An adapted extract from The Three Dimensions of Learning - Contemporary Learning Theory in the Tension Field between the Cognitive, the Emotional and the Social by Professor Knud Illeris:
"IN THE EASTERN RELIGION, Zen Buddhism, the goal is to achieve enlightenment. The Zen master attempts to bring about enlightenment in his pupil in various ways. One of the things he does is to hold a stick over the pupil's head and say fiercely, 'If you say this stick is real, I will strike you with it. If you say this stick is not real, I will strike you with it. If you don't say anything, I will strike you with it.' " (Bateson 1972, p.208).
"This is a clear double bind situation because all the proposed solutions are ruled out, yet it can be solved without schizophrenia or flight, if the pupil manages to take the stick from the amster and thus transcend the constituent conditions of the situation."
"ONE SPECIAL and very demanding type of learning may be termed as transformation or transformative learning. This type of learning occurs in crisis-like situations that can only be solved by transcending the premises of a problem or situation. It may take place through long and often painful adaptation or through shorter, intense processes. In both cases very strong motivation and the ability to raise considerable psychological resources is required.
"Structurally, transformative learning involves the simultaneous restructuring of several cognitive as well as emotional schemes. Functionally, it changes the learner's self and thereby provides the learner with qualitatively new understandings and patterns of action.
"...Time and time again well-known American humanistic psychologist Carl R. Rogers points out that '...any significant learning involves a certain amount of pain, either pain connected with the learning itself or distress connected with giving up certain previous learning' - 'learning which involves a change in self organization - in the perception of oneself - is threatening and tends to be resisted' - 'all significant learning is to some degree painful and involves turbulence, within the individual and within the system.' (Rogers 1969, p.157-9, 339).
"...Engestrom sums it up thus: "In [this type of learning], the subject becomes conscious and gains an imaginative and thus potentially also a practical mastery of whole systems of activity in terms of the past, the present and hte future. Individual manifestations of [this type of leanring] are commonly called 'personal crises', 'breaking away', 'turning points' or 'moments of revelation'." (Engestrom 1987, p.153)."
(See also Neither Death Nor Life.)