When are we teachable? When are we in a place to absorb a life lesson or take a suggestion and use it to our advantage or for our growth?
Given that change is rare and likely the hardest work a person can do, the window of teachability in our lives is likely to be narrow.
In my experience, it appears to exist somewhere between the two extremes of Self Loathing and Blame. This came up in conversation recently with someone who was needing and actually asking for help. Yet they seemed to remain stuck in an unhealthy place and resisted help by one extreme or another. A mental image began to form … that a teachable zone might be illustrated as….
Self-Loathing: When a suggestion was offered, they would look at the problem in their life that the suggestion was addressing and pour such regret and hatred on themselves, that they gave up and felt they were hopeless. They wouldn’t even try.
Blame: Other times, suggestions were deflected by them finding some reason that they couldn’t change because of constraints caused by others. Or excuses for why others could change because they had something that the individual felt they didn’t and therefore change was impossible or suggestion wasn’t relevant, so again, they wouldn’t even try.
Teachable Zone: Somewhere between these two extremes is a teachable zone. We are in this zone when our mindset is in a place of mature acceptance. We can receive and absorb teaching or suggestions because we are not deflecting them with either self-loathing or blame.
The hazy yellow image representing our teachable zone is hazy for a reason. We really don’t quite know where or how broad it is. All we feel sure of is that it is somewhere between self-loathing and blame.
It occurred to those of us offering to help, that the force that drove the person to self-loathing or blame, was self-pity. Ooooh, tough pill to swallow. But we realized the same rules apply to all of us and we had been there and still have measures of self-pity that inhibit us from being teachable. We too had resisted learning and help in these same ways.
While we are feeling sorry for ourselves, whether consciously or unconsciously, our knee-jerk reaction to most input to bring about change is resistance. However, as I see it, if we can attack the root of self-pity, or whatever lies deeper than it, we stand a far better chance of being able to absorb, learn, and grow.