E#33: How To Condition Your Self-Identity
In this weeks episode I'll share with you the four influencing factors that affects who we are and how we think on a daily basis.
(This is the core of the transcript from the podcast. The Intro has been removed and some areas improved for reading ease.)
I want to thank the people who contacted me. I had some lovely emails and from people who reach out to me, especially after I did Episode31- The Disgusting Patient: How our Self Identity Shapes Us. I want to round off that discussion by sharing with you all the four conditioning factors that shape our self-identity.
This is what I've shared at many workshops and conferences when people ask me to speak, so I thought I'll share them with you today.
In everything we do, we are always being conditioned, consciously or unconsciously, and there are 4 Key Conditioning Influencers. So I'll start by asking you if this has ever happened to you:
You go to the office, and you are in a pretty good mood, then you meet the receptionist and "you say how are you doing?" and they respond "oh you know it's Monday (sigh) five more days left for the rest of the week." You just shrug your shoulders move along. Then you run it to somebody else, and you say, "how are you doing?" and they say, "oh, you know it's Monday, and what are you going to do? I can't wait till it's the weekend."
"Oh, you know it's Monday, what you going to do? I can't wait till it's the weekend."
After a few more interactions like that, you end up subconsciously not feeling so great about Monday. Then if somebody in the afternoon comes along, says, "how are you doing?" You go, "Oh, you know how it's Monday four more days left till the weekend."
I sometimes think Monday should be called Mundane.
So the first factor that influences or conditions our behaviour and influences our self-identity is:
The people we consistently associate with on a consistent basis.
The second thing I want to share with you is a true story about a patient who I had in my clinical practice. He was a 33-year-old who was reasonably new to my practice. He had seen psychiatrists, and he had been on multiple antidepressants in the past in an attempt to control his ongoing anxiety. In fact, things were so bad that he wasn't working anymore, and he was staying at home all day.
So I asked him what do you do all day when you're at home? And he said, "you know, I play video games Call of Duty and some other shooting up games- you know there's lots of violence and got some gore in it but I like it. Then in the evening, I'll watch some horror movies.
(No wonder he was always in a heightened state of alertness! He was always in a war zone.)
So I asked him if he was willing to try a new exercise, which might help his anxiety. He said he would because he was so desperate to make some type of change. His anxiety was debilitating his life as he was no longer working, and his relationships were suffering.
I said to him "I understand why you probably have so much anxiety. You're watching all this violence and visual images that are heightening your state of awareness and anxiety, and not in not a good way. Just because you are watching it through a screen, it doesn't mean it's not affecting your psych and who you are." Then I asked to stop watching TV and playing video games for one month. Instead of watching TV he was asked to do something else such as exercise, walk, read something anything but watching violence and playing with those violent video games! I actually said, "If you really need to watch something, you should watch something more peaceful or positive and light such as "The Little House on the Prairie" (I don't even know if you can find that on TV anymore) or something similar. He was so agreeable to do this because he was desperate and willing to try anything
I understand why you probably have so much anxiety.
He followed the instructions and came back to me in two weeks and said his anxiety has decreased by 70%. That's significant! Now I'm not saying that this is always the case for people with anxiety, but it is essential to note that we have to look at other modalities of living when we want to improve our mental well being. We need to increase our awareness and attention to what we are seeing and listening too on a consistent basis. Fortunately, he was able to change his behaviour and was able to return to work.
So this leads me to the second and third key influencer that conditions are behaviour and influences our identity. And that is:
The things we consistently watch and hear.
Now, if you've listened to episode 31 on the Disgusting Patient you know that language has a significant impact in shaping our self-identity. It impacts the way we view things and how we even interact. I won't retell that particular patient story, but I will share with you the findings from Dr. John Goodman as it illustrates the importance of language patterns in the way we communicate and how we condition the connections in our primary relationships.
Here's what I'm getting at: your identity is greatly influenced by the person you are intimately connected with, and they can ultimately affect the way you perceive yourself.
Say a person comes home from work and the other partner says,
"somebody sure looks like they are in a grumpy mood." So how is that going to set up the dialogue vs. saying something to the effect "it seems like you might be tired…can I get you anything?" The first one is inviting a fight or puts the person on defence and gives no option as to discuss why he may look "grumpy." The other opens up the conversation with compassion.
"somebody sure looks like they are in a grumpy mood."
Simply reframing the question changes the nature of the interaction. Another example is when we may be talking to our kids or spouse by saying something sarcastic "no need to ask him to take out the garbage, he'll never do it." Implying the person is lazy or unhelpful. Do this enough times; the individual will either adopt the characteristic of being lazy or simply feel resentment for the other person. A better phrase would be "I could sure use your help to take out the garbage" or "you're so helpful, can you take out the garbage for me as I could use the help?"
"no need to ask him to take out the garbage, he'll never do it."
Dr. John Gottman, a psychologist, studied relationships and could effectively predict if a new relationship would last long term just by look at the quality of communications between a couple. What he discovered is that the relationships that would last long term if there were five times more positive interactions than negative ones. That's quite incredible when you think about it. Your life long commitment could simply come down to the right words you are using. So the language we use not only impacts our self-identity but also how we see others and how we mould others into being the person we as we see them to be.
Think about those four key conditioning influencers when you are trying to implement change personally or to help someone else do the same. Use them wisely.
Thank you for listening, I hope this podcast served you in some way, if you've enjoyed listening to this podcast, please share with a friend or colleague and subscribe to us Apple podcast, Spotify or your favourite podcast app.
And if you go to the TheIntrovertedDoctor.com and sign in there, you'll get my weekly emails about the podcast episode that's coming out. Just a note, I' ve changed the release dates for every Friday.
I'm Dr. Lalit Chawla and thank you so much for listening. Let's together make a greater, more effective community so that you live with greater passion, harmony and magic in your life and help others do the same.
Have a wonderful weekend!
I would love to hear any comments about this podcast and what would you like to hear in future episodes?