Thoughts on two types of learning and the molding of a person

Here’s a thought I had:


To me, “learning” is a tendency  and ability to ‘change’ in such a way that it makes it so that a person is more:

  • Adaptable.
  • Aware.
  • More “in tune” with their life and situation. 

In these ways, it makes a person “malleable” and able to “form themselves” to situations and life.

Keep in mind that “learning”, as I  use it, is not the same as “knowing” things (information, facts, a procedure, how to do something, etc.), though it often entails it.  Most people, in this society, associate “learning” with “knowing”.  I do not believe this is the case.  “Learning” is an act, a process.  A person is only “learned” in the fact that they are in the process of doing that process, not because of what they have done or achieved or that they happen to know things.  In that way, a person can be “learned” one minute and “non-learned” the next.  This makes it so that “learning” is a varied thing and never constant.  This means that “learning” is something that ‘comes and goes’ throughout ones life.  Because of this, there are moments, in everyone’s life, where there is great “learning” and moments where there is great “non-learning”.

We often have moments where there is great “learning” of specific things (such as how to speak).  They generally go through phases:

  1. The initial phase, where something is first confronted.
  2. A pre-climax, where “learning” begins.
  3. A climax, where the “learning” is at its height.
  4. A post-climax, where the “learning” declines.
  5. A “post-learning”, where, once learned, “learning” may practically stop and we basically replicate what we have “learned”.  In this case, it becomes something we now “know” . . . “learning” has stopped.

One could very well call this the “learning cycle” as most learning goes in this format.  Because it ends with “knowing” it is easy to see why “learning” and “knowing” are so easily confused.  But we must remember that “knowing” is an end result of “learning”.  “Knowing” is something static and dead.  It does not describe the process.

“Learning” also changes with age.  Childhood is a time of great “learning”.  There we learn how to talk and walk and begin to learn social abilities.  In adulthood we learn how to live and be responsible.  Typically, though, “learning” tends to decrease as one ages.  That is to say, as one ages there is less ‘change’, adaption, and molding in a person.  In this way, we could say that life, itself, is one big “learning cycle” ending with a static and dead “non-learning” state of mind in which one only “knows” (that is, they become a creature of habit).

In addition, a person may be inclined to specific forms of “learning” as well.  One person may take to one form but be unable to take to another.  This can be to such an extent that a person seems to be “born to do it”.

In addition, one could even say that there is a ‘learning character’ and an ‘non-learning character’The ‘learned character’ is characterized by always seeking this tendency to change and the ability to be ‘malleable’.  The ‘non-learning character’ does not do this and tends to be somewhat static and unchanging

Interestingly, in this society, with its emphasis on “knowing”, many people with the ‘learning character’ are often slowly turned into the ‘non-learning character’ over time.  In other words, they are forced only to “know”.  This is because “knowing” is considered “learning” and the ideal.  Therefore, once one “knows” there’s nothing more (except to “know” more) and “learning”, as a process, ends.  Being brought  up that way, it tends to dampen “learning” as a process and create the ‘non-learning character.  Not only that, the “knowing” primarily entails information and/or knowing how to do something.  That, in actuality, is a small and limited range.  In some respects, “knowing” is nothing but a form of collecting information or how to do things, much like collecting stamps or learning how to ride a big.  With this we can see that the emphasis on “knowing”, by its nature, tends to lead to a static condition.  “Learning”, on the other hand, is a dynamic and variable thing that is ongoing and endless. 


I seem to think that there are two types of “learning” which I called:

  1. Internal learning.  This is learning or, rather, discovering ones natural inclinations and abilities.  In other words, a person “finds out” what their natural abilities are and what they’re capable of.  In this sense, it is learning that originates from things internally or from ‘within’.  A person is restricted, in this form of learning, by ones natural inclinations and abilities.  That is to say, if it is not there naturally then it simply cannot appear in a person.  A person may imitate what others do but imitation is not a reflection of internal learning, just ones ability to imitate.  Because of this, many people confuse imitation with internal learning. 
  2. External learning.  This is learning things that do not originate from ones natural inclinations and abilities.  It originates from without you, externally.  In this way, one could describe it as the incorporation of things that are not within ones self.   In other words, it tends to entail things that come externally or ‘without’ ones self.  It includes learning ‘abstract’ things, such as information, knowledge, and such. Because of this, they are generally taught in some way whether by a person or by experience.

Both of these are, of course, needed and a part of life and have a unique association. 

Internal learning has a lot of value for the person such as:

  • It allows for the discovering of natural inclinations and abilities.  In that way, one finds what one is and what one is capable of.
  • It makes learning personal and makes learning a part of who one is.  In a sense, one “becomes” ones internal learning.
  • Internal learning makes us grow and develop as people because it stems from deep within us.  Stemming from deep within, its impact is felt there.  I tend to feel that internal learning changes us, transforming us into who we really are.

These all reflect how it stems from deep within a person, a condition that is absent in external learning.  This is its primary power and influence . . . and why it has such an impact.

The situation is different with external learning.  Because things originate from without and tends to be removed and distant from ones inner self.  In that sense, one could compare it to clothing that a person wears or jewelry.  In this way, one can see that external learning, by its nature, tends to lead a person further from themselves.  This is one of the dangers of external learning and why one must try to not get too engrossed in it.  I have seen many people become alienated in life because they “learned too much”.  I even know that from personal experience.

With this, we can see that internal learning and external learning are actually opposites.  Internal learning tends to involve ones inner self.  External learning tends to be ‘worldly’.  So we see this association:

self—–internal learning<<<>>>external learning—–world

In other words, they are diametrically opposed.  As a result, they display qualities found when things are diametrically opposed, such as:

  • They are contradictory and opposite in nature.
  • Though they are contradictory they are also dependent on each other.  In fact, they need each other . . . one cannot be without the other.
  • Both have good and bad points.  Often, which one is ‘important’ depends on the conditions you are in which uses their good points (such as in personal reflection its best to use internal learning and when learning a trade its best to use external learning).  This means that conditions are often the determining factor in whether its good or bad.

In this way, the two learning’s are continually associating with each other.  They may contradict each other one moment, then need each other the next.  This makes it so that the two forms of learning actually form a unique “association” with each other, often to the point of being a “love-hate relationship”.


Internal learning tends to require things such as these:

  • There is no ‘learning schedule’.  That is to say, one does not ‘learn’ by this and that date.
  • A person really has no control over its development . . . it just ‘happens’.
  • It is different for each person.
  • A ‘system’ cannot be developed to ‘teach it’.
  • It can’t really be ‘taught’ by a systemic or organized way.

Because of these, internal learning is very haphazard in nature.  Some people may take to it and some people won’t.  In some cases, they only appear under certain conditions.  As a result of this fact, there has been no real “effort”, over the years, to deliberately develop and create internal learning, at least in this society.  In fact, it tends to be neglected and forgotten simply because it cannot be ‘grasped’ and controlled.

It seems that internal learning primarily consists of taking certain ‘stances’, so to speak:

  1. Being open.
  2. Putting oneself in specific conditions that promote internal learning.
  3. A willingness to discover and act upon what appears.

In this sense, internal learning is actually based in an ‘attitude’ and ‘reacting’.  From there it ‘just happens’.


External learning, on the other hand, is more ‘rigid’, defined, and strict:

  • It can have a ‘learning schedule’.  That is to say, people can be taught this and that by this or that date.
  • There is a degree of control over it.
  • Teaching everyone is practically the same.
  • It can be ‘systemized’.
  • It can be ‘taught’ to people.

These tend to make external learning something that is ‘graspable’ and something that can be controlled.  That is, it gets “results”, can be “systemized”, and be “applied to everyone”.   Because of this, it is used in the education of the masses and is used by the State in educating the people.  This is one of the reasons why this has become the dominate form of learning in this society.


Because of the self-world association, internal and external learning often becomes a determining factor in how one associates with the world.  Typically, though, a person will lean to one side or the other.  That is to say, one will tend to take one of two orientations, depending on ones character:

  1.  Internal learning dominant.
  2.  External learning dominant.

Often, the direction one takes will determines what one will do in life and how one will live as well as determine ones outlook in life.  In other words, the form of learning we predominately use is a reflection of ones character.  Because its so based in our character, it tends to determine our life and how we live.  As a result, it sets the stage for a persons lifestyle.


The internal learning point of view is seen a lot in older societies.  In fact, older societies tend to be more internal learning oriented.  Because of this, these societies tend to emphasize this ‘attitude’.  This often appears as a manifestation of religious and cultural beliefs, such as prayer, ritual, observance of festivals, and such and a particularly strong tendency to rely on their intuition, awareness, and gut feeling . . . their interior self.

Modern industrialized society, on the other hand, tends to be external learning oriented.  It tends to be more ‘practical’ and intent on turning people into machines.  In fact, most of what it teaches has little, or no, interior meaning and significance.  This shows how older societies and modern societies are diametrically opposed in nature.

Since everyone in modern industricalized society is taught external learning one could say that people are, nowadays, “indoctrinated” into the external learning point of view.  In fact, I’d be inclined to say that people are so “indoctrinated” to this point of view that they can see no other, which is one reason why modern people are often so narrow minded.  Another effect of this is that it hampers any internal learning thereby depriving people of its effects.  This is why people are becoming what I often jokingly call an ‘educated robot’ or ‘University robot’ nowadays.  So-called ‘modern education’ is primarily external learning and that’s its main emphasis.  In other words, all we’re doing is memorizing, remembering, doing technique, and such, with no reference to ones natural inclinations, abilities, and interior self.  In fact, most learning, now, is absolutely devoid of ones natural inclinations at all.  This makes any learning distant and removed from us:  external.


An “education”, as I use it, means what can be described as ‘learning-as-molding’.  That is to say, one is ‘molded’ to a particular form or shape.  An education is not learning a trade or profession or facts or information, nor is there a degree or certificate one earns.  In actuality, you cannot learn an “education” at a school (in fact, it will probably impair it).  An “education” hits deeper than that, to ones self and to the changing of ones self.  In this way, an “education” is primarily a molding of ones self much like making something out of clay.  This creates what can be described as a ‘molded person’.  This person is molded deliberately and intentionally to fit a specific ‘molded form’.  This is a specific way of being and living which a person tries to “transform” themselves into.  Because of this, the ‘molded person’ is really the transformation of a person which is one of the reasons why it often hits deep within a persons self.

The ‘molded form’, which the ‘molded person’ takes, often has traits such as these:

  • It is generally determined by pre-established conditions, viewpoints, mentalities, and perspectives.
  • Usually, it originates from experience.  In that way, it becomes a “sum total” of experience of a person, a group, a people, or a culture.
  • Because these are experienced-based it shows a definite association with the world.  We must remember that this association with the world is not ‘casual’ or leisurely.  It is based in living and surviving in the world.  In this way, one could say that it is associated with the ‘survival instinct’ which gives it a great inner attachment and importance.  Because of this, it has a great sense of seriousness. 
  • Because of this seriousness, a ‘molded form’ that has “success” tends to develop a sense of ‘security’.  In many ways, its this ‘security’ that gives the ‘molded form’ such importance and power.  It gives a person a sense of ‘standing’ in the world and confidence that they can handle the world.  This is one reason why a ‘molded person’ is often looked at highly.
  • This ‘security’ tends to not only be in relation to the world but in relation to other people (that is, socially) and even to ones self.  Because of this, the ‘security’ created by the ‘molded form’ tends to be extended to many aspects of life.  In this way, it often defines a persons life and one could very well say that it becomes a way of life.

So we see that we are looking at more than just “learning” here.  It goes deeper, affecting deep aspects within a person, such as ones self, the ‘survival instinct’, confidence, standing, and a sense of  ‘security’ and often becomes part of a way of life.   In this way, the ‘molded form’ as if “harnesses” many aspects of ones self and unifies them into one and, in so doing, makes a more mature and ‘complete person’, which is one of its great strengths.

Typically, the ‘molded form’ is a reaction to the many forces of life.  That is to say, we mold ourselves in response to life’s conditions.  This reveals the fact that molding, or “education”, is not something that just happens  . . . its something that life instigatesOne could say that this instigation comes from three areas:

  1. Conditions.  This includes things such as historical circumstance, necessity, and situation in life.
  2. Society.  This includes things such as culture, belief, religion, and social standing.
  3. Personal.  This includes things such as one character, experience, abilities, etc.

I tend to believe that this tendency to molding, in response to life, is an innate reaction.  One could say that it, itself, is part of the ‘survival instinct’, which allows us to survive, live, and grow in the world.

I should point out that through molding, which is a reaction to the conditions of life, we become a part of life and, in so doing, it allows us to live life.  This means that molding is a necessary part of experiencing life.  In fact, one could say that its the molding that creates the experience of life.  One of the reason for this is that molding is not, in actuality, static but a continually changing and altering condition.  In other words, molding requires a continual changing and altering of ones self.  This is why I put emphasis on the process and act in “learning” rather than in “knowing” which is static.  Life is an act, not something “known” or “said”.  In this way, life is a continual active molding that never ends.  Its for this reason that molding is so important in the experiencing of life.  It also means that “education” never ends.


I have always felt the orientation of molding is very critical and may even determine if molding will work or not.  That is to say, how internal and external learning associates with one another is very important in order for molding to be effective.  In other words, a “real education” (molding) is not based in “learning stuff” but by applying internal and external learning properly and in the right place.  In other words, each form of learning must be done in the right way for the right reasons.

In general, I tend to take the view that a “real education” is based or rooted in internal learning.  Any external learning “supports” or “buttresses” ones internal learning.   In this way, the “person” remains the focus and the world is in the background.  It creates a “person-in-the-world orientation”.  There are other people, of course, who would emphasize external learning.  Any external learning focus would tend to create a “world-before-the-person orientation”.  This orientation seems dominant in this society.

Which one is better?

I think that which orientation a person takes depends on you, your culture, and your life situation.  These conditions may make one orientation more important than the other.  In fact, in some cases, the conditions may make one orientation absolutely necessary.

I, myself, tend to view that the “person-in-the-world orientation” as better.  In my opinion, the emphasis on internal learning is very critical and important.  The absence of internal learning, or more emphasis on external learning, creates something more like a ‘robot’, in my opinion, who thinks, does things, and acts robotically based on whatever they have learned externally (such as in school).  Keep in mind that acting the part of a robot can become very involved and almost “artistic” in some ways.  Despite this, it still lacks the ‘inner connection’ of internal learning which I tend to view very highly.  That is to say, it is ‘detached’ from the person, cold and mechanical.  Perhaps its this lack of ‘inner connection’ that gives it its robotic quality?  Because of this, I tend to view that a “real education” must originate from the person and not originate from external origins, such as through schooling.  But we must also remember that internal learning without external learning tends to become misguided and lost.  External learning gives internal learning a purpose, a direction, and a place.  This shows that there is a hierarchy of roles with the two forms of learning which establishes the orientation:

  1. Primary.  This is the main emphasis and focus.
  2. Secondary.  This is primarily supportive and guiding.

One must be before the other.  They can’t be equally the same.  I tend to feel that internal learning must be primary.  This point of view is reflective of the ‘person-in-the-world orientation’ (the ‘world-before-the-person orientation’ has external learning as primary).  This tendency for a hierarchy shows that we need both forms but in the correct role. 

Not only that, we need each form of learning in the proper way and context.  Determining the proper way and context is not always easy and generally takes experience.  Some aspects of determining this include:

  • Why you learn.  What is its intention?
  • What it is that you learn.  Do you really need to know what you are learning?
  • How things are learned.  Are you learning it the correct way?  For example, are you just reading about it or doing it?
  • The context of why things are learned.  How does your learning affect your life and who you are?
  • The worth of what you learn.  That is, what does it mean to you and does it really have value?

These questions, really, quantify and qualify any learning which, in a way, puts them in their place.  The reason I say this is because, in this society, there is a lot of “frivolous learning” which seems important but really isn’t.  A lot of so-called learning is really nothing but what I call “mind stuffing”, basically stuffing your mind with information that doesn’t really mean anything, much like stuffing a Thanksgiving turkey with stuffing.  If you repeat what you stuffed your mind with properly people might think you’re “smart” and you might get an A in class.  Just the other day I was walking through the University campus (where I went for a year) and the jingle I used to say came to me:

“I’m a mind stuffer, yes siree.  I stuff my mind and think its really neat.”

Typically, though, ‘mind stuffing’ has no deep meaning to the person, thereby creating no transformation of ones self.  Because of this, under my definition above, it is not an “education”.  This is where my saying comes from:

 “The educated non-educated”

This, in my opinion, defines the so-called “educated person” today . . . they know a lot, and may know how to do things, but they have no molding of their person.


The idea of molding a person suggests that there is an ‘unmolded’ condition, an ‘unmolded person’.

But is it a bad thing?

I think it depends on the person.

Molding can affect people in different ways, ranging from good to bad.  What this means is that “education”, or molding, isn’t all good for everyone all the time.  In fact, I believe that “education” only works for those people who have the character that is conducive to it.  From my observation, this is only a small segment of the population.  The effects of molding and “education” on a person has effects that range something like a spectrum:

  • Molding as a form of embracing life
  • Molding as a form of growth
  • Molding as a way to give a person direction and a way to live
  • Molding as a distortion of a person
  • Molding as a way to turn people into ‘robots’
  • Molding as a means for alienation and dehumanization

So we see that to say that molding (“education”) is all good is ridiculous.  It has its dark side too.  The effect it has on a person, as I said above, depends on the person.  What may be good for one person may be bad for another.  This is why I don’t feel everyone, and their dog, should be ‘molded’ or “educated” to a great extent.  In general, though, we all need some molding to become human beings.  The question is how far do we go and in what way.


I have always felt that learning ones natural inclinations and abilities (which is, basically, internal learning) is critical in life and in the development of ones self as a person.  I tend to feel that this is particularly so nowadays in this external learning dominant world.  As stated above, external learning tends to lead a person away from themselves.  Since this form of learning is so prevalent, nowadays, the condition of people being led away from themselves is seen quite extensively.  One of its effects, though, is alienation and dehumanization (see my article “Discovering natural inclinations – a solution to alienation and dehumanization???“).  This fact shows some interesting traits with the two forms of learning.

  • Internal learning makes a person a person.  It tends to make someone who is more rooted IN themselves.  In this society, this doesn’t have much value and, because of this, it is not emphasized.
  • External learning makes a person do something.  It tends to make someone able to DO THINGS.  It does not make a person a person, as it does not originate from within.  But, because external learning creates a ‘robot mentality’, it has become particularly prevalent today where ‘robot people’ are needed to keep this society, and economy, going.

In effect, an over emphasis on external learning, and/or a lack of internal learning, tends to lead people away from themselves, though they are able to do things (be like a robot).  This orientation, if excessive, tends to lead to dehumanization and alienation.  This means that learning, as it is practiced and taught today (that is, primarily external learning), is often destructive and undermining to the person. 


Copyright by Mike Michelsen

This entry was posted in Dehumanization and alienation, Education, learning, and over education, Life in general, Philosophy, Psychology and psychoanalysis and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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