Unlearn Unhealthy Conditioning

Image by Jan Ontkoc from Pixabay

We don’t get to choose who we become.

Not at first anyway. At first, we get assigned some combination of traits, beliefs and habits based on a multitude of different inputs.

These inputs vary from human to human based on our own unique experiences, ultimately forming a large part of who we become.

Then, as adulthood approaches, this patchwork quilt of self is quickly domesticated and integrated into society, which is itself a system of beliefs that is forever morphing over time.

The ultimate outcome of which depends heavily on the subconscious conditioning, subsequent belief system and resulting habits that we’ve often developed before we even know it.

If the beliefs we were assigned integrate well with society, we’re more likely to find peace and success in life. If they don’t, we may rebel, become dysfunctional in some way, and possibly develop mental health issues over time.

There are caveats upon caveats, and there are always exceptions, but this is the long and short of it. Conditioning is the term used for our becoming accustomed to our belief system, and until we unlearn unhealthy conditioning, this is how it works.

Self-development, in essence, is the process of taking the unconsciously collated and consciously curating it.

Unlearn, relearn, rinse and repeat.

I won’t be too harsh on the automatic forming of self as it is obviously indispensable in helping us to function. Without it, we’d have zero chance of building a working civilised society. (Assuming this is one.)

But if we don’t review our source code at some point and at the very least tidy up the syntax and trim the fat, then we never become anything more than our basic programming. We never become more than a collection of hand-me-down beliefs, chance encounters and personal traumas.

There’s nothing inherently ‘wrong’ with this. ‘Right’ and ‘wrong’ are human terms that don’t always benefit us.

What it means, however, is that we ourselves never break free from the conditioning that doesn’t serve us, and we never experience the true beauty of becoming who we choose to be.

We can decide who we are in every moment.

It is at once so overwhelmingly simple, and yet so inconceivably difficult.

Simple, because we don’t need to consult anyone. We don’t need anyone’s permission. We don’t need to inform the state or our parents. It doesn’t cost us a penny, nor does it take any actual time. We simply decide who we’re going to be, and be it.

Difficult, however, due to the clusterfuck of conditioning we already have crammed into our minds to begin with. Each piece staring at us with puppy dog eyes telling us that it’s worthwhile and justified and who we really are.

But it’s not. None of it is.

We are not our beliefs.

I’ll say that again: we are not our beliefs.

We are our consciousness, sitting behind our beliefs, on an island. And our beliefs form the bridge that connects us to the outside world.

Some bridges lead us to unsavoury parts of the world. They lead to prejudice, judgement, damaging habits, anger, bitterness, hatred, toxic relationships, validation-seeking, dependencies, the list goes on.

Other bridges lead us to salvation. Love, connection, understanding, happiness, peace, collaboration, creativity, health, wealth, knowledge, this list goes on too.

Which of these bridges, or beliefs, we reinforce, and which we sever, is a conscious choice.

We choose every single day without even realising. Every time our actions support our beliefs, we reinforce them further. Good and bad.

To observe this in practice, wait for the next emotion you feel. Positive, negative, it doesn’t matter. Just recognise when you feel it, that you feel it due to an underlying belief. Then identify that belief.

If your partner tells you they love you and this makes you feel happiness, that may be because you love your partner and you believe love is important.

Conversely, if you become angry or disappointed with someone, it may be because they didn’t meet your expectations of them in some way. This is because you believed those expectations were fair.

Everything comes back to beliefs.

The problem is, these beliefs are often nothing more than inherited quirks that we didn’t consciously choose. And until we unlearn unhealthy conditioning, we’re stuck with them.

Back to zero.

Once we’ve reached maturity, and we’re able to take care of ourselves, we have a decision to make.

We can decide to keep this belief system, the one that was put together without collaboration, by our parents, teachers, siblings, friends, role models, celebrities, music, film, TV, books and everything in-between.

Or, like taking a wild garden and organising it, we can remove the weeds and water the flowers, separate the tangled bushes, add a few bright colours, and create some semblance of order to the garden. Or in this instance, to our minds.

Then, I’d argue, maturity doesn’t come at an arbitrary age, like eighteen.

Maturity comes at the point you consciously decide which person you’re going to become. When you take the child you were given and turn them into the adult you are meant to be.

Otherwise, we’re just grown children, still wearing hand-me-down beliefs, wondering where the resistance we feel is coming from.

We can work to protect and reinforce unhealthy conditioning, or work to unlearn unhealthy conditioning and replace it with a belief system that serves us.

‘Back to zero’ is a state of zero unhealthy conditioning that pulls us off-centre. It’s a blank slate, a clean white page, a brand new journal.

And we can then fill it up, however we choose.

Unconsciously collated, or consciously curated.

The choice is ours.

Unlearning unhealthy conditioning is the first step in a six-part journey to freedom, peace and purpose. See the full journey at https://GoingRogue.blog.



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Terry Downie

Terry Downie


Master of hard truths. Exploring culture, mindset, tech and entrepreneurship. Forever taking global issues personally. Creator of https://GoingRogue.blog.