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The first time I heard the word “conditioning” was during a high school gym class.
Our teacher, who reminded me more of an army drill sergeant, informed us that we would be starting conditioning training. Eeek. That sounded scary—and exhausting.
What followed was a series of multiple mile runs, sit-ups, push-ups, burpees, sprints, weight training, and chin-ups. To finish off, we usually ran another mile.
Apparently, this physical torture was meant to condition our bodies for more strength, agility, and stamina. My knee still pops to this day.
From birth, and even starting in the womb, our mental, emotional, and social conditioning begins. Our entire foundation of what we will think, believe, know, question, how we will behave, and what kind of people we will be starts immediately.
The people and situations we are around in our early years sets up how we are molded and who we become.
From birth through age seven, our brain is operating at a different, slower frequency. During this time in our development, the brain functions in delta (zero to four cycles per second) and theta (four to eight cycles per second) frequencies—the same frequencies we experience in deep REM sleep or under hypnosis.
Everything that happens during these years is taken in by the subconscious mind and leaves deep impressions. This is why children absorb information so well—quickly and easily.
Around eight years of age, the frequencies increase to beta brainwaves, which operate at eight to 12 cycles per second. This is when our analytical and conscious thinking come into play and begin to develop—overlaid on top of anything that was learned by the subconscious mind from zero to seven years old.
Epigenetics is the study of how our genes are “expressed,” which is determined in part by our environment and our experiences. Studies have shown that trauma in animals can be traced back 14 generations. In humans, traumatic experiences can alter gene expression, leading to changes in the next generation including dietary, emotional, and physical problems.
Emotionally, socially, mentally, and spiritually, information being is passed down to us through the filter of those we are around the most when we are young—specifically from birth through, and including, seven years old.
Conditioning truly begins in the womb. Babies can sense energy while in gestation. If a mother has a lot of outward stress, discomfort, or creates an environment that is not peaceful—this information gets transferred to the growing baby. Their sensory world will be affected by what is around them.
Understanding the elements of conditioning can help us dissect our own. We can open up and question why we do, believe, behave, and exist the way we do. We can get underneath and purge anything that is not truly ours and doesn’t resonate with the life and mindset we want.
We can know ourselves on a deeper level of comprehension in order to be able to care for ourselves and those around us better.
The Three Elements that Make up Conditioning:
1. Education: What we’ve been Taught.
Education is the process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, especially at a school or university.
In some form or another, people receive education on a daily basis. You do not have to be sitting in a classroom to study, observe, or ingest information, instruction, or a belief system.
For traditional education, a collective outside of us chooses what will be taught and how. Our lens starts to form on what the rules are, what is shameful, what is celebrated, and what is considered to be right versus wrong. Keep in mind that all of that is being determined by a set of people who already have deep biases, opinions, and conditioning of their own.
Everything truly is a continuum. Parents pass down their favorite sports team or recipes to their kids; each society passes down its history, traditions, rituals, and belief systems to the next, and each generation acquires some of its identity from the one before.
As individuals and as a collective, we really are an amalgamation of everyone and everything that came before us. We now get to decide what truly resonates with us going forward.
2. Observation: What we’ve seen People Do.
Whether it be from peers, siblings, society, or family, observation is the action or process of observing something or someone carefully, or in order to gain information; a judgment on or inference from what one has observed.
The biggest element of observation is environment (where am I and who is around me?) and atmosphere.
>> What were our surroundings when our subconscious mind was being formed?
>> What was the energy or vibe?
>> What did people talk about, worry about, celebrate, or shame?
>> Was it peaceful or stressful?
>> What were the beliefs about God, religion, or spirituality? Were there any at all?
>> What was considered important, decent, or valuable?
As well as receiving specific instruction on something, a huge way we learn is by observing others. As children, we mimic what those around us do—both physically and emotionally. This becomes our entire universe and what we base the rest of our behavior on.
Whatever we observed is most likely what we still do, without question or examination. It has become second nature to think, act, process, and interact in the way we have been shown by others. As tribal people, humans copy one another. On the one hand, this creates a sense of community and connection; on the other hand, it can feel incredibly limiting and even paralyzing.
Observing what we observed is a powerful practice to change any behaviors or pattens that we do not like or are no longer serving us.
3. Experience: Shaped by Education and Observation.
Experience is the practical contact with and observation of facts or events. The way in which we comprehend or perceive our experiences is largely shaped by our education and observation.
Observing stress or joy over any area of life as we develop will affect how we engage in our own practical experience with the world and with life.
If our parents held or expressed stress about money, regardless of whether they possessed a lot of it or not, it will shape how we interact with money. If someone we grew up with hides their feelings when an uncomfortable moment happens, we learn that that is the way to deal with our feelings when we interact with others.
When we are young, we have no other standard than what other people around us are doing and saying.
Our eyes are seeing the physical world, but our perception is what’s really driving the boat. If we were given a pair of glasses with red lenses in them at birth, our perception would be that the world is some shade of red, even if our eyes are still looking at a building, a tree, or another person.
It’s the same with beliefs that come to us through education and observation, which we then learn to mimic.
When we understand the lens we are looking through, we can change the things we picked up along the way that we no longer want.
We liberate the parts of ourselves that are screaming to be heard and forgive the parts of ourselves that were never allowed to rise to the surface.
We can truly be who and what we choose to be.