Six ways to reprogram yourself
Studies show that we are programmed within the first seven years of our life.
Those earliest experiences and lessons, while they initially form 95% of our original beliefs, are not necessarily who we are or what we need to be happy and successful. They can’t be, because at seven years of age, we have little awareness of ourselves or understanding of the world. Indeed, we derive our understanding of the world through the lens of our caregivers, usually our parents. So, whether the world is a wonderful place full of opportunity or a scary bastion of challenges depends not upon reality or truth, but on our primary caregivers’ perceptions and their filtering of information back to us.
More troubling is that the beliefs about ourselves—our capacity, lovability, potential, dreams, expectations, and so on—are also formed during this time. It’s during this time that we also develop relationships patterns, fears, and expectations of how far we can go in life.
Our beliefs, even though they seem comfortable because they’re familiar, don’t necessarily serve our highest purpose. In fact, they often limit us.
Many times, we can’t see this, but emotions like apathy, anxiety, depression, panic, or situations in which trustworthy people point things out to us, have the power to awaken us to our greater potential.
And, if we don’t feel like anything is there or feel uncomfortable looking, that’s because our outdated beliefs are not letting us dig deep enough.
In other words, we’re being sabotaged.
Therefore, we must unlearn and reprogram in order to discover and achieve our greatest potential. Otherwise, we’ll always live reactionary to those few years, whether they were amazing or challenging. And that often comes with a price.
Only by unlearning that initial programming and rewriting the narrative do we get to tell our true story.
So how do we do that?
First, let’s remember that when we learn something, we form a belief that that statement is a fact. Therefore, the key tenet of unlearning is to stop believing that statement, a particular “truth” to be a fact.
Example: “You’re not good enough!” According to whom? Someone saying so does not make it true; our choice to believe it does. When we are young, we don’t get to choose; we automatically believe and it gets ingrained into our unconscious. Therefore, the only way to bring it out is to go deep.
It’s not about forgetting, but about changing and transforming.
Here are six ways to do that:
1. Challenge your beliefs and learning. While you might never forget what you once knew, or believed, you can challenge that learning, that belief by asking if it is objectively right, factual, accurate, and congruent with your actions, feelings, and experiences as an adult. And by challenge, I really mean challenge: what if it weren’t true at all? Pick a belief right now and tackle it. What is one thing you’ve always known to be true? What if it isn’t?
2. Watch your confirmation bias. Our brain is wired to seek out information that will confirm our already-held beliefs, which is why it is sometimes so hard to explain to people certain things, like why misogyny, racism, homophobia, etc. are hurtful. We are all biased to what we know (aka believe). We can’t fight that this is what our brain is wired to do, but the way to combat it is by being aware. So, as you’re challenging your beliefs and learning, pay attention to the pictures that pop into your mind. Are they stories or emotions that are just confirming or arguing for your original belief? If so, that’s bias.
3. Embrace new information. Many things we learned in our childhood might hold true, but many don’t, especially the kind of social rules and norms we adhere to (just think about some things our grandparents thought was ok!) As we grow older and have new experiences and opportunities to learn from others, we also have the opportunity to build upon the old knowledge, and do things differently. That’s called evolving. But we can’t do this without doing #1; likewise, we cannot do it unless we are open to building upon what we know; new life experiences will change us and we should let them.
Take the example from above and ask yourself: what new information has entered your life that is contrary to the belief above? Does it have any merit?
4. Don’t resist. One of the reasons why we often transfer trauma from generation to generation or keep repeating the “sins of our fathers,” is because we are resistant to change. New stuff, while exciting, if it requires change, can also be very scary and debilitating. But, remember, the cave we fear hides the treasure we seek. The only way we get to transform is by deliberately going deep, letting go of the old, and not resisting the new way of life that’s being presented to us. This “new” thing would not have come about unless we were at some subconscious level asking for it. The Universe delivered, so don’t resist—seize it. Take the leap and the net will appear.
Following the example from above, observe in your body and your thoughts: are you resisting this new reality to play out? Are you convincing yourself that the old story makes sense? “This was always true.” “This isn’t me.” If that’s happening, you’re resisting. But what if you weren’t?
5. Don’t delete, replace. The hardest aspect of change is the idea of loss: when we change, we think we lose our identity. I often advise my clients, and have employed this on myself: don’t delete who you were, just replace aspects of you with better parts. It’s almost like replacing your car tires for better ones! Ok, maybe that’s not a good example, so I have another: I was born in Montenegro and I also had the opportunity to create my adult life in the United States. I have a choice to make; I can firmly hold on to all that is Montenegrin (after all, that is a huge part of me), I can get “Americanized” and hold onto everything American, giving up on my Montenegrin background, because after all I did leave that place behind, OR — I get an amazing opportunity to design my own collage of these two cultures by taking the best from both and implementing them in my life. This is hard, because it requires paving a new way and replacing some things, while keeping others. But it is easier than deleting or being stuck in groupthink; it also is so much richer and so much more exciting. I choose! No confusion or rule following for the purposes of safety or sticking with tradition … instead, I get to design my own life. That’s freedom!
Thinking about your example. What if replacing the old with new knowledge will not take anything away from what you had, but will give you a different way of achieving that which you ultimately really want? A wise fisherman knows there’s more than one way to catch fish, and she knows so because she isn’t beholden to the ways of her fathers, or the way she used to be, but is willing to change and grow for that is the only constant—and the only path to equanimity and peace.
6. Feel the discontent, whether it be in your mind, body, or soul. Are you uncomfortable with unlearning? Good! To unlearn, you have to be willing to acknowledge the reality of discontent in your being. You have to face your proverbial demons before you overcome them. Ancient myths talk about this extensively. Become a hero in your own life. Slay those dragons! Victory on this journey includes utter and unequivocal freedom from pain, deep relaxation, and alignment of your internal world (your thoughts, hidden emotions, secrets, and secret desires) and your external (performance, relationships, work). Meeting of these two provides the energetic current called bliss. It just flows.
Why should we do this?
This is a bigger topic, but simply: did you ever get hurt by someone who “didn’t know better” and, indeed, believed that their behavior was OK?
What if you are that someone? What if you are hurting yourself in such a way without even realizing it? What if your own programming—learning you had not willingly chosen—is subjugating you and limiting your real potential? Are you really free?
You get to decide whether you want to live your days as a reaction to your 95% programming or want to make your unconscious conscious, and live life authentically, freely, and on your own terms.
The choice is always yours!