Today I want to explore the idea of free will in the context of the choices we are all making in our lives. I want to explore the foundational understanding that we as adults, with our fully formed brains and bodies, are 'always' making CONSCIOUS choices when it comes to our life decisions. I want to make the argument for the idea that perhaps, all of your seeming 'bad' choices are not actually CHOICES you are making at all - and rather are NERVOUS SYSTEM BASED PROGRAMS you are running.
You Are Not Making Choices Like You Think You Are:
I know that for most of us, we would think that if we were running a program, that this would be obvious. We all assume that if we weren't making conscious choices, we would feel like we were acting from 'not thinking.' That we would be able to observe a LACK of conscious thought, a lack of story, a lack of meaning or purpose behind our actions. That we would feel 'out of control' or otherwise COMPELLED beyond our reasoning skills to be or do something. And for *some* in some situations this may ring true - in the case of feeling deeply addicted to something we may feel 'out of body' or otherwise driven by something that seems larger than us/not us to engage in our behaviors. We may feel that we lose touch with ourselves and reality, sort of 'blacking out' before and or during the act of engaging in whatever it is we engage in.
But for *most* of us - running a program doesn't feel anything like the above situation. Rather, it FEELS like being reasonable. It feels like doing the ONLY thing that can be done. It FEELS as though we are trapped, cornered, without option OR that what we are doing is the absolute BEST or ONLY thing we COULD be doing.
As adults, we must understand that the programs we have were not CREATED from a place of logic and reason.
Rather, the foundations of all of our programs are in our childhoods, before we even had cognition.
Before we were able to understand our reality, ourselves, our caregivers and so on - we had a nervous system.
This nervous system is and was wired for SURVIVAL.
Meaning its one goal in life was to support us in staying alive and getting what we needed to grow and mature.
Just like all the rest of the living things on this planet we and our bodies are wired for growth. We had pain and pleasure which alerted us to that which was supportive of and that which was antagonistic to our growth - but we had no conscious CONTROL over any of it. In this, our bodies started to pick up on the reality we were living in, which was that our caregivers were FULLY responsible for our survival. Their provision, their love, their understanding of our pain and our needs was EVERYTHING to us. Thus, we started to mature in our cognition, and as this happened we started to see and recognize the patterns of behaviour that got us accepted or rejected by our caregivers. We started to witness when they rescued us from pain and when they caused us pain. And due to the fact that a) we only had child-like reasoning skills and understanding and b) that we didn't have ANY control over our circumstances - our only option was to start to manipulate ourselves in order to fit into the mold of 'approved of' behaviors our caregivers set for us.
From here, we would have started to hate, fear and reject all parts of ourselves that were rejected by our caregivers - as these parts of self would have been perceived as existential threats to us. We also would have started taking on world views, rights and wrongs, ideas of what is good and bad, how we are supposed to be and stories around WHY we were being made to do what we were being made to do - all based on the conditions of our HOUSEHOLD.
This household WASN'T real reality.
But the reality of the household WAS survival to YOU.
So as you grew, you started to create more and more complex and complicated stories to JUSTIFY the conditions of your upbringing, the realities of your household where you had to morph yourself into shapes that were most likely not authentic to you, in order to be loved and therefore provided for.
You Were Programmed Before You Had Awareness:
Your nervous system was being programmed from day one. Without your cognition. Then once you started to develop some cognition, your childhood perceptions were creating meaning and stories that were too immature to align with REAL reality. But they were stories that made sense to YOU. Stories of who and what you had to/couldn't be and do in order to get love and approval. This base story that love and approval = survival is even a PROGRAM - but it was one that was REAL in the context of your childhood.
Now, in your adulthood, all of your stories around the reality you were raised in have matured along with you. They seem totally reasonable and real to you.
The programming you were given in your childhood around right and wrong ways to be have been the model by which you have unconsciously been creating your life from then on.
Meaning you have been attracted to people and situations that mirrored the conditions of your childhood. You have felt the most comfortable in relationships with people that follow the same 'rules' as your caregivers. You have only been attracted to situations and events that again reinforce the world view you were raised to have. Anything that's different from this, no matter how freeing or attractive it may seem on the surface, have been things you have ultimately rejected/run from/become deeply uncomfortable within - because in those situations you don't have your rules to follow. You don't know the script. The program doesn't work - and therefore it's too destabilizing for you to stick with.
Everything in your current world that you do that causes you pain, that feels like pleasure in the moment but leads to something painful later, anything that drives you to need stimulation to keep up with, and then something to help you check out/numb out with later - netflix, food, drug, sex, dramas ect. - is a program you are running. A life you think you have to live to be good, that doesn't align with who you are.
All addictions, self sabotaging behaviors, scapegoats, deep anxieties, depression, feelings of being disconnected and lost, feelings of being out of control, needing to numb and stimulate and life circumstances where you feel like you're doing the right thing but just keep 'failing' to live up to expectation - are signs of you having a program you are running that is counter to real reality.
There Is Nothing 'Wrong' With You:
Which means - there's nothing 'wrong' with you.
The fact that you have the above reactions means that there is something RIGHT with you. This means that even through the trauma and the programming that you received in your childhood when you had no control over yourself or your circumstances - there is still another part of you that is AWAKE and AWARE. That is feeling REALITY and is rebelling from your programming. That is sending you PAIN SIGNALS with regards to your programming. That is trying to help you COPE with the PAIN of those programs with numbing and distraction.
The 'choices' you are making that seem to harm you or others are ALL coming from CONDITIONING.
Coping with those conditioned programs.
NONE of them are actually conscious choices you are making.
Your nervous system is running the show.
Your real self is trying to clean up the mess in the only ways it has power and access right now.
None of it is a sign of weak will power.
All your stories around your conditioning make perfect sense to you - and you aren't AWARE that you are running a conditioned program. The reality you think is reality, who you think you need to be, what is right and wrong - all of it makes PERFECT SENSE to you, and you have a TONNE of evidence to support your belief systems, because your mind has been zeroing in on things that reinforce your world view and has been rejecting anything that contradicts it - that's how you make yourself feel safe and stable in this reality.
Self love is the medicine, because it's going to help you get out of the cul-de-sac of thinking there is something 'wrong with you' - so that you can finally start to identify WHY you are making the programmed choices you are making.
Self Love Is The Key To Awakening:
Self love means you will stop triggering yourself into your programs - because remember, when we feel threatened, we go into fight or flight. In fight or flight we are not using our logic, rather we are then fully tapping into our nervous systems and the programs we have therein. We literally trigger our own selves into repeating all of our current patterns the more we look to blame, shame, reject, or fix ourselves. Even when we approach our current behaviors with the idea that 'we have the power to change them, it's just mind over matter' or 'this isn't who I want to be/my higher self, I should just change' we are rejecting ourselves in places that are driving our behaviors to be just as they are BECAUSE we were rejected! When we engage in self love, we make ourselves feel SAFE - because to our programmed nervous systems love = provision. We FEEL that we are going to get our needs met the moment we FEEL loved, because that is how it was in our infancy.
From here, as we come into this state of nervous system safety, we will have the power to start to really SEE our programs and reality - and we will start to be able to bridge the gap between the two.
On the self love path we are going to come to see that on so many levels and in so many ways, we are acting from programming, not choice. We are going to liberate ourselves from believing we are simply adults that popped into adulthood fully formed, fully aware, fully capable and resourced, fully knowing what reality was, what is right and wrong in TRUE reality and so on - and are now just 'choosing' to be and do things that are harmful.
This isn't reality. Ever. ALL harmful/painful ways of being are programs we LEARNED and then created STORIES around that aren't in alignment with REAL REALITY.
We are, for all intents and purposes, innocently DELUSIONAL to our own needs, what is actually life generating, what is truly best for us and what the parts of ourselves that got rejected and denied need to GROW and MATURE. We have many parts of self that are currently STAGNATED in childhood that we have again, created adult stories around. Our neediness. Burst of inappropriate anger. The ways that we manipulate others or go into people pleasing. The ways we think we are meant to become stoic, emotionless and needless spiritual martyrs, the ways we constantly run to habits that hurt us - ALL of these are simply parts of ourselves that got trapped in immaturity and are trying to help us cope with reality the best way THEY know how.
We were all STUNTED and THAT is where our behaviors are currently coming from.
Meaning, we all experienced events that were antagonistic to our growth. Rejection. Lack of love and care. Out right abuse and neglect. Abandonment. Shaming and guilt. Not having our needs understood and met. Not being given the chance to LEARN from our pain/emotions so as to be able to work WITH them to solve problems.
We all experienced life from the childs vantage point that the adults closest to us were ‘god’ and their love/rejection/understanding was life and death to us. We were not capable of identifying our own needs/emotions, we were not capable of getting those needs met on our own or validating our own emotions. We were not in control of our environment, but rather ALL we had control over was our own behaviour.
We all learned early on that CONSENSUS REALITY - that which our caregivers believed to be true WAS reality, and how we had to behave for them to understand us/meet our needs was how the world works. In the times of their absence, their hurting us, their abandoning us, their shaming and rejecting us - our nervous systems got triggered into ‘fight, flight and freeze’ because this was our source NOT providing for us. This caused us to hate, fear and reject parts of our TRUE SELF - parts we now need in adulthood to figure out how to truly thrive - because they were an existential threat to us.
***This was nervous system trauma.***
And until you are able to go back into those traumas, see reality for how IT was - not the story your childhood mind made up about it - and then are able to love ourselves into seeing what we NOW MUST DO in our ADULT WORLDS to align with our truth and the truth of reality that is DIFFERENT from our conditioning - we will continue to ACT from this STUNTED place. We will keep doing what we are doing now, what we have always done, because these behaviors CAME FROM the traumatic incident and our stunted, childhood way of dealing with it. We didn't just randomly invent our behaviors. They are ALL coming in RESPONSE to a world we don't understand and in response to what we think is the only way to be in order to be loved and therefore provided for.
We are seeing the parts of self that needed love, growth and maturation coming up to the surface in their immaturity, acting just how they did when we were children. They are acting that way because in our childhoods these parts of self were rejected, shamed, denied or abandoned by our caregivers rather than being given the opportunity to grow. The parts of us that are needy, scared, that lash out in anger or violence, that act in ways that are self defensive, self destructive or otherwise destructive - these are not 'bad' parts of us. These are TRAUMATIZED IMMATURE parts. Parts that didn't get to grow into maturation through having a loving caregiver supporting that growth - rather these parts again got rejected - and now are stuck where they are. Then as WE reject them, we keep them stuck. We think that by rejecting these parts of self that are bad or immature we will become better - when in fact we are keeping ourselves just as we are. These parts aren't going anywhere. Rather they need to be loved and supported in the ways they weren't in our childhood so they can GROW and MATURE. So they can BECOME our adult self.
In these moments of shame, blame, rejection and abandonment our little nervous systems would frantically search for anything and everything that could make us feel safe again - us behaving in a different way and getting approval, us fantasizing about our caregivers meeting our needs, learning to be ‘independent’ before we were ready, clinging, shutting parts of ourselves down/inventing parts of ourselves and so on.
And in this, our nervous systems programmed in that these responses were life saving.
We've Never Bridged The Gap:
Moving forward into adulthood, we never bridged the gap. Meaning we never did learn to identify our own needs and get them met outside of our caregivers understanding. We never learned how to learn from pain and pleasure. We never learned to learn from our emotions. We never integrated the parts we had to reject to be loved - realizing these parts are vital - rather they are now the parts of us that cope, self sabotage and scapegoat in an effort to keep us ‘acceptable.’ The parts that look like they are bad, wrong or harming us - they are the parts that stop us from being our true selves to protect us from the THREAT of that. Rather, we stayed stuck in our child like ways of operating - when I feel rejection/antagonism/closeness in a relationship/someone pulling away/myself wanting to express something that got me shamed or rejected/needing something I can’t identify - I behave how I learned to behave in my childhood.
We also took to projecting our caregivers onto all significant people in our lives.
We learned to look to our S.O’s, friends, bosses, people on the internet for mind reading need meeting and unconditional love and approval. Because our nervous systems are programmed that love = safety and provision and rejection = not getting my needs met. We also have come up with all sorts of stories to JUSTIFY our behaviors, why what we are seeing in ourselves and others is TRUE (cognitive bias) and why being how we are is simply necessary. We have no idea that we are painting something onto of reality most of the time, projecting onto people meaning behind actions that doesn’t exist in reality, judging, sizing up, defending and so on - because we are SCARED and TRAUMATIZED.
This way of being in trauma is ‘normal’ for the most part. The neurotic, obsessive driving to achieve/depression/anxiety/imposter syndrome/looking for others to approve of us all the time/arguing about what is ‘right and wrong’ and so on.
So we move through the world believing we are making choices, that we are conscious, that we are doing what we are doing for GOOD REASON.
Identifying Your Programs Is The First Step In True Awakening:
Again remember - all of your programs, all of the things you are doing that seem counter to your success - were born out of misunderstanding. They are either the ways you NEEDED to be/not be in order to be loved and approved of in your childhood home that CONTRADICT your true self or real reality, and thus feel good in the MOMENT but lead to needing to cope and self sabotage later OR they are the parts of you that are TRYING to sabotage your efforts to create a life in alignment with your programming because this programming isn't real reality.
Your immature parts aren't bad parts of you. They are parts that got STUCK in childhood through rejection or abandonment. They ARE a part of your HIGHER SELF - a part of you that will mature and grow into a part that can support you - but it must be LOVED first. Just as it is. In the trauma. The fear. The acting out. The neediness and so on. It needs to be loved where it's AT as a good parent would do, so it can discover truth for itself.
When we finally awaken to the fact that we have in fact NOT been making choices, but facing the same patterns of pain and torment in our lives over and over due to NERVOUS SYSTEM PROGRAMMING - we really start to ‘wake up.’
THIS is what ’enlightenment’ is all about. Seeing your programs, looking to where they came from and why, and then working with your PHYSICAL AND EMOTIONAL BODY to PROCESS these wounds and traumas so you can see things anew.
It’s a return to humanity. To feeling. To the body. To experience. To questioning all our stories.
Awakening is not something high and lofty. It’s the process of re-connecting with reality as it is through pure sense awareness and then adding the flavor of ‘self’ to it. It’s growth and expansion that comes from losing the fear of isolation because we finally FEEL our connection to all things as our nervous systems come out of fear and into rest.
Self love is the way - because love = safety. The safer you can make yourself feel, the more you will see and the more you will process and return to your humanity - which we now call ‘spirituality’.
Are you willing to let go of the stories that are telling you you are making 'bad choices' so that you can open to the idea that you are running a program? Are you then willing to LOVE yourself within that, not surrendering and saying 'well, this is my programming and I am helpless to it' - but rather KNOWING that when you show up for these hurting, traumatized and stuck parts with LOVE and CURIOSITY - that you can then GROW them into something more mature and aligned with reality?
Are you willing to take THIS path? Embracing the conditioned parts, loving them, getting curious, looking for their needs, learning to meet them in new ways and expanding in this way?
If so, you're ready to 'wake up.'