This article is a part of a new column exploring the intersection of travel, wellbeing and culture through a female lens.
What’s the deal with it? The way we think. We’re so conditioned we don’t even realize our conditioning. Do you know what I mean?
Here’s a random example: when that bare shoulder trend came out (you know the one) I wasn’t a fan. But then, after seeing it over, and over, and over again, guess what’s hanging in my closet? A bare-shoulder sweater.
Psychological conditioning is what we are taught to value, which might not be authentic to us. The sweater example shows how psychological conditioning influences the way we act. This is true for external things like fashion and trends, but its even more true for our behavior.
As humans, we’re suggestible. We are conditioned by work, parents, religion, school, society. We are taught, from a young age, who we are and how to think. Rather than being encouraged to find these things out for ourselves, we’re taught to listen to what we’re told, regardless if it’s true for us. This listening leads to acting.
Here’s another example: So, you start dating someone. You guys seem to like each other and maybe even love each other and this fling has turned into something more. You’re living together or at least hanging around each other. Suddenly, the question comes starts popping up, seemingly everywhere: “So! When are you guys getting married!?” Before ever asking how you are or why you even like the person, they want to know when you’re putting a ring on it. Because this is how we’re conditioned to think.
This raises two questions: The first one being . . .why do they care? And second, why do we allow their beliefs to cause us undue pressure and stress? Because, we’re conditioned. So very conditioned.
Another example relates back to high school. It seems like a right of passage for every high school senior to get asked, “So, where are you going to college!?” or “Where have you applied?” come fall. Even though we live in a world where you no longer need to go to college to be successful, we still ask these questions, as a result of our conditioning.
We still impose undue stress. We still silence our internal voice in lieu of what we’re taught is normal.
This also happens at social events. When someone asks you “what do you do?” before even asking your name or how you’re doing, as if your title holds value over your humanity. It’s a question that triggers social anxiety, causing account executive roles to fill and passion businesses to never begin. Because one must have an accepted answer to that question. If not, we fear not belonging—to our family, our society, our world.
These examples are worthless without getting to the real question: How is psychological conditioning teaching us to bypass our personal development and growth? How is it leading us to believe things are important which may not be authentic to us?
It’s like that bare-shoulder sweater. The external marketing and messages impact our minds. Then one day we have a moment of truth and wonder: how did that get in there?
How did that ring get on my finger? The car in my garage? The thought in my mind? It may not be an expression of our authentic self, but it has impacted our behavior and influenced the way we act.
We can’t lash out at the next person to ask these questions, or get angry once we become aware to our conditioned behavior and systems. Nor can we become insusceptible to messages penetrating our minds through social media, marketing and the news.
What we can do, is become aware. We can slow down enough to hear what’s going on inside, so that external influences don’t have the same level of impact. We can stand unapologetically in our truth, rather than let someone else define it for us. We can consume more consciously, by not letting anything into our homes we’re not madly in love with. We can say hell no to things that don’t light us up, and hell yes to what sparks our fire. Because while we may be conditioned, the choice is always ours.
What will you get rid of? What will you hold onto? Will you dare to let go?
Deep breathe. We’re in this together. x