Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Role of Conditioning in the Roles we Play

"How can we be free to look and learn when our minds from the moment we are born to the moment we die are shaped by a particular culture in the narrow pattern of “me”?

For centuries we have been conditioned by nationality, caste, class, tradition, religion, language, education, literature, art, custom, convention, propaganda of all kinds, economic pressure, the food we eat, the climate we live in, our family, our friends, our experiences - every influence you can think of - and therefore our responses to every problem are conditioned.

Are you aware that you are conditioned?"

From "Freedom from the Known: Chapter 2" J Krishnamurti

It is this awareness, the awareness of the machinery, and the awareness of how this machinery guides our interpretation's of every stimulus, and ultimately how we respond in any given situation that is at the root of the Pink Elephant Project's mission.

Its been over 4 months that I have not written anything on the blog and I have been confronted by the time it has taken to get the community site running, confronted by the project and the willingness of people to engage in the core of the projects conversation, confronted by my own fears of communicating with the people in my life, confronted by my inability so simply BE me, confronted by the measuring stick that have been arbitrarily installed in my life, and as a result felt the need to just let go for awhile.

What I have experienced and witnessed for myself in my relationships with others is the number of roles that I play in my life and how sometimes those roles can conflict with one another. That said in another way is this idea that how I choose to BE in certain situations is sometimes not an active choice but rather a conditioned response based on shame, guilt, obligation, or just simply a fear of not being accepted, acknowledged or loved. I guess at the end of the day its doable and I can say to myself well that's just the way it is. But what I have been noticing for myself is that its just simply exhausting and for me, unsustainable.

As I start to think of all the roles: Consultant, Coach, Father, Son, Brother, Cousin, Uncle, Grand Son, Friend, Acquaintance, Surfer, Skier, Lover, Boyfriend, Confidant, Host, Speaker, Blogger, Writer, Client, Employee, Independent Contractor, Waiter, Founder, Leader, Follower, Entrepreneur.... I can clearly see a fundamental challenge for someone like me. Its not to say there is anything wrong with the roles or that any or all of the roles are mutually exclusive of one another. However, if I take the concept that at the core of the human experience is the desire to be accepted, acknowledged, and loved then for someone like me, my core essence can easily get lost in the pursuit of that acceptance, acknowledgment and love resulting in having to BE and perpetuate a way of being that is not at the core of who I really am. The sometimes subtle or not so subtle realization automatically generates more shame and guilt and the feeling of somehow being a "fraud" gets created. As a result I've notice that there is a greater reluctance to BE self expressed, say whats on my mind, or sometimes simply say NO in certain situations.

I think one of the clearest examples I can think of was in the naming of my company. I took on the name Enterprise Management Consulting, which really wasn't my name but a mentor of mines name that I took on for myself. Why? It was serious, it had credibility, EMC.... it seemed powerful, and if I was going to go after corporate clients... well I needed to be more corporate. After a year of operating with that name and getting powerful new clients and making quite a bit of money, I found myself absolutely miserable. What was happening is that I began to start sacrificing what my core message was which I later declared was "There's a pink elephant sitting in your board room and no one is talking about it....and its killing your company!" and simply molded myself to what the company's needs were. CEO after CEO kept saying well... that's interesting but can you help us with.... To which I always replied, sure and slowly tried to keep bring my message of perspective and awareness to the employees of the company. The strategy worked but again it was exhausting and unsustainable.

I remember that fateful day when my dear friend Jonathan Khorsandi sat with me to work on my marketing material said to me "well...why don't you call it Pink Elephant Partners?" I remember going back and forth with the idea and finally came to the conclusion is that if someone thinks its not serious enough, or someone doesn't get it then I dont want to work with them. What followed next was the Pink Elephant Project... my real calling.

What was is important for me to realize in this dynamic that I have described above is that it's nothing more than a self inflicted dynamic. As I raise my awareness of this innate human desire of acceptance, acknowledgment, and love; realizing that everyone is out there doing the same thing, I can start to pay attention and notice where my self expression is being stopped. The moment I can see that, I suddenly have the ability to ask the question "what do I want?" "what ultimately serves me in this moment?" and finally if I'm not getting what I want how can I make a simple adult request of someone else to actually get what I want.

When I am unable to do that, it is a sign for me to examine what is really stopping me. That's what the Project is about and I look forward to hearing your experiences with this idea.

Post on the blog or simply send an email to shasheen (at)shasheen(dot)com

From the heart,



  1. Great post Shasheen, I liked your exploration of our core needs. And the apparent conflict between trying to fulfill our own needs vs what we think others want us to do.

    I listened to some great audios from Tony Robbins a couple of summers ago, he mentioned 4 core human needs (the first 4 below) + 2 that are part of self-actualizing.

    According to TR, when we put our attention on fulfilling the needs of others, that's what makes for joyful and fulfilling relationships.
    Food for thought...

    1. Certainty/Comfort (avoid pain)
    2. Uncertainty/Variety (stimulation)
    3. Signficance (to feel unique, important, needed)
    4. (need to feel) Connection and Love
    5. (need to feel like you're) Growing
    6. (need to feel like you're) Contributing

    -- Patrick

  2. Thats great Patrick thank you!

    I guess whats most interesting to me is the avoidance of pain. In communications I would suggest its the avoiadance of "percieved" pain that inhibits our self expression. Once we have the awareness of our conditioning and others we can pause and ask ourselves "what am I really afraid of?"

    From the heart


  3. "I'm stuck on myself, on my way of doing things, I don't love the way I am, but I'm addicted to it, and do not know hotw to stop."

    You are already opened to a search that allows happpiness to become your experience. This opening comes about very different from the way most people suppose. Most try to make themslves happy by forcing their unhappy feelings underground, or by turning their backs on them or pretending that they don't exit.

    You have to clean the closet that is stuffed with junk, in order to find room for new stuff.

    Communicate your desire to be free of hurt. Listen to what you feel, but do not give in to it. Know for certain that you can remove old hurts becasue you are responsable (able to respond). Be patient, since you will have to return to your old hurts many times but now with awareness.