Saturday, May 29, 2010

me and conditioning

Years and years ago I tried to watch the movie "Clockwork Orange." It is the only movie I have ever walked out in the middle of. I generally avoid movies that I think will be about human cruelty to other humans and this one was extreme. I couldn't stomach it. But the other part that disturbed me too much was the idea of re-conditioning peoples' thoughts and feelings and responses. I've never seen the ending, so I have no idea if or how it all worked out. But the idea of conditioning or brainwashing really disturbs me.

I know that life is conditioning us, shaping us every day, all the time. Nothing, since our first few cries at birth, isn't in some way conditioned. Babies get fed or cuddled or tended to when they cry; so begins the conditioning, very early on. Our innate nature also plays some part in our personality: how we set ourselves up for the experiences which might shape us, how we respond to events and what changes are then allowed to happen in our psychic makeup as a result. It's the old nature vs. nurture debate.

I wasn't looking for answers or even for something different when I stumbled onto a lot of new ideas, and into the world of D/s, but the ideas sucked me in with a force I had not experienced before. I read and read and read. And a good deal of what I read was other peoples' thoughts on how their version of D/s works for them: their mechanics and logistics, their styles, and their protocols; but, mostly I read about how it makes them feel, how they react to the things that are done or said, their responses to the realities of the dynamic.

The things I read resonated with me. The ideas of the dynamic appealed certainly, but I also started to recognize in myself a lot of the feelings other people described. These weren't feelings I had had before. In fact, I started to respond to things in my life in a way opposite to how I would have previously: things like wanting to serve and wanting to make him happy. Previously, I would have felt put upon or slighted or that it wasn't fair if I ended up doing more of whatever. It just led to resentment and unhappiness. Now I like having chances to do little things for him and feel twinges of guilt when he needs to do things I normally would have taken care of.

The same is true for a lot of other very new ways of thinking and processing and responding. I see myself reacting to something a certain way, a way that is very different than I ever would have before. And more than that, I feel myself experiencing feelings I never used to - feelings that would have been very incongruent with the situation previously -from expecting me to make is coffe for him each morning to having him tell me he plans to provide guidance and oversight as I start my new job. These should both create feelings of burden or indignance or even outrage. Instead I feel pleased that it makes him happy that I do his coffee for him; and on a larger scale, I am embarressed and ashamed that he knows my weaknesses, but grateful and oddly warm and fuzzy knowing he will actively hold me to accounts even in my job.

What I have wondered and worried about for a long time now is the idea of whether these new feelings and responses are really me - or have just been conditioned or absorbed by my subconscious from reading about them. The rewards seem to be quite pleasant for the writers, I crave the feeling they have, something about it all strikes something deep within me. So maybe all my new feelings are really nothing more than power of suggestion and knee-jerk responses to things I've read? In that case, would it be a good idea to follow this path?

On the other hand, maybe these new ways of thinking and feeling and responding are newly conditioned or learned, and maybe they have just replaced other behaviors and responses that had been conditioned a long time ago, by other forces. Has this reading and learning let me shift my inhibitions and previously conditioned responses to the "real" me? I've done some serious soul searching to try to figure out if I'm just falling into something -like a fad - or are these new feelings honest adn true to me. As far as I can tell, they are.


  1. I can't help but believe that you have the sort of internal honesty that will keep you true to yourself. I don't think you're susceptible to suggestions that don't fit. It seems more likely to me that if you'd be "wondering" about why you didn't feel the same reactions as everyone else if you were simply carried away on a wave of enthusiasm.
    You've learned a different method for processing and interacting. That's bound to result in a shift in reactions. The fact that the reactions are positive just shows that the method suits.
    You will never be a fake, my friend.

    (Holy Crap! Word verification: subbers. I kid you not.)

  2. as an obliviously well educated and well read woman you would know that concepts like honesty and truth are subjective, they are dare I say it a product of conditioning.

    Perhaps a better question (or truth) is to consider the outcome of how it makes you feel. You are happier, life is brighter, he is happier? If these things be (sic) true then I suggest you have your answer.

  3. I was the same way, though. I would get very resentful if people just expected things of me. I mean I still do. It's in my nature to want to do things for people... to make their lives easier or just bring a smile to their face, but the minute they start expecting it, suddenly I lose interest.

    It's different with Asha, though. He has come to expect certain things, but I think because he also gives back in many ways it doesn't bother me. I'm not sure it's so much about submission as it is about reciprocation... or at least whether or not we perceive we're being taken advantage of or if the other person really appreciates what we do.

    I don't know if it's the same for you, but that's pretty much what it is for me... and as for conditioning. You're right... we're conditioned from birth by our environment, families and friends. We can even condition ourselves... letting go of bad habits and so on.

    Conditioning isn't a bad thing, I believe, unless the person being conditioned is being harmed in some way. Like Sir J pointed out... if you're happy with the new you, then go with it. If it's making you happy it can't be a bad thing (well of course unless it's hurting someone else, but I can't see how it would be doing that).



  4. Jz,
    Subbers? It must be a sign. The mind stuff is fascinating to me, but makes me worry sometimes too. I guess the fact that i think about it it what helps to keep me in track and true to myself. Thank you.

    Sir J,
    All of those things indeed be true. It has been a week for answers.

    yes - i had spent a good bit of my life in resentment mode - which was really unpleasant. I feel the reciprocation - in fact I struggle wiht feeling like it's wrong for him to be doing things for me, that I am supposed to be doing for him. Guess the pendulum is still swinging.

  5. Nah, I think that's pretty normal. I still struggle when Asha does things for me. Like holding doors and things like that. If I'm sick and he does things for me, it doesn't really bother me, but most other times I... well I dunno... just feels wrong somehow.



  6. Very interesting post! I will probably ponder this all afternoon. Women have historically been conditioned to serve and please men. Over the last few decades we have been conditioned to feel resentful when we do. Reading and learning about D/s has more certainly reconditioned me back to a more old fashioned attitude.

    I think of brainwashing more as changing ones ideas somewhat forceably. Something feels wrong, but you hear it so much you begin to believe it. But it seems like most women on this journey, especially the ones like us who have been married for a while, stuble upon this. It strikes a cord deep within us and we choose to explore more and more. We change and are conditioned but it's by choice.

    Thanks for sighing up to be my first "friend." I look forward to reading your blog!


  7. Serenity,
    I think you are rigth - there is a strong influence of society on what we feel and there are more specific things that influence us from family or our particular culture or circumstances.I like the way you say of thinking about choosing to be conditioned in this case.