Social Conditioning: The Enemy of Relationships

We all are subjected, to a greater or lesser degree, to social conditioning from the moment we are born. It is maintained and re-enforced as we grow older through the schools, the corporate world and the media that we grow to depend upon. I believe that rigid adherence to this conditioning results in stunted emotional growth, leading to many if not all of our relationship problems.

Let me explain…

Follow Those Rules

We're taught that our lives should follow a certain narrowly-defined path in order to be “successful”. Early on, we're told to “be good” and “pay attention” in school. If we do, we get warm strokes from our teachers and parents.

But if we don't?

If we don't follow their rules, we're given labels - “unfocused”, “scattered”, “disruptive”, “ADHD”. We're lectured that we won't grow up to be firemen and ballerinas if we don't pay attention and follow the rules. We have to be “good little boys and girls”.

This conditioning continues throughout elementary, middle and high school and on into college. Most colleges now are not seats of higher learning - they don't give students a well-rounded general education to prepare them for life or instill in them an appreciation for the finer arts. Instead, they have become job-preparation services - students as far back as middle school are being lectured about choosing their college and their life-path. All college does in this situation is give the finishing control commands to those eager young minds, in preparation for their corporate dronedom.

And yes, there will be those who don't take to the college experience - once again, they're often viewed by society as “failures”. Maybe they just saw the situation from a fresh perspective, a more wide-ranging, all-encompassing perspective and decided to get off the train before it arrived at its final destination.

Good for them.

The Corporate World

The corporate world merely makes reality out of the theory that was brainwashed into the students in college. They're told they have to be team players, keep their noses to the grindstone, sacrifice constantly now for the future. They have to bear their suffering like good troupers, keep a stiff upper-lip and take one for the team.

Well, the recent spate of layoffs, firings and “down-sizings” puts the lie to that approach. What did all of their suffering and dedication bring them but heartache, fear and stress? They made the mistake of buying into the Machine - of believing what the radio and cable TV and Internet told them to believe. They chased the dragon, thinking that materialistic achievements were the only worthwhile scorecards available. They were good little boys and girls, and what was their reward?

They lost their jobs, got into fights with their spouses, developed sarcastic, pessimistic outlooks on life, probably started developing stress-related habits and medical conditions, kicked their dogs, etc. Hardly an enviable reward for all their goodness.

Interpersonal Relationships

In the realm of interpersonal relationships, this social conditioning is especially limiting to spiritual and emotional growth and well-being. We're taught to associate only with those at an equal social level or higher; we turn a blind eye to anyone below our “stations” in life. Our perspectives were fitted with collar and chain, and then we wonder why we didn't see what was really important in life.

Our choice of relationship partners is a direct result of the sum total of all of our social conditioning. Little wonder that the divorce rates are so high, that both physical and mental abuse are so rampant, and that we are stuck on a merry-go-round that is going faster and faster with no more rings to grab. We think we know the problem, because it's been diagnosed for us by the media. Our teeth aren't white enough, our clothes aren't fashionable enough, our Johnsons aren't stiff enough. So we attempt to buy our way out of our problems, thus remaining firmly entrenched in the vicious cycle.

Escaping The Rules

Only a few lucky souls have the ability to step back, take a deep breath and see the situation from a more universal perspective. They realize that material toys don't really matter; that we don't need to have the latest, greatest vehicle to be happy; that we don't really need that trophy wife or young stud companion just for the sake of appearances. They make the spiritual leap into the realization that everyone, everywhere is connected; that we don't so much make new acquaintances as renew old ones that we didn't even know existed.

Rare indeed is the individual who can escape the shackles of social conditioning. Rarer still is the individual who doesn't feel at least some pangs of loss, emptiness and apathy once they do. But eventually, your life becomes a much more sane and comfortable affair. You'll look into your past and wonder how you ever survived, and you'll enter into new relationships a more balanced, self-contained, phobia-free person.

Society | Lifestyle | Relationships

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