Do you use "kill two birds with one stone" or other similar sayings? Do you throw spilled salt over your shoulder or feel anxiety when you break a mirror? Maybe you always knew you would be a doctor because that is the family business.
These are small examples of conditioning, which is to train or accustom (someone or something) to behave in a certain way or to accept certain circumstances.
As children, we experience things according to our environment--family, friends, teachers, culture--and we learn to think and behave certain ways based on what we observe and are taught. This is an automatic process, and it's not until later that we develop critical thinking, learn consequences, and start to question those things we've been taught to believe or do.
From putting your hand over your heart when you hear the national anthem to shaking hands when you greet someone, we all have attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that were formed without our knowing and long before we could understand the meaning and consequences of those things. This is all conditioning.
Conditioning can be good when it creates good habits, like being an early riser, opening doors for others, and eating our vegetables. Maybe you have family recipes or mottos that you have learned growing up. But conditioning can be a bad thing, too.
Maybe you know someone who acts out, is a compulsive liar, or has anger management issues. Maybe you know someone who is "unlucky in love" or wary and distrusting of the opposite sex. They could have conditioning from bad experiences and poor examples.
Do you allow certain behaviors from relatives because they are 'blood'? Family attunement can create turmoil and unhealthy practices. My mother's family has a history of women putting women down, and I can see through the generations, in my relatives and in myself, the unhealthy attitudes and behaviors that have resulted from such training.
Lab rats were once experimented on and shocked when they performed good behaviors and bad. As a result, they were confused and terrified of making either choice. We can be conditioned the same way when our environment is one of dysfunction and other ills. We can doubt our inner guidance system and be confused about how to act and what we really think or feel.
We can be conditioned to accept certain behaviors and even participate because it is expected and becomes a belief or learned behavior. I learned attitudes and behaviors from my parents that I have come to realize I have unknowingly repeated in my own life. I don't blame them. I know we're all imperfect and doing our best with what we know, and I know that blaming others for my problems and mistakes is counterproductive to taking control of my life and achieving my goals.
While I may not have been able to control what I've learned, I can recognize that I don't want those things and choose to change them. And I can't ignore my own culpability. We can also condition ourselves through consistent choices and practices. I've made my own mistakes and bad habits. I've also made good ones.
It takes self-awareness and evaluation to recognize our conditioning and sort through it. We must make a conscious effort to realize the flaws in thinking and behavior that are sabotaging our success and wellness.
Maybe you're already aware of bad habits and ideals you want to change, or maybe you're unsure of what is destructive and holding you back. Here are some helpful tips on how to spot and change your conditioning:
1. Recognize it.
Ask questions and explore them in a journal. How do I respond to stress, anger, disappointment, etc? What are my habits and beliefs? Where do these originate (where did I learn it) and is that a reliable source? Is this healthy and helping me or could this be sabotaging my goals?
Bad habits and beliefs will continue to manifest trouble in your life. If you continually find yourself in the same mess, ask yourself, "What is the common denominator here? What can I do differently? What led to this?" What caused this?" Don't do this to find blame but to pinpoint what needs change. As you examine your thoughts and actions, you will begin to see where you can change and improve.
2. Address it.
If your conditioning stems from trauma and other negative experiences, don't ignore it. You need to talk it out and work through those feelings. Family, a trusted friend, or even a support group can help with this. When you validate the experience and learn from it, you can let it go and not repeat it.
If it's a bad habit or belief you'd like to change, acknowledge that you have it and need to stop. Have the desire and intention to change or nothing ever will. Bad conditioning will continue to bring events and situations of turmoil and heartache until you learn the lesson.
3. Act and change.
When you spot a bad belief or habit, replace it with a new one. "I don't believe that, this is what I really believe." Act on those new thoughts and beliefs or you will continue to hold onto those bad ones.
We can only experience transformation through action. You can learn the steps to ride a bike but until you get on a bike and try to balance yourself, you won't learn to ride it. To change a habit, replace it with a positive one that will serve you better.
4. Embrace the process.
Remember that life is a process and change can be hard, especially when you've been operating for years from the same habits and beliefs. You won't see all of your flaws at once, and you won't change yourself all at once either. Work on one thing at a time, take baby steps, and celebrate your successes. Be compassionate and forgive yourself if you make a mistake or fall into old patterns; simply noticing it means you are learning and growing.
You don't have to follow a map that someone else created for you. You can create your own path and avoid the heartache and mistakes of others'. As you come to know yourself inside and out, work through your faults, and build good, lasting habits and beliefs, you will finally be able to make the life you've always wanted. Fore more emotional resilience tips visit www.bossofmyfeelings.com