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Conditioned Reflexes or Responses
Although we are used to thinking of animals showing conditioned reflexes, we seldom realise what a large part they play in human life. This is obvious in the problems we would face in going against social conditioning. When we move against an implicit social conditioning, we feel the pressure or pain of that – whether it is sexual, clothing, or whatever it is. If we go against such conditioning we may discover the underlying feelings and forces that have created the conditioning in the first place. Dreams often reveal to us what our conditioning is, and how it was imprinted.
Human beings in general are still largely moved by the old reptilian and mammalian urges, pushed into war, conflict and murder, territorialism and old mating patterns in ways that are far from rational. Most of us are urged to action by factors that are still completely or largely unconscious, arising as they do from levels of our being we know little of. Two examples of this follow. See: Brain Levels and Dreams.
Example: When I left my first wife and was living with my present wife, we shared a lovely country cottage in a small hamlet. Although beautiful, the few months I lived there were an emotional hell because I was away from my children, and because of the pain of the divorce. My second wife and I then moved to be nearer my children. We had left some beehives at the previous cottage however, and so six months later we started driving back to collect them. On the way I started experiencing severe stomach pains. The suddenness of this, and the fact I couldn’t think of any physical cause for the pain made me investigate my feelings. As soon as I did this it was obvious that a part of my nature which was usually unconscious, was just like my dog, responding in a conditioned reflexive way. The cottage was a place of torment – why were we going back? More to the point, how could it stop me going back? How could it deter me from facing that pain again?
As an example of this, some years ago I was taking a large and friendly Alsatian dog belonging to a friend for a walk. We had been playing with a stick and the dog, Sultan, was still carrying the stick in his mouth. Suddenly Sultan saw a black Labrador dog in a nearby truck. He immediately went into a frenzy of rage. I had him held tightly on a lead, so he couldn’t attack the dog, but the stick in his mouth was shredded.
This would again seem like an irrational response if we didn’t know that Sultan had been attacked by a black Labrador when he was a pup. Mike’s response was just the same as Sultan’s. We need to remember that we are all animals, and we still carry the ‘R’ brain. We can however, mitigate such responses by understanding their origins and releasing or reprogramming the conditioned response.
A man exploring his dream world wrote:
Here I experienced what I suppose are the sort of nightmare images along with feelings of fear. A nightmare scenario. But as I meet them I recognise that they are simple and see them as projections of images arising from fears that we frighten ourselves with. There is a mechanism in us to project such images to keep us away from whatever may have been the source. This is exactly a Pavlovian conditioned reflex. The original experience produced pain or fear. The original experience also had some physical characteristics in terms of objects, places, and perhaps people. Any of those characteristics when met again can trigger a Pavlovian response. Psychologically the response is to say in huge letters, “Keep Away”. This is a natural and instinctive way of helping us to survive. Unfortunately it means that many people constantly avoid the source of their original conditioning and so cannot reprogram it.
The conditioning not only keeps one away from the people, places, and situations that were the original cause, but it also keeps one out of one’s own resources. And such conditioning stands in the way of former relationships, former self-expression and creativity.
So as I look at this nightmare scenario – these nightmare images – I recognise them for what they are and pass through them, seeing, as it were, the projectors that produce the images. I can see that the is images project from some of my most profound childhood terrors. They can cause an eruption of all those old feelings about such things as my torture, abandonment, sex. And I look into these images to see what lies behind the outer form.
So dealing with the habits that arise from conditioned reflexes is largely recognising what they are, and in doing so go through the awful images guarding them.