We, as human beings, like to view ourselves as the most evolved species, the pinnacle of perfection and so on. The human race is truly superior to all other species and the human brain a real marvel.
We like to view ourselves as possessing free will. We like to pride ourselves in being able to make intelligent choices based on the situation. But if we look closer at ourselves or human beings in general we will realize that more than 80% of our mind is pre-programmed. We are made up of layers and layers of rules. Our conscious, sub-conscious and unconscious minds have been programmed right from the times of our birth. In the early years a lot of programming is done by our parents – “don’t do this”, “do this”, “avoid that” and so on. Later we get conditioned by our friends, our schools and society. Our inner selves are made up of millions and millions of little rules like – A person who smiles often must be good natured”, “A black cat crossing your path is bad luck” and so on. These programs are deep inside us and kick in when ever a situation triggers them.
With so much of programming most of our actions are simple reactions or results of our existing programs or conditioning. There are some who feel that man really does not have free will and all our actions in our life are pre-ordained. While that may be debatable the fact still remains that most of our actions are simply reactions which stem from our past programming.
For e.g. when somebody questions our capabilities we feel hurt. The simple reason is that we have programmed to view ourselves as smart and intelligent. When somebody questions our credentials our ego is hurt. The internal programming rules start to revolt and we get really upset. Most of the times besides getting hurt we will also tend to get angry. There may be many internal programming rules which may result in this adverse reaction. For one this may be diametrically opposite to the rule “I am the greatest”. There may be other rules also in action for e.g. “What right does Mr. X have to question my capabilities?”, “Mr. X is inferior to me”.
There may be other times when you instantly dislike a person. This may be because he/she may be dressed outrageously. Sometimes it could be more subtle. This person or this person’s mannerism may remind you of a colleague or acquaintance who you intensely dislike. The memory of the colleague or acquaintance along with the hate is programmed into your psyche and is triggered again.
Hence it can be seen that a large part of our reactions in this world whether it is anger, hatred, bias, sadness etc are all based on our past programming or conditioning.
We first have to recognize that these reactions are pre-programmed behavior. In a way we are reacting as robots would.
What is required of us is to gently re-program ourselves. For e.g. if somebody questions our capabilities we need to step back and take a genuine look at ourselves. Are we really lacking in some areas? Could we do better? For this we need to re-program our own opinion about ourselves. We have to rewrite the rule about our own assumed superiority. We must write it to include a realistic picture about ourselves.
Similarly when we instantly like or dislike somebody we must again question ourselves. We must look deep into ourselves and try to understand the rules that result in such an outlook.
Re-programming oneself is no simple task. After all we are trying to undo years of accumulated programs and rules. For this to be effective we must truly make an effort to understand the real reason behind our reactions and why we need to re-program ourselves in a new way.
Many philosophers and thinkers have constantly re-iterated the need for a person to be aware of one’s thought process. This in reality is another way of saying that we need to be aware of our internal programming.
In other words to change ourselves for the better we need to re-program ourselves.