How Do I Overcome Negative Learning Experiences?

I had to study, but… Many people who go back to learning may feel hesitant because of previous negative learning experiences. I believe all of us have some reservations about certain topics. Is this because of the topic itself… or is there some deeper issue going on?

Many people probably end up blaming negative learning experiences to be the cause… But is this really the case?

how do i overcome negative learning experiences

Let me be blunt and overgeneralize: There are no negative learning experiences. There are only experiences and your responses to them. Your responses make the experience negative. The same situation can be a positive experience for someone else! It is up to us to remove the negative feelings and remove any blockages. 

There is something to learn in every situation. This can be for good or for bad. It can be helpful or holding you back. Great, now that we’ve got that out of the way let me tell you this. 

Yes, you have had negative experiences in the past. I know, because we all had them, myself included. Unfortunately, this trigger still determines your learning and your current perspective on studying, a certain topic, people, or situations. 

The most important thing you should be doing is heal those feelings. Don’t get me wrong. I am not talking about deep psychotherapy. What I would suggest is that you do this. 

Find the biggest negative experience and examine it closely. 

  • Why did this occur? 
  • What made you respond this way? 
  • How is this limiting you in your current learning?
  • Would your present self also respond the same way?
  • Can you objectively look at the situation and feel the same about it? 

Investigate, and use those limiting thoughts for personal growth. Overcome your experience and you become a better version of yourself. 

Here’s an example. 

I really disliked learning French when I was 13. I was terrified walking into the classroom. I knew we had to do some quiz and I would fail. At home, I didn’t even want to study French anymore. 

Did this help in feeding my negative experience? You bet! Not studying at home is a great way to fail a test at school. 

The cause of this was really simple… I wasn’t prepared a few times for a quiz and failed them. From there, a cycle started that would feed this negative experience.

Looking back later, I understood what happened. It wasn’t the learning the French language. It was a matter of Doomsday thinking, generalization, and not snapping out of it. 

In fact, had I known this, I probably would have been a better student in general. Fortunately, I overcame these feelings. Later on, I even liked learning new languages 🙂

Make sure you stop limiting yourself because of negative experiences. Here’s how:


How to overcome negative thoughts while studying?

There are two important things to do when overcoming negative thoughts. First, get to the root of the negative thought. Next, understand how this is limiting you and what you should believe in order to benefit from your experience. 

Now, this may sound simplistic. And you are totally right! 

Remember, you were the one who allowed these negative thoughts to become part of your thinking. At the moment you started thinking this, it probably was something useful to you. 

Many people walk around having negative thoughts that limit their learning experiences. When you trace them back, it usually is something that happened in their childhood. 

Again, I am not here trying to psychoanalyze you. That is not what this article is about. It is however my sincere wish you learn to deal with your limiting and negative thoughts. The result will be amazing.

So, going back to our plan of action. 

First, you understand what caused all of this. The easiest way of doing that is by asking the WHY question. 

For example, I believe that I really stink at French and learning new words.

WHY? Because I have all these test results showing me that I am no good at this

WHY? Because I failed the tests
WHY? Because I studied not good or often enough
WHY? Because I saw that I would fail eventually again
WHY? Because I saw this happen because I didn’t study enough
WHY? Because I liked playing outside more than learning French words.
WHY? Because I was feeling overly confident I could fix this… and I couldn’t

If you go deep enough, you will probably find the root cause of your negative learning experience. This “asking why” method is called the “Five Whys” method (link).

The “Five Whys” method isn’t perfect. It leaves a lot of room to blame your experience on “the other guy”. Make sure you take responsibility for your own feelings and actions and find the possibility for personal growth. Of course, when you don’t find answers that help you, ask other people for help.

how do you benefit from your negative learning experience

When you found your root cause, it is important to understand how this belief is limiting you, and what you can do to benefit from this experience. 

Here is my example again:

Feeling overly confident is making me feel stressed and only allows me to just pass tests and exams. After the test, I can hardly remember what I studied. This is not helping me in the future.

What I should be doing is identify when I feel overly confident. When that feeling is trying to take over, I acknowledge that it is there. Next, I make sure I do the work I should be doing. 

Handling my feelings this way helps me to reduce the influence of negativity. Still… it is sad that I have to correct previous experiences this way.  Overcoming negative thoughts is good. What is immensely better, is preventing or avoiding negative thoughts. Let’s investigate that.


How can I avoid negative behaviors?

There is someone very important you probably don’t talk with enough. This person is really dear to you. Still, I can imagine most people don’t even take a few minutes to talk to that important person. 

Do you know who this person is?

It is your future self. This person is the one person you could become. This person is living the life you dream about. 

The reason we turn to our future selves is that this is the person who overcame the problems we have. This person grew and learned how to deal with negative experiences. And it is exactly this person who can teach you how to do that too.

Looking back, you can see that most negative learning experiences are caused by 

  • Taking things too personal (the teacher has it in for me)
  • Engage in Doomsday thinking and generalizing (if this doesn’t work… nothing works)
  • All-or-nothing thinking (if I can’t study now, I don’t have to study at all)

Especially taking things too personal is creating many negative experiences. Early in my life, I “learned” that taking on a role of a shy person helped me. Later on in life, I had to unlearn that role to help me grow. 

Getting rejected isn’t always personal. And even if it is… why would a rejection of you in one case, be a rejection of you in general? Focus on facts and the root cause instead of focussing on opinions. 

stop taking rejection personal

When you focus on the root cause and you combine that with becoming your best future self… magic happens. 

You will have a focus in your life. Other people and difficult situations will stop affecting you in a negative way. You will become focused on learning again, personal growth, and college education. 

Now that we discussed preventing and removing negative learning experiences, I have something important for you to add.


How negative thinking affects your brain

You may still think that this negative thinking isn’t too bad (I mean...really…???).

Research shows that there are a number of downsides to negative thinking. Fortunately, by removing negative thinking, you can reduce all of these.

Research shows repeated negative thinking increases the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease, global cognition, and memory. Other research shows that negative thinking increases the chances of depression, worrying, and anxiety. While engaged in negative thinking, you are more likely to have reduced enthusiasm and motivation.

I don’t think we need to dive into negative thinking right now. The most important thing to understand is that negative thinking is bad for you and for your brain. By becoming aware of this, you can take action to change it. I know this isn’t easy, but it is important!

As adult learners, we don’t have too much time to waste. We have a personal life, a lot of work to do, and when we like to study, we have to do this with our full focus. There is not really any room for negative thinking. 

That is why it is important to know that...


Conclusions on negative learning experiences

Many people focus on negativity and are guided by that. That isn’t too strange. When you focus on removing negativity, you will make your world safer. I think this is something evolutional. When your ancestors didn’t focus on dangers, they… well… probably would have been eating by a mountain lion…

These days, we don’t really face these dangers anymore. Still, our focus on danger and seeing what is bad is strong in us. You have to train yourself to see the positive things more, see the growth you can achieve.

As you’ve seen, your brain is taking a real beating with all this negative thinking. Stop thinking negatively, and listen to your future self more (the one that has achieved your dreams).

Work on finding the root cause of your negative learning experiences. And when you found them… deal with them. Either remove, replace, rewrite them!

If you need specialized help, make sure you take action. You don’t deserve feeling this way, and you know it is stopping you from living the life you desire. 

When there is anything I can do for you, let me know. Let’s make sure you enjoy the education you like and get the degree you see for yourself!

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