The Unlearners’ Workout Group (mental workout, not physical)


Here is what I believe: One of the main reasons people seek our resources is the harmfulness of the society by design. In these situations, the last thing we want to do is to replicate the design of the society in how we think and what we consider “normal” or even “appropriate.” Otherwise they’re jumping out of a pan into another pan. And this applies not only to service users but also to colleagues, friends, and new friends.

What is the need?

All of us have read books after books to try to learn the history of the harmful design like colonialism, white supremacy, political and scientific dishonesty, and power-maintaining structures. But then how do we shift from what we have been doing for years / decades to a new ways of thinking and behaving? How do we make this transition so thoroughly that even our “gut instinct” shifts from the old ways to the new ways?

We need a regular workout. And we need a space explicitly agreed to be dedicated to it. In our case, the space is not a dojo but an interpersonal space, but we are entering it with the same mind like we would a dojo.

Now, the other big need is meeting new likeminded people. From where I’m sitting, I see two big reasons this is hard. One, uncertain how to create opportunities (including previously tried it and got hurt). Two, the odds of meeting likeminded people got exhausting.

PowerShifters is the shared ideas of One, hey I’m open to making new friends, and Two, it’s a group of people who are a good Judy to someone you trust, so higher odds they’re likeminded.

Who are we?

We are people who are doing the big work of unlearning all the ways we are complicit in the harmful design of the society. We have been taught and have become conveyors of the harmfully defined “normal,” “correct,” “appropriate,” or “valuable.” This includes everyone doing the hard work and taking on the work to stop being the agent of harm, e.g. activists, organizers, frontline workers, counsellors, caregivers, and people who are targeted for exclusion from the society.

How does it work?

We don’t hold gatherings or anything right now. Getting together of various sizes are happening spontaneously.

Some people might do the “unlearners’ workout” regularly by talking to each other, and some may do it “as needed.”

Many of us already have a person we already do it with, but sometimes it ends up being an echo chamberk and there is no use of that. PowerShifters is a way to meet new people to widen and deepen our unlearning.

What do we do?

We do two things explicitly and distinctly.

One, we have interactions and discussions where unlearning is the top priority. We would actively provide each other opportunities for unlearning. We might have a topic of the day for each conversation, and there may be secondary gains like problem solving. But the priority is unlearning.

Two, we hold space for other unlearners. We would actively serve fellow unlearners in a way that this person is needing, e.g. a dump (talking stressors out loud), witness, problem-solve, or reassurance. This is a function of unlearning because an unlearner has unlearned the urge to centre their opinions and/or their desire for the other to feel better.

And we would be explicit with each other in what we may be needing, and we do not mix these two into the same conversation.

How do I join?

Currently the membership is by vouch only. We very much welcome you if you are the person one of us would go to in our distress.

Origin of the Name

Power shifting a practice in cycling where you would gear up while pedalling hard. This puts a tremendous stress on the parts, and average consumer bike parts would crack under this stress.

Yet I think it is the only way to do the unlearning. We have to keep pedalling hard. Just upgrade the parts and get a good mechanic.