Homework: Conditioning

A prompt from 13 Steps to Awakening:

Sierra Softball Conditioning 2013.jpg by Matthew Folsom, on Flickr
Sierra Softball Conditioning 2013.jpg” (CC BY-ND 2.0) Photo by  Matthew Folsom 


  • Think of how your negative conditioning harmed you in the past. Describe a few situations where you acted out of unconscious negative conditioning patterns and discuss what happened and why.
    • Many years ago, I arrived in a new country for yet another assignment. There I would supervise several American employees as well as a number of locally hired employees.

      On my first day in the office, one of the Americans I would supervise–let’s call him Phil–told me that he had been given permission by my boss to take some time off once I arrived since he had been handling both his job and mine for the previous two months. He planned to leave the following Wednesday after work. On that day, Phil still hadn’t given me a leave slip. So I brought home a copy to bring to Phil’s house. Phil seemed annoyed. I explained that if he left without having approved leave, I would consider him AWOL–Away Without Official Leave. Phil filled out part of the form and signed it, but he didn’t fill in the dates. I added the following Saturday’s date as the start date and asked him how long he thought he’d be gone–one week, two weeks, longer? He replied two weeks would probably be enough. So I filled in the end date for two weeks from then.

      The following Saturday morning, I found a fax on the office fax machine, from Phil. It was a copy of his Army reserve orders to report on Monday to Frankfurt, Germany, for a period of 13 weeks. It was dated the week before I arrived in the country.

      He knew before leaving how long he would be gone, but he chose not to tell me. I was shocked. And angry.

      I contacted the officer who had signed Phil’s orders and explained that I wanted Phil to return from his assignment as soon as possible. He suggested I speak with someone at the Pentagon about USERRA–the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994–which he said guaranteed Phil he could be gone for whatever length of time the orders covered. It also guaranteed he would get his job back when he returned. He did agree with me that Phil did not handle informing me of the situation very well, but there was nothing I could do to change Phil’s orders.

      When others within my own agency with more knowledge about the issues backed up the Pentagon officer’s description of the situation, I felt betrayed and let down.

  • Now describe how the same situations could have turned out if you were able to control your conditioning.
    • The first problem was that I assumed I had all the facts. As soon as I learned Phil had previously received orders he chose not to show me at the time, I should have consulted with others in the office to learn what others knew of the story. I realize now that my anger came more from what appeared to be Phil’s unwillingness to trust me with the truth and lack of recognition that my bringing a leave slip to his home was for his benefit. I let Phil’s actions get under my too-thin skin.

      The second problem was that I assumed I would be seen as weak if I turned to others for advice. When I did consult, I framed the story in such a way that I expected others to support my indignation at Phil’s lack of honesty. Instead, those I consulted provided me with the information I didn’t have. If I had not allowed my anger to intervene, I would have learned more about the issue instead of feeling let down by those I had turned to for support.

The above prompt is part of the third of 13 free lessons, developed by Alex Moses, Life Strategist, available on the A Life Answers website, shared with his permission.

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