THE CONDITIONED SELF
by Lacy Frazer
For many years, I never had a problem introducing myself. I was armed and ready with all the things that I wanted others to know, which usually involved impressing them in some way. I am a psychologist (which must mean I am educated and an expert in a certain field of study). I am a spouse (which must mean someone loves me enough to marry me). I was a Division I athlete in college (which must mean at one time I was strong and fit, regardless of my present fitness status). I am a mother (which must mean I must be competent enough to raise children). And I live in a nice house in an affluent town (which must mean I make a decent income and can therefore be considered “successful”). All of these descriptions and labels made me feel better about myself, because I was raised to believe that all of these things are what matters most in life. These descriptions of myself constituted my “ego identity”.
The Google dictionary defines EGO as a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance. I describe EGO as a part of our mind that often acts as the conductor of the human train. It consists of a set of ideas and beliefs that we carry around with us, generally on a “default setting,” that defines how we view ourselves and how we view others.
SO WHERE DO THESE IDEAS AND BELIEFS ABOUT OURSELVES
AND OTHERS COME FROM?
They come from the world around us, and are ever-present the minute we are born. Our thought processes, beliefs, and ideas about ourselves and those around us are ingested from our external environment, which includes our parents, peers, school system, religious community, the media, etc. We are submerged in a sea of ideas and beliefs, and encouraged by others to adopt these ideas as our own…. to literally ingest them, incorporate them, and make them our way of perceiving the world within and around us.
Before we know it, our sense of self, our “identity,” is defined for us and we walk through life responding and reacting to the world based on these adopted or ingested “conditions”. We are shaped into the adults we become by our interactions with, responses to, and ingestion of the beliefs, ideas, and conditions of the world around us. I call this the Conditioned Self. Given the fact that who we become is largely a result of what we ingest from our external environment, a.k.a. our conditioning….is it possible that this ‘self’ could be false, inauthentic, misaligned with a greater truth about ourselves, and or not completely genuine?
I am reminded of how the late Wayne Dyer described the Six Components of the EGO Identity.
~ I am what I have…(stuff)
~ I am what I do…(all of my accomplishments)
~ I am my reputation…(what others think of me)
~ I am separate from everyone else…(this allows me to judge others)
~ I am separate from what’s missing in my life…(I am not responsible)
~ I am separate from God…(I am not connected to a higher power)
While at first glance, these components may seem “shallow,” the truth is that the majority of human beings on this planet often do identify themselves through these aspects of the EGO, because this is what we have been conditioned to believe is important. And if we feel something or someone is important, we will attach to it. Its as if we are “wired” for attachment. And thus, we have all of the emotional and physiological circuitry within us . . . to attach to things, ideas, beliefs, conditions, expectations, and more.
This often leaves us chasing, yearning for, wanting, needing, and craving what we have become attached to. And if we are mentally and emotionally attached to something, and we do not attain it, we are, at best, disappointed. But ultimately, we suffer. We suffer, consciously and/or unconsciously, because of our attachments. Those we are aware of, and especially those that seem to run on autopilot, by default.
WHO AM I?
So now, the question must be asked, Who Am I, if I am not defined by what I have, what I do, my reputation, my separateness, my missing parts, my attachments, or my separateness from God/Creator/Source/The Infinite Intelligence of the Universe (whatever you prefer to call it)? How in the world would I introduce myself ~ if I didn’t define myself by these descriptors, attachments, or conditioned beliefs and definitions of who I am?
These are not easy questions to answer, because they ultimately require the de-construction or the de-programing of the conditioned self. It would require us to challenge what we have come to believe is important and essential to living “a good life.” But, how can we challenge something that we do not even know or believe needs to be challenged?
I have learned that the road to change and ultimately living an authentic life, begins with one word: WILLINGNESS.
~We have to be willing to accept that the ideas and beliefs we carry around may not be ours.
~ We then have to be willing to receive feedback from others, as they reflect back to us things, we may need to know about ourselves.
~ We have to be willing to listen to others, but also to our own intuition or “gut feelings.”
~ We have to be willing to witness our negative thought and behavior patterns.
~ We have to be willing to accept responsibility for every choice in our life.
~ We have to be willing to be open to alternative ideas, beliefs, explanations, etc.
When we emanate the energy of willingness and openness, we invite transformation into our lives. We invite ourselves to shed the protective layers of the ego and move into a more heart-centered life that is guided by love, compassion, and a desire to serve.
Imagine ~ if you could wipe your slate clean of trauma, regret, anger, blame, and shame, . . . how would you want to show up in the world? And how might you want to more fully BE in the world? These are some interesting questions that I invite you to not only take some time to explore, but that you make it a priority to engage on a deeper level. For these are some key questions that we will reflect on in the conversations to come.