This is so clearly written on a topic I thought I had worked through. You have uncovered even more for me to consider about how to interpret the cues of my own personal body.
So much was taken from us as girls. I was raised with all the same messages and it hasn’t been until I reached my 50’s that I have been able to begin disentangling those messages to try and get rid of them for good.
I was taught from a young age what everything I thought, felt, and did ‘meant’ according to God and the adult authorities around me. I was never allowed to even know that I was supposed to be interpreting my own biological cues for how they made sense to me and that I was supposed to be relying on those cues, not being held prisoner by them.
When we are taught how to understand anything from a young age, whether it’s about building blocks or our own bodies, our brain uses those teachings to create a map of the world around us. Our brain stores all of the learning it takes in into its memory. Once something is learned by the brain, regardless of whether it’s right or wrong, we use that learning to make future decisions. That is brain mechanics.
So to disentangle so much wrongness we were taught about how to interpret the cues of our own bodies is really hard to do. We have woven those past teachings into many other concepts and ideas we have encountered and formulated throughout our lives. It is much easier to learn new things than it is to undo learning because the unlearning has to be undone from so many categories of concepts we have already built into our brains.
Thus I am 54 years old. I read this today. And I am stopped in my tracks by the knowledge that I still have more unlearning to do. You have so clearly articulated what was taken from me and from so many girls and women.
I am developing a theory of human behavior that factors in the ideas you have written about here and how those ideas apply to all of our senses, movements, thoughts, perceptions, emotions, predictions, and behaviors. We were taught how to understand and interpret all of these parts of ourselves in terms of how they impact others.
We were never given a chance in any realm of our biology to make sense of our interactions with our environments in the ways that made sense to us. We came fully loaded with biological cues to interact with the world as at each of our developmental levels.
We did not have to be taught how to be human, but we were. The consequences of being taught how to interpret our own personal senses, movements, thoughts, perceptions, emotions, predictions, and behaviors instead of being trusted to interpret them for how they made sense to us, is confusion and discomfort. This kind of confusion and discomfort can be extremely destabilizing for us and can lead to much personal suffering.
We need to build new theories of human behavior to stop the confusing kinds of practices that still exist in religious, secular, educational and psychological dogma.
Your essay is evocative and powerful. Thank you.