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Conditioned Mind and Adaptation

Or, anatomy of human response during crises

Our body-mind system, which we call “I", is in a continuous process of adaptation to an ever-changing environment. From a physical point of view, this process is part of a protective mechanism that guards us from anything that could endanger our physical existence. This mechanism not only continually checks the environment for changes that pose a potential risk, but also triggers an appropriate response to those changes. Whereas subtle changes in the environment will result in a “fine-tuning” that we normally do not even notice, changes that exceed the inherited sensitivity thresholds, trigger reactions that are easier to recognise. Whatever the response is, this adaptation mechanism works at all levels, which not only maintains our functionality and offers protection against imminent dangers, but also enables our harmonisation with other players on this planet.

However, when it comes to the human mind, adaptation gains in complexity and the monitoring of changes is not limited to the external environment, but also extends to the inner, highly variable space that is created by the human mind itself. Therefore, reactions will be triggered not only when the stimulation comes through the sensory organs, but also when it comes from the internal environment, which consists of formations such as thoughts or emotions. Important difference between these two environments is that the information received from the external one is filtered and only a part that is within the inherited sensitivity ranges, is allowed to penetrate the system, while the information from the internal one has no other protection filter than our consciousness. Without this prior filtering, which is designed to prevent system overload, the mind is exposed to excess stimuli, which increases conditioning and triggers adjustments and adaptations that are not always in our favor and largely depend on the state of our mind.

The mind that has evolved to serve our survival is gradually becoming a servant of our ego...

The mind that has evolved to serve our survival is gradually becoming a servant of our ego what is particularly evident in situations when people “get used to” unfavourable conditions even when their physical well-being is threatened. Namely, as long as the situation maintains the ego construct, any deviation from the status quo is considered as a destabilisation of security, even if this security is just a mind’s fabrication. As a result, people who are under the control of their conditioned mind, seem to adapt to even the greatest adversities. Violent relationships, various types of discrimination, sexism, all kinds of addictions, and even war or crime, are just a few examples of the unfavourable adaptation of the human mind, which harms not only man but also entire existence.

This happens because over time, the conditioned mind has transformed into a self-sufficient inner world, in which only the rules of conditioning apply. However, as soon as these rules play against natural law, the inner conflict arises. This conflict, which we like to call stress or burn-out, manifest itself on many levels and shakes up modern human to the extent that people gradually begin to recognise importance of aligning our mental and natural processes. It is from this realisation that the desire to reach the mental state that Buddhists call the Original Mind grows.

However, the path to the original mind can only be clearly recognized if one understands the extent to which natural and mental processes are intertwined. This interweaving prevents processes from functioning in isolation from one another, with reactions being triggered at all levels, regardless of where the changes are initialised - externally or internally. their confusion, people are still looking outside of themselves as for the cause of their suffering so for the source of their salvation.

The vastness of information in today's world that keeps repeating that everything is interconnected, makes people mistakenly believe that they have truly understood the depth of this existential reality. The superficiality of this understanding is particularly evident when it comes to suffering. Namely, in their confusion, people are still looking outside of themselves as for the cause of their suffering so for the source of their salvation. For this reason, they are convinced that the only obstacles to their happiness are either other people or lack of material property. Hence, they also believe that only by changing these external causes will they achieve ultimate bliss. In fact, it is rather the opposite because such belief creates the most fertile ground for all conflicts, both at the individual and the collective level.

This excessive focus on the outer space lies in the nature of our physical existence. Namely, our sensory organs are turned exclusively towards the external environment with the primary goal of gathering information that is necessary to maintain our physical state of being. Nevertheless, the human mind expands that " external environment" by collecting also the information that is relevant to the maintenance of the ego. The resulting mental formations thus become part of the "inner environment", which leads to an expansion of the source of stimulus.

Regardless of where we draw the line, our system perceives all available information as an “environment” to which it reacts either through optimisation or through adaptation. But, before a reaction is triggered, all information that reaches the human mind is firstly evaluated and classified. If the information indicates a threat caused by a sudden and intense change, the reaction is usually manifested through "fight or flight" strategies. On the other side, if the information indicates a threat from permanent and long-term changes, a strategy that leads to the adaptation to these changes will be activated. In the course of this, the environment is decoded so that the new settings take on the role of a reference state for all future changes - and thus become a new "normality".

These adjustment and adaptation processes are particularly visible in extreme situations and are also evident during the development of the current pandemic.

In the first stage of the pandemic (recognition of the Corona19 threat), "sudden change" strategies had been activated, leading to the intensification (panic due to the situation) or the closure of the system (denial of the situation).

During the next stage, the prolongation of the threat led to the decryption of information where "sudden change" became "permanent change". With this, also primary strategies ("fight-flight") were replaced with strategies that lead to adaptation to the new environment. As the reference environment also changes, all information (such as media warnings and news) that previously signalled an immediate danger and triggered an appropriate response, lose this effect. The same information is no longer recognised as a "new change" and potential threat, but as a "known" change that has not caused any obvious danger, which is why the conditioned automatism is switched on again and habitual behaviour is restored - a "life as usual " seems to be back. In such a situation, since the alarm state can no longer be maintained, the conditioned mind becomes blind and deaf again until triggered by information about the risk that exceeds the limits of the new reference.

...the moment the conditioned mind gets used to threats and warnings (for example, recommendations for physical distance or the use of face masks), the warnings lose on power.

This is one of the reasons why it is difficult for most people to adhere to the recommended behaviour during a pandemic - the moment the conditioned mind gets used to threats and warnings (for example, recommendations for physical distance or the use of face masks), the warnings lose on power.

But, although this complicated process of adjustments and adaptation is obviously pronounced in all people, it turns against own wellbeing only when it arises from the conditioned mind. Namely, such a mind is caught in a vicious cycle that is created by conditioning that triggers the adaptations, which in turn reinforce a new conditioning.

On the other side, the conscious mind is in a state of constant vigilance, perceiving every moment as a new moment. The reference environment thus retains its natural character and remains in a state of constant change. This shortens the time in which conditioning can be developed, which is why the conditioning is minimised. And if the conditioning is kept low, the adaptation is triggered by the changes in the actual environment and not by the changes in the environment that consists of mental formations.

And yet, no matter how much people try to adapt appropriately to these changes or how much they want to believe that they are not victims of conditioning, it is important to understand that the crucial factor for optimal assessment of the situation, is never the desired state of mind, but rather the state that we have in an actual situation.

This discrepancy between the "desired and the actual" is also evident during the current pandemic. Namely, while the threat is undeniable, it varies in intensity and weight depending on the physical condition of each individual. Nevertheless, since the assessment of its intensity is guided either by the conditioned or by the conscious mind, we are witnessing a spectrum of different evaluations of the situation, where the purer the mind, the clearer the path to follow. In other words, the reaction of those who are not under the control of a conditioned mind is like a river that adjusts its flow to the size of a rock - painlessly and smoothly. And the reaction of those, who are under the control of conditioning, is like a river that carries debris - painful and with great resistance when hitting a rock.

... only the conscious mind has necessary capacity to overcome obstacles with ease.

This shows how important it is to attain the original mind and high consciousness, because only in this way can we break the vicious circle and allow adaptation to take the optimal strategy. Namely, only the conscious mind has necessary capacity to overcome obstacles with ease.

Yet, everyone can choose the path they want to take - regardless of whether this is the path of a clear river that easily passes every rock it meets; or whether this is the path of Sisyphus condemned to push a stone up the hill forever, without hoping to ever accomplish this task. But, it is important to understand, that although the path of conditioning appears to be easier (which is why most people choose to continue it), during the crises, when correct perception is essential, this ease turns out to be an illusion. Namely, conditioning proves to be the most difficult and fruitless path, the path of suffering.

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