Existential Psychology

Increasing Knowledge

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Increasing knowledge in any subject is paradoxical because you usually start to feel like you know less even though you are learning more. You are gaining a more accurate picture of just how much there is to know in your area of study, and with this knowledge you see you have a long way to go. As a general rule people who know very little about a topic think they know everything about it since they have no grounds for comparison to disprove this belief, and no reason to want to since the sentiment is desirable.

Actually as you incorporate new and more advanced information with your current knowledge you can expect to regress for a bit, especially at first, since you lose your bearings. A good concrete example of this occurs in learning a foreign language. Even though your vocabulary might be improving and you might be gaining the ability to speak in more tenses, you find yourself speaking haltingly, searching for words and ways of relating what you want to say, struggling with more difficult aspects of the language,  where before you plowed ahead confidently with the few words at your disposal, blissfully unaware of how little you really knew.

The biggest reason to keep these ideas in mind when you are pursuing a new area of interest is that you can remind yourself, when you are feeling like you are making little progress or even regressing, that this is mainly a subjective illusion. When you know more you suddenly feel like you know less, and that’s because you have gained a more accurate picture of where you actually are compared to the body of knowledge. Anything that can be learned really quickly and easily by everyone might be worth learning but probably isn’t all that remarkable. Even though you are feeling like you know less this is a clear sign that you know more than you did before, which means that you are on the path.