficial this process is, one reason behind its success and ability for change is how it forces us to unlearn.

Unlearning is the process through which we break down the origins of our thoughts, attitudes, behaviors, feelings, and biases. It's asking ourselves:

  • Where do these beliefs come from?
  • Do these support my mental health?
  • Is this in alignment with the life I want?
  • Is this congruent with my authenticity and the person I am? The person I want to become?
  • Do I believe this to be true to myself?

These are not easy questions to ask ourselves but are important if we want to build a more authentic pathway towards our inner world. Unlearning means stripping away the beliefs and ways to act/behave/live that have been imposed by our upbringing, by our education, by the society we live in. It means challenging everything we've come to know as "the way things are supposed to be" and embracing "the way things are." And, more importantly, choosing what things resonate and don't resonate with me.

The power of unlearning relies on embracing our self-curiosity and navigating the buildings and streets of our inner world. Mindfully embarking on this self-journey and deciding what stays, what goes, what needs to be renovated, what needs to make space for the emotional garden that is living an authentic life. Because our most authentic selves can't bloom if we don't make space. And, sometimes, making space means saying "no" to what no longer works. Sometimes, making space means grieving the life we had, what we have believed, what we thought was the "only" way things worked. It's learning to navigate the rain, with the trust and hope that the water will make our bloom that much more chimerical, colorful and powerful.

Some things that happen when we start to unlearn include:

  • You spark your creativity. When we start to unlearn and—by consequence–connect with who we really are, our most authentic self, creativity ensues. We can start to share a greater meaning with those things that spark passion and change.
  • You can start to see new perspectives. Things are no longer white or black, mental rigidity minimizes, and color starts to tinge our inner world. As such, we can see things from a new perspective, discover new ways to solve the problems that may arise, and develop resilience and flexibility.
  • You are able to grow. Unlearning also means shying away from a fixed mindset and embracing a growth mindset. No longer allowing external pressures to dictate our way of life, but rather create a balance between our outer and inner world that enables us to develop healthier relationships.
  • You can connect in a more authentic way. It's no coincidence that authenticity shows up several times throughout this post. Unlearning and, therefore, re-learning automatically reveals our true self. That self that has probably been eager to show up for many years. And, when that happens, our relationships become more authentic, as well.
  • You become more curious. Curiosity is a predecessor and successor of unlearning. What starts as self-curiosity quickly becomes curiosity for the outer world. For other people, other behaviors, other beliefs. And, it shows up in a much more self-compassionate way, too. Curiosity replaces judgment and, with such a shift in dynamic, we learn to live healthier and more peaceful lives, too.
  • You start to heal your wounds. Self-curiosity requires to look within, before casting judgment outside. This process, though sometimes painful and heartbreaking, is also tied to profound healing and change. And, when we start to heal our emotional wounds, we let go of strong emotions that corrode our inner world: shame, guilt, and judgment, just to name a few.

The power of unlearning relies on our ability to transform and change. Because, if there's one thing that makes human beings human, is that they are on a neverending journey. And, unlearning can help that journey lead to self-growth, forgiveness, self-compassion, and self-love.

To find a therapist, please visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.

About the Author
Mariana Plata

Mariana Plata is a psychologist, educator, and mental health writer based in Panama.

More from Mariana Plata
More from Psychology Today
More from Mariana Plata
More from Psychology Today