How to decondition yourself from social conditioning

And live more on your own terms.

social conditioning

Throughout your life you are being socially conditioned by your external environment.

Your family, friends, the media and society as a whole all play a part in influencing your thinking, behaviours and certain decisions you make.

The customs, beliefs, mannerisms and etiquette you have today come from your upbringing, experiences, human interactions and information consumption.

Humans are like any other animal. We too are programmed with instincts and behaviours from millions of years of evolution.

What separates us from all the other species is our brain’s ability to imagine and rationalise like what Yuval Harari talks about it in his bestseller book, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.

It’s caused by the part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex and it’s what separates us from all the other species to make us uniquely human.

It is in this part of the brain that social conditioning takes place.

The myth of free will.

Most people like to think they’re a unique thinker but the fact is we have all been influenced by our external environment.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing as social norms are generally good for a society. They protect the individual and ensure a productive law-abiding civilisation.

You only have to look at places where there is no sense of society and thus very little social conditioning to see what incessant places they are.

The problem is that most people give no thought to how their environment has shaped them. It’s a life of blissful ignorance dictated by family, friends and people they’ve never met on TV and in magazines.

This leads to life not fully lived as people try to create an idealisation of what they see in the media.

Don’t be like these sheeple.

Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience.

Howard Zinn

To think as freely as possible and to live life on your own terms you have to become aware of your own social conditioning.

Our biology also plays a part when it comes to our behaviours.

There are certain laws of human nature we have to be aware of that have developed through thousands of years of programming.

Certain genes we’ve inherited and certain hormones we have that shape our thinking and make us react in specific ways to specific situations.

These are biological and thus different to the conditioning we’ve developed through our social environment but nevertheless, they are equally as powerful.

Deconditioning yourself from social conditioning is an ongoing process. You have to rewire your brain from your thought patterns to beliefs which takes time and consistent conscious effort.

Imagine having bad eye sight all your life and then putting on a perfect pair of glasses. Once you start seeing this way there is no going back.

Do people ever rid themselves fully of social conditioning? Unlikely because it’s so pervasive.

Develop an understanding of social conditioning to know when you’re under the influence of it.

Why do you feel shame?

Shame is a negative emotion. What is that has has caused that negative emotion?

Could it be outside forces? Social conditioning is so deeply ingrained it requires a lot of work to decondition yourself from it. Or, at the very least, understand when it’s at play.

This is what you need to do to decondition yourself from social conditioning.

1. Do deep introspective inner work

It all starts and ends with you so it’s important to analyse yourself first.

Question your own beliefs and ask yourself how they came to be internalised. Why do you take certain views as the truth? What led you to that conclusion?

Challenge yourself to consider other options and look for a chain of events that led you to believe it.

Questioning your entire belief system is a daunting task that very few people are prepared to do.

If you can critically interrogate and self-analyse your belief system you are strong enough to decondition yourself.

2. Become financially independent

Firstly don’t put yourself on the treadmill of living hand to mouth, pay cheque to pay cheque each week.

When you’re drowning in debt you can’t take a step back to think.

You’re too preoccupied with trying to make the payments on your credit cards. Things you bought that you didn’t really need (again, a result of social conditioning).

You can’t unplug from the matrix because you’re too deeply stuck in the system.

The perfect scenario is to put yourself in a position of where you’re not answerable to anyone in terms of how you make your money. This is the ultimate in financial freedom.

Employee drone: Working at a company as an employee with one boss who you’re answerable to. If the boss doesn’t like you then you have problems. Most people live this way.

Freelance contractor: Having the choice of who you can work for and the ability to move on quickly. Problem is you still have to work for someone.

Multiple customers and sources of income: You’re in a position where if you say something challenging, provocative or ‘out there’ you may lose some customers but it’s at a point where it has little impact.

Antifragile: The more challenging, provocative and ‘out there’ you can be the more it positively impacts your earnings. This is being antifragile.

3. Stop consuming mainstream media

At least until you can see it for what it actually is.

Movies, TV and advertising portray a narrative on how our lives should be.

Watch old movies to understand how much new ones have a biased narrative to them (all the best action movies came before the year 2000)

I haven’t owned a TV for around eight years, I rarely watch movies and I always seek alternative views. This has helped me decondition myself.

See things for how they are instead of the narrative that is fed to us.

A classic example is the diamond engagement ring scam perpetuated by the marketing and media industries.

Another one is ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’ developed by the cereal companies. In reality, you should be intermittent fasting.

4. Grasp the social sciences

To understand how people are motivated, their behaviours and how a society works, study the social sciences.

For years I took everything at face value and never questioned my and other people’s reasoning behind their decisions and actions.

Learning social psychology (particularly the social and behavioural psychologies) and sociology will open you up to a new and fascinating world.

Once you have a grasp of these social sciences you will begin to question your decisions and actions you take in life as well as other people’s.

It will allow you to understand people’s real motivations so you can establish a better relationship with them (or know when to not establish a relationship at all).

You will get to the core of why people are influenced into making the decisions they make and it will ultimately allow you to make better ones as a result.

5. Travel

Social conditioning is partly down to the culture in which we are raised.

Certain customs and traditions shape how we think and what we believe.

Not all cultures are alike however and once you start visiting different countries to your own you will see for yourself.

Travel has numerous benefits including helping you understand different cultures and social norms.

Go to Thailand (and train muay thai if you like) and other Asian countries and you’ll see vastly different cultures from those found in the West.

Or go to Colombia and other South American countries to understand the differences in cultures among each

Culture is socially conditioned wherever you go. The customs and norms may be different but they’re all driven from social conditioning.

Seeing how cultures around the world are inherently different you’ll understand how you’re part of a constructed environment.

To think and act with as much free will as possible you have to understand when social conditioning is at work.

Social conditioning is not inherently evil but it will stop you living a life that is true to yourself.

Once you’re aware of it and how it takes place you can use your own advantage.

It’s about choice and when you decondition yourself from it you are free to disregard it whenever it doesn’t fit with your beliefs and goals.

So-called people of power are often slaves to their social conditioning. Their success has been largely down to proving other people wrong.

This is not real power.

Real power is when you can act and think on your own accord and seek validation from no one.

Written by Ste Davies

Ste ‘Stephen’ Davies is a freelance digital consultant, traveller, writer, podcaster and speaker based in London, UK. You can reach him here or follow him on Twitter below.

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