Breaking Down Conditioning

“The most loving parents and relatives commit murder with smiles on their faces. They force us to destroy the person we really are: a subtle kind of murder.” ― Jim Morrison

I woke up this morning with the song “When the Music’s Over” (by The Doors) playing in my head. Lead singer Jim Morrison has always fascinated me with his philosophy of life and his identification with Dionysus, the god of epiphany and patron of arts & wine. His songs connected with me emotionally because they seem to represent his struggle with his conditioning, which he perceived as a kind of destruction of his authentic self. Sometimes he won, other times his conditioning got the better of him.

It started me thinking about how well meaning parents, family and friends may have done more damage than they had imagined to our growth and creativity, all in the name of good intentions. I now understand why I always feel a chill when I hear my friends talk about how they are invested in their children’s future. It begs the question of how appropriate that investment is, given that we all know some investments can very quickly unravel and fall flat on its face, take the dot-com bubble for example. The key question is this: “Are we investing in our next generation based on their core potential or based on our own perceived failed expectations?”

This week I have seen several cases of how well meaning advice given without consideration to a child’s personality can go horribly wrong for them in adulthood.

One of my clients who was both beautiful and talented, was constantly tortured by feelings of inferiority, viewing her own dance talents as useless and unrealistic in the real world, all because her parents had taught her to be useful and worthy, she needed to become an accountant. As her work gave her no pleasure, she was torn between what she wanted to do and her imposed responsibilities. And when she did enjoy herself dancing, she was plagued with guilt, as if she had sinned and wasted her time on frivolous dancing. Her life started to feel like an endless cycle of emotional turmoil because she could not shake the sensible conditioning that her parents had imposed upon her.

Another friend was always told by her mother that in order to succeed, she must work hard and struggle. She was imbued with the idea of “No pain, no gain”. As a professional now, this conditioning came back to haunt her. Whenever things were going very smoothly, she would second guess herself and asked when the pain would come. This attitude caused her to be constantly on edge and no matter how much she advanced in her career, she would always be anxious about when the pain would come. This led to repeated instances of self sabotage until she sunk into depression.

So if we recognise that we are in the grip of conditioning, we must break out of it. We must become aware, seek out the conditioning, break it down, and put in a new programme of our own choice. Everyone has been invested in us ever since we were born, but none will ever understand and be in a position to make the choices we make. We must remember to choose with love for our own highest good, and in doing so, respect the right to free will that even a child should have. Otherwise we will become mechanical robots, doomed to live ignorant and oblivious to our own consciousness. As my favourite kungfu artist Bruce Lee puts succinctly,“When there is freedom from mechanical conditioning, there is simplicity. The classical man is just a bundle of routine, ideas and tradition. If you follow the classical pattern, you are understanding the routine, the tradition, the shadow – you are not understanding yourself.”