The Path to No Path

Conditioning

'Conditioning', in the sense that I use it, is, as a verb, is what happens to someone when they take other people's ideas as their own, and try to live according to these ideas, and, as a noun, is this collection of ideas. I do not consider such ideas as “You should drive on the left hand side of the road in Britain” as conditioning, even though the vast majority of British motorists abide by this rule without ever questioning it. Such a rule is a convention adopted merely to avoid chaos on the roads. That this is a mere convention is clear from the fact that the French, who also used to drive on the left, decided during the time of Napoleon to drive on the left instead – a far less sensible choice.

(As an aside, this convention of driving on the left seems to have merits, at least in the old days: when you meet a traveller coming from the opposite direction, it is your right arm which is nearer the potential threat. It is much easier to fight someone on your right, if you are right-handed. It is also much easier to lean over and shake hands and say “Good day”. The reason why Napoleon decided to reverse this sensible practice is unknown to me. But then, who knows how a psychopath thinks?)

No, what I am concerned with here is the conditioning that leads one to believe things like: “I should try to be a better person” or “My body is ugly”. The first of these beliefs seems to be readily accepted by the vast majority of people in Britain. In a quick survey of a small group of people, I found that two women in three hold to the second belief. To my surprise, I found that about one man in three also held to this belief. None of the people in my sample could be considered neurotic in any way, and yet so many of them still clung to this idea that had been imposed on them as children. Of what value is this idea to them? It only makes them unhappy.

I find it hard to believe that anybody would gladly accept such beliefs, and certainly would be deeply unhappy about being forced to believe the derogatory ones. Along with the conditioning there is therefore a great deal of resentment of it. We are conditioned to not express such resentment, and besides, after having had a lot of conditioning forced on us, it is no longer clear who is to blame for it, even if we dared.

Why would anybody wish to indoctrinate children with such ideas? It seems to me that they do so in order to control them. Imagine little Johnny full of energy, full of the joy of life, running around the room, accidentally knocking something to the floor and breaking it, quite unintentionally and probably much to his regret. The parents would quite likely say: “Johnny don't be such a naughty boy! Look at what you have done! Go to your room!”

Johnny never gets the opportunity to say that he regretted breaking the object, even though it was accidental. He might have felt very unhappy about what happened, but instead he is forced to swallow (through many, many repetitions of similar events) the idea that he is naughty, and that he should be punished.

Out of resentment at this sort of treatment, Johnny might decide to deliberately break some object at the next opportunity, pretending that it was a mere accident, for he has also learned that adults manage to deny responsibility by claiming that something was an accident. So he breaks something, he gets bad mouthed for doing so, feels resentful, and he breaks something else.

Perhaps now his parents consider (most likely without being aware of thinking this) that it is time to lay a guilt trip on Johnny. Make him feel that he has committed a crime against God, the Supreme Parent Figure, who will surely punish him most severely for his sin. No matter what he does, God will catch him at it and punish him.

Just to make sure that Johnny understands the gravity of the situation, take him to church and get other adults to lecture him, too. Johnny can see ways of taking out his resentment on his parents, but how on earth is he to take out his resentment against God? And all the adults in his life are apparently on God's side in this. Johnny has not a chance in hell now.

You probably feel that I am greatly exaggerating. So think again. Adults also get conditioning imposed upon them. Consider the Protestant work ethic. You don't need to be a Protestant to have this form of conditioning dumped on you. Who do you think works harder, achieves more, gets things done more quickly and on time – somebody who is happy and playful, relaxed and at ease, or someone who has a driving ambition to succeed, someone who is determined to achieve their goal at any cost?

My car broke down yesterday. I want it fixed right now. The plumber said he would call last Monday to fix a dripping tap, but he never came. I went to the garage to see the mechanic this morning. He was just playing around, joking with his mates, wasting time while my car was standing there with nobody working on it. Later, I phoned the plumber. He told me that he had not come because the weather was so pleasant that he took his children to the beach for the day.

Yes, my life would be so much less stressful if these people could be made to feel guilty for enjoying life. They would then do what I want them to do.

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If you should wish to contact me about anything you have read here, especially if you feel strongly for or against what you have read, or if you feel that something is missing, I offer you an opportunity to share.

I look forward to hearing from you.

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