Knowing your emotions: the learning disability script – study #4 e #5

 Mariana Thieriot Loisel Ph.D

Picture from Mandala

While reading Knowing your emotions from Brian Lynch, M.D. Ed. Interest Books, Inc., Chicago, USA, 2010, it was if I could finally begin to enter in the black box of the classroom, and understand what was going on when the students were not interested in the subject of philosophy, when my colleagues went through deep depression or the famous burn out, when I decided to stop teaching to enter deeper in the research field, after 14 years at the university and doing a Post Doctorate in Philosophy, I began to deeply understand why people were so unhappy at school or at the University… I have observed during my academic studies that we don’t really pay attention to our emotions. Maybe we are all afraid of those emotions because we realize subconsciously that if we listen carefully to what we are feeling we may leave the group due to its coldness and competitiveness.

Let’s take a slow walk, step by step, together, and attempt to listen carefully to our emotions and attempt to understand what’ s going on when we are no longer interested in going to school, as a student or as a teacher, when we star building a learning disability script, or a teaching disability script. Our first step is learning that new idea: p.7 the idea that emotion comes first and then we think and do, or do and think. When we think and do, when we plan our classes and everything goes well, people are interested, understand what we mean, are not confused or lost, they learn together, we are motivated to do our job, well there is no need for a paper. We are able to match mutual interest, “affective attunement” and the transmission of knowledge. We have all experienced at least once this joyful and exciting situation of being happy of having learned something new!

But unfortunately that’s not the every day life of the majority of the schools and Universities around the word. I would like to go one step further. Dealing with emotions in learning situation for both professor and student is difficult. We feel, we evaluate, we do and the[n], often, to late, we think. Those spontaneous judgments, driven by emotion, are called by Paul Ricoeur “jugement prima facie” and manifest what we desire or don’t desire immediately. Those non-intentional judgments or intuitions are a connection between labels of good and bad, emotions of shame and pride, and actions, before we engage in reasoning. Desire is not right or wrong. Desire is a form of interest that drives our attention to something. It is the right thing to do based on our memory. In this new moment the old memory might guide us into an error in judgment, such as I hate math or I am not able to learn math: I describe it by “non- intentional attitudes” during the learning process. Those non-intentional attitudes expresses an evaluation that interfere in the learning process and may block our interest, building a learning disability script.

Following the works of Lacan and Freud, we can under evaluate or over evaluate the others, ourselves. Those non-intentional but conscious evaluations interfere and do damage to the learning process. They are based on our biography, on the complex memory- feelings that will constitute our learning script. According to Brian Lynch emotion is neither positive nor negative but neutral. But the evaluation one’s make about his or her emotions, the label good or bad he associates to it, will increase the difficulties during the learning process. If we feel ashamed because we have done something wrong, the way we evaluate this shame, based on our past experiences will help us to proceed, or on the contrary will paralyze us. Our evaluation in the classroom must follow the first sequence: we feel, we think, we judge and then we act. We feel mutual interest, we analyze the facts, we think: are we able to solve the math problem, yes or no, why? And then we judge: I am using the wrong approach I have to reevaluate and change the method. In fact if we look to emotions and the affects that drives those emotions such as shame and guilt that can block the learning process, we learn that they are intimately connected with non-intentional evaluations, they can be the result of evaluations driven by fear and shame, and even the fear of feeling ashamed: I will never succeed, my parents will be disappointed, the teacher is going to punish me, my mother said I was no good at school, and we go on building our script. In order to learn, you have to swim for instance, without knowing how to swim. You have “to do something, without knowing how to do something in order to learn how to do it” . It’s risky, and very often we don’t succeed the first time, we need a lot of repetition to understand how things can work… So if we share mutual interest: affective attunement in the class, and have good explanations, maybe we can dive safely!

In fact Lacan and Melanie Klein noticed a difference between cognitive interest and physical needs, we can’t reduce interest for Lacan to a physical need, because when we are interested in someone our imagination, our fantasy, plays an important part in the scenario. Why do we prefer the way a teacher explains a subject to us? Why are we more attracted to some students more than others? Because they show interest in the class or because they remind us the student we once were? Why we don’t feel good with some teachers? Sometimes we have to go back to our very early childhood, and the way we were perhaps hurt while we expressed our inner affects in order to learn, how to stand, how to manipulate a spoon, how to speak… As describe Dr. Lynch: “p.7 Not that babies cannot reason before talking, but observation shows us that they communicate first, much more through emotion.” When I taught Melanie Klein to the students in Psychology of education we were all very interested in following what she calls “ pulsion épistémophilique”: the will of understanding, the will of meaning, a cognitive drive such as interest, babies do have, but they also affective attunement, care, so that they can begin to learn, and develop this will of understanding in order to interact positively with the others safely: we do build together “scripts” of learning” or learning disability scripts. In fact: p.8 a smile in Borneo is the same smile in the United states. The joy of learning something new has a special taste, to stand up and walk, to hold on to a spoon, to be able to communicate trough a language: this represents the ‘script’ of “pride”; the completion of interest-joy that will allow us later on to choose our own path, by ourselves, to experience freedom that comes with autonomy. Speaking of freedom I refer to the human rights declaration: I do believe that we need freedom, brotherhood, and the same opportunity for development. I do believe we are born equal in dignity and rights. Children love us spontaneously; they deserve to be loved in return during their learning process, they deserve scripts that increase joy and interest instead scripts that increase shame. For sure it will help them to stand up, hold on to a spoon or call your name, and later on sign their own names on a beautiful painting.

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