Decades may have passed since early childhood, when a view of the outside world is developed based on the narrow window provided by parents or caretakers. Despite the time that has elapsed, however, the effects of this early worldview, and its acquired emotional reactions and responses, do not disappear.
In a book released last year, “Living on Automatic: How Emotional Conditioning Shapes Our Lives and Relationships,” Christine B.L. Adams, MD ’76, along with her mentor Homer B. Martin, MD, explains how paradigms developed at an early age continue to shape both views of self and relationships into adulthood. They call the process emotional conditioning.
“Emotional conditioning explains the ways our parents or caretakers early in our lives shape us emotionally to see ourselves, to experience our emotions and to develop our ways of thinking and how we approach relationships,” Adams says. “It’s just like how Pavlov’s dogs were conditioned to salivate. It occurs in our first two to three years and stays with us throughout our lives. It causes us to react automatically to the people we meet or live with without thinking.”
“Living on Automatic” is separated into three sections. First, Adams and Martin explain the personality types that result from emotional conditioning as children. Then, the pair shows how that process contributes to miscommunication and conflict within adult relationships. Finally, a solution is offered: deconditioning through psychotherapy to decrease one’s automatic reactions. Adams says “Living on Automatic” uses case studies and questions for readers to ask themselves in the journey toward their “a-ha moment.”
Adams says her and Martin’s goal in writing was to aid readers in self-discovery, which can reduce conflict within their relationships.
“Through this book, people will discover things about themselves that will offer more options for navigating their lives and relationships,” she says.
“Living on Automatic” is available now through Amazon, Barnes & Noble Booksellers or directly from the publisher by visiting doctorchristineadams.com.
This story originally ran in the Summer 2019 issue of the Doctor Gator newsletter.