Deconditioning — The Key To Self Creation

Jayne Stevenson

as endorsed by yogis, taoists, tantrics & other masters of transformation.

Photo By Jona Bartholdy


“Self-created: created by one’s self; not formed or constituted by another”.

— Webster Dictionary

Many of us want to be strong and capable of guiding our own fate, especially in western society.

We are orientated to seek individuation, even if we don’t know precisely how to differentiate ourselves or who we wish to become.

Some of us are so intently on this path that we have an almost teenage compulsion to free ourselves from external authority and become the dominant force of our own lives.

As we master one manifestation, we quickly grow restless and set our sights on new incarnations of self.

As long as we don’t destroy our lives in the process, the perpetual, desire for self-creation is a part of a healthy, highly aware state of consciousness.

When we are not in self-creation mode, we are either in a resting or reflective mode, or in an automatic mode. If either state lasts too long, we may find ourselves drifting into an overly passive, or monotonous life.

In this sense, self-creation is the antidote to stagnation and decline and, to a degree, physical and mental illness.

setting the ground of self-creation — deconditioning

Deconditioning: To cause a conditioned response to become extinct.”

— The free dictionary

In psychology and psychiatry, the word deconditioning is often used in relation to anxiety disorders and phobias. In this context, it refers to bringing the fear-response under control through exposure to certain stimuli, e.g., spiders, flying, public speaking.

In general terms, deconditioning refers to the dismantling of conditioned responses and habitual patterns of thinking in order to gain freedom from old maladaptive, destructive states.

Deconditioning is the beginning of the self-creation process because unless we can disengage our automatic reactions and thought patterns, we will continue to be possessed by the same fears and desires that brought us to who and where we presently are.

The reasons people fail in the self-creation process.

Most people fail to change themselves, even small ways, because as they envisage what they want to become they forget to acknowledge where they actually they are.

An old Taoist saying tells us that we should keep, one eye looking out on the world and one eye looking in, dreaming.

Within both Taoist wisdom and enlightened psychology, the ability to hold, at the very least, a dual perception of the self is essential for change.

Holding a vision of the new self while staying aware of the current self is the motor of success in self-creation.

Ideally, the oscillation goes like this:

  • A vision for the new self arises.
  • We move forward to manifest it.
  • We encounter an obstacle (an aspect of current reality).
  • We step back to identify the obstacle.
  • We set about to decondition the cause of the obstacle.
  • Once dealt with, we return to the vision.
  • The pattern repeats.

This oscillation is more than uncomfortable. It’s disheartening and commonly defeating. Most people collapse under the dynamic, give up, and fall back to where they were prior to having the vision.

Tethered to the ground they eventually forgo their vision. This is how they remain stuck in the grind of everyday demands.

Others become attached to the vision without grounding and end up lost in fantasy. Head stuck in the clouds is an appropriate way to describe this state.

To dance skilfully with the oscillation requires that we recognize the pattern we are in.

By holding the two realities — the vision and the ground — we create a third reality, a higher perspective that sees both.

self-creation and perspectivism

“In the process of this transformation (self-creation), I go beyond myself, beyond my psychological structures, my tendencies and personality, and I create a new self.”

— Nietzsche, on the three metamorphoses.

Nietzsche asserts that we are not merely passive observers of the world and our experiences, but that “one must make themselves view the world through as many perspectives as possible.”

In Basic Writings Of Nietzsche, the author writes:

“There is only a perspective seeing, only a perspective knowing, and the more affects we allow to speak about one thing, the more eyes, the different eyes, we can use to observe one thing, the more complete will our ‘concept’ of this thing be.”

We need to understand how limited our perception and perspective is.

I was born to these parents, in this locality, educated in this way, given these opportunities, and indoctrinated into these beliefs. I developed habits, tastes, preferences, and opinions — an entire worldview because of narrow set of circumstances.

The socialization process colors, focuses, and frames our perception in a particular way much like a photograph that shows one part of a scene but excludes millions of other possible perspectives.

To enter into new perspectives, we need to follow the spark of inspiration when it arrives. We need to be curious about our hunches, intuitions, and ideas, and we need to let go of our opinions and prejudices.

All this, while keeping our feet on the ground — knowing where we are in time and space, and on the path of change.

I started as a Catholic girl from the country in Victoria, Australia.

I was expected to become a nurse, as did my close friends, or a dressmaker, like my mother. These were the only ideas offered.

But a very different perspective arrived through an accident, which led me to read certain books and meet a wise man who eventually became my mentor.

These began as sparks — glimmers of something else — that showed me how dreams and myths could guide human life. That perspective opened me to a new vision of myself which was a radical departure from the self I was reared to become.

To fulfill that vision, I needed to acknowledge and deal with my frailty and narrow life experience. That involved deconditioning my body, beliefs, expectations, self-image, fears, and desires, not for the sake of being different, but to see what other self I could create that was more aligned to my vision.

the self-creation masters

“You must not let your life run in the ordinary way; do something that nobody else has done, something that will dazzle the world. Show that God’s creative principle works in you.”

Paramahansa Yogananda

Traditionally, self creation as a conscious endeavor belonged to the spiritual and esoteric folk: sages, seers, tantrics, taoists, yogis, shamans, monks, mystics, mages, and mendicants.

Although there were thousands of different practices, philosophies, and methods to the self-creation process, most traditions began with purposeful deconditioning of the body and mind.

Deconditioning before self-creation was thought to be an effective disrupter of the typical oscillation pattern (mentioned above), between the current and new self.

Many traditions shared similarities with military training where the aspirant would be taken to the brink of physical and psychological tolerance levels. In tantra, they call it klesha smashing. Kleshas are the causes of suffering. In Tibet anBuddhism a klesha is a belief that imposes limitation. There are five kleshas: ignorance, ego, desire, repulsion, and fear of change (fear of death). They form our ego, our identity, the socially conditioned self which holds all of our familial and cultural patterns.

Rather than layering over the familial and cultural databanks, the aspirant would be guided by certain philosophies, austerities, observances, sense withdrawal, breath techniques, meditations, and sequenced movements, to disengage with the underlying programming thought to enslave consciousness.

Interestingly, for this reason, Indian parents often dissuaded their children from adopting a spiritual or yogic life. They feared that they would renounce and abandon their family.

As an aspirant, their child would take up residence in remote caves of both land and consciousness to be reborn unfettered by their old psychic bonds to family and culture.

Having a child become a yogi was considered a tragedy similar to death. Parents would be denied the blessing of grandchildren, and material care in their aging years.

3 ways to decondition yourself

“If you limit your choice only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is a compromise…The human spirit will not invest itself in a compromise.”

― Robert Fritz,
The Path of Least Resistance

Most of us don’t wish to and are not in a position to leave our family and culture or to be taken to the brink of our tolerance levels.

But we can engage in the modern versions of ancient practices. You probably already do so perhaps without knowing it.

Deconditioning is an important practice for anyone interested in self-creation, in both small ways and big ways.

The 3 steps have varying levels of transformation — mild to extreme — depending on how frequently you practice, and how thoughtful and embodied your approach is.

1. Fasting reframes our approach to consumption

It eliminates the body’s toxins, decreases inflammation — now proven to be the #1 cause of most major diseases — and regenerates cells.

Psychologically, fasting challenges dependencies and reveals dormant strengths. For example; on the first day of fasting we typical feel agitated, foggy and weak. We may panic and think that we are going to starve to death. By day three, we feel calm, clear, and resilient despite that lack of food.

On a deeper level, fasting helps us to form a new, healthier relationship to nourishment on all levels because it brings our awareness to our essential needs which are often overshadowed by compulsive desires. When combined with meditation and reflection, fasting gives rise to profound questions of mortality.
{Note: fasting should be done gradually and on an informed basis. People have died fasting so don’t start without preparation and knowledge. Begin by following well researched methods and/or the guidance of a professional.}

2. Meditation recalibrates the nervous system.

With the right meditation technique we can move from agitation to calmness, from fragility to stability, and even from feeling cold and empty to feeling warm and fulfilled.

Whether practiced in short regular bursts, or in a formal retreat-style setting, meditation is the go-to disrupter of habitual thinking and reacting.

Once we learn to control and direct our breath and energy into specific areas of the body, the subtle channels of energy and consciousness open enabling more awareness and more perspectives. One of the great benefits of meditation is that it allows us to reconcile the feeling of being an isolated, localized mind contained in a single body, with the realization that we are also infinite consciousness connected to a boundless universe. Feeling connected to all things is a potent elixir for self-creation, and an effective anti-depressant.

{Note: if you are moderately or severely depressed be careful of the meditation technique you choose. Some practices can be detrimental. Write to me if you would like guidance on this.}

3. Minimalist lifestyle restructures values.

As we begin to identify the extraneous and the cumbersome, we become conscious of what we value.

The idea of a minimalist lifestyle is not necessarily about owning less but to only own what we are capable of caring for.

If we can’t look after something, we need to let it go because it’s living outside of our conscious energy field and yet it is having an effect on us, a subconscious effect. Whether we look after our things or neglect them, they impact on our energy and focus.

On a deeper level, our approach to what we own symbolizes our relationship to how we see the world. Do we perceive the things around us, whether animate or inanimate, as living things with their own center, or do we see ourselves as the only conscious beings in material world? It may seem like a wacky idea that inanimate things have a form of consciousness and a center, but from the quantum physics perspective, the universe, and every piece of its contents are pulsating with sonic and light energy — that means everything is alive.

ripe for self-creation

“In chaos, there is fertility.”

Anais Nin

All of these deconditioning practices make us aware of our patterned reactions and habitual consciousness and enable us to disrupt these patterns and their influence in the following ways:

  • They open up our subconscious, the part of us that lies beneath the patterns and lay fertile ground for change in ways that we couldn’t have imagined before we embarked on the practice.
  • They trigger new perspectives by teasing out our fears, dissolving or refining our desires, and revealing our real needs.
  • They loosen the ego, which often has a death-like grip on consciousness.
  • The neurotic concern for what others think of us and even our opinion of ourselves gives way to a more aware, spacious, and purposeful orientation.

We become open, malleable, and curious about the undiscovered parts of us.

We are now ripe for self-creation and even more radical deconditioning practices (of which there are many).


“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.”

Lao Tzu

There is no conclusion to the self creation process. No end, no direct path, and no neat box for the self to fit into. If you want neat and predictable, the process self-creation will become too difficult to withstand.

Remember, self-creation is traditionally the domain of extraordinary people — tantrics, taoists, yogis, seers, mages, etc. These people want to see deeply into themselves, into the nature of reality and mortality. They want to transform themselves and will light perpetual fires of transformation. They want extraordinary, not ordinary lives.

Self-creation involves a fair amount of chaos, mostly internal chaos, which often spills into outer life. It’s a radical rather than a conventional path (in the personal sense, not in the political sense). As you move away from your current self you feel disorientated. Again, this is why most people don’t do it. Most people want ease and comfort more than they do growth. But ease and comfort are opposite to growth.

Self-creation is a continuum. As you break free of one set of habits and patterns you acquire new ones, often unconsciously. Upbringing creates deeply embedded patterns in the emotional body and mind. Belief structures feel impenetrable, like brick walls. But as you walk on the other side, or climb up high you see that they are made of paper, not brick.

You can transform yourself and your life into a work of art and spirit, and go a long and remarkable way from where you first began. You must however, do the work.

May all blessings be yours as you light fires of self-creation. — Jayne

Penetrate your walls of belief: Download the 4th Practice for Deconditioning Here.

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Jayne Stevenson

Written by

Writer, healer, dream analyst, co-founder, yoga-meditation learning platform. Start with my free Transform Beliefs Workbook

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