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Most of us think we are in control of our thoughts, desires and aspirations, but science begs to differ. What we actually do have control over, our conscious mind, makes up only about 5% of our behaviors. Surprisingly, it is our unconscious mind, which we are unaware of, that controls 95% of the things we do, say, feel and think. (1)
In the tender and formative first six years of life, we received much of our brain’s programming. These childhood patterns of behavior and beliefs have become the driving force of our adult behaviors, and very few of us, if any, have had the conscious opportunity or awareness to let these old patterns go. All the positive and negative impressions we felt as children – from our parents, siblings, classmates, environment, and community – are responsible for 95% of the personality we all too often carry into our lives as adults. (1,2) Sadly though, because most of these impressions were survival mechanisms, the unconscious behavioral patterns we carry into adulthood are mostly limiting, negative, and based on illusory fears that may have protected our feelings as children, but no longer serve us as adults.
Rite of Passage
In our formative years, we are all hard-wired to need, and sometimes demand, the approval and attention of our parents. This is a natural survival instinct that is alive and well in every child. If a child did not care or need their parent’s attention, they could easily wander off into unsafe situations that could put their survival at risk. As children, we are completely dependent on our parents for survival. A parent keeping one eye on their child at all times ensures the safety of that child. Over time, the child naturally becomes attached to their mom and dad’s watchful eyes, love and attention.
In the animal kingdom, this happens in much the same way. A baby leopard cub will depend on its mother for all its needs, but one day at around 12-18 months of age, when mom feels the young leopard is able to survive on its own, the mom will separate from the young leopard with no plans to meet again. Like a rite of passage, the young leopard, now on its own, cannot rely on someone else to survive and therefore naturally lets go of the need for external approval. Thus, it is forced to become, in a sense, “conscious,” by breaking the unconscious need to be loved, approved of and watched over.
Traditional cultures around the world imposed sometimes grueling and even life-threatening rites of passage to transition children into adults, but most of these traditions are now long-gone and we are allowed to stay as children – to stay unconscious, and for way too long. Instead of being forced to shed our need for approval in our adolescent years, we replace parental approval and attention with other means of being satisfied. From ice cream cones and candy to new bicycles, video games to cell phones, children seek satisfaction and fulfillment in the form of sensory stimulation. Then, as we grow up, we find fulfillment and contentment in the safety and approval from a boyfriend or a girlfriend. The brain quickly replaces parental approval with material gains and sensory stimulation, such as a new job, more money, a new car, a bigger house, and recognition from a boss or spouse. These factors drive us to continue to seek approval and the feeling of reward that comes with it.
As adults we need to understand this “game of life” we play and make ongoing transformational changes to free ourselves from the need to be stimulated or loved through means of approval or materialism. We also have a responsibility to our children to create a rite of passage, so they learn the difference between needing love and approval and being loving, powerful and content!