What is the opposite of conditioning? In one sense, it could be authenticity. Because conditioning describes all the habits, coping mechanisms and reactions that we have adopted at a very early life stage and we are not even aware that they are not really ours. It is not about blaming our parents or caregivers as very gently Annie Gospodin posits. It is just a process of separating what we really are from what we have learnt to be and letting go of beliefs that don’t serve us anymore.
Parents are humans, too, and probably they have been conditioned from their families and so on. As times change new beliefs and manners rise but we don’t always successfully adapt. Let’s take a silly example: it is very common amongst eldest people to prefer cash over plastic money. During their upbringing their children were probably instructed not to trust credit cards and digital transactions etc. These kids are “conditioned” to use cash as adults unless they realize the source of this faulty perception and they decide not to follow it any further. The problem is when cases are not so obvious; as we internalize parental and societal beliefs we end up living a life designed to make others happy.
Some common conditioning examples are being very harsh and critical on ourselves because our parents used to acknowledge we are worthy only when we achieved something extraordinary. Or we don’t express our feelings because we didn’t use to do so in our families. Gossiping, comparing ourselves to others, being fearful and anxious all the time, they all are patterns we have copied from our surroundings, without really giving a thought if they serve us in anything. So, as we embark to this journey to understand and discover our authentic self, identifying conditioning is a crucial step. Mindfulness is a great path, as it allows our mind to mute any noise and focus on what really matters. So, next time you will meditate, concentrate on your breath and then let your mind picture you in a context where nobody is judging or criticizing. At a place where you can be you, you can express your true thoughts and emotions, unfiltered. It is harder that it sounds, but, the moment you get to visualize it, you will already know which parts of your behaviour don’t really resonate with the real you. This is your first stop during the self-discovery journey.