Challenging our Conditioning

I believe that we can change our conditioning, however entrenched it may seem to be. We have free will and right now, there is nothing that can stop you from changing almost anything about your life that brings stress or discomfort, or at the very least change your attitude. You may think there are plenty of reasons and I am not for a minute suggesting that you immediately quit your job, leave your partner or take up rollerblading. I am just saying that there is nothing that stops you from doing any of these things. You have free will. You can change almost whatever you want.

The same goes for our internal conditioning. We can ‘reprogramme’ ourselves. If we don’t like things that are regularly entering our lives, then the best place to start is by beginning to change the messages that we are putting out. To have success with this process it may not even be necessary to delve into the past for traumatic events or deep-rooted attitude problems that go back to childhood influences. It may be no more complicated to start with than sitting down with a pen and paper and writing down the things that we would like to start experiencing in our life now.

Personal Sabotage

A man in black breaks into your office late one night and re-programmes your computer so that it malfunctions in a subtle, but very destructive way. Several weeks later, after much despair, you discover the change in the programme. How do you decide to fix it? By trying to work out how you could travel back in time and try to stop him from changing the programme? Or by putting the correct programme in now?

How do we change that programme or conditioning? In my work with men it has become clear that identifying what it is that we want in life is often a common stumbling block. It is extraordinary how so few of us may really seem to know what we are living for. And yet how can we expect to be happier with our lives if we don’t even know what would make us happy?

One way of finding out what it is in life that we do want may be through the identification of those things in life that we fear happening to us. It is interesting how often finding out what you don’t want will lead you to a clearer understanding of what you do.

By writing down our fears we bring them into consciousness and make it that much easier to seek the opposite - something that we would really like or enjoy. Let us suppose, for instance, that you fear running out of money. It’s a very common fear. Now let us turn that around and identify exactly what it is that you want money for. “I want the money to...” (list those things precisely that you want money for now). Envisage each item clearly. As you do this you will find that the thought of having the money for that specific purpose (or purposes) gives you a powerful and positive feeling. It is from such a base, a positive one as defined by love as opposed to a negative one as defined by fear, that you start to create your new conditioning.

Through this straightforward process, fear is acknowledged and then becomes the tool which leads us to where we want to go. Fear becomes our friend, our guide. There is a saying that “fear is only ever love disguised”.

Do not be put off by an intellect that tells you that you have no fears. Many men think they fear nothing, only to find out subsequently that they have many fears they are not addressing. We all have fears. Fear of death, fear of redundancy, fear of not being able to pay the mortgage, fear of never having children - all common examples. Once you start being honest with yourself you will find there is plenty of information from which you can start to make changes.

Michael & Sara

Michael and his partner had been trying to have a baby for many years. They had been through all the tests, tried orthodox and unorthodox means, but had still not managed to conceive, and no-one could locate a problem.

Social pressure had combined with their own lack of clarity to produce a very tense situation. Michael felt the backlash of many barbed comments from colleagues questioning his sexual ability. To a man an inability to help conceive a child is often judged as the ultimate sign of failure. In the end they made contact with me to see if there was a block in their thinking.

In our first meeting I suggested we look at what fears existed in their lives. At first Michael in particular found this challenging, and was unable to list anything about which he was fearful. Sara, his partner, was not so shy in coming forward.

“I fear never having a child. I fear having a child and losing the life that Michael and I have together. I fear the danger in the world that this child is being brought into. I fear that if I don’t work we will not have enough money to do the things we want to do. I fear becoming a ‘housewife’ and having to go to coffee mornings. I fear not being able to travel so much. I fear giving birth. I fear ante-natal classes”. The list went on.

Michael remained relatively silent, although he was clearly quite astonished at the depth of Sara’s feelings. I encouraged Sara to start making these fears into things that she really wanted. “I fear giving birth” became “I want to trust my body”. “I fear the danger in the world” became “I want to feel safe”. “I fear losing the life Michael and I have together” became “I want to enjoy my life to its maximum potential”. “I fear not being able to have a child” became “I want to be able to have a child at the perfect time”. And so on with the others.

I then asked them to think about how this list would look if they put it in order of priority. Their greatest want first. There was a silence. A long silence. Neither of them felt clear that the greatest priority at that time was in fact having a baby. There was clear uncertainty between becoming parents and enjoying their lives and freedom as they had been used to.

I suggested that, until they were absolutely clear that their greatest desire was having a child, conception might itself remain uncertain. Being a very caring couple, if they had conceived and subsequently had a child, they would almost certainly have experienced great confusion and guilt at times when they found themselves putting their own needs ahead of their child’s.

This recognition of their truth, through the listing of their fears, was like a huge weight lifting for Michael and Sara. I was basically helping them to give themselves permission to stop thinking that they had to have a baby. They both realised that it was okay not to be certain that they wanted to start a family yet. They have since let go of their fear of not having children and are currently still assessing their needs and desires. In the meantime, they’re really enjoying life.


1) Be prepared to challenge any limiting beliefs that you have acquired throughout your life.

2) Consider change in any area of your life. Don’t necessarily make any changes immediately, just think about it. Remember when you limit change to certain things, you may be stopping the good stuff from getting even better! Be open to all possibilities.

3) You are in charge of your life, no-one else is. Start taking responsibility for everything.

©2008, Barry Durdant-Hollamby

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Barry Durdant-Hollamby is the founder of The Art of Change , a UK based organisation specialising in helping individuals and corporations to effect sustainable, holistic, positive change. He works intuitively on a 1-1 or group basis and also conducts many talks and seminars - all without notes or preparation! Barry is also the author of three books the latest of which is The Male Agenda - a book which seeks to inspire men to create greater life balance and happiness. He is the father of two daughters and lives in the South East of England. Contact E-Mail

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