Conditioning and Choices

Humans have the ability to choose whether the conditions we find ourselves in will condition us.

I was reading Viktor Frankel’s book The Unheard Cry for Meaning: Psychotherapy and Humanism (Touchstone Books). In one chapter he talks about how our situations condition us but that as humans we have the ability to choose whether the conditions we find ourselves in will condition us.

I wanted to share this with you because understanding how animals, including human animals are conditioned by the conditions around them helps us better choose whether or not to allow that conditioning to occur. This is why pretty much all my courses at Humanist Learning Systems are about how to manage and control behavioral conditioning so that you can recognize it when it is happening and control the process and thereby gain control over your life!

So let’s start with what conditioning is. Conditioning is a behavioral process whereby a response becomes more frequent or more predictable in a given environment as a result of reinforcement, with reinforcement typically being a stimulus or reward for a desired response. To give you an example of what this mean in a practical way:  if you train a dog to sit when you say sit, you have “conditioned” it to respond this way to the stimulus of your command and you did this by reinforcing the behavior you wanted by rewarding your dog either with a treat or with love every time they sat when you said sit.

This sort of active intentional conditioning is called operant conditioning because it involves the conscious use of rewards to create a specific behavior by an operator.

However, that’s not the only way conditioning occurs. It also occurs without us knowing or intending for it to happen. For example, PTSD  - is a conditioned response to a traumatic stimulus. No one chooses to get PTSD – it happens because of our natural responses to the conditions around us.

Once you understand how these rewards and reinforcements work, you can see them happening in your own life all around you and in how you respond to what’s happening around you.  And, when you can see it, you can control it. Which is why – we humans have the ability to choose whether or not the conditions we find ourselves in condition us or not. But the only way to exercise that choice – is to be conscious you have a choice.

Knowledge and wisdom really is the key to everything.  Once you realize you have a choice, it changes everything. How you respond to interpersonal situations and how you respond to situations beyond your control.  I liken this to becoming like Neo in the movie The Matrix. It really is astounding how much control we really do have. Is that control absolute? No – but it’s still pretty powerful.

To learn more – consider taking some of my courses at Humanist Learning Systems. Specifically:

All of these courses will give you a basic understanding of how conditioning works so you can be more conscious of your choices.

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