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I was looking through the airplane’s window when I started thinking about my past relationships.
It was clear to me that my fate was set in stone: no matter where I go and regardless of who I meet, I will always end up in a relationship with someone who will eventually choose to leave me.
That day, on my way to Nepal, I had the audacity to oppose myself—for the first time ever. I summoned up my courage and asked myself, “How true is this?”
After a few minutes of utter silence in my head and staring into space, I could only hear the snoring passenger next to me. Then, out of nowhere, a voice in my head interrupted my fuzzy surroundings.
That voice clearly and confidently told me that I might not be operating autonomously. Something bigger than me was dominating my beliefs: my past.
Not everyone was going to leave me and not every romantic story was doomed. When I thought I was unlovable, it was my old conditioning making me believe so.
The good news is we can conquer our past conditioning; the bad news is it affects us all equally.
Past or old conditioning means we are conditioned by the past. The kind of relationship that we had with our parents, siblings, and friends when we were children highly dictates our present beliefs. Something we had experienced in our childhood made an imprint on our minds and, for some reason, stayed there.
In other words, it formed a specific idea in our heads that has become imprinted in our unconscious mind as a memory. This memory (which could be rooted in abandonment, bullying, insufficient parental presence, unavailability, and so on) stays dormant…until it is triggered in our adulthood.
This triggered memory is our past conditioning.
It operates our present and future based on an old pattern that happened long ago. When I thought that my romantic fate was set in stone and that every man would eventually leave me, my memory was still operating from the idea that I was unworthy. Because I was bullied as a kid, I grew up thinking I will never be worthy or lovable; it was my old conditioning taking charge.
In other words, we recreate our history because it feels familiar—and it’s the only reaction we have ever really known. Even if what’s happening now is new and unprecedented, we will keep reacting to it in the same old way if we don’t change our minds’ known tactics.
If you’re wondering how to keep your old conditioning at bay, all you need to do is reflect on this intertwined pattern:
1. You tend to make the same choices (and form the same ideas) again and again. Whether in your career, in your relationships, or with your family and friends, your choices almost always end up being identical. If you job hop a lot, you might think that every boss you ever had was overly demanding or insensitive. After every breakup, you might choose to never date again. Despite the many different situations and people we could encounter, our old mindset wants to have a say in the matter (and it always ends up being the same).
2. You react before consciously interpreting the present situation. A dark, gigantic cloud takes over our minds before getting the chance to work with what’s at hand. It’s reflected in our choices, the way we communicate, and the reactions we exhibit. For example, we might find ourselves responding in the same manner every time a conflict arises with our partner (although the conflict would be different every time). At work, we might emotionally shut down when we are stressed and unmotivated.
3. You come up with an unhealthy, false conclusion about yourself. We might feel insecure, unlovable, undeserving, vulnerable, or unworthy when nothing in life is going in our favor. We always find fault with ourselves regardless of the situation we’re in. Adopting a negative self-image about who we are has surely originated in our childhood when we weren’t treated as we had hoped.
4. Your reaction doesn’t feel right. It just doesn’t. When we snap, yell, get angry, or make a bad decision, we know deep inside that our reaction could have been different. What’s also interesting is that we might not be able to put our finger on it. Unfortunately, we keep finding ourselves in situations that trigger our dormant, unconscious memories without knowing what’s really going on with us.
5. Your life seems predictable. We feel the need to relive the memory. In spite of the different people we’re dealing with or what is happening right now, we might feel (and know) that the outcome is going to be the same. “They will leave me,” “They will fire me,” “They won’t show up,” are all examples of what we might believe will happen when we are driven by our past conditioning. Regardless of what is happening right here and right now, you know that the result won’t change.
In short, to eliminate this destructive old conditioning from our lives, we shouldn’t let the past define our present. We have to think and believe that the patterns we are reliving now are old-fashioned—even musty. They might have served us in the past, but they won’t serve us now.
When we incorporate this idea and believe it to be true, we automatically feel the need to explore new options—new actions, reactions, and choices. We have to know that our prior programming is only keeping us stuck and limited in the now.
And as I always say, we have to grow tired of our bullsh*t first in order to change it. As long as we’re comfortable in the muck, we will stay in the muck. Believe it or not, I had to train my mind to get it out of its old habits and patterns. I had to pause, stop, reassess, and rethink every single situation before allowing myself to speak or react. I had to recognize the damage that my old conditioning had done to my personal relationships so I could break free.
That said, catch yourself whenever you feel you’re functioning from your old conditioning. Reevaluate your choices, every single day, and seriously ask yourself if your current choice is mindful and serving you in this very moment.
As I said, training our minds is key. We need to unlearn a bunch of beliefs and relearn new techniques and ways in order to carve a happier future for ourselves.