Physician Outlook

Living on Automatic: Emotional Conditioning

Dr. Christine B.L. Adams has been a child and adult psychiatrist for forty years. She has worked in many places -private and public-, and has published widely in psychiatry journals and books. Dr. Adams received her doctor of medicine degree from the College of Medicine, University of Florida. She completed her Residency in Psychiatry and also a Fellowship in Child Psychiatry at the University of Louisville School of Medicine. She co-authored with Homer B. Martin. M.D. Living on Automatic: How Emotional Conditioning Shapes Our Lives and Relationships, which presents an unprecedented concept of how people relate to one another.

Featuring Physician: Christine B.L. Adams, M.D.

What Emotional Conditioning is and where it comes from   

In the interview with myDoqter staff, Dr. Adams explains “emotional conditioning” as to how parents unconsciously shape us emotionally in early childhood. When they instruct us on simple things such as making a bed, reading or acting with visitors, they teach us how to emotionally perceive such actions.

Emotional Conditioning is associational learning. When two things take place in our lives simultaneously, they will progressively become associated and will be the basis of our adult life. We end up living programmed lives that may cause relationship conflicts.

Emotional Conditioning creates two roles or personalities: Omnipotent and Impotent. People in the Omnipotent role behave and believe they are very strong. They are goal-oriented. People in the Impotent role, on the other hand, see themselves as weak and powerless.

It is worth noting that these patterns are not limited to age, sex, or culture. They appear transversally worldwide.

Emotional Conditioning affects our daily life in such a way that it impairs us from judging situations thoughtfully, and we give our responses based on the evaluation of superficial traits. We stereotype and give emotions the same meaning even when displayed in different circumstances.

Consequently, we do not understand those around us, and this creates miscommunication and conflict. We do not observe before making a decision; we assume that by merely wishing or thinking, we make things happen, we use double standards, and we presume that others think the same way we do.

Conflict is another consequence of our emotionally conditioned upbringing. When dating, for instance, we play our role from childhood seeking mates that arouse strong emotions in us. We enter marriages guided by emotions, not reality. When reality shows itself, the result is conflict.


Deconditioning Therapy

Dr. Adams suggests that the first step is helping people become aware of their conditioned role in childhood. The second goal is discovering what changes need to take place to make their emotional illness improve. Patients reach those changes by learning how to look at the evidence rather than by emotional persuasion.

 According to Dr. Adams, and contrary to what one might believe, deconditioning psychotherapy could make significant changes in the personality, changes that could heal emotional illnesses and relationship conflict.


To see the full interview, click here

To find out more about Dr. Christine B.L. Adams, click here.

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