Unblocking our ability to learn LO22677

Vana Prewitt (vana@praxislearning.org)
Thu, 16 Sep 1999 10:04:57 -0400

Replying to LO22670 --

Nick Heap asked if members had experience successfully helping people
learn more effectively by removing their emotional blocks. I suppose I
have to a small degree; at least it seems small to me since the enormity
of the injustice was and is one that continues to rub me like burrs under
a saddle.

Situation #1: this person grew up in a rural area of the U.S., in a state
not known for its intellectual power. His mental processes are extremely
linear. When working through a question, a problem facts...anything...he
takes one mental step and understands it before moving on to the next. In
contrast, I process information in segments simultaneously, reaching
conclusions faster than my friend. Our educational and business systems
consider me "more intelligent" and in many cases think of my friend as
"stupid." However, his judgment and decisions are often sounder than mine
and bear up better under multiple assaults.

It became a mission for me to help this person see that he is not stupid,
a belief that he had for more than 40 years. He is only partly able to
see his intelligence at this point in his life, but at least he now
understands that the messages he received all these years were grossly
flawed. I have introduced him to Howard Gardner's theories of multiple
intelligences and have given him concrete examples of people who have
excelled in certain areas (e.g: academics or music) but failed miserably
in others. One's ability to contribute meaningfully to society and the
lives of others has as much to do with those "other intelligences" as the
ones we traditionally measure and value.

My great joy came recently, when he began to read books for fun. This is
something he has never done before. He is 48 years old. He admitted that
he had withdrawn from books early in life because he was considered stupid
(again, he processed information slowly compared to others). Even though
certain books had interested him, it usually took him about 2 years to
finish an average novel because they put him to sleep. He has read about
5 novels in the last month, with an average completion time of 3 days.

Situation #2: A coworker felt locked away in the job and career path she
had. An employee of 20 years, she didn't see what options were available
and wasn't attempting to learn new talents and ways of thinking. We began
to take walks during our lunch breaks and we talked about areas of
learning organizations, knowledge management, training and mentoring
adults. She got excited and asked for more information. I continued to
feed that excitement one bite at a time until she had made the transition
to the training department. By then, she was on her way and she is now an
instructional designer for the same company, with 25 years tenure.

So, what works? I think it always comes down to inidividual
encouragement, mentoring, coaching, and undoing the harmful messages of
the past that have convinced an individual that learning will produce
either something negative or no positive results. Most people have a
great fear of looking foolish in public, and publicly failing as a learner
goes back to early childhood. If those messages and fears are deeply
entrenched, it will take a lot of work and many years to make much of a
dent. The person who associates learning with emotional pain is not
highly motivated to pursue it.

kind regards,

Vana Prewitt
Praxis Learning Systems
Chapel Hill, NC


Vana Prewitt <vana@praxislearning.org>

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