Updated: Feb 26, 2020
“Once we realize the extraordinary power we have to compose our lives, we'll move from passive, conditioned thinking to being co-creators of our fate.” Jason Silva
Conditioning can have an impactful effect on whether we choose to submit or, whether we choose to thrive in independence for a lifetime. Psychological conditioning can have both positive and negative effects on our overall quality of life. It can be both a conscious and subconscious process that we endure throughout our lives. If a person wants to train for a marathon, they must put their body through rigorous conditioning or training; often changing their diet, workouts, and pushing their body to the limit in some cases. Once it is time for the race, the body’s natural response will be to perform at its optimal capacity and endure through to the end. This is an example of a positive form of conditioning to create a healthier norm. On the other hand, the negative effects of psychological conditioning can have a lasting impact on our overall quality of life. For instance, if a person grows up in an abusive household where love and compassion are lacking, in some cases, that child will find themselves responding negatively outside of the home when love and compassion are impressed upon them. They may not know how to receive or exchange the emotions or expressions of affection. Another more tangible example is if a person begins smoking in high school, by the time they reach their thirties, they are psychologically conditioned to believe that they “need to smoke.” Based on my personal experience, chances are once a long-term smoker makes the choice mentally to quit, they may physically suffer from withdrawals, have urges to smoke again, or even get sick as their lungs begin to heal. However, once the decision is made in their mind and repeatedly made daily, surely they can quit. We are all aware of the fact that smoking or any other harmful habit can have a lasting effect on our lives long-term. Like it or not, we are all conditioned to some degree, to think the way we think and respond the way we do to various situations. In retrospect, I learned that negative psychological conditioning for me began at an early age.
Growing up in a single-parent household was not the most ideal, but it was a huge contributor to my ability to persevere and become who I would eventually evolve into as a woman today. Since my mother worked what seemed like all the time, thriving in independence began fairly early in my childhood. I learned to make a meal out of almost anything when there weren’t any leftovers to eat. My brothers and I were not allowed to use our gas stove, so we had to make meals either with the toaster or the microwave. One of my most favorite childhood “meals” was toast with butter, cinnamon, and sugar on it. I also prided myself in making yummy cream of wheat, and scrambled eggs in the microwave; something I now forbid my own children from ever doing. Childhood self-sufficiency equipped me with some of the practical tools that I would need in the future.
Being the only girl, two of the many valuable lessons I learned very quickly were how to self-entertain and physically protect myself. Although I had friends in the neighborhood, there was plenty of time spent indoors when my mother was not home. We were not allowed to go outside while she was at work, although there were plenty of times; as we got older, where we snuck out of the house anyway out of boredom. Much of my time in the house was spent alone in my bedroom, reading, writing, and listening to my favorite music. The boys typically took over the rest of the house with their race car tracks, GI Joe’s, Ninja Turtle action figures, and video games. Lying on the bed, writing for hours at a time was how I entertained myself while passing time. I often wrote notes to myself, and to people, I knew that I would never give the notes to, but it still felt good to write. This was a positive form of conditioning. I learned to be a good communicator of my feelings and learned to love writing and reading at a very young age.
Of course, my reading and writing sessions were not always peaceful. If you grew up with boys, you know that boys can be annoying (young girl’s perspective), and they can also be your first encounter with bullies. My brothers were always amused by picking on me. Cracking jokes, breaking my toys, or just doing anything to annoy me. PAUSE Disclaimer: I do not condone bullying by any stretch of the meaning, but I am thankful for the rough times my brothers and I had together. Arguing and fighting each other, as well as other people in the neighborhood, was my norm. My older brother had this thing where, if I came home and told him someone was messing with me, he would tell me, “If you don’t go back out there and beat her up, I’m gone beat you up.” Needless to say; I preferred risking being beaten up by the neighborhood bully over my brother. Although those times taught me how to defend myself, and how to have thick skin for the years to follow, it does not change the fact that the negative effects of this conditioning would have a lasting impact on my life. I was rough. Conditioned to be a fighter, both mentally and physically felt like the norm. Because it was how I grew up, my reality was that that was what I was supposed to do.
I went from being accustomed to doing things for myself as an adolescent and teenager, to finding comfort in doing things on my own, and being guarded over my independence once I became an adult. During my early years of adulthood, as I began developing relationships with friends and cultivating relationships with family members, I realized that I grew to dislike people doing things for me. I instantly questioned the motives of people who tried to support me. When I finally convinced myself to allow my walls of protection to come down and gave myself permission to “expect” something from someone, disappointment would soon follow because my expectations went unmet. Failed expectations are a different story, but let me just say, unmet expectations can set the tone for how you proceed with setting them for yourself and others in the future.
I became conditioned to doing things without help and conditioned to lowering my expectations to protect myself from being disappointed. Expecting disappointment became more of a reflex than a reaction for me. My thought process was all jacked up. The motto I adopted was that “if you expect less, you get more every time.” I firmly believed that if I did things for myself, I wouldn't have to question or worry whether my needs would be met. Doing things on my own meant that I did not have to worry about being callously reminded of the help I needed and did or didn’t receive. The truth of the matter is the years of subconsciously developing reactive measures to provide, survive, and thrive, would work against me when it came to dating with a purpose, preparing for marriage, and ultimately submitting. I was slowly over time developing and submitting to the “I don’t need a man” mindset, as I developed a stronger, true sense of independence and actual thriving.
“Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.”
The summer before my senior year in high school, I spent time preparing to take the ACT one last time and considered giving the ASVAB a shot. The ASVAB is the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, basically, a prerequisite test that you must take before enlisting into the military. I hoped to either attend college or enlist in the Air Force. I met with recruiters, visited bases and colleges, priming myself, and setting my expectations for what would happen for me after high school. Although my path was not crystal clear, there were no plans of settling down, having children, and absolutely no dream of becoming a wife in the future. The furthest I envisioned myself was for me to live a life of freedom and fun while living life boldly without boundaries. It may seem like a pretty volatile plan, but I was 17 years young, heading into my last year of high school. While many girls my age had the typical American Dream of the house, car, kids, dog...oh and a husband, I had dreams of running free, as I had lived a semi-sheltered life and was ready to explore the world and see what it had to offer me, and me alone.
Like most teens embarking on the “grown-up” age of 18, I was primarily focused on FREEDOM. My imagination stretched as far as me living on the West Coast somewhere, living in a nice midrise condo, and allowing my hair to blow in the wind as I paraded around town in my convertible luxury car. I would have a career in business that allowed me to travel oftentimes; military or not and earn money and status as I progressed in life. Thinking about my future excited me in a way that was hard to explain. So much so that I could not wait to prove the people wrong who would often chuckle as I shared my dreams with them. They didn’t believe I would ever leave good old Toledo, Ohio, but I KNEW that there was no way that I could live the life I imagined if I stayed there. It was too confined, too small, and besides that, it was home, and I could always go back, but I was definitely leaving!
Just a few short months later, the day after Christmas, to be exact, I learned my true fate. Not only would my departure from Toledo be delayed, but.....