The word normal can trigger all kinds of meanings and what can come to mind are the judgements that are made around people. How someone looks, dresses or behaves is often part of this judgement.
However, this article is not going to be about what is classed as normal or abnormal about people. What this will be looking at is what is normal on a personal level. This is the behaviours, thoughts, feelings and perceptions that one has become accustomed to and the behaviours that one is used to from other people.
Although these are two different description of normal, they are both the consequence of what is familiar. Socially what is classes as normal, is the result of what has been around for a while. What is normal can be functional and acceptable and it can be dysfunctional and unacceptable. It may also fall in the middle of the spectrum and be neutral.
In recent years tattoos have become fairly normal in society. Many years ago they would have provoked a strong reaction and for some people they still do. But due to their popularity they have become familiar. And so they are generally classed as normal now and don’t stand out as much.
The above example is fairly neutral, as no one is being harmed through them. Unless ones interpretations are leading to harm being created within one’s mind.
I tried to think of another example, but this was the one that came to mind. Politicians have become synonymous with lies and deceit. They are masters at telling people what they want to hear or in avoiding answering certain questions.
However, as a society we have become used to this kind of behaviour. So even though it is not acceptable or functional it is now normal. And as a result of this, it often goes unnoticed.
Two Sides Of Normal
So on one side there is the societal aspects that numerous people can relate to and then on the other side there is what’s classed as normal in one’s life. Now, these two can be connected and are not necessarily separate.
What is the same is the fact that the ego mind functions on what is familiar. And what is registered as familiar is what one has been exposed to the most. As a result of this, it then becomes associated as what is safe and here one will feel comfortable.
Now, we have what is called normal. And as anything can become familiar and therefore safe and comfortable; it shows how this process can become disempowering, dysfunctional and even life threatening.
Once something has become normal, the ego mind will run on auto pilot. This means that one will no longer have to question or think about what is now associated as being normal
So if something is leading to one feeling disempowered, frustrated and angry and being compromised, abused or being taken advantage of for example; it won’t matter. Consciously it is creating pain and suffering, but to the ego mind it is simply what is familiar.
On an individual level one may be experiencing challenges to do with: abuse, acting in ways that are destructive, participating in harmful addictions, dysfunctional relationships and many other occurrences.
Certain patterns of behaviour and thinking are dysfunctional, but unless they are challenged, they won’t change. To the observer they may look dysfunctional and wonder why someone is acting in these ways.
And even though the onlooker may have relationships that are not abusive or routinely engage in harmful addictions like the person they are observing - the same process is at work. Their ego mind has created associations of familiarity around what is functional and the other person has not.
One person is not necessarily any luckier or more fortunate than the other; it is often what their ego mind has come to associate as what is familiar and therefore normal.
The patterns of thinking and behaviour in one’s life are going to be different for everyone. And yet there are often primary challenges that people have. These can be accepted as how life is and that there is no other way of being.
And the reason why they feel this way is generally because they mirror the childhood environment that one had. Thousands and thousands of experiences formed what would later be classed as familiar and normal as an adult
The ego mind is then programmed to accept certain behaviours and environments that support this behaviour. This is the reason why people who are abused or taken advantage of during childhood create the same scenarios as an adult.
It maybe dysfunctional, destructive, disempowering and have the potential to lead to extreme pain and suffering. And yet to the ego mind, it has been programmed as normal.
At One Point
There may have also been a time when what was classed as normal had benefits, but then through time has become the opposite. However, the mind has not caught up with this and continues to hold onto the past associations.
The disharmony that can exist between the conscious and unconscious mind can create tremendous conflict and pain. And due to the ego mind running on auto pilot, unless conscious changes are made it will always be this way.
Here one is nothing but a robot, doing the same thing and expecting something different to happen. The mind can become a prison and this is why it is essential to allow new stimulus to enter the mind.
Letting go of the past is an important part of this, as is allowing new information and experiences in. reading books that empower and expand the mind can assist with this process, so can being around people who are examples of how one wants to be.
Therapy and coaching can also make a massive difference to ones growth. There are many options out there and what matters is one chooses what works for them.
Most people have heard of the saying ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ and yet this is generally what happens. We see that someone is wearing a certain item of clothing, looks or acts a certain way and a judgement is made.
This judgment is automatic and is a consequence of the unconscious mind. And how one came to such a conclusion is often unknown, as a result of this process happening so quickly.
What is observed, fires of associations in the mind and based on these associations that are triggered, one makes a judgement on what is seen. Now, sometimes these associations will be accurate and sometimes they won’t be.
These associations are generally the result of the conditioning that one has received. And the media is one of the most powerful forces in shaping the associations that one has about people.
Friends, colleagues and romantic partners can also have a say in the associations that the ego mind has of people.
And then there is the childhood environment. This is another incredibly important influence in what associations one will come to have of people as an adult.
The Ego Mind
Although this article is to do with the associations that one can have around people, this is the way the ego mind functions with everything. And these don’t have to be based on what is true or functional; they can be completely dysfunctional and have no truth to them.
But then the ego mind doesn’t form these associations based on whether they are functional or empowering. They are formed as a result of being familiar.
Once something has been classed as familiar, it means that it is now recognised as what is safe. And now, instead of one having to think about something it becomes automatic and leads to less energy being utilised.
Many years ago, when humans lived in tribes and were at risk of being eaten by animals: making snap judgements not only saved energy it also would have saved lives. And perhaps this is when this ability was formed.
When it comes to reading people and making snap judgements, these associations make life easier. If this ability didn’t exist, it would lead to all kinds of problems. From spending minutes and even hours on finding out something that usually takes seconds.
And instead of being able to read the clues, one may even end up putting their life in danger. This could be through not being able to read a person’s facial expression or unable to interpret what someone is holding could be dangerous.
The Halo Effect
There is something known as the halo effect. And this is where one associates someone as being a certain way based on them having just one positive trait. This one trait then leads to many other traits being attributed to them.
This goes on automatically and without one having to make any conscious effort. A good example of this is when one comes across someone who they perceive as being attractive. And as they are attractive, one will typically associate them as being intelligent and even successful.
How attractive someone is, has very little to do with how intelligent or successful they are. In reality, some people who are perceived as attractive will be intelligent and successful and some won’t be.
This also works in the opposite way; with associations being made if someone has a trait that is personally or socially classed as negative. One may see another person taking drugs and out of this one trait could label them as; being dangerous and as having criminal tendencies.
And as the media likes to portray drug users in a certain way, a lot of these associations will be the result of the media. However, people of all walks of life take drugs and not everyone who takes drugs will be dangerous or a criminal.
The above are examples of inaccurate associations. If one were to employ or to date someone based on the first example or to speak to or get to know someone from the second example and the associations proved to be incorrect; it could lead to a new awareness being created.
Countries And Religions
As a result of watching the news or reading the papers certain associations can be formed around people from different countries or religions. These can also be wrong and lead to all kinds of challenges being created.
Violence, racism and prejudice can be a consequence of this. Here, based on the associations that have been formed through the media, one doesn’t see the person for themselves. What they see are the associations that the media has created in their mind, being projected onto others.
The Younger Generation
The youth of today are often described as: unruly, dangerous and troublesome. This may be the case for some of the younger people, but it is not an absolute truth. However, through buying what the media says about the younger generation, one’s mind can form these associations.
It will then be difficult to keep an open minded and to see each situation for what it is. Interpretations will automatically be made and this will make it hard to see otherwise
Men And Women
A man with a muscular physique may be associated as being aggressive or unapproachable, by men and women alike, and yet this may be far from the truth. This will be true for some, however it won’t relate to all of them.
Women who are attractive can be associated as being arrogant and aloof. When in reality this may be wide of the mark. For some women this will be the case, but not for all of them.
The ego mind works in absolutes and this means that everything is either black or white. There is no middle ground or grey area with the mind. And this means that the ego mind will have a tendency to either see these associations or to edit and deny anything that goes against these associations.
Another thing that can also happen is the ego mind will interpret reality in a way that does correspond with these associations. And this can involve the use of projection. The saying "We Don't See The World As It Is, We See The World As We Are” by Anais Nin encompasses this perfectly.
The ego mind often perceives the present based on the past or a combination of the past. And this is why it is important to be aware how the ego mind functions. We also have what is called intuition, instincts or hunches and this can be another way of coming to conclusions and making quick judgements.
Associations make life easier and save a lot of time and energy. Through being aware and questioning these associations, one will be able to have a choice, instead of being controlled by them.
When we look at our lives or at the lives of others, we can see life through one of two ways, or as a combination of the two.
On one side we can see that there are patterns to how we behave, think and feel and in how other people behave. And on the other side, we could also view our internal processes and external behaviour and the behaviour of others as random.
This could also be described as a habit; with this being a word that is probably more familiar than the word pattern. Habits are part of being human and this means that they are not negative or positive per se.
They are neutral and what makes them negative or positive is whether they are empowering or disempowering to our life.
It could be a habit to wake up and to go to bed at a certain time of the day, to walk or drive a certain route, to eat a specific type of food each day and to exercise on fixed days of the week.
Each of the above could be empowering habits to have and ones that lead to, at the very least, a productive day and at the most, a productive existence.
As well as the habits of routine that were mentioned above, there will also be the thinking patterns that one typically has; these could range from how one sees oneself, to how one sees
They could be thoughts that never seem to disappear or thoughts that are consistently trigged during interactions with the same or opposite sex for example. Being in a certain environment could also bring about patterns of thought.
There can even be patterns when it comes to the emotions that one has. These could be negative or positive and cause one to feel good about who they are and at ease with their life. Or it could lead one to feeling negative about themselves and experience periods of anxiety and fear.
And these experiences could occur: during certain situations, around certain people, different times of the year, and different stages of a relationship.
What the above two will form is ones behavioural patterns. And whether one is reacting to life or simply responding; will be the result of what is going on in their ego mind. The way that the ego mind interprets what it experiences will then define ones behaviour.
This could be a behavioural pattern that one has and after behaving in this way, wonders why they did; as the behaviour doesn’t lead to one feeling empowered or to the fulfilment of one’s goals.
One can then end up feeling that they have no control over their behaviour and are at the mercy of some external power or force.
What each of these things represents is familiarity to the ego mind. And once something has achieved the association of being classed as familiar, it is then interpreted as safe. And from here the ego mind will be comfortable with whatever this habit is.
How, it doesn’t matter if this habit of empowering if disempowering; all that matters is that it is familiar and therefore safe to the mind.
So this means that the ego mind is, by its very nature, a creator of habits and this is how it functions to ensure its own survival.
And if habits are part of being human and cannot be completely removed, it shows the importance of being self aware. Habits are only negative when they no longer lead to growth and start to lead one in the opposite direction.
If our ego mind didn’t function through habits and patterns there would be far too much going on and our attention would be consumed by different stimulus. So these lead to more of a streamlined existence.
And this could be the result of how life was for human beings many hundreds of years ago, where ones ability to survive was based on one’s ability to make quick decisions. And as well as saving time; it also saves energy.
We can see this in modern day life; with how much easier it is to function. If one had to think about how to open a door or how to drive a car each time, it would take up far too much time.
As a result of these habits and patterns being around for so long and the only way that one’s ego mind knows; they may seem like the truth and the only possible way to function. Ultimately, the only reason they are there is because they are familiar.
We can meet a stranger and before long they are classed as a friend and the experience of this person being a stranger is no longer there. It is then natural and normal to feel comfortable
and at ease in their presence
On the other hand, having known someone for many years, we can begin to drift away from that person. And although we used to feel comfortable during our moments together, we can start to feel uncomfortable around them.
This is perhaps a dynamic that happens more in an intimate relationships than it does in relationships between two friends. However, in many ways it mirrors the way the ego mind works.
In both cases, these are both human beings, what is different is the ego minds associations of the two people. As these have changed, how the ego mind interprets them also changes.
In order for any change to take place, one needs to firstly be aware of what needs to change and to believe that change is possible. From here, one can take the steps to making that a reality.
We are all different and this means that different approaches will be needed. For some, reading a book that goes into this in depth may be enough. And for others, some form of coaching or therapy will be needed. There are many resources and options available to assist in this.
If you feel this has been of value, please leave a comment, like or get in touch. And feel free to share this article, as many others have.
Oliver J R Cooper
In a previous article that I write on expectations, I looked at where our expectations come from. And here I want to take a closer look at how expectations are influencing our day to day life.
Expectations can become part of one’s nature and how they see life or they can be expectations that come and go and are only short term.
When one is a child, there are likely to be a certain set of expectations. And as one grows older, some of these will change and adapt; while others may remain until ones teenage years and even adult years.
There will always be expectations in place, no matter how old one is. It’s really a matter of if one is aware of them or not and if they are beneficial to one’s life.
Now, these expectations could be from within and formed through our own thoughts, emotions, feelings and sensations. Or they could be the result of what we have heard externally and from other sources.
What is within had to come from without at some point, but when I say within; I’m talking about expectations that have been consciously chosen. And when I say from without; I’m talking about expectations that are unconscious and are neither questioned nor consciously chosen.
Areas Of Life
One can have expectations around every area of life. This could be expectations that one has about themselves and the expectations that one has of other people.
These could be expectations to do with: men, women, countries, day to day experiences, society, relationships, friendships, holidays, products, food stuffs and others things.
These expectations can become so normal and a part of one’s life, that they no longer seem like expectations. The expectations and the experiences become one and the same. It is then experienced as how life is and seeing that expectations are a major catalyst to how one experiences life is then overlooked.
On one side we can have long term expectations and these will be what our ego mind likes to identify with. This could be the expectations that one has in their relationships or in how successful one is capable of being.
And on the other side we have short term expectations and these will be what relate to the situations that come up in our life. This could be a night out or a holiday for example.
Now let’s take a look at how our expectations are playing out in our life. One may then begin to get a clearer understanding of how this is working.
Relationships will be affected by both a short term expectations and our long term expectations. One can expect to have an intimate relationship that is loving, supportive and empowering or one that is abusive, unsupportive and neglectful.
When it comes to short term interactions and casual acquaintances; one can also have expectations about how they will go and what they will be like.
Men will have expectations of women and what they are like or will be like; with women also having expectations of what men are like or will be like.
After a while of living in a certain country, one will have formed general expectations of what it’s like to live in the country. And if another country were to be mentioned, the expectations would more than likely change.
The countries that one enjoys going to or has positive associations of, will be the countries where one has formed positive expectations. A country that has a warmer climate to the one that one currently inhabits is bound to create positive expectations at the very least.
Our expectations are always being shaped by the mainstream media. This could be to do with what the world is like and how safe or unsafe it is, to what products can and can’t do for us, what the weather is going to be like and many other things.
How a product or service is displayed and marketed, will also create the expectations that we have around products or services.
When something is marketed at a certain price or a when it is associated with certain celebrities; our expectations are being formed.
These are influencing how valuable we expect something to be. And this will then shape our expectation of the brand and as a result, shape the experiences that we go on to have with it.
We have opinions of others and others have opinions of us; some of these will be accurate and some won’t be. And these opinions are often a consequence of hearing about another’s reputation or through the views of another person and this means they are not always gained through firsthand experience.
For example, celebrities are largely known through their time on TV and from write ups by journalists and the people that have spent time with them. People then form ideas and impressions based on these and their expectations are then formed.
However, these are not necessarily the truth and may have very little to do with them, which means that one’s expectations of these people are often inaccurate.
We Experience What We Expect
And once the mind has formed or created an expectation, it will do everything it can to make the expectation real. And what doesn’t match or mirror this expectation will then be filtered out.
The ego mind will be like a magnet to what it has been programmed to expect and this will become a self fulfilling prophecy. One can; ignore and reject what is different, project onto the situation so that it fits their internal idea or interpret the situation in a way that it corresponds with their expectation.
Ones behaviour will then change to fit this expectation, so whether it is actually true or not will often depend on whether the mind wants it to be true.
And this is why awareness is so important; as these expectations are often running automatically. They have become so normal and natural that they are taken as how life is.
For them to change, the pattern needs to be changed to something beneficial and empowering. The first stage is to realise that one has a choice and that that they are not fixed.
What is classed as meaningful can vary from person to person. It is not something that is set in stone or fixed. The meaning that one has in life can change as one grows older and has different experiences.
The countries and cultures of the world can have meanings that are vastly different to each other. Men and women of the past had meanings that were radically different to each other and as time has gone by; their meanings have become less defined.
On google.com meaning is described as – 1. What is meant by something. And meant is described as – 1. Intend to indicate or refer to (a particular thing or notion); signify: "I don't know what you mean". 2. Of a word) Have (something) as its signification in the same language or its equivalent in another language.
So then, although meaning can relate to what the majority of people can agree on, it can also relate to what which a minority of people agree with; as well as the personal meanings that one can have.
One of the biggest examples is of course –religion. There are some religions that are very similar in their meaning and others that are very different. Religion is full meaning and one is unlikely to feel that there is no meaning to life as a result of being religious.
This can cover all areas of life and even what may or may not happen after this life.
As the social climate has changed, the meaning has also altered. But one thing is certain and that is; the society that one is brought up in or lives in, has an incredibly powerful influence on the meaning that one has.
Part of the societal meaning comes from the mainstream media. The media is creating meaning as a result of how it portrays what it shows, and also what it doesn’t show. What it does show is rarely presented in manner that is fluid or open to interpretation; the meaning is often fixed and absolute.
The people that are known through the media, such as celebrities, also have the potential to shape the meaning that people have.
The childhood environment that one is brought up in will play an important role and perhaps it’s the most important factor. At this age, one’s mind is so malleable and open to accepting whatever it is exposed to.
The meaning that the caregivers have will typically be passed onto the child. This will child can then accept this meaning or rebel and reject it. However, what is fairly certain is that it will have an effect.
At a more personal level we all have thoughts, emotions, feelings and sensations. And these are shaping what we perceive as meaningful and meaningless.
These could be the result of biological needs and the conditioning that we have received as a consequence of the society we were brought up in and the childhood that we experienced.
What this means is that one’s behaviour will be defined by what they class as meaningful. Now, this could be going on at a conscious level, where one chooses what is meaningful to them. Or this could be running unconsciously; with one being pulled to do things without a conscious choice being made.
If the second option is being carried out, it is not much of a surprise and is often to be expected in our society. The world is full of voices, organisations, groups and influences that are happy to offer meaning to anyone that will listen.
And as the ego mind, by its very nature, works in absolutes, it’s not much of a surprise to see this then appear in the world. These meanings are then not only the absolute meaning; they become the absolute truth.
Approval And Acceptance
The need for approval and acceptance goes way back and was necessary to ensure survival. As a child one is dependent on the approval of one’s caregivers and unless this has been looked at, it can turn into needing the approval of others; with the need for survival being played out once more.
And this is another way that one can get caught up in the meaning formed by other people. By going along with the meaning that has become accepted by others, one can feel a sense of acceptance and approval.
However, this may be a meaning that doesn’t truly sit with them or resonate with who they are. The fear of being rejected and the egos minds way of associating this with death could stop one from finding their meaning.
It could be that the meaning that one has is completely defined by the outside world, or that one decides their meaning based on a combination of the inner and outer.
What is clear is that the outer world will always have an effect on the meaning that one has. But, we have the choice of how we interpret what we see and what we do as a result.
Empowered Or Disempowered
Some people live lives that are full of meaning and as a result of this, they are usually individuals of purpose. One could assume that they posses something that others do not. Is this really the case? Or do others just interpret reality differently?
The ego mind is interpreting reality and this is then triggering internal associations. These are associations that can be changed and altered, they are not fixed.
And depending on the associations that one’s ego mind has in relation to meaning, will influence whether one acts with purpose, has passion or feels empowered.
These associations will also trigger thoughts, feelings, sensations and emotions. And this will then go onto how one behaves and the self image that one has.
One can then choose to live a life of meaning and not meaning that has been defined by someone else, but meaning that has been consciously chosen.
Meaning that reflects who one has chosen to be and meaning that may change as one grows and continues to develop.
To do that, one has to question and challenge their own meanings, where did they come from? Are they what is truly meaningful to me? Do they empower and fulfil me?
If not, then the time has come for them to go and to be replaced with what really matters.
The environment that we live in will also have a say in the meaning that one has. It may be a meaning that creates a lot of dysfunctional and disempowering meanings. And if this has been the only environment that one has been in, it will also seem to be the only meaning.
Changing the environment may not always be possible, but changing the meanings in our mind is possible.
One can often watch a film with an ending that is unclear and come up with an interpretation that is completely different to another person. Or perhaps there is a cloud in the sky; one sees it to be a certain shape and another person sees another shape or cannot see this shape at all.
Then there are dreams, which can be interpreted in numerous ways. Some say there are specific meanings; others say that the meanings can only be interpreted by the individual.
Above we see examples of general interpretations that most people can relate to. And these are what most people are aware of. However, what about the Interpretations that are going on internally - the Interpretations that are having a much bigger affect on our lives.
And yet, this is a process that is so natural and effortless, that it often goes on unnoticed. Here, the experiences that one has are interpreted in a certain way and the meaning that is then given, is generally seen as the absolute meaning and only one possible.
Internal And External
The divide between the internal experience and the external experience is not being considered. It could even be that one is completely unaware of their internal processes and responses.
Due to these responses often being automatic and unconscious, it will mean that one won’t have to think about them. And in one way this is a good thing, as it leads to an easier life and minimizes the amount of energy and time needed. That is the positive aspect; the negative side is that these interpretations are not necessarily empowering or functional.
These interpretations are more than likely second hand and originated in the minds of other people. Ones society and childhood will all have had a say in how one interprets their experiences.
The Ego Mind
As the ego mind sees reality in absolutes and through the use of projection, this whole process can be extremely hard to see. And what this means is that, based on the interpretation that one has, a self imposed prison can end up being created.
It Is Normal
To see experiences that occur as having one meaning is a normal process for the ego mind. And if one has perceived life through these lenses from the very beginning, then why would one even consider another way of seeing.
The ego mind will have formed an association of familiarity and safety around these interpretations. And this means that the ego mind will hold onto them; simply because it means ones survival is not at risk.
Whether these interpretations are what bring one happiness or empowerment, is not important to the ego mind. All that matters is survival and if it is familiar then that is all that matters. So what is creating certainty for the mind could be what is also creating pain and conflict.
As one begins to observe the interpretations that they have, one then has the possibility to choose their own meaning. When it comes to the affect that interpretations have, on one’s own wellbeing, level or success and happiness; they are far too important to simply be ignored.
How one chooses to behave at any given time, will depend on how one interprets a situation. And if one is not aware of this, one will be destined to repeat the behaviours of the past.
Now, this might be empowering and enable one to achieve what they want and to be who they want to be. But if this is not the case, then these interpretations would have to be different.
Success Or Failure
There are people in the world who seem to never give up and there are others who seem to stop at the first hurdle. It would be easy to assume that these people are stronger or lucky and have something that other people don’t.
But perhaps, one of the big differences is that that their interpretations are simply different. And as a result of these different ways of seeing things, they have the resilience to continue.
Rejection Or Acceptance
Rejection can be extremely painful; some people seem to handle it, while others suffer immensely. And what is certain is that rejection in one form or another; it is part of the human experience.
And this is another good example of interpretation at work. Rejection can feel life death and the end of the world, while at the same time; it can simply be feedback or another person’s opinion. Whatever one this is, will depend on the interpretation that one gives it.
The Power Of Interpretation
How powerful interpretations are, is not to be overlooked here. Ones emotional and cognitive responses will be affected and so will ones physical sensations. Along with all the brain chemicals that are produced with all this. This all comes to together to create the whole experience and to create the illusion of there being only one meaning.
A lot of these interpretations will have come about through societal conditioning and this means that the ego mind will have associated approval and acceptance around them ;meaning that one’s survival will be attached, according to the ego mind anyway.
And then before that, ones childhood experience will also strongly influence the interpretations that one has. With the ego mind associating these as being what is safe and familiar and being essential to ones survival.
Could this mean, that the only meaning anything has is based on the interpretation that one gives it? It is definitely something for one to ponder.
In order to be a good listener or therapist for example, one needs to be aware of their interpretations, so that they can be present and hear what is being said.
For one to be able to do this their past needs to have been processed to a reasonable degree or it will come up and taint, what is being said in the present moment.
Depending on the interpretations and how intense they are, one may be able to observe what is going on or perhaps some external assistance may be required. This could be through a therapist, healer, hypnotherapist or a trusted friend for example.
However this is a process and something that won’t happen overnight. One will need to be patient and kind to themselves during this process.
When it comes to how one experiences life, expectations play an incredibly important role. Not only are they influencing how one perceives every part of life, they’re also affecting ones emotional and mental well being.
This means that what one attracts into their life and what one sees in others is largely being defined by their expectations. And on the other side of it all, when one has expectations that are not fulfilled it can lead to feelings of anger, frustration, and even depression.
Expectations can relate to what one believes will make them happy and also what one has come to expect from life. This means that expectations can be both empowering and disempowering.
And no matter what areas of life we look at here; expectations are always in place. This can be in: relationships, health, career, the world and what one believes they are capable of. Each of these areas is being influenced by what one has come to expect.
This can also result in these expectations being taken as the truth and not ever being questioned. And if one continues to experience the same situation over and over again this is not much of a surprise
After many years of having the same expectations and therefore experiences in reality; they are likely to be deeply ingrained into ones unconscious mind and out of one’s conscious awareness. Here, there influence can remain hidden and continue to create the same results.
The Ego Mind
What will keep these expectations in place is the ego mind. Once these expectations have become familiar to the ego mind, they will be associated as safe. And once this has occurred, the ego mind will filter ones reality based on these associations.
So then, if one is unaware of what their expectations are, they will be enslaved to their ego minds function of attracting what has become associated as safe.
Although one might be frustrated or angry with the consequences of their expectations, the ego mind is simply doing its job of ensuring ones survival. And as soon as a sense of familiarity has been formed around an expectation, it will be interpreted as safe.
That is the only thing that matters to the ego mind. It does not function on what will make one happy or content; it functions on what is familiar.
I knew This Would Happen
This also means that if one were to think about changing an expectation, this would have the potential to create fear. And even though this new expectation could lead to the fulfilment of a certain need, it is not familiar to the ego mind.
So if one is not aware of this, the ego mind will do all it can to create the same expectation occurring again. At a conscious level one can say to themselves or another - that they knew this would happen.
And at a deeper level this is simply the ego mind doing its job. When this is in conflict with what one wants at a conscious level, it will naturally create problems.
Do I Have A Choice?
Once can then feel that they are a slave to the consequences of their expectations and not realise that these expectations are largely coming true due to how their ego mind works.
It would not be accurate to say that one could have their true expectations come true all of the time and yet it would be just as inaccurate to say that one has no control over what expectations will come true.
Questioning Our Expectations
As expectations are part of life, it shows that it is important to questions them as they are always in action. So by questioning ones expectations, one can start to see if they are functional or dysfunctional or what one really wants and If they are actually possible to be fulfilled or not.
Where Do Our Expectations Come From?
This will depend on many factors, for example the society one grew up in, the people one associates with and if one is religious, will all have an effect on what we expect from ourselves and from the world.
What one values and what one doesn’t value will also have an influence here. And at the root of all of this will be ones childhood upbringing.
What ones caregivers expected from the world is likely to have influenced what ones has come to expect. The type of relationship ones caregivers had will naturally have a say in what one expects from their relationships. How capable one is and what one expects from oneself will be coloured by what ones caregivers expected from them.
There will also be what one didn’t receive from their caregivers and this will cause one to either not expect it from others consciously or to unconsciously crave it form others, but keep it hidden.
The Expectations Were Set
Each one of these expectations and many more will have become associated as safe to ones ego mind. And this is because they are ones first reference points. This meant that one would carry these expectations forward and project these expectations onto the world and other people.
Positive And Negative Expectations
This will mean that some of these expectations relate to ones early childhood years. So as a result of this, many of the positive expectations wont able to be fulfilled anymore and the negative expectations could be the result of early pain or trauma.
By positive expectations, I mean the expectations that one believes will lead to fulfilment and these could relate to inner child needs that need to be acknowledged, validated and healed.
And when I say negative expectations, I mean the expectations that cause one to always expect the worst from relationships; to not expect much from themselves or from life. This will also require healing work.
As we become aware of our expectations and where they come from, we can decide if we want to keep them or if we want to change them. To be aware of what they are means we have the chance to make the choices that honour who we are, as opposed to being a slave or a victim of our own conscious or unconscious expectations.
Associations have incredible power and they are occurring in many areas of life. Ones relationships with: family, friends, lovers and professional relationships are all being affected by associations. As well as ones experience with the world and to material things.
Brands rely heavily on the power of associations to create familiarity and loyalty to their product. How valuable and sought-after something is, will often be the result of what is associated to the brand.
And this whole process of association is not only happening externally, it is also happening in our minds.
The Ego Mind
The way the ego mind filters everything, is through associations. I only have to mention an object for the ego mind to conjure up all kinds of associations and these associations may have very little to do with the object itself.
And one of the reasons our early childhood years are so important in how we function as adults, is due to the associations that were formed during this time. As they are the first experiences that one has, they become deeply rooted in our unconscious mind.
When the ego mind has been exposed to something for the first time; it begins to form associations around the experience. This could be through continued repetition or through a one of event that was traumatic or emotionally charged. From here the ego mind will see the associations as familiar and therefore safe.
When this process happens as a child, one doesn’t have the awareness or the ability yet to question what is happening. So this means that the associations that are formed during this time can become how their ego mind perceives everything.
Once these associations are formed, one doesn’t have to think about them and this means that they are likely to happen out of one’s awareness.
Now, depending on what these associations are and what they relate to; this could be beneficial or it could be detrimental to one’s life.
For example, when we are younger we form associations around many things and some of these can be classed as dangerous and some as harmless. This could be to do with: doors, hot water or with putting our hands in certain places.
The warnings and advice that our caregivers gave us around these aspects were important and meant that we didn’t have to constantly think about these things. These actions became natural and unconscious. And this then made our life a lot easier and allowed it to run a lot smoother.
If we had to constantly think about how to open a door or to not put our hand under hot water, it would not only take a lot longer; it could lead to a lot of unnecessary pain.
Above we can see that associations play an important role in ensuring that our lives run smoothly and without unnecessary problems. The challenges arise when these associations are not to our advantage and only lead to feeling disempowered.
We can have associations around: men and women, success, relationships, money, power, health, who we are, what we can do and can’t do, what we do and don’t deserve and many other things.
To the ego mind, all the associations it has formed will be the absolute truth and it will even have all the evidence to back this up. This is because the ego mind perceives reality based on these associations and if it is something that doesn’t correspond with these associations, it will go unnoticed or rationalized in some way.
If one is completely identified with their ego mind, it will be more or less impossible to see how these associations are defining one’s life. For until different associations have been formed, these associations will stay in place.
With our early years playing a massive role in how we perceive so much of our life; this is an incredibly important time. During these years, the associations that our mind formed were created out of our need to survive. And this means that they were beneficial at this time.
What creates the suffering latter on is that our childhood environments are not the absolute truth. They are just associations of what was going on in that environment. However, the ego mind works in polarities; so even though the childhood environment is just one example, it is interpreted as the way the whole world is. And this can work in so many other areas.
If ones mother or father were unpleasant or abusive in some way, then these associations could be how one perceives other men and world in the world. And these will also define how one behaves and how one interprets the behaviour of others.
How We See Ourselves
The ideas that we have about who we are and what we are capable of is typically a combination of different associations. These are not right or wrong, they are just what our ego mind has identified with. And ultimately we can change these associations and see ourselves however we chose.
This also means that we can change are associations of anything else, if it is not empowering us and leading to our true self expression.
What can stop one from seeing how these associations are at work, is through the identification to the ego mind. It could also mean that one has emotions and feelings that need to be processed and acknowledged first. As, if one is emotionally overwhelmed; it is unlikely that any observing will be done.
If this is the case, a therapist or a healer that allows one to go into their feelings will be required and once this is done to a certain level; a more cognitive approach could be enough. But the most important thing is that we follow our own true and do what is best for ourselves.
And once this weight has been lifted and our ability to observe is achieved; it will be a lot easier to change these associations.
There are two types of identification that can come to mind when this word is heard.
The first is known as a defence mechanism and occurs when one appreciates or values the behaviour of another person. And from that moment, one chooses to follow or express through their behaviour, what they see in the other person.
This might be a sports star or actor who comes across as strong or confident. And through acting in the same way, one can begin of feel these things.
The reasons for this identification could be due to one feeling underdeveloped in an area that this star is developed in. On then internalises what this other person has, by copying their behaviour.
The other type of identification is a lot broader and is going on continually. Here, the ego mind can identify with certain words, emotions, feelings and behaviour. These then create how one perceives who they are, who other people are and their reality.
And from here, many areas of one’s life can be affected. These can include, but are not limited to: the types of relationships that one has, the environment ones lives in, the job that one has, ones level of self worth and their health; will all be affected by what their ego mind has identified with.
This could either be through one projecting their internal reality onto what they see and interpreting it through these perceptions or through manifesting there reality based on their perceptions.
A Natural Process
And yet in order to know this and to notice how this process if being carried out; one has to be aware of it. What makes this difficult is that this is usually a habit that one is used to and has come to experience as normal. Whether we look at the general conditioning that is carried out in the childhood environment or in our society at large; it is rare for there to be awareness of how identification works.
If one were to remember their childhood for example, there may be moments where they were told that they should not feel certain emotions or think certain things. And in our society behaviour is often looked at as who someone is and from that moment they are labelled in a certain way.
And from this constant conditioning or labelling of our thoughts, as being who we are or our emotions and behaviour being who we are; we become attached to these aspects. Ones whole sense of self becomes formed and is created as a result.
To mention that we are not are ego mind and that we are the observers of it, is then hard to comprehend. Especially as the ego mind is like a parasite and it can completely take over. And before long, what at first looked like something that doesn’t belong, now looks as though it has always been there. It has a role to play, but it is not meant to be the master of our lives.
In order for the possibility to exist of being aware of this in the first place, it shows that we are not our mind and that we are the observers of it. And like anything, this process of being aware doesn’t happen overnight and neither does it end overnight. It is something that is constantly going on and progressing in each moment.
Like any skill or talent, it has to be continually developed. Just as one moment one can be aware, in the next one can be unaware. As this process goes on, one can become more aware, of when one is not aware.
Above I have mentioned about the influences of society and our early years, and how these can shape what we have identified with. And the most powerful environment of all is typically the childhood environment. It is here that one will begin the process of identification for the first time.
There are many ways that identification can happen here. As a child, the people around us are our role models; they show us how to act, how to be and what life is all about. This could be through their behaviour towards us and through their behaviour towards other people.
And this behaviour will then have consequences that will shape our ego mind. There will be slight differences in how each caregiver brings up their child and this will of course have an effect. Each family has their own culture and what they believe is the right or wrong way.
What will also play a role in shaping what one identifies with, are situations that were traumatic and painful in their early years. These will have left a mark on ones ego mind and created a way of perceiving life.
Although such emotionally charged events can lead to the ego mind forming identifications, it could simply be the continued repetition of certain conditioning. As a result of being exposed to something enough times as a child, one will begin to feel familiar with it and this means one will feel safe.
And it doesn’t matter what one is continually exposed to or how functional it is. To the ego mind all that is required is that it is familiar; it will then be associated as being safe. This is how identification works; with the ego mind holding onto all that is familiar.
It is through realising that we are not our mind, that we can see how this process is shaping our life. What we attract into our reality and what we repel is being defined by these associations.
The Power Of Choice
So this does not necessarily mean that one will stop the process of identification completely. What it can mean, is that by being more aware, one can change what they are identified with. Through seeing that we have a choice, is what allows one to feel a sense of power. And this is what awareness can do; without it, one can feel trapped and enslaved.
What is known as our story is created through the ego minds identification. This is combination of our past experiences and the thoughts, words, feelings and behaviours that have been formed as a result.
But this story is not the truth or who we are or what we are capable of. It is simply what the ego mind has associated as what is familiar and therefore safe. If our ego mind is what can create a prison, then awareness is what supplies the key.
Needs are something each and every one of us have; they are part of the human experience. And although this may be the case, it doesn’t mean that they will always be fulfilled. At times, one will have to go without having their needs met.
This may not be a problem for some and this could be due to their ability to regulate themselves, when this doesn’t happen. However, while going without getting their needs met on the odd occasion may be the norm for some people, for others, it may seem that they constantly have to go without having their needs met.
And for this person, the word need is unlikely to have many positive associations. The word need may seem like a bad word to them. And as something that makes them feel ashamed and/or guilty about. It is incredible how much of an effect needs can have on our emotional and mental wellbeing.
So what are needs? The needs that I am referring to here, could include the need to be; touched, supported, held, heard, and acknowledged; as well as many other mental, emotional and physical needs.
Good Or Bad?
These needs are part of being human and are not negative or dysfunctional per se. And neither are they something to be ashamed of or as something one should feel guilty about for having.
A decision has to be made as to whether they are detrimental to ones general wellbeing or if another person if being compromised because of them. If the above is true, they then become a problem not only to oneself, but also to others.
So for one person this may manifest itself in a tendency to completely ignore ones needs; for another person, their needs may have become oblivious to them and for others it might mean being more aware of the needs of others than they are of their own. There could also be a combination of the three; with one switching from each one, depending on the situation or person.
What this will then lead to is feelings of: anger, frustration, hopelessness, disempowerment and even despair. This is only natural, if one feels powerless when it comes to the fulfilment of their needs or in having the ability to influence their life.
How Life Is
However, this may be a pattern that has gone on for so long and it may be the only way that one has known. For this person it may seem to be the only way life can be and that there is no other possibility.
The people who are getting their needs met will likely be perceived to be lucky or different to how one is. And due to how one perceives reality, people who do get their needs may seem to not exist. This will mean, the ego mind could filter out any chance of one seeing that is it possible to have their needs fulfilled.
It Is Familiar
If one were to step back, detach and observe what is going on here, one will see that these experiences are constantly repeated. And whether this means one ignores their needs, compromises their needs or is unaware of them; this will be a pattern that one is extremely familiar with.
What the Ego mind attracts and repels, is based on what is has associated as safe and familiar. This means that on the surface, one may experience great pain and suffering through not getting their needs met, but the ego mind is simply doing its job.
And this job is to keep one safe, based on what the ego mind has been conditioned to perceive as familiar. If one is not aware of their mind or of the patterns that the mind is constantly creating; then it will seem that one has no control over their reality.
It is during the first years of one’s life that one’s perceptions of their needs are formed. All the meanings and associations will have been formed here. If one sees needs as good or bad, or right or wrong, this will be due to the early conditioning that one received.
How did our caregivers respond to our needs and how did our caregivers respond to their own needs? These are two important questions when it comes to understanding our relationship with our needs today.
Were our needs perceived as: important, special and precious? Or were they seen as a burden and as something to feel guilty and ashamed of for having? Did our caregivers ignore and deny their own needs? Or did they take care of them in a functional and empowered manner.
If ones caregivers were having difficulty in getting their needs met and were emotionally undeveloped, it is likely that they passed this on. As A child one would have had to have denied, compromised and repressed their own needs for their own survival.
What can then happen are ones attention and awareness then becomes externalized and focused on other people. So in the very beginning one is learning to dissociate from their needs and to perceive the needs of others as being more important.
At such a young age, one is powerless and completely dependent on others for having their needs met. So this means that the feelings of; powerlessness, hopelessness and helplessness that were felt during those moments, that had to be pushed out of conscious awareness, will return whenever one doesn’t have their needs met. Here one can regress to feeling like this powerless child and as a child that has no choice.
Now, as an adult, one does have a choice. A choice as to whether they get their needs met or not. And whether one regresses to this wounded inner child, will largely depend on how much repression has occurred over the years. If there are a lot of feelings and emotions, for example, that are waiting to be acknowledged and validated; then there will be the tendency to regress and to feel powerless.
These are patterns of the past and do not reflect who one is today. So this may mean that one needs to find a therapist, healer or someone similar to allow them to express these feelings in a safe environment. Or through another way, that allows one to be conscious and to leave the emotional charge behind. With this, one can be in the present moment and be who they want, as opposed to how their past dictates.
Oliver JR Cooper
Author, Transformational Writer, Teacher & Consultant.
That which is contained within these articles is based on my own empirical understanding and is true for me at the time they were written. However, as I continue to grow, what I perceive as the truth will inevitably change and as a result of this - parts of these articles may not reflect my current outlook.