Over the weekend, my boyfriend and I were walking our dogs down to the local taco shop to grab some breakfast. We live in a very urban area so lots of comings and goings. Restaurants, clubs, lofts. At one point, a man walked by us with a rolling trash can, making that awful grating noise, and our dog Cody started growling.

This didn’t faze me one bit since Cody is a very vocal dog and will sometimes growl at random things. He’s a rescue dog. We give him grace. But this time, Greg pointed out why he was reacting this way.

Apparently back at his old condo, one of the maintenance men was walking by them and messed with Cody by jabbing one of those long trash picker-upper tongs at him. Even though the man was playing, Cody viewed it as an attack and started barking. Because of the fact the man was dragging a rolling trash can along the pavement, Cody now associates a trash can with fear and feels the need to protect his pack.

We laugh and can all see this as illogical. But how many times since infancy have we made these associations ourselves? We have an experience that changes our perception of the world and we start reacting to the world from that perception. That belief. Which is great when we’re young because that’s how we learn to cope.

Some associations are good. You put your hand on a hot burner and learn never to do that again. You pet the strange dog which then sends you to the ER for 5 stitches in your lip, you learn to be wary of strange animals.

When it becomes an issue is when the stories you’ve told yourself no longer serve you and actually prevent you from forward progress in your life. Perhaps you notice a repetitive behavior pattern in your relationships. That no matter who you’re with, it always ends this way. Or perhaps it’s with money or your career. Perhaps anytime you’re up for a promotion, you somehow manage to sabotage it.

Psychologists call this a Pavlovian response. It’s a way in which we’ve been conditioned to respond to our environment and are often unaware of the stimulus and its effects. It’s so much a part of us and our behavior that its become the norm. We just automatically react in a certain way.

Cody, the fierce sled dog

Cody, the fierce sled dog

Recently I took an entrepreneurial workshop in LA that dealt partly with this notion and how to dissolve those responses that don’t act in our favor. Because if you’re setting out to create a business and wish to be successful, you’d better know where your blind spots are. If you’re interested in more information about this workshop, message me and I’d be happy to talk with you about it. It’s fascinating work.

Many of us have these self-imposed barriers we’re trying to knock down in our lives in order to get what we want, right? Whether it’s a promotion, a better job, a healthier relationship, more money. I imagine we all have some aspect of our lives we’d like to improve so as your friend, I’d like to encourage you to explore this for yourself. Because the fact is, we’re all governed by our inherent responses to things until we become aware of them. And even then, it’s difficult to unwind the tie because many of them are years if not decades deep. Awareness, though, is the first step.

So how bout you? Can you recognize any rolling trash cans in your life? Reactions to things that are illogical upon reflection? What area of your life would you like to improve? Any methods, books, or workshops you found useful that you’d like to share with the community? Do share. 🙂