What is psychological conditioning?

I ask the question because Krishnamurti laid a lot of emphasis on this point. He said that true change (or transformation) cannot be gradual, piece by piece. It has to be holistic, complete, whole.

The gradual approach is what we have - it is what we are in fact. But it may not be sufficient or correct - which is why the question still has to be asked (even if we are unable to answer it properly).

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Can we come up with an example here? Do we actually do this?

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I agree with you that it sounds impossible - but X has said it is possible, and so one is open to this. Conditioning may be deep-rooted in the psyche - but if it is fundamentally caused by our thinking, then it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that it could be undone by an insight into the nature of thinking. - That’s how I see it.

Yes, that sounds right. But this understanding or insight has to be actual and not just an idea for it to actually mean something. I think most of us are still at the idea level (if I can out it that way).

Btw, in an earlier post I mentioned that there are 3 things that are relevant to this inquiry into our conditioning:

  1. areas of conditioning of which we are unaware;
  2. areas of conditioning that seem to be too deep-rooted to be affected by ordinary awareness;
  3. whether there can be a perception of our total conditioning at one glance (or we can only go step by step, conditioning by conditioning).

I think each aspect needs to be dealt with.

G’day! Thanks for the question!

I would start with defining terms (that might help) :

“Being choicelessly aware” means not “reacting to” or “total attention”

Damn! This could take a while but the question is worth it…

So… if I am angry (a habit of conditioning), we want an example where this movement of conditioning is seen clearly for what it is, no reaction, no movement away, no clever tricks? What might provoke such honest, fearless action?

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These are two different questions, aren’t they? Whether one is able to be choicelessly aware of certain aspects of one’s conditioning may be the ‘way out’, but this doesn’t help if one is incapable of being aware :slight_smile:

So are you asking for examples (i.e. of the two issues with respect to conditioning that were being referred to)? These being


I’m not sure what would be an example of the first issue (the collective racial unconscious perhaps)? But an example of the latter may be sexual desire, or habitual anxiety/fear.

Partial insight dispels the darkness of come portion of the brain and illuminates the error of some aspect if its wayward behavior, and every partial insight relieves the brain of some of the psychological content that causes its confusion and conflict, so logically this process would end in total insight, total illumination, the end of confusion and conflict.

But if Krishnamurti said that transformation “cannot be gradual, piece by piece. It has to be holistic, complete, whole”, who am I to suggest otherwise? If we are, at best, the gradual approach, which may not be sufficient or correct, what else can we do? If putting ones house in order gradually is all one can do, and someone whose insight we depend on says this isn’t good enough, doesn’t bring about total transformation, what is one to do?

We can only do what we can do to address the problem of psychological conditioning, and if we must consider the possibility that this isn’t “sufficient or correct”, there is nothing we can do, and we cannot do nothing.

I’m not sure that there is any logical inevitability about this process of partial awareness, partial insight, bit by bit wiping away the contents of consciousness? Surely we hope that by filling the bucket one drop at a time that it will become full - but consciousness may not be like the bucket.

There is in principle no end to the examination and elimination of fragments of conditioning, which is why K seems to have rejected this approach. - However, K’s rejection of it does not mean that this daily sweeping of ours is suddenly made redundant. This may be all that we are capable of. But what we are capable of may be making us incapable of something more fundamental - this is what I hear K suggesting.

I’m concerned about the implications this raises as to the gradual path towards freedom from the known (or hidden knowns in this case) - and all that this might imply in terms of mounting costs towards tarot card readers or past life regression therapists :rofl:

Or more seriously(ish) the time one might have to spend in meditation to allow deeper and deeper hidden concerns to bubble to the surface. Or learning how to deal with aspects of the limbic system etc…

Does freedom from the known necessitate an intimate relationship with the biological and psychological details of whatever is contributing to every particular reaction we might have - or is insight into what I am all that is necessary for freedom?

Whatever comes up - despite all the intricate parts of our past that might be contributing to its very subtle and complex make up - is merely a projection of conditioning, and thats all that needs to be clear.

Yes Douglas, but it’s not clear though, right? What you are calling “merely a projection of conditioning” is everything from what you saw on the news last night and how you like to drink your tea, to the left over traumas and scars left in the psyche by your ancestors, as well as one’s aggression, sexual appetite, baseline assumptions and personal philosophy.

We can rationalise and say “it’s all just thought, it’s merely the protection of thought”, but if saying something made it so then all philosophers would be saints.

All I’m trying to get at is what is involved in unearthing our conditioning?

Obviously one can say that what is involved is the day by day, moment by moment monitoring of one’s reactions, feelings, thoughts and experiences - being aware of all these things without judging them, saying they shouldn’t be there, etc.

But what of the areas that the conscious mind is not able to touch? - That’s one question.

Another is, what about those areas of one’s conditioning that one has superficially contacted through awareness but which remain immovable, resolute, obstinate?

I don’t have the answers to these questions - I am merely voicing my own questions out loud because I cannot avoid asking them in my own inquiry.


Perhaps. But general insight is not easily come by.

This too.

Psychological conditioning continues moment to moment as all that arises in our consciousness is taken to be a reflection of the truth. But of course I, the projector, is not usually included in this reflection.

The teaching seems clear : total honesty, acceptance and responsibility for who we are - no movement away from the fact of what we are and what we do.

The questions seem to be about what can provoke such a state? Is there something I can do? Is there some hidden riddle or process that I must discover? Am I smart enough (or too smart)? Are we all equal when it comes to our ability to see our relationship to experience?

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Yes - this is the essence of it.

I understand the question. But isn’t it more a matter of seeing that there is nothing that one can do, that there is no action to be taken (as regards one’s conditioning)?

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Yes - this must be seen, wholeheartedly accepted - another part of the recipe for psychological death also seems to be a paradoxical urgent need to end suffering.

That anything I do only reinforces the process, yet I am still here, something must be done.

PS. If only because mere acceptance is not enough of a shock to the system - does not provide evidence that I am nothing.

This to me also does seem to be it (except for the “acceptance “; who is there to accept or deny?) Sensitivity to what is happening and a non-resistance to it. The body must escape the predator but the brain must not escape what is taking place. Start from a silent mind and any resistance to ‘what is’…is ‘noise’?

Yes - the ‘wisdom of no-escape’. Resistance is escape, a movement away from ‘what is’ (one’s conditioning). Intelligence is to stay with ‘what is’, with complete honesty, complete vulnerability.

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Hi Douglas and all. I think anger is a good example to look at. As far as I can see, we are often aware of anger only after it has passed. It takes what I would call a high level of awareness to become aware of anger as it is actually in the process of happening. Becoming aware of anger as it is rising seems to bring about a change. Does this make sense?

Hi James and all. I’ve got a little lost here. I think my question was really to ask for an example of choiceless awareness in our everyday lives. However, the two areas of conditioning above seem very interesting to look at.

I guess the question is, given that many of us are at least somewhat aware of our conditioning, why are we not able to break down our conditioning and act from freedom? Why isn’t there an awareness of our conditioning as a whole? Is it because there are specific factors blocking this holistic awareness from taking place? Such as habit, inertia, a lack of sensitivity? Are there areas of our conditioning that we resist facing directly?

I think everything you mentioned is part of the why: habit, inertia, insensitivity, dark sides of ourselves we resist/avoid looking at. But are these root-level causes, or symptoms of deeper things that prevent us from being free? What might these deeper obstacles to freedom be?

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I would answer that ‘we’ are our conditioning and any and all ‘attempts’ to ‘break it down’ only strengthen it.

The one who wishes to ‘break it down’ be free, etc is what it wishes to break down? The self desires to change ‘what is’ to something different, better, more just, more this or less that…it wants to ‘control’? It ‘judges’ what is. It minds what happens?

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