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Human Conditioning

By Donnie McKinney  c 2005, 2006, 2007, 2010


I know the boy who took a gun to school and shot and killed three classmates in a prayer group before school.  I know another boy from the same school whose family was so poor that they had to ship some of their eleven children to relatives.  He became the governor of Kentucky.  These two boys started off the same.  How did they end up so different?  I'll tell you about both of them in the following articles.  


How Your Brain Works


I think the easiest way to understand human conditioning is to think of your brain as a super computer that is bigger and faster than Bill Gate's wildest dream.  Here's Secret #1: 


      Everything you have ever seen or heard or smelled or tasted or felt is stored on your hard drive (subconscious mind). 


Your memory works by association; i.e., every time you smell or touch or see or taste or hear something, it is not only stored on your hard drive, but also associated with other "data" or memories that you have already stored, along with all the things that are happening around you at the time you stored each of them.  Your subconscious mind records things of which you aren't even consciously aware.  You store data while you sleep.  You store data while you eat.  Right now, you're storing these words, along with the sounds and the odors and what's in your peripheral vision and how the computer keys feel, etc.  On top of that, you're relating this new information to things you already "know" and creating visual images of what you're interpreting the words to mean.  Busy, aren't you?  If your brain was a man-made computer, you would have to upgrade it on a weekly basis because of the vast amount of date you're storing on your hard drive.  It's mind-boggling!  (o.k., no more bad puns)


But, people don’t have the limits of a computer.  When you store a document on your PC (your regular one), it's simply data.  When you open the document later, it's still the same document.  It would be pretty scary if you found it changed!  The fact is, the data on your human "hard drive" or your subconscious mind can be modified continually and you don't even know it's happening.  Now, I don't mean that it changes "facts" exactly.  If you learn that you were born in "1989" and store that data away, it's still going to be "1989" the next time you think about it.  However, most of the stuff we "learn" isn't factual at all.  It's a perception or a feeling about something.  As our minds amass and synthesize more and more information, the way we see old information changes.  Your perception of something even as simple as "1989" changes every year of your life, for instance, and "1989" means something different when you're six than it does when you're sixteen.  These perceptions and feelings end up determining how we see ourselves.  Are you beginning to see where we're going with this?


We React Subconsciously and Don't Even Know It


Have you heard of Pavlov's experiment with his dog?  That's a good illustration of how your "robot" subconscious mind works.  Pavlov simply rang a bell every time the dog started to eat.  Sounds kind of like one of those pieces of data that you might store on your hard drive without even thinking about it, doesn't it?  It's hard to know what a dog thinks about, but I'll bet Pavlov's dog was thinking about that Alpo, and how wonderful that combination of horsemeat other meat byproducts tasted.  He probably didn't even notice the ringing of the bell that his sense of hearing was recording onto his hard drive (without conscious thought) while he was eating.  He probably didn't even know he had a hard drive!  So, I guess that proves we're smarter than dogs ;o)  After a while, Pavlov could ring the bell without any Alpo in sight, and the dog's mouth would start watering.  The silly dog was slobbering all over himself and he didn't even know why!


That's an autonomic, or conditioned, response.  Now, think about all the millions of bits of data that your own senses of sight, sound, smell, touch and taste have fed into your hard drive during your life thus far.  Your "robot" subconscious mind works even while you are sleeping.  That's where your dreams come from.  Are you starting to get a picture of what you have stored in there?  Close your eyes for a second, and get a mental image of yourself slobbering every time a bell rings.  Scary, isn't it?  But, that's exactly what we do.  The sad part is, we don't even know what kinds of "bells" have been rung in our lives and stored on our hard drives. 

I don't want to infer that everything your subconscious mind does automatically, or by habit, is bad. Here's a great article from the New York Times talking about human conditioning and how it works in baseball. It's not called human conditioning in the article, but you'll recognize it from what you've just learned - Your Brain on Baseball


Don't Let Other People Decide Who You Are


But, you can change.  You can learn how to effect the information you synthesize.  Here are some interesting facts.  Most people don't know what they want to do in life, and they aren’t happy or fulfilled.  85% of all people working are unhappy in their jobs.  When they reach the age to retire, only 5% of the people can support themselves financially.  Do we need to go on?  And, to top that off, half the people in the world are BELOW AVERAGE (I was just checking to see if you were paying attention).  Remember this if nothing else, most people are NEGATIVE. 


      Other people set our limits in life if we let them.


If we allow OTHER PEOPLE to program our lives by sticking data on our hard drives, if we let OTHER PEOPLE form our thinking, we will end up like OTHER PEOPLE.  Not a pretty picture, is it?  Do you want to end up like OTHER PEOPLE?  I don't!  Yet, most of us let OTHER PEOPLE determine who we are.  Our minds soak up information like sponges.  When you are born, your sponge is empty.  By the time you are five years old, your mind has soaked up so much information from just a few people, totally by accident, and much of your personality has been established.  You will have already formed a lot of your own self-image. You will have decided whether you are smart or dumb, beautiful or ugly, worthwhile or not, and whether you like yourself, deep-down, or not. That means that while you were just a little tyke, just learning to walk and talk, a lot of your future was being established by the input from OTHER PEOPLE.  This is YOUR life we're talking about!  Hmmm.   I don't think I want my life determined by OTHER PEOPLE.  Do you?

    Basic Truth #1 - Most of the attitudes, emotions and thought processes we have adopted - our own self-concept - are fictitious and erroneous.

This is one of the most difficult concepts that you will ever try to comprehend. What you "think" is real isn't real. It feels real. It's not. How can that be? It's simple. Where human beings are concerned, there is no such thing as reality. There is only the perception of reality. Here's a good example I learned from Denis Waitley a long time ago that might make it easier to comprehend what I'm saying.

Perception vs. Reality

There is a remote tribe of people called the Huli living in remote areas of Papua, New Guniea. Until recently, they have never been exposed to anyone or anything outside of their immediate area. They live in a world of endless forests with no other people. You and I truly do not exist.

There are no countries. There are no such things as plastic, steel, or paper. The only flying objects are birds, and man has never been to the moon. There are no governments and there is no stock-market. The two world wars never took place. Electricity, telephones, and roads do not even show up in their dreams.

They could never comprehend the sight of a beach, or open ocean.

These things TRULY do not exist in their world.

Yet you and I know they are real.

We live in different realities, with different possibilities. But the Huli’s reality is just as real to them, as yours is to you.

Just because you "think" it's real, doesn't mean it's real.

Think about it.

Because of all the "junk" we have absorbed just from being around other people we develop our own self-image based on fictitious and erroneous data. Other people are not us. When we learn from them through conditioning, we create false ideas of who we are. Every human being picks up attitudes and thought patterns from the people they are around early in life. If you want to be like other people then you're probably fine the way you are. The problem is that no other human being is exactly like you. The "real me" is hidden under all those fictitious and erroneous thought patterns you have unconsciously learned thus far in your life.

It is up to you, your responsibility, to take charge of your own life and make it what you want it to be. You are in charge, once you undestand what has taken place in your life. It's up to you to decide which attitudes are healthy for you and make you happy, not what someone else fed into your subconscious mind. It's up to you to realize that you're "O.K." and develop healthy self-esteem. It's up to you to decide how you live your life. It's your choice!

Almost every cnfused, and often depressed, teenager I've worked with has one common trait - the ability of one or both parents to adequeately express love. Sounds simple. It is. It's also devestating. A young child craves the love and approval of its parents. It's human nature. Sometimes, we don't get that from our parents. As you will learn in the next section, there is only ONE thing in your life you have absolutely no choice about - where you popped out of the womb. Sometimes you luck out and get two parents who devote eighteen years to making you feel loved, secure and "OK" and encouage you to become who you can become. Sometimes, you just don't.

How has this parental influence (OTHER PEOPLE) affected me?

There are a lot of different ways young lives are affected by this influence. Keep in mind that parents are also human beings. They are creatures who are a product of the human conditioning they received when they were young. Their self-esteem was damaged the same way yours has been. They are only being who THEY became by recording "stuff" on their hard drives from OTHER PEOPLE. They can't help it, because they don't know what you're learning in this study. With that in mind, think about some of the following ways parents (OTHER PEOPLE) can mess up your life without even being aware of what was happening.

The inability to express love, which is essential for healthy development in a child, takes many forms. Sometimes, parents are simply unable to express love, due to their own conditioning, when they actually do love their child. The weird thing about this is that it doesn't matter whether they really love you or not. The only thing that matters is whether you "perceive" that they love you. Sometimes, a parent may love his children so much that he is gone all the time making a living to support them. The child only knows he's "gone" and "perceives" that he doesn't love him enough. Sometimes, a parent simply isn't there. Maybe the child doesn't even know who his father is.

Divorce is so common now that 50/% of all families are affected by it. One parent may not come around as much as the child thinks he or she should. Maybe it's because the mother and father can't get along. There can be a lot of different reasons. Maybe your parent re-married and new siblings are born. You think they only care about "their" kids. Maybe you resent the new "dad" trying to act like your father. Maybe, maybe. There are so many mental influences relating to this type of situation that it's impossible to even list them all. Are you getting the idea?

It's not your fault!

It's always amazed me when I hear a teenager say that she feels "guilty" about her parents' divorce. However, it's a very common thought pattern. In any situation relating to parents (OTHER PEOPLE) it's really important to understand that they are simply imperfect human beings just like you and me. We're all imperfect human beings. We are all products of the conditioning we received when we were young. Parents are no different. Whatever your situation might be, it's THEM and not you!

The key to surviving human conditioning is to begin understanding what makes OTHER PEOPLE tick. Memorize the following basic truth in your life. It has the power to change your life.

  Basic Truth #3 - You cannot control other people. All you can control is your reaction to them.

You only have two choices when it comes to parents. You can either accept them as they are (control your reaction to them), or you can drive yourself crazy wishing they were different. That's it! The former sounds healthier than the latter.

Traumatic Experiences

This process gets even scarier when you add in the effects of traumatic experiences. For a more complete understanding of the effects of traumatic experiences, read about Traumatic Incidents in another section of Donnie's web site. For now, simply understand that almost every human being has experienced some kind of traumatic experience in his life. One out of every six humans has been sexually molested by some sick human being. Many teens have experienced a sudden death that they were unable to process at an earlier age. Many teenage girls have been raped. The list of possibilities is endless.

What happens when a human being has a traumatic experience is that there are so many emotions; such as, intense fear, guilt and anger, that the mind simply "shuts down" to protect us. We're not capable of handling all that stress and emotional trauma at once. The emotions are still there. The intentions we create; such as, "If I get out of this I'll kill the person doing it," or "I'll never let this happen to me again," are still there. The problem is that we don't consciously know about them later. All of the emotions and intentions that we experienced during the traumatic experience are repressed and stored in our subconscious minds.

Then, while we're living our normal lives and doing the things we do every day, some sound or smell or sight or feeling or taste occurs in the present that our mind "associates" with the same sound or whatever we experienced during the traumatic experience. That association "triggers" the repressed emotion and it comes out in the present moment without any control from the person affected. The repressed rage or fear or whatever emotion or intention we experienced earlier is "real" for us when it happens, But, we don't even realize where it came from. It's still "real" for us in the present. We feel the same emotion that our subconscious mind repressed during the trauma.

This process shows up in a lot of different ways in our lives. It can be as simple as someone seeing a glass of milk spilled, and at the same time having something "trigger" an earlier traumatic experience. The person goes into a rage, but it's not the simple spilling of milk that caused it. It's the repressed emotion that was "triggered." You've probably seen people act totally out of control and wondered why they were acting that way. Now, you can start to understand them - and you.

The obvious problem with these types of repressed emotions is that they drive our minds, run our lives, without us even knowing what's happening. Think about some ways your life may be limited by repressed emotions. Some are simple; such as, being abnormally afraid of storms. Some are much more damaging to our lives; such as, a girl who was raped who can never enjoy normal sex because of the fear and repulsion that are "triggered" in her mind. Some people are afraid to try anything new in their lives because of the repressed fears and feelings of failure from some earlier attempt.

I worked with one teenage boy who was molested by an uncle when he was eight or nine years old. The feelings resulting from that experience were keeping him from accepting himself as "O.K." and developing healthy self-esteem. As we were talking one day I said, "There is something deep-down that is keeping you from knowing that you're 'O.K.' and I can't figure out what it is." He finally told me about the uncle molesting him. He said he sat in class in school and thought that he was "different" from all the other kids. I had noticed that he was also quite vocally homophobic, which is a symptom of a male being molested by another male. At times he would just go into a rage and say, "I just want to kill somebody," which is another symptom of this kind of traumatic experience.

I reached over and touched his arm and said, "See, I'm not afraid to touch you." He said, "You mean I don't have cooties?"  I explained that what happened was the result of some sick human being's actions and didn't determine who "he" is. It may be a bit simple, but I like to think of these kinds of experiences like a broken arm. The arm heals and you move on with your life. You don't let the broken bone control the rest of your life. Once you understand the effects of repressed emotions you can recognize what they are doing to adversely affect your life. You can start making changes as you recognize these types of driving forces in your life, but deeply imbedded traumatic experiences need to be cleared up by a professional. Traumatic Incidence Reduction is a very effective technique for this purpose.


Don't get too depressed - I'm going to show you how to change that faulty input during the next few sessions.  Your assignment for now is to simply let this new data soak into your subconscious mind.  Read over what I said one more time and make sure you understand what I'm talking about. 

Copy the following questions into a Word document and REALLY answer them. These exercises are vitally important if you sincerely want to change your life and start being in charge of your own life.

1.  Think about times you have found yourself thinking something negative about yourself.

2. Where did that thought originate?

You'll often find that it didn't come from you.  You've allowed someone else to define who you are and what you think.  Scary, isn't it?

3. List some areas in your life you could change once you learn to program yourself with your own goals and dreams rather than letting someone else define your future.

4. Make a list of any of these subconscious programming "errors" you notice throughout the following week.

In the next articles, I'll help you understand what your answers mean and how they affect your life.  Email me if you think of a specific area that you need help changing.

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