It’s amazing how many areas of self-improvement are about un-learning, and getting back to the way we intuitively did things as children.
For example, you don’t need to teach a baby how to breathe. Watch a baby breathe, and they do it perfectly: through the nose, belly rising and falling, deeply in and out. It’s like they’ve paid for sessions with an expensive respiration consultant and really done their homework, but only the babies from certain parts of West London actually have. Yet as adults, we’re furiously mouth-breathing as our chest is yanked up and down, trying to force air into the top third of our lungs.
The same goes for standing and walking. Admittedly babies are poor at this to start with, but when they get the idea they stand and move with perfect posture and alignment. They also sit effortlessly up straight, while we adults slump and strain.
And it’s not just physical. So many therapeutic techniques are getting back to who we were as children: not over-thinking, just joyfully exploring and living in the moment.
What goes wrong on the journey from childhood to adulthood? Why do we end up learning inferior replacements for the perfectly good habits we were born with?
I think a lot of it is because we’re living in ways that evolution hasn’t caught up with yet. We sit in chairs that force us into unnatural positions. We live in groups vastly larger than our brains can handle…yet we’re also strangely cut off from one another. We tend to be materially rewarded for performing tasks that use a particular aspect of our thinking, at the expense of others.
I’m not suggesting we go back to foraging in forests, or saying that progress is negative. But I think it’s reassuring to know that with many of the areas of life we struggle with, we were born knowing how to do it. All we need to do is a bit of un-learning, and we’ll be fine.