Your move – your call – your call

I’d have so many Pavlov jokes. He’s a classic. Dude’s a legend. I mean dog, bell, food – pure genius. A bell that was rang, a bunny that got shocked, we are all programmed to operate a certain way when faced with a certain stimulus, or a trigger. But as babies, as babies we speak no language, we fear no evil, we hope for nothing. Enter childhood conditioning.

From day 1 onwards of our lives we are brought up by our parents, or other people, our elders in anyway. We mimic their behaviours, their worlds. We take our behavioural cues from them – do what they do, and respond by doing what seems appropriate to them. We go through a constant brainwashing of reward and/or punishment. If we do good we are rewarded by a smile, a hug, or material things. If we do bad, then, well, other things follow. We learn what to do, how to react, how to behave. We build our understanding around our parents, our environments. What happens at home must be normal; they are our elders, they were there before me, they must be right.

In our childhood we are like sponges for learning, we haven’t yet developed our critical thinking capabilities so we just accept everything that comes our way and believe whatever we’re told. We get installed with the basic programming: someone gives you something, you say thank you, a stranger talks to you, you walk away. Our world is simple. It’s black and white, yes or no, good or bad. Our brains will accept and adopt everything, especially if it comes from our parents. Our brains are selecting the settings for the game of our life:

  • Language we speak: English/German/Spanish/Vietnamese/…
  • Religion we start with: Catholic/Jewish/ Muslim/Buddhist/…
  • Measurements we build our worlds with: Metric/American/…
  • Hair style we think is appropriate for our gender: Long/short
  • Difficulty level: Easy/Medium/Hard

When we grow older we might start to fight this early programming. We start to consider other variables and other possibilities. It’s no longer a simple formula of if-then but a string of different possibilities. Our worlds become less black and white and start to resemble all shades of grey. Our worlds get complicated. And as much as we fight it, as much as we want to change, do better, be smarter, be different, there are occasions when our basic programming kicks in.

For example, I have a new manager, who I absolutely hate. He started in February but has been double-hatting, still responsible for his old job and the new until two weeks ago. Sure, he has had to take care of two different jobs at the same time, and about a dozen personal topics as well that I knew about, so I guess he’s been busy. But he has been ignoring me. My wants and needs, my strategies and proposals, all ignored. He’s happy to take the credit whenever I do awesome stuff but will not have my back when I’m struggling. He claims he likes me, but will do nothing to show it. Except for words, he will say words. So do I believe them? No. Because childhood conditioning. All I see is a hierarchy figure ignoring me when I need him but happy to take all the glory when I succeed. All I see is nice words being said that will only result in disappointment. It’s been the key correlation of my life; nicer the words, bigger the betrayal, bigger the hurt. All I see is an absent dad. My mind matches his behaviour with that of my dad’s. My dad used to say he loved me, but would never show up to things that matter, was not there for me. He’d lie, he’d ignore. Therefore, my mind matches my feelings about my dad with my new manager. I want to see him suffer. I want him to crawl in front of me asking for my help. I want to see him fail. I want him to beg for my forgiveness. Is that fair to him? Probably not. For the past few weeks I have been feeling worse and worse of my manager’s subpar behaviour, and while yes, he has been a horrible manager by any global standard of good leadership, there is also the unwarranted negative feelings of mine that he gets to deal with.

This week I made a choice. A choice to separate my past from my future. My manager was faced with a situation I could help with. And I needed to decide whether to offer my help or not. My past baggage told me to let him fail, let him fuck up at work so that I could smile next to his sorry ass and see him feel bad for not asking for my help, for not acknowledging my worth. The kid me in would have felt good, vindicated in a twisted way. That decision, that act, would have served my past me – the anger and hurt I felt for someone who no longer lives, for someone who for sure was not my manager. I chose different, I chose to give him my advice, my help, and to also tell him how his absence has impacted me for the past few months and how I wanted things to change. I made a decision for the future, I made a decision for healing. I made a decision for my healing.