Every time the New Year approaches, I see how many people are conditioned by society about how to behave and what to do. They become depressed, anxious and horrified by what happened to them in the past year, wondering why they didn't live more, didn’t use their time more, didn’t have more money, more prestige, more friends, and, of course, wishing they had someone to kiss when the clock strikes midnight. Some people even build and hold on to relationships only so as not to be alone in such moments.
Human conditioning is so deeply ingrained in all of us that for the most part we do not even begin to understand how far-reaching it is, so much so that people get angry and even hostile towards those who dare to behave differently. Ivan Pavlov and B. F. Skinner did a great service to society when they explained how easy it is to be conditioned, and they laid the groundwork for many studies that followed. They understood that with the right encouragement or disapproval you could condition animals to do almost anything, and this is true for us humans as well. Because it is happening all the time, we hardly notice it, and some conditioned behaviors are so embedded in society that they raise no eyebrows. We take it as a given, as the truth. But there is no “truth” in it, just conditioned responses that are either encouraged or discouraged, depending on the society and culture we live in.
Albert Bandura hit the nail on the head when he showed that from early on we imitate behavior. For example, if I grow up in a society where being a beautiful woman means being blond and thin, then I’ll probably see a lot of blond and thin women or women that are frustrated that they are not. Their desire has nothing to do with reality. It is just conditioning and imitating behavior in order to have a feeling of belonging or avoid being judged.
We all want to feel that we belong. This stems from our profound need to be loved. It’s important to understand that love lies deep within.Love is like a seed embedded deep in our core. When we learn to nurture it well, it blossoms into a beautiful flower and generates endless love for ourselves and others. If, however, we are taught that love is something outside of us that we must obtain, we get conditioned into believing that we must please others or play by society’s rules in order to receive love.
When we take this path of believing that love is something outside of us, we fall into attachment, and our life revolves around pleasing others and forgetting our true self.
I have been observing this pattern in society for many years. Studying psychology raised many questions, which yoga and meditation answered. That’s why I’m profoundly grateful for both. Psychology showed me that human conditioning happens in every society and affects our behavior without our realizing it. Yoga and meditation gave me the tools to start separating society’s conditioning from my true self. I started to understand who I was and what society had put on me through human conditioning. Thus, I started to heal and become aware of what was going on around me.
Today I can choose freely because I understand, in the core of my being, that love is always inside of me. I can share it with myself and others, and I never run out. The more I share, the more my seed grows and generates more love. I’m so grateful to my great teachers - Psychology and Yoga. Today I’m blessed to be able to share this beautiful gift with others and watch them blossom as I did.
A friend once asked me what I enjoyed the most in my work. My answer was: that moment when I see that the person in front of me really gets it. There is a spark in their eyes, which shows that awakening is happening. It is a profound blessing to experience this moment and understand that from now on they can choose freely what they want in life.
Hila Naftali - Psychoyogi