How To Recondition Your Mind
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We are all a result of the conditioning we’ve experienced, until this point in life. The conditioning we experience as children, from our parents, other caregivers, and even our childhood friends can influence and condition our subsequent behavior into adulthood.
Indeed, the majority of therapy processes focus on uncovering unconscious childhood conditioning and making the client more aware of their subconscious patterns of behaviour that have likely been conditioned as a result of childhood experiences.
That said, not all conditioning comes from childhood.
In relationships, we are conditioned in terms of the way we interact and behave… we are always responding, reacting and adapting to stimuli in a way that’s represented in the famous Pavlov’s dogs study.
Interestingly, pain can be a great conditioning agent - for instance, if as a child, you touch a hot iron the pain that results from this will mean that not only do you pull your hand away from the iron, but you never touch a hot iron again.
The challenge, however, is that when it comes to emotional pain we often employ the same strategy. In that, because a person or particular experience causes pain, we pull away, and make sure we don’t put ourselves in that position again - but, unfortunately, we generalise.
For instance, if you’ve been in a relationship with someone that cheated on you, it’s very easy to generalise that all future partners are likely to cheat and therefore become hypervigilant about certain patterns of behaviour, and perhaps possessive, as a result.
We have conditioned thought patterns around all important things in life from work, money, relationships and even our sense of self worth. In this sense, it can be useful to recondition new patterns of thoughts, that lead to new feelings, which leads to new behaviour.
There are many ways to do this, from using affirmations to more specialist neurofeedback treatments, but what it all comes down to is shifting the associations in your mind.
Once upon a time, electric shock treatment was regularly administered to treat mental illness, yet today such measures aren’t used so extensively due to the controversial nature of such treatment. Today, as a society, we tend to favour more of an empowered self-help approach, where we look to recondition our mind using tools such as mindfulness meditation, affirmations, NLP and cognitive behavioural therapy.
In a nutshell, if you want to recondition your mind and create positive change, for instance, let’s say you want to live a healthier life and quit smoking - then you simply need to associate more pain with the idea of putting a cigarette in your mouth than pleasure.
At the moment, if you are smoking, you do this to gain some form of emotional benefit you associate with putting a cigarette in your mouth - and for as long as you associate emotional pleasure with this process, quitting smoking will be an uphill struggle.
Therefore, if you want to quit smoking, shift your focus and the “meaning” of what picking up a cigarette is, to you. This way, you shift the internal story you tell yourself about what smoking means, and as a result, you can start to associate pain with the process rather than pleasure.
Your brain is wired to protect you from pain, so it will naturally want to assist you in your attempt to stop smoking; whereas, if it see’s smoking as an effective coping strategy to reduce pain and bring about relief - it will hold onto it, as its primary purpose is to keep you out of pain.