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What You Don’t Know, and How RO DBT Can Help

By August 2, 2018November 16th, 2018Dr. Beatriz Mann, Nutrition Counseling

How do we become aware of what we don’t know? This blog tackles how to set realistic expectations for learning new skills while also accepting that there are things that we simply just don’t know (eek!). 

Four Phases of Learning using RO DBT

In the age of technology, we tend to operate as though all the answers are at our fingertips.  Don’t know the name of that actor in that one TV show? IMDB-it! Want to get a little insight into the mind of Stephen Hawking?  There’s a movie for that! Curious about how many miles the moon is from Earth? Google/B0ing/Yahoo it!

We often like to think that we know everything or at least a little bit about everything. The limitation of this mindset is that we become blind to the things we actually don’t know!  (And yes, there are DEFINITELY things we don’t know.) This can make it very hard to learn new skills.

So How Do We Overcome This Barrier? 

How do we figure out what we don’t know?  Radically Open Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, or RO DBT, would propose a number of steps.  First and foremost is accepting the fact that we don’t really know anything, at least not in the universal way we like to think:  

  • We know things only through the lens through which we see them.  
  • And that lens can’t really be taken off.  How can you separate your perspective from your culture, childhood, family, gender, sexual orientation, or life experiences? RO DBT would say you can’t.  
  • And therefore it is perfectly natural to not know.  Which can be an uncomfortable thought for many of us….
What is RO DBT and Why is it so Exciting

According to RO DBT, There Are 4 Phases of Learning:

  1. You don’t know that you don’t know: Blissful ignorance. It’s not even on your radar.
  2. You know you don’t know something: It’s on your radar, but you don’t have the skills, the knowledge, or desire to tackle it. (Like a 3-year-old who is aware that one day, they will have to learn how to tie shoes).
  3. You are trying to know something: It’s on your radar, and you are actively working towards it, likely with many failures along the way.  (Like when a 5-year-old starts to learn how to tie their shoes.)
  4. You know something so well, you don’t even have to think about it: It’s off of your radar again, because you are so good at it.  (Like when you tied your shoes this morning and didn’t even give it a second thought!)

Most people feel very comfortable with stages 1 and 4 of learning, which makes sense.  It’s within our “comfort zone.” Stages 2 and 3 tend to make people feel uncomfortable, frustrated, avoidant, even overwhelmed.

  • Often, we hold the unrealistic expectation of immediately gaining mastery over something as soon as we are aware of it.  
  • This causes problems, as we are that much more unwilling or unable to effectively learn and adapt.
  • We may completely miss out on new, positive experiences due to the fear of not knowing or having mastery.
  • Luckily, there are ways to increase our ability to be flexible and meet the changing and sometimes unpleasant demands of learning new things!

If you find you have a very hard time learning new skills, have unrealistic expectations around your learning, feel like you miss out on a lot of things, or tend to be very rigid in your thinking, the clinicians at Integrated Care Clinic can help get you from a place of not knowing to developing a sense of mastery! Give us a call and we can work together to enable you to effectively learn and grow.

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Dr. Mann is a licensed psychologist that specializes in healthy coping, college adjustment, anxiety, personal identity, balance, and mindfulness.

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