Habitual Conditioning vs. Authenticity

Habitual Conditioning Robs us of Authenticity

 What is Habitual Conditioning?

We listen to the thought leaders we are trained to value from birth: our parents, older family members, older siblings, teachers, ministers, older community members, political leaders, and eventually supervisors and bosses. The punishment for not living by their rules is extremely painful, everything from physical violence to being ostracized. So, the message that thought leaders always tell the truth is hammered into our psyche from birth. It’s no wonder most people are either asleep in their addictions to food, alcohol, drugs, sex, video games, television or fanatically committed to maintaining our conditioned responses.

When we enter into a set of circumstances, this habitual conditioning takes over immediately and compares the present to past situations. If the outcome of the past was pleasant, a glandular switch is flipped in our brains which produces “joy” hormones (see research on the Amygdala gland, such  as The Amygdala and Emotions ). As these hormones cascade through your body, you will decide that what is happening is “good for you.” Conversely, if the past was painful, the  glandular switch is flipped to produce “fear” hormones. At that point, your brain generates a “bad for me” message. The brain compares the present to past so quickly, we often are unaware that tens of thousands of comparisons are occurring in an instant of time.

Habitual Conditioning vs. Authenticity

In order to have an experience of this for yourself, the next time you believe you are in a conditioned, habitual response to life, just sit there and breath. Slow your breath down and start examining your thoughts, as if they are projected in front of you on a ticker tape. Every once in awhile notice one of your thoughts and see if the thought makes any sense, without judging it.

The first time I did this exercise I participated in an Options Institute seminar. During the seminar, we were invited to bring up our deepest, darkest thought about self. We then talked about it and looked inside our body to find where this dark quality was stored. My thought was: “You  can’t be trusted with power. You do evil things.” As I talked, the facilitator asked me to slow down my thoughts and observe them. It turned out that this judgment came from my mother, who was mentally ill most of her adult life. At other points the thoughts were laughable, like “I am evil because I believe fish smell bad.” Then, I was asked to find the evil in my body, where I misused power. After a considerable amount of time, I exclaimed, “I can’t find evil in my body. I  can’t find a place where I  misuse power.” What a revelation! Until then, I had lived my  entire life carefully choosing how much empowerment I was willing to receive because I had an unconscious , habitually conditioned thought that I was evil and would misuse power. My life has changed so much since that first habitual, conditioned thought came down.

Habitual Conditioning to Authenticity

One of the reasons why meditation can be so valuable is that it gives your brain/mind a rest from thinking. When you get to the place where no thoughts appear on your internal ticker tape, you have a blank slate to write on.

Another good tool is creating an observer character “who sits on your right shoulder” and just watches your life. Then, when you feel you are in habitual conditioned responses in a situation, you can ask the observer, “What do you see? hear? smell? touch? taste?” The observer’s view will show you whether you are in conditioned responses or authenticity.

A third change agent is asking questions. You can start asking yourself questions like, “Do I really like….?” “What other possibility would I prefer…?” “What choice would delight me….?” It might be the first time you have asked yourself what you really prefer, since most people adopt their thought  leaders’ preferences by conditioning.

The Power of Authenticity

When you stop living your life through habitual conditioning, you open up possibilities and the space for them to actualize. Then, if you try something that authentically feels good to you, you can ask, “How can this get any better? How can I have more of these experiences?” When something doesn’t feel authentically good, you can ask, “What’s next? How do I have an experience that would bring me more joy and ease?”

My favorite quote on this subject is from motivational speaker, Les Brown, “Don’t let anyone’s opinion of who you are become your reality.” When your view is authentically yours, you become the master of creating and living your heart’s desire.


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  1. […] I’m going to begin our conversation today by reminding you that most of our behavior is automatic, conditioned, and programmed. Please take a look at this post to begin our discussion: […]

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