For many of us, it is difficult to differentiate between our opinions and beliefs and what we have been told that we should like and admire. It is even hard to realize that our thoughts and opinions may not be ours. We may think that we are how we want to be and that what we like is inherently the best. But, think about fashion for example. What we see as beautiful today was considered horrid a few years ago, and what was thought to be right be last century is totally out of our mind today.
That is just a very simplistic example, but it illustrates my point. We are somehow preprogrammed to like or dislike, and not just with fashion, as in the previous example; but, with a myriad aspects of life, such as religion, vocations, friends and many other likes and dislikes form our everyday life. Living in society influences us and changes the way we process thoughts and live our lives. Living in society influences the way we process thoughts
As humans, we are conditioned or preprogrammed by nature to seek acceptance by our group and to minimize unessential efforts. Our instincts are telling us that we may need that energy later. So we go with the flow, we make our life easier by doing as others do and by making others’ ideas our own.
Ideas, communication patterns, relationships, and even expectations are changing really fast nowadays. After years of submitting to group norms, being told to follow, what to buy, how to dress and what to eat, now we are told that different is good. We hear more and more that we don’t have to be like the rest, that we can take responsibility for our lives and make them better.
We are told to be ourselves, but what does that mean? Aren’t we ourselves? Well, the way it turns out oftentimes we are not. A big part of us is the product of our upbringing and our environment. We are influenced by our parents, education and society and it takes awareness and work to differentiate ourselves from all that.
In a previous post http://pacawellness.com/2014/06/25/remembering-to-forget/ I mentioned how we develop through our parent and elder’s influence from the time that we are born. At the time of birth we don’t have concepts or opinions, so we get them from our elders. That is actually a great way to start our lives, as we can spend most of our time exploring the world and learning many other things; our basic likes and dislikes are already cared for. It also adds to familial ties, we spend our early lives agreeing with our parents and siblings for the most part.
As infants we came in to this world with a very plastic brain, capable of recording even the most minute details, and to remember readily. We were potty trained, learn to walk, talk and eventually read and write, because the brain is primed to do this, really receptive and ready to store information.
In fact, we remember a lot from our childhood. We remember how to walk, talk and the social mores that we received. We have a harder time remembering explicit conscious memories than those that become a habit. The ones that go directly into our subconscious to be stored as automatic behavior, such as walking or using utensils to eat. At some point out limbic system gets a spurt of growth, and the memories stay, but they are somehow “misplaced”. Even though we remember the message we don’t remember the instance in which we acquired the knowledge.
Not many people remember being born, learning how to walk or even how to talk. It is all stored somewhere in the brain, as for the most part it is not needed. It may have been an evolutionary advantage to be able to forget some of those events, I really don’t know, but nature usually doesn’t work unless there are advantages to the changes. http://www.nbcnews.com/health/body-odd/brain-overload-explains-missing-childhood-memories-f6C10070729
Today’s adults having children are much more aware of the receptivity of children, the plasticity of their brains and how they change as they become adults, even though it is not totally clear why and how it occurs. Many 21st century parents are much more careful in how they refer to their children, what they condition them with and how education is influencing their child. They can help guide their children into their own minds, directing them to a higher consciousness. Many children nowadays are more aware, partly due to their parents and partly due to media; the options are endless in the world of Internet.
As children are naturally curious, they develop new ways of looking at things, evolving into beings that can make choices for themselves. Emotional and mindful evolution is a great thing for new generations.
Some of us are already grown up and are finding this awareness at a later date. We find out that much of what we were told was wrong, that we have been conditioned with bad habits, and fears stuck in our minds. Most of all, we have opinions about everything, that we might have never bothered reconsidering, as we assumed that they were ours. Regardless of what we learned as children, we keep on being influenced by society’s rules through our entire life.
But as time goes by, we are evolving and we are looking at things in different ways. Self-awareness is beautiful, a great personal discovery. It allows oneself to be the director of one’s own life, being in charge of our decisions, allowing us to think with less prejudice and fewer preconceived ideas. But it is also a lot of responsibility. When we discover our new found awareness, and our true self, we realize that we are in charge of our lives. Awareness comes with responsibility for oneself and others.
Through awareness we may realize that when we were nervous and there was nothing we could do about it, it might have just been an erroneous belief. We can see that we are really a lot more open to new foods than we thought we were. We can even realize that a bad moment doesn’t make for a bad day and that we are in charge of our emotions, we can be happy or sad, it is up to us.
Being conscious brings us the awareness that it is not the world happening to us, but us happening to the world. We don’t have excuses any more for bad moods or bad days or mishaps. We are in charge of the good times and the bad times.
The discovery that we have a lot more to say in our own life is very relieving, but at the same time is hard to assume that we are in charge. Being in charge of our lives makes us responsible for what happens to us. We don’t have anyone else to blame for shortcomings (what went wrong) and that can be hard.
The fact that no one is to blame means that we did it, and that we have to suffer the consequences. On the other hand, it also means that if we did it wrong we can do it right as well. Once we recognize that we are responsible we can try as many times as it will take to do it right. It also means that, when we do it right, it is us that made it happen, no one else can take the credit for our success.
Now we are aware, but changing habits is not that easy. The old time saying that “the truth will set you free” rings true in this instance, and acquiring awareness is a fabulous accomplishment, but it is only half of the work, “knowing is half the battle.”
One can take responsibility for oneself and make an effort to understand that most everything is an opinion and that very few things are set in stone.
Most important is to see life with different eyes, doing things in a different way, just to force oneself to see the other side of things. This can be as simple as eating with the non-dominant hand, changing the morning routine or the route taken to go home at night. This will challenge the brain and keep it alert, ready to perceive changes in the outside world and in our inner personal space.
One can challenge oneself and start a journal and look for patterns in behavior, analyzing what triggers moods and emotions. Highlight what went right. Consider how things may have turned out if you behaved differently. This may help you realize why you act the way you do.
Realizing that we can all be right although disagreeing, that we may be all looking at the same “truth” from different angles, and that reality is constructed based on personal experiences will help us realize that we can control our thoughts, our actions and ultimately our lives.