Some conditioning is necessary. We need some of it to function, but we don't need all of it. Some of our conditioning keeps us from being happy and finding fulfillment. That is the conditioning that needs healing or, at least, is best ignored. However, even this conditioning serves a purpose in our evolution and growth.
As soon as we come into life, we begin acquiring conditioning. As soon as we are born, our parents and others begin teaching us about life, either intentionally or unintentionally, and we take in what they teach us. Like a sponge, we absorb what we experience in our environment and learn from it. Some of what we are taught and what we learn is useful, necessary, and true (at least some of the time), but much of it is not.
Even before we have a capacity to understand language, we learn from the environment. As infants, we draw certain conclusions that may or may not be correct. Often they are not correct. The conclusions we draw as infants and children are usually narrow representations of what is true about a situation, and these conclusions are often unconscious. For example, if as an infant you were hooked up to tubes to keep you alive, you may have concluded that you are weak and powerless, or you may have concluded that the world is frightening and dangerous and that you are very vulnerable. You didn't realize that the tubes actually represented how much people loved you and valued your life. Your conclusion actually didn't represent reality very fully or truly.
Children, and to some extent adults, draw negative or incorrect conclusions about their experience all the time, and these conclusions determine how they respond to their environment. These mistaken or narrow conclusions are part of our conditioning, and they need healing because they interfere with responding to life as it presents itself in each moment. Instead, we respond according to an idea (conditioning) from the past. For example, if an experience caused you to conclude that men with mustaches are mean, then when you encounter someone with a mustache, you'll respond to him as if that were true. You will see meanness even if it isn't there, and you might evoke or provoke it by your prejudicial attitude.
Most of us also have conditioning from our previous lifetimes that interferes in the same way, and those mistaken beliefs also need healing. Conditioning from previous lifetimes operates just like conditioning acquired in the current life, and it is often more powerful. It may have been reinforced over many lifetimes, or the experience that created it may have been so traumatic that the conclusions that were made as a result of that trauma feel very true, even though they aren't true at all. This can be some of the most difficult conditioning to heal.
Much of our negative conditioning came from outside ourselves, that is, it was given to us by others and wasn't the result of conclusions we came to. When we are young, we believe what we are told by our parents and others we are dependent on. We trust them to tell us the truth about the world and ourselves, and we accept what they tell us as true. Unfortunately, much of what they tell us is either not true at all or only true some of the time. When we are young, we aren't able to evaluate what we are told, so if we are told to believe something or if others around us believe something, then that belief is incorporated into our belief system until we are old enough to evaluate our beliefs ourselves. Still, some of our beliefs are never questioned, and many remain unconscious and outside our awareness, where they are safe from scrutiny but still drive us in detrimental ways.
If the beliefs you were given as a child were primarily positive ones (e.g. "You are a good person. You can do anything you apply yourself to. Life is meaningful and supportive"), then those beliefs are likely to serve you and help you cope with life. If, on the other hand, your conditioning was primarily negative (e.g. "You can't do anything right. You'll never amount to anything. People are bad. Life is always going to disappoint you"), then those beliefs are likely to interfere with trying new things, taking advantage of opportunities, getting along with others, and being happy. Positive conditioning helps us cope with life, while negative conditioning, conditioning that causes us to see life as bad or frightening and ourselves as bad or impotent, not only doesn't help us cope with life, but also makes it difficult to cope with life.
The more negative conditioning you have, the more difficult life will be; and the more positive conditioning you have, the easier life will be. This is because positive conditioning creates a positive mind and feelings, which generally produce and attract positive results in the world, while negative conditioning creates a negative mind and feelings, which generally produce and attract negative results in the world.
A negative mind results in a vicious cycle: Negative thoughts lead to negative feelings, which lead to more negative thoughts and feelings. Negative thoughts make you feel angry, sad, jealous, guilty, hateful, resentful, bitter, and unhappy, and then you feel bad about yourself for having those feelings. That leads to more negative self-talk and more negative feelings, all of which can block you from fulfilling your potential. Fortunately, positive thoughts do the opposite: They create positive feelings and a positive feedback loop. Positive thoughts make you feel good, strong, competent, kind, loving, and supported. Feeling that way makes you feel good about yourself, which produces more positive self-talk and positive feelings and less self-blocking. Here is an exercise that will help you examine your conditioning:
Exercise: Examining Your Conditioning
Make a list of some of the conclusions you have about yourself, others, and life. To help you get started, write: "I am…," "Others are…," and "Life is…" and fill in the blank with as many statements as you can think of. For each statement, ask, "Is that true?" You may believe that it is true, but is it absolutely true of yourself, others, and life? If you can find even one contradictory example, then it isn't true. Another test would be if everyone in the universe agrees that it is true. Add more statements to this list as you discover them.
Becoming aware of what you believe is the first step in freeing yourself from mistaken and counterproductive beliefs. You will discover that you have been allowing many untrue or partially true beliefs to define you and shape your life, your experience, and your interactions with others. Partially true beliefs just aren't that useful. They aren't good guides for how to live your life.
How you feel about yourself and about life has a big impact on how you respond to life and on how life responds back. That's why your conditioning matters so much. Your conditioned beliefs determine your experience of life: When your beliefs are positive, you experience life positively; when your beliefs are negative, you experience life negatively. This is how it is until we begin to wake up to the fact that our conditioning is determining our reactions and behavior and it doesn't have to. Getting free of our conditioning is a two-fold task: We can free ourselves from our negative beliefs by reprogramming our mind with positive beliefs. We can also get free by seeing that all of our beliefs are just conditioning and that that conditioning doesn't have to be what determines our actions and reactions.
Something else besides conditioning is propelling your life forward, and its actions aren't based on thoughts or on conditioning. You are a spiritual being who is programmed to behave like a human being, with all sorts of conditioning. However, the spiritual being that you are functions perfectly fine without most of your conditioning, particularly your beliefs. The spiritual being that you are moves you, breathes you, inspires you, and communicates through you. It acts and speaks in your life, and when it does that, those actions and speech feel right, true, and fulfilling.
The you that you usually think of yourself as, on the other hand, is created by the mind. This you is really just thoughts about you: "I like…. I want…. I hope…. I am…. I was…. I need…. I feel…." These thoughts about you give you a sense of self and the impression that you exist as the person you think you are. But, really, you are a spiritual being masquerading as the self that you think of yourself as. The self that is made up of ideas about yourself is the false self. It only exists as ideas. The true self is all that is really here and all that has ever been here, but the true self allows you to believe that you are the false self.
This masquerade enables the spiritual being that you are to have the experience of being human. You get to try on being this character, and because this character feels so real to you, you experience very intense emotions. You become identified with this character so deeply that you believe you are that character. Masquerading in this way is the only way the spiritual being that you are can have a full experience of being human. Nevertheless, there's a point in everyone's evolution when it is time to wake up from this illusion and remember who you really are. You are probably at this place now or you wouldn't be reading this.
Negative conditioning keeps you identified with the character you are playing because it keeps you involved with negative thoughts and feelings and with trying to fix those thoughts and feelings. When you are deeply involved with negative thoughts and feelings, there's little opportunity to experience your true nature. You believe you are small, weak, unkind, and powerless, and in that state of mind, it's difficult to grasp the truth about who you are. You're too busy trying to think and act your way out of the unhappy situation created by the false self. But the more you think, the more troubled you feel because thinking, especially negative thinking, takes you farther away from who you really are, not closer. To experience who you really are, you have to drop out of your mind and into your Heart.
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“The knowledge I have gained from this book has been liberating. I now realize how influential the ego has been regarding my thought and decision-making process and that it isn’t necessary for me to ALLOW my ego to be the driving force in my life.” –O. Anderson
“This is a book written in a beautiful and clear way, offering multiple insights of how we are conditioned and how we, with mindfulness, can break free of these egoic patterns. Getting Free is an invitation to all who read it to awaken through awareness, to let go of thought, and to discover our true happiness.” –S. Bacon
“I get that my problems, my image of 'me' and 'my life' are constructs of my mind, but this book actually explains what to DO with that understanding. If spirituality had a door through which we could enter and gain immediate understanding, Gina Lake’s books are that door.” —K. Roberts
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“This was the first ever Gina Lake book I read, and I still remember how revealing it was. The various ways it provides for seeing past negative conditioning have been invaluable tools that I've used over the years.” –S. U.
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