Learning with feelings

Usually, when we discuss learning we address anything but feelings. This can be very convenient if our feelings are tuned with what we learned.  When our feelings are in the way of what we learn, we try to activate the willpower and concentrate on more intellectual and technical aspects of learning. Sometimes we would like to think about ourselves in mechanical terms, as lean learning machines. This is not the only way to address feelings. In this article, I would love to outline some alternatives. As always, I provide additional reading references here, here, here, here, here and here.

How we learn to learn

We start learning at school. Usually, there is nothing personal in what we learn. The way we are supposed to learn at school should intellectually stimulate us and provoke some curiosity. School is also supposed to build better citizens, so we also learn some patriotic subjects and literature. The teachers are better off keeping deep emotions and burning controversies far from their classes. If the classes would be too emotional, the teachers would need to deal with tears, anger, and other discipline programs. Most school subjects address the most interesting challenges the humanity faced throughout its history in the most boring and detached forms. I remember that after the history lessons I felt fully detached and emotionally drained, memorizing numbers and reasons, totally incapable to connect with the generations gone.

And now we learn faster

In our courses, we explain how to read much faster and remember significantly more. When I started my own training, I read 120wpm and remembered 10%. Now I can read 3000wpm and remember 80% of what I read. I read more content and I do not read less time. Every question I have, I can research within hours. Most of our students can read 600wpm and remember 40%, with Anna’s 1:1 students reading above 1000wpm and remembering 80%.

Do the speed and accuracy make our reading more meaningful? Not necessarily. Since we need to revisit our visualizations and do not have enough time to work through our feelings, we create the mental landscapes we feel comfortable with. Our mindmaps or mental palaces include certain emotions, but these emotions are not very deep. If a student tries to create deeply emotional mental structures, he risks getting sucked into turmoils that prevent further reading and we want to eliminate it.

Find time to feel

Between prereading and reading, and after reading a chapter we stop to analyze the content. Every 20 min or so we make a 5 min stop to rest. Nobody tells what sort of break it should be and how should we spend it.

To Feel is a good and honest way to react to what we read. We can daydream and play different events in our head, empathizing with other people: the authors of what we read, their critics, us and our friends.

There are many materials on visualization, which can also be used for daydreaming and creativity. We do not have to stick with the detached position of a reader, biographer, and observer. We can definitely bring in some of our experiences and knowledge about the people involved.

Why bother?

Active learning is better than passive learning. Personally, when I acquire a lot of information without generating a genuine connection with what I learn, I feel empty and tired.

I am still looking for a course that teaches to feel deeper and better. Personally, I am pretty sure that to stay positive and motivated we need an emotional connection.

One of the great pleasures of being alive is resonating with things we experience: what we eat, what we see, the smells and the touch. In a similar way, when we resonate with what we learn, we do not waste our time: we have a genuine experience.

What if I do not feel anything?

Many people who are very good doing math report that math makes them feel better. Some are troubled and math calms them. Some have synesthesia and math makes them experience wonders. Occasionally people doing math may even feel closer to the god.

If this is the way mathematicians feel about something very abstract, we could feel much more when learning what we learn.

I meet lawyers, for whom the law is dry. Yet the law determines people’s lives and destinies. Money is the blood of our economy in every scale. Companies and households flourish or suffocate based on their cache flow, yet many people feel nothing with respect to the money.

To some degree, we can choose when to become emotional and which emotions we explore. If nothing we learn makes us feel then maybe we should change the attitude or learn something else.

Radical honesty

It is easy to lie to ourselves. We can try to convince ourselves that the subject we are trying to learn is equally boring to everybody. We may want to pass an exam and then forget about it.

In my experience, the subjects I tried to neglect were most likely to follow me throughout my life. When we generate a weakness, it may trap us.

We should be honest regarding what we feel. Some subjects excite all of my peers, yet they are very boring for me. Other subjects are just the opposite. Doing what everybody dreams to do is probably not the best thing if we do not share the dream.

Quite often I find myself resisting to learning. There are many reasons. Sometimes I do not understand and fail to admit it. Occasionally I disagree and do not want to force myself to do or learn something I do not believe in. From time to time, learning stirs a bad memory, old fear or past trauma.

We need to be honest with ourselves about our experiences. Most of our feelings can be dealt with, once we understand what we feel.

Past traumas

If what we try to learn reminds us of past traumas or fears, we might not we able to concentrate. We may need to deal with the trauma before we continue learning. We can deal with the trauma in many ways. If the trauma is not too deep we may be able to accept it without judgment and with empathy: we are human and bad things can happen to everyone. For deeper traumas, one can use more complex methods from the self-help books, like various forms of reframing and desensitization. If the trauma is major or if the self-help does not help, there is no reason to avoid therapy. There is nothing wrong with seeing a therapist and dealing with damaging thought patterns.

Increasing self awareness

Sometimes we feel that something is there, we do not really know what it is. Quite possibly this is something that we are not fully aware of.

Self-awareness can be worked on. Once we find repeating patterns in our thinking and behavior, we also start noticing subtle manifestations of these patterns.

Writing a blog or a journal, performing self-reviews and analyzing personal goals, we find that what we actually do does not correspond to what we wanted to do.

Usually, we are equally guided by our plans and the environmental effects. The environmental effects often provoke emotions to make us act differently.

Choosing the right company

Quite often we pick up our emotions from the environment.

If our friends feel that math is boring, we will tend to think that ourselves. However, if our friends enjoy puzzles we may fall in love with math.

We live in information bubbles, tending to preserve the emotional responses of our closest friends. If we want to learn something, it is best to be friends with people who have a deep interest in that subject.

Resisting authority

It is very hard not to be influenced by authority. People quote and misquote Einstein because nobody dares to argue with what Einstein supposedly said. Most of the known Einstein’s quotes cannot be attributed to the man by his biographers.

Sometimes the most wonderful mentors in some areas of life, have an adverse effect in other areas. People cannot be equally good at everything they do. Great teachers are usually not great businessmen. Great scientists are not great politicians. We should be careful what feelings we want to copy and disengage when we get emotionally contaminated.

If we know our life goals and values, we can resist temptations and see what the things we learn mean for us. Some people even write self-manifesto to make sure they are true to themselves.

Generating meaning

Knowledge is usually objectively dull. We choose which meaning we want to infuse into the things we learn.

When we learn hands-on, our learning will be infused with the smells of the room where we work, and the tactile experiences of the substance we change.

Great teachers transfer their love to the subjects through non-verbal communication.

If we have peers interested in the subjects we want to learn, we will feel excitement, expectations and competition.

However, if we learn something by ourselves and for ourselves, we should make an extra effort to generate a meaning for our own sake.

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