We all make associations. It’s impossible not to.
We associate certain people with certain feelings, certain cues with certain routines, certain events with certain responses.
Associations are essentially significance shortcuts. They assign meaning to the people, places, and things we encounter in our lives, making it faster and easier to navigate the terrain.
Take Christmas. You probably have associations with the message, the music, the shopping, the travel, the gatherings, the expectations. And you respond accordingly.
Sometimes our associations live on the surface. We know what we think and why. But they often live on a subconscious level. Either way they can dangerous because the connections we make aren’t always accurate.
You see someone dressed very differently than you and immediately assign meaning to it: They must be rich, poor, lazy, hard working, smart, dumb, a good person, a bad person, etc. All that without ever actually talking to them, getting to know their story, or learning about their value system.
Associations can be a breeding ground for assumptions and judgments. When you assume you make an ass out of u and me. When you judge the measure you use will be used against you. These are not pretty behaviors and their consequences can be far reaching. But you can’t change what you don’t see.
That’s why there’s value in examining your associations. Why do you feel that way? Why did you respond that way? Where does that value system come from? Should you keep it or discard it?
One of the privileges of being human is that we get to choose what associations we make. We get to go into our inner world and decide which connections to strengthen and which ones to weaken. We don’t have to settle for animalistic responses to environmental stimuli.
So here’s your homework:
- Think about what you think about. Challenge your associations. Test your assumptions.
- Replace faulty connections with accurate ones. If this doesn’t mean that then what does it mean?
- Strengthen your new associations every chance you get. Reinforce the right messages. Practice makes perfect.
- Share your transitions with others. It will reinforce the changes you’ve made and give others something to think about.