Unlearning and 'returning to'

Since having a Big Girl Job with Good Insurance, I’ve had the luxury of treating myself to a few different therapies: physical therapy for hip pain, talk therapy for existence pain (lol), and voice lessons, which is not categorically therapy per se but whatever, I’m counting it.

Going into these three therapies, I would have figured they’d share some similarities since they all seem to try to “fix” something. And while that’s true to an extent, I’ve noticed that it’s less about fixing and more about unlearning.

In physical therapy, I’ve learned that my hip flexor is too tight because I’ve been overusing that muscle in times where my hamstring should be the one doing the work. I’ve somehow learned to engage the wrong muscle, and now I need to return to a natural state of engaging my hamstring instead. My body isn’t broken – it just took a wrong turn somewhere years ago and now it has to backtrack.

In talk therapy, I’ve had to learn to sit with my emotions and allow myself to feel them. Frankly, I don’t like doing it, which is why it’s something my therapist is encouraging me to practice. But I really can’t argue with the thought that if we weren’t meant to feel our emotions, we wouldn’t have them in the first place. My emotional processing isn’t broken – it’s just always felt safer to hide instead.

Voice lessons have maybe been the wildest. I’ve had to learn to project my voice and allow it to fill an entire room. Processing emotions is peanuts compared to the vulnerability of singing – my vocal anatomy is perfectly ready for the act of belting, but I’ve somehow learned that giving it my all is somehow unsafe, even when it’s just me and my teacher in a sound-proof room. It’s less like building a muscle and more like coaxing a scared dog with a piece of kibble.

What’s most interesting to me about this observation is that there’s an implied idea of “returning to” some state. Like I’ve only needed to engage with any of these therapies because I learned the wrong thing however many years ago, and I’ve unwittingly turned it into my default state, which has hurt me down the line. There are so many directions I could take this train of thought, but above all, it’s unexpectedly comforting. Framing it as “unlearning” lets me be kinder to myself than framing it as “fixing”. It’s a redirection, not a deficit. Learning is something I know I can do – unlearning can’t be that hard either.