How to Change 'Human Nature'

The basic beliefs that underlie common psychological traits were almost always formed in childhood, in our interactions with our parents.
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Are you bothered by a psychological problem that you aren't even trying to get rid of because you think it's "human nature" and can't be eliminated? If so, you aren't alone.

For example, Seth Godin recently published his 13th book, "Poke the Box," that explains most people's failure to take action by claiming that people have to overcome their natural resistance in order to take action. His Domino Project published a book by Steve Pressfield, "Do the Work," that also emphasized how our natural resistance is the single biggest barrier to creativity and innovation, and it includes tips on how to fight this demon that lurks within each of us.

There are a number of psychological traits that are so common that most people consider them to be inherent in human beings. Don't all people experience:

-- resistance to change?
-- fear of making a mistake or failing?
-- fear of rejection?
-- a concern with the opinion of others?
-- anger if you don't get your way?

It is understandable that few people seek help to deal with these feelings. So many people have them that they are considered to be part of being human. In fact, however, they are not inherent in human nature at all. All these psychological responses are the result of beliefs and conditioning formed early in our lives. Thus, all can be totally eliminated when the relevant beliefs and conditionings are eliminated.

The beliefs and conditionings that cause these psychological responses

First let me list some of the beliefs and conditionings that cause the psychological responses listed above; then I'll explain why they are so common as to be considered "human nature."

-- I'm not good enough.
-- I'm inadequate.
-- I'm not capable.
-- I'm not competent.
-- Nothing I do is good enough.
-- Mistakes and failure are bad.
-- If I make a mistake I'll be rejected.
-- What makes me good enough and important is having others think well of me.
-- What makes me good enough and important is doing things perfectly.
-- I'm powerless.
-- I can't make it on my own.
-- The way to be in control is to have things be exactly the way I want them to be.

In addition to these beliefs, many people have been conditioned to feel some level of fear
-- whenever they are rejected,
-- when they don't live up to the expectations of others, or
-- when they are criticized or judged.

These "conditionings" also contribute to the common psychological responses listed above.

Imagine someone to have these beliefs and to experience fear whenever these three situations occur. Doesn't it seem obvious that they probably would have some if not all of the psychological traits listed above? Now imagine that tens of millions of people had these beliefs and conditionings. Wouldn't it seem reasonable to assume that everyone was just born with them?

The source of these beliefs and conditionings

Now let's take a look at why these psychological responses (and the beliefs and conditionings that cause them) are so common.

The basic beliefs that underlie these common psychological traits were almost always formed in childhood, in our interactions with our parents. Here's how it happens.

As little kids we are always asking "why?" Sometimes we ask our parents to explain things to us, and sometimes we ask ourselves, "Why am I being treated like this? Why is my life like this?" We answer these questions for ourselves (unconsciously) during the first few years of life. Because our parents are the people who we spend most of our waking hours with, they are involved in most of the experiences that lead to our fundamental beliefs.

And what are those experiences in most households? Parents, being adults, generally like quiet; children are not quiet and cannot even understand why anyone would value quiet. Parents for the most part want their house to be neat; young children don't even understand the concept of "neat." Parents want to sit down for dinner when it is ready and before it gets cold; children are almost always doing something that is far more important to them and don't want to stop doing it when their parents call them.

In other words, most parents usually want their children to do things that they are developmentally incapable of doing. They want their young children to act like little adults, which they cannot possibly do.

The question is not, do children frequently "disobey" their parents? Children are developmentally incapable to living up to most parents' expectations. The only question is how parents react when their children are not doing what the parents want them to do.

And because few parents go to parenting school and most bring their own beliefs from their own childhoods with them, their reactions range from annoyance and frustration to anger and physical abuse, with every possibility in between.

Virtually all of us have a lot of negative self-esteem beliefs

Parenthetically, it is important to recognize that our behavioral and emotional problems later in life are not our parents' fault. By that I mean we are not affected by our parents' behavior after we grow up and leave the house. They are no longer in our lives in the same way. What does cause resistance to taking action, fear of rejection, etc.? The meaning we gave our parents' behavior, which became our beliefs.

I think there are two primary reasons why the source of self-esteem beliefs is always interactions with parents as a young child and not people or events later in life. First, as children we depend on them for our very survival; on some level we feel that we have to be able to trust them to survive. Second, as adults, they seem to know how to navigate reality and we know we can't. (What do all kids say? "When I grow up, then I'll be able to ...") So they must know what they are doing and their behavior must be "correct." If I don't like how I'm treated, it must be my fault.

The source of specific self-esteem beliefs

Here is the common source of a few negative self-esteem beliefs.

-- If I trust my parents and they must know what they are doing, and if they are angry with me, it must be my fault. I'm not good enough.
-- If I can't get them to spend the time with me that I want or if they are physically around but not paying attention to me, it must be my fault. I'm not important.
-- If I can't get them to give me what I want most of the time, it must be my fault. I'm not worthy or deserving.
-- If my parents make all the decisions that affect my life and I have little say, I feel powerless. I'm powerless.

Is it clear now that the devastating psychological traits that are considered to be human nature are, in fact, the result of beliefs and conditionings caused by a typical childhood?

I'd love to hear from you with your thoughts about what is human nature and what can be changed. Please write your comments below.

Morty Lefkoe is the creator of The Lefkoe Method, a system for permanently eliminating limiting beliefs. For more information go to

Copyright © 2011 Morty Lefkoe

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