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I was writing in another thread when the topic of deconditioning or deprogramming came to mind. Jiddu Krishnamurti used to talk about this quite a bit in the days when he used to give daily lectures in India, he used to maintain that a lot of what Western society puts into the average young person’s mind is not really in his or her best interest.
Sources of conditioning include one’s parents, one’s surroundings, one’s teachers and school, the media, and the socioeconomic structure around you. If you are lucky you will come across an original thinker who has managed to observe the mind closely, seen where many of our thoughts originate, and noticed that as JK says the contents of the mind are largely not our own, and has pointed out the various ways in which it is disadvantageous. All of it needs to be re-examined.
So how does one go about de-conditioning the mind? One way is reason, I’ve found the Buddha’s saying “will this, if I do it, contribute to my long-term welfare and happiness” to be a very good lens for discarding useless elements of the past. Another way is contrarian conditioning, where one listens or watches a steady diet of independent thinkers talking about non-mainstream viewpoints, which breaks down old conditioning by reinforcing a contrary point of view.
So where does Buddhism come in? I think that Buddhism causes an internal shift, from an ad-hoc conditioning caused by one’s upbringing to in the end something that is justified by the cessation of suffering and finding one’s happiness. It is a conscious re-evaluation of all the things that have been stuck in your brain, your automatisms, your habits, and your past choices seen in a new light.
Have you come across other good ways to de-condition yourself?