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Reprogramming versus deprogramming

 Reprogramming is the restructuring of our daily living (job, belongings, relationships, hobbies...) in search of personal fulfillment. What a great intention! In practice, unfortunately, things more 'happen to us' than 'we do them', and the course of action of our goals and aspirations almost always come from the outside. Who sets it?

Without us noticing, our 'program' is defined by individuals (idols, models, parents, teachers, partners...), on one hand, and the media and advertising, on the other. The media set what should delight or bore us; advertising tells us what we must purchase to be happy, successful, athletic, beautiful and influential. Furthermore, media and advertising together, tell us how to reprogram ourselves, through seminars, books, teachers or techniques, to attain a winning pleasant life: "Our approach will change your life as it has done already for five million people".

Good reprogramming examples are the Insight seminars​ (the Californian transformational workshops that have been famous over the last three decades), in which I participated with much enthusiasm. Among Insight I (Awakening the Heart), Insight II (Opening the Heart) and Insight III (Centering in the Heart), I was cloistered, for nearly 200 hours, letting me be manipulated, on purpose, by the workshop facilitators.

​It was in Insight II, after a 14-hour session, that I discovered my 'life purpose' -my 'affirmation' in the vocabulary of Insight - in twelve words: “I am... this and that", where "this and that" are the empowering expressions (intelligent, good-humored, persistent in my goals...) of our reprogrammed personality. During the following months, I mentally recited my affirmation thousands of times; reviewing its wording now it sounds like the adulations of somebody who is looking for some gain: “You are intelligent, etc.)

As mine, the affirmations of other participants almost always started with 'I am'. The emphasis of these workshops in both individuality and territoriality (I, me, my, mine) as well as the weight assigned to material goods, supposedly without getting attached to them, would bring tears to any Eastern spiritualist.

However my mocking tone, the experiences of the three Insights were interesting then. The seminars did not fulfill my expectancies. A temporarily successful goal I accomplished: I suspended my drinking proclivity (zero alcohol) for eighteen months; a failed one: I never managed to play video games, a personal intention to get closer to my children (who enjoyed them so much). I did learn, by exclusion, what should be avoided in an honest openness towards creative evolution.

The experiential workshops as Insight (there are many ‘copies’ and variations) aim to reprogramming our redundant ego around what we aspire to be. This desire, however, is not authentic since it does not come from within; instead it is fabricated outside and subtly planted in our brain. The dynamics used in the sessions are just new paint on the same old furniture.

​Of course and fortunately, there are workable alternatives. We should delete all harmful instructions from our neuronal 'computer', i.e., deprogram it from what is detrimental in order to make room for the essential self to take over. With the essential self in charge, our existence will flow into what we were ‘born to do', as opposed to what 'we must do' because something or someone has ordered it to us.

In reprogramming we rewrite the redundant ego instructions but we do not change the outcome. Deprogramming, on the other hand, disables the conditionings, where the cravings, aversions, and biased views that generate suffering, anguish and stress, are coded, allowing so our inner nature to manifest. How does such disabling happen?  This disabling occurs when the neuronal inhibitory mechanisms return to work. Inhibitory mechanisms are inherent to the essential self but our 'bad behavior' breaks them down through our continued complacency with cravings, our silent tolerance with aversions and our irrational affiliations. How do we deprogram? Mindfulness is the path and mindfulness meditation is the vehicle.

When conditionings are turned off, the mind becomes quiet, inner harmony flourishes, the redundant ego extinguishes and the essential self​, as a benevolent emperor, takes the reins of the runaway horse in our head. Then, at the end of 'our rough way', we may recite with Amado Nervo, "that I was the architect of my own destiny​". Is the 'I' in this verse the essential self? I believe so because the great Mexican poet also wrote: "Anguish comes to us of desire; Eden is about not craving; whoever does not want anything, will be fine anywhere"​.

Gustavo Estrada
Atlanta, April 30, 2015