Remember Who You Are
by Patti O’Donahue, MA, RYT
NE University Learning & Education Faculty
To remember who you are you first need to forget who they told you to be.
The Forming of Beliefs & the False Self
In high school, while taking a Grade 9 math class I discovered that I could solve complex algebra or word problems without having a clue how I arrived at the answer. Not all of the time, but enough to be noticeable. When called upon by the teacher to explain to the class my problem solving process all I could do was look at him with utter confusion, shrug my shoulders and blush. I had no idea. Was it important? My technique seemed random and illogical, and I could not explain my process through the structured steps as instructed by the teacher. I found this ability extremely embarrassing and eventually concluded that I must not be very intelligent. To avoid any further embarrassment I dropped out of math completely, and transferred from the academic program to the vocational program, a class of students with known learning and behavioral difficulties. Although these young people were considered “troublesome” I thrived in this environment as I was able to learn art, poetry and language, and I resonated with the rebellion, mischievousness and laughter so often present in the classroom.
Dissolving False Beliefs and Reclaiming the True Self
Despite my difficulties with math in high school I loved learning and in my thirties I decided to challenge my high school beliefs by returning to school as an adult learner. To start with though, I had to upgrade my math beginning back where I left off in Grade 9. Although fearful, I managed to overcome my blocks and learn the sequential steps to logical problem-solving. Much to my surprise and without intention I found myself entering graduate school for leadership in my early forties. I had dedicated much of my life to designing and implementing transformative programs in urban ecology, healing and human potential and was familiar with the challenges of leading change within existing systems. I was also fascinated by leaders throughout time who had successfully and peacefully transformed society, human behavior and consciousness.
The Master’s program required learners to take several personality and learning assessments to increase self-awareness and self-knowledge, which are key to effective leadership. One of the assessments was Myers Briggs or MBTI originally developed by Carl Jung where I learned that I was an INFP which translated into Introverted (although on the cusp with Extroverted) Intuitive, Feeling and Perceptive. According to the Myers Briggs assessment, these were my learning style preferences, or my personal pathway to understanding my world and knowledge creation. This was an epiphany or “Aha” moment as the results provided insight into my learning style and all my earlier challenges in high school became crystal clear.
With this information my entire self-perception of shifted. Reference materials stated that individuals with an intuitive preference are known to have an ability to solve math problems without using a logical sequential process to arrive at an answer. This was not a learning dis-ability as I had long thought. It was a gift! I discovered that I was a visionary or big picture person and tended to start at the end (the ultimate vision) working my way backwards in a random and illogical fashion. Therefore, I found linear, logical and fragmented thinking and attention to small details exhausting as it required using the less dominant areas of my brain. The left side verses the right side of my brain. Although I later learned that I can achieve this way of thinking when needed, it literally hurts my whole being.
What I learned in graduate school opened up my life forever. This single realization provided me with a much needed explanation for my ability to know the answers to complex problems without understanding the process. My beliefs could now be reframed into a new and more positive sense of self based upon understanding both my strengths and my weaknesses. I now prefer to identify people with the opposite gifts to me and nurture a friendship based upon respect and appreciation for support in all aspects of my life.
Transforming Education to Respect Diversity
Based upon my experiences and the negative self-beliefs I developed during my earlier education, I wish all teachers and students were taught that there are people with intuitive ways of knowing. Intuitive people process and perceive life differently than then the methodologies as taught in our traditional educational system. Linear logical left brain thinking is not the only pathway to knowledge or to understanding reality. Human beings are like prisms of color and light shining from a crystal. Our educational system, like all monoculture based and factory farming systems is not structured to celebrate the diversity of life. Nor is the educational system able to acknowledge the uniqueness of individuals such as myself, who due to the negative messages begin to perceive difference as somehow being wrong, or bad. This method of teaching effectively dims our radiance and dampens the human Spirit.
I do not think, but I know that being intuitive, like many other prisms of light, is my gift to the world. Intuitive and visionary children and youth embody a pathway of knowing that should be honoured and integrated into the curriculum for greater understanding of human diversity. It is our sovereign right as human beings to remain true to our own unique Self and to shine this light as bright as possible upon a world starving for our color.
To remember who you are you need to forget who they told you to be.