“We cannot change what we are not aware of, and once we are aware it is impossible not to change.”

-Sheryl Sandburg

I have been on a journey of self awareness for several years now. It is at once the most humbling and empowering experience of all my years. Realizing how very unconsciously I had spent the larger part of my life was deeply humiliating. Realizing that the agent for all change in my life was within me and not in the world around me was terrifying at first. Finally understanding that I created my life through my own perception was the most freeing experience of all.

So many of us live unconsciously, operating from conditioning and programming given to us by our parents, family, and the community we were raised within. We often do not question these inherited paradigms because to do so would proclaim that our parents, family and home community were wrong in some way. This collective unconsciousness then plays out on our world stage as “more of the same,” same type of world leaders, conflicts, environmental issues and economic upsets.

All of us want change. It is only when we are brave enough to Be the Change that we will see it around us.

Becoming aware of any situation and its causes is the first agent of change. Looking at your life and asking hard questions is vital to improving it.

Awareness came to me when I realized how much my marriage was failing, despite my determination to be the “right” kind of wife. It snuck up in the form of a book titled “Getting the Love you Want” by Harville Hendricks, PhD. In it, several questions were given that challenged me to consider the culture and conditioning my parents had given me, and also to consider what programming and concepts of love my husband had picked up in his own troubled childhood. With awareness of how these dynamics were playing out on the stage of our relationship, I saw for the first time that it wasn’t him, and it wasn’t me, that our failures were due to this unconsciousness that we both assumed meant the other didn’t actually care.

You see, from the moment we are born, we begin processing information. Our electromagnetic field and subconscious mind begins processing and storing info about our environment and how to survive in it. Science is just beginning to discover the truth of how the soul, body and mind interact to build our structure of “self”. Research and study are increasingly unearthing the facts that our personalities are much less influenced by genes, and that even our gene expression is dependent on factors within our environment and circumstances. Our life experiences, from the first moments, shapes our inherent character and physicality. We come equipped with mirror neurons in our brain which allow us to efficiently repeat the actions of the humans around us, by stimulating the same areas of the brain we will later use to perform what we see, and even stimulate releases of dopamine when we appropriately copy our caretakers to become more self sufficient. This is an excellent strategy for Nature to take, ensuring the next generation can copy and repeat skills needed for survival. The more those neurons fire together, the faster and stronger the connections between them are built. Consider these like deep channels in the structure of your brain’s electrochemistry. This means that the strongest influencer of how these channels flow in your brain are the relationships you watched while growing up in your own home. Your subconscious mind is mostly programmed and imprinted before age 12. These programs effectively run the “show” of you, and determine how “you” show up in the world. While this is great for teaching us how to feed ourselves, stay out of danger and navigate the world, our modern times are making it quite a challenge to create positive and fulfilling interpersonal relationships of all kinds with programming “code” written by our ancestors for a very different society, passed down through your parents to you.

This means that before you could reason or use higher logic, your subconscious mind was programmed with a story of the availability of safety, security, love and prosperity you could expect from the world around you. This means that your parent’s relationship is Your subconscious sample of “This is what Love looks like between a man and a woman”, and how attentive and empathetic your main caregiver was is your subconscious imprint of “This is how worthy I am of love and respect”. Your parents views on if the world is a good place full of opportunity and joy is Your imprint of “these are the opportunities and the level of joy life will offer me”, and your parent’s views on success and prosperity will be a factor in your own success due to the underlying subconscious program running of “This is what you can expect to receive” and “this is how we relate to money, through lack or abundance.”

Overcoming these imprints and subconscious programs takes both time and an inner shift of belief. For instance, if parents imprinted “Money isn’t easy to come by, (because we don’t have college degrees)” an easy way to shift this programming is to attend college and get a degree. This is because this program was set up on an If/then premise ~ IF you got a degree, THEN you could easily surpass your parent’s earnings, which wouldn’t contradict the original programming of “Money and a good paying job aren’t easy to come by”.

In the same way, we are running the programming imprinted on us in our childhood by our parents regarding “This is what relationships look like/ what love looks like.”

Take a moment now to consider your parents’ relationship(s). How did they interact? How did they show love? How did they resolve conflict, or did they? These were our examples of how to “do” relationships. We may have different ideas on how to do relationships now, but unless we become aware of these subconscious programs and how they can affect us, and install new programming through learning skills for communication and conflict management, we may be failing at our attempts to develop healthy and fulfilling relations as an adult. If we don’t equip ourselves with the tools necessary to bypass our programming, and if we remain unaware of how those old programs are triggered, it is almost inevitable that we will play out the same relationship that we saw our parents have.

Just like in the previous example where “getting a college degree” was the step needed to overcome the prior programming about earning potential, we have to arm ourself with awareness, mindfulness and new communication skills so that we can shift our inner belief about “This is what love looks like”. Installing these skills, action tools for working through conflict, and a new awareness of “this is how I WANT love to be experienced” gives us what we need to positively shift into deeper and more fulfilling relationships with ourselves and others.

Begin taking a hard look at what your own imprinting and patterns are. Analyze it, looking for both positives to keep and negatives to develop new resources for. Ask yourself how your imprint is serving and restricting you from the relationships you desire. Begin the process of shadow work – going within your past memories to discover your negative imprints and limiting belief structures about love, self worth, the safety of expressing individual emotions, how to define success, possibility available to you and prosperity. Have a loving talk with your child self whenever you find a memory that has impacted you with negative imprinting. Compassionately Explain to that child self using adult logic, reason and understanding about what is actually true regarding Love, safety, money and success. Go within and find those wounds you endured through childhood trauma that made you decide illogically about your own ability, worthiness and inherent talent.

Forgive your parents for this subconscious imprinting through knowing that they themselves were imprinted, and their own success or failure depended on what beliefs they brought forward from their own childhood.

Forgive yourself, and understand that relationship skills must be learned, because very few people in modern times have had fully positive and functional families in their own childhood. The pressures of modern society strain even the most well-meaning and aware human – it will take time to install new relational skills into the collective programming. Until then, it is up to us as individuals to learn these functional relationship skills and then embody them for the next generation to become patterned after.

Some recommended reading:

Getting the Love You Want by Harville Hendrix

I need your love- is that true? By Byron Katie

How to be an Adult in Relationships by David Richo

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