break out of the maze

Today we ask that you examine your aversion to disapproval and rejection.

If approval is the sweet sugar all humans instinctively crave, disapproval and rejection is the painful electric shock from which all humans instinctively recoil.

In scientific experiments, laboratory animals, like rats, are conditioned using sugar pellets, and electric shocks.

Sugar encourages a desired behavior.  Electric shocks stop the animal from an undesired behavior.

This is a highly effective form of conditioning.  You can get rats to perform complex tasks using sugar pellets as a reward, and electric shocks to discourage unwanted behavior.

Humans are not so different from rats.  In fact, many children are conditioned in similar ways.  They are rewarded for desirable behavior with sugary treats, and punished for undesirable behavior by being yelled at, which produces a physical response in the body that is almost identical to an electric shock.

Humans instinctively crave approval, and fear rejection.  For much of human history, to be rejected by your parents or tribe meant a death sentence.  The human brain therefore associates rejection with death.

This is why for so many people the experience of disapproval, rejection, and criticism feels so horrible and debilitating.  The human brain instinctively responds to disapproval and rejection as a terrible threat.  It may even feel like you are being killed.  At minimum, the experience of disapproval and rejection is usually quite painful.

Because of this instinctive pattern, combined with childhood conditioning, many humans are really not free in their lives.  They are enslaved by their approval/rejection conditioning.  They spend their days pursuing the sweet sugar pellets of approval, and avoiding the painful electric shocks of disapproval and rejection.  They are like rats in a maze.

The energy of disapproval, rejection, and criticism can be so destructive for people that it creates paralysis, sickness, and sometimes even drives people to suicide.

In lab experiments, animals that are exposed to constant electric shocks, without any clear pattern or reason behind them, will fall into a state of helpless paralysis.  They will not try to do anything, for fear of the shock.  They are frozen.

Something similar happens to children who are raised in environments where they are exposed to constant disapproval and harsh criticism.  They fall into a state of helpless paralysis.  The same thing happens to adults in environments where disapproval and harsh criticism are continual.

This may sound very tragic, and indeed it is true that many people are imprisoned by this instinctive tendency of the human mind.

The good news is, there is a way out.

The first step is simply becoming conscious of how much your life is currently run by approval/rejection conditioning.  

Are you desperate for approval?  Are you terrified of disapproval and rejection?

One thing to keep in mind is: disapproval and rejection will not kill you.

Your animal instincts may tell you otherwise.

But when in your life has disapproval, rejection, or negative criticism actually killed you?

Obviously, you are here, reading these words.  It didn’t kill you.

Disapproval and rejection will not and cannot kill you.

If you really own this, you are well on your way to freedom.

Disapproval and rejection may feel unpleasant.  In fact, it may feel like a strong electric shock, that traumatizes your system.

But at the end of the day, this is all it is.  A momentary painful shock.

One thing that happens is people become so averse to disapproval, rejection, and criticism that they are consumed by the desire to avoid it at any cost.  When this happens, they actually begin to give themselves the “electric shock,” even when nothing external is happening.

This is how paralysis sets in.  You are so terrified of the electric shock of disapproval and rejection, that you sit around worrying about it all the time, and as a result you keep reliving the experience in your imagination over and over.  Every time you relive it in your imagination, you actually experience the “shock.”  Nothing outside is giving it to you, at this point.  You are giving it to yourself!  So you become paralyzed, like the helpless rat who is constantly being shocked.  

Disapproval, rejection, criticism and judgment cannot kill you.  Your cave man brain believes otherwise, but it is not true.

One of the best ways to inure yourself to unpleasant experiences is to sit with the experience, without reacting.

For example: pinch your arm.  This is painful.  Your instinct will say: make it stop!  But if you do not react, if you simply sit with the painful sensation, you will find that it is not so bad.  It is tolerable.  It is even interesting, on some level.

This is called, cultivating equanimity.

Sit with a memory of someone disapproving of you, rejecting you, or harshly criticizing you.  Notice the feelings that arise.

Now, imagine that you are standing outside yourself, observing yourself in that situation.  Was the experience of disapproval or rejection killing you, at the time?  No, it was not.  

Now, go back inside the memory.  Isolate the different emotions you are feeling (anger, terror, frustration, etc.), and the physical sensations (tightness in the chest, sick stomach, etc.)  Just sit with these sensations, without reacting.  Like the “pinch,” you may find these sensations much more tolerable than you might have otherwise thought.  You are capable of sitting with these unpleasant sensations, without getting reactive.  

With practice, you can increase your tolerance to disapproval and rejection, the same way you can increase your tolerance to physical pain and discomfort.

If you take the time to do this, you will be freer than most humans alive on the planet.

And if you combine increased tolerance to disapproval and rejection along with a reduced craving for the sweet sugar of approval, you will be amazed by the freedom you experience in your life.

To no longer crave the sugar of approval, nor fear the electric shock of disapproval and rejection, is true freedom.

You are then like the lab rat who breaks right out of the maze, and goes off to do what he really wants to do with his life.