Fear in Learning

Helping a student who is having difficulties, however, is not as easy as it seems. Take the case of the child who is having trouble learning to write. Part of the problem, as in most skills, is that the child will try too hard and use too much muscular effort. But what will happen if you then show the child how to write in a way that requires little effort? He may now have an experience of writing with less effort, but he will be loathe to adopt this new means when he actually has to write, because he doesn’t regard this activity as writing! The child is paradoxically wedded to the very habits that create his difficulties, because those habits give him a feeling of security, a sense that he is trying and doing what is expected of him. But half the problem is contained in that attitude. When we are afraid that we can’t do something, we then become obsessed with doing it right. The moment we think in these terms, we engage in the very behaviors that cause the problem.

Dimon, Theodore. The Elements of Skill: A Conscious Approach to Learning. North Atlantic Books, 2003.

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