Conditioned Human Behaviour and some things to overcome it

Classical and operant conditioning contribute is often described as involuntary. When you feel like you can't help yourself you may be largely correct, because the behaviour will persist until the association is systematically extinguished.

Emotional Responses
Several emotional responses are primarily conditioned responses. If you open the mail and find a letter in an envelope addressed from an old friend, you may spontaneously feel the warmth and affection you have learned to associate with that close friend. This response could not be innate and would not be felt unless you had grown fond of the person and learned to associate these warm feelings with a letter reminding you of them.
Similarly abuse triggers bad feelings so how do we stop the response? Only by going NC, completely black, by dumping triggers and ceasing trigger behaviour.

Phobias created by abuse
It is likely that classical conditioning plays an important role in learning the various irrational fears know as phobias. A person suffering from a phobia can be systematically desensitised to the object or situation causing their fears. Eventually their fears can be extinguished. The technique is to expose them in carefully controlled conditions to a less fear inducing, but related form of stimulus, while they practice relaxing in the presence of that stimulus. For example, a person with a fear of heights would begin at a small elevation, achieve relaxation at that level, then progress to higher elevation. At each step, the person achieves relaxation and gains confidence before progressing to the next level. This won't work with abuse as abuse isn't irrational, the target has every reason to be apprehensive of an abuser.

However in the longer term protecting oneself from new Rs may be phobic. So it's the consequences of being abused that may need treatment not the removal from the abuse.

Advertising and False advertising by the Abuser
Most people have a spontaneous and positive response to seeing the image of a beautiful woman. Advertisers then pair the name, image, or sounds of their product or brand with images of beautiful women. It is not long before the viewers are conditioned to associate a positive response with the product alone. In abuse after spell breaking or crisis we recognise advertising for what it is. The abuser isn't as advertised, it's a long con.

Aversive Conditioning to the Abuser
There has been some success in conditioning alcoholics to associate nausea with alcohol consumption, with the goal of helping them avoid alcohol consumption for some period of time. With abuse keeping tapes, destroyed items, nasty texts or emails, keep abuse diaries, journaling and IC will create negativity which is aversion. Write a list of the abuse or recording and this will be aversive conditioning.

Describe the abuser in negative terms, imagine them as the destructive force they are to break the spell. leave, put distance and insist on proper recovery of the abuser before re-establishing contact.

Using Motor Skills, Distraction and adrenalin to counter abuse
Riding a bicycle, learning to skate or ski, touch typing, balancing, juggling, golfing, throwing, hitting, or catching a ball, driving a car, dancing, or playing a musical instrument are all examples of learned motor skills. These behaviours are learned most easily and quickly when timely and specific feedback, such activities create new pathways skills and interactions. They are also distractions creating distance from the abuse.

Intense exercise burns adrenalin and cuts the pain. Starting working out intensively especially with weights will help greatly.

Do something different physically
In the United States drivers quickly learn to keep their automobiles in the right-hand traffic lanes. When learning to drive, staying to the right is reinforced by the approval, expectations, and perhaps praise apparent from the driving instructor, passengers, and sometimes other drivers. Also, leaving the right-hand lanes and traveling in the left-hand lanes is discouraged (i.e. punished) by corrections or reprimand from the instructor, and often fearful exclamations from passengers and other drivers. Driving on the right is safe and rewarded, driving on the left is dangerous and punished. The message is clear and drivers quickly learn to stay to the right without conscious thought. This behaviour is something that is practiced, and reinforced, almost daily.

In the United Kingdom drivers learn to stay to the left rather than to the right. The two customs are simple, arbitrary, and equivalent. Compared to the complexities of learning to drive, this convention seems simple. However, it is very difficult for a driver with years of experience driving on one side of the road to drive on the other side when visiting a foreign country. The driver must focus strict attention; reminding himself constantly to stay on the unfamiliar of the road.

In order to break abuse patterns do familiar things in unfamiliar ways. If the abuser liked fried eggs prepare boiled. If the abuser drove fast in a truck drive slowly in a bubble car. If the abuser liked you in black wear pink. Go drive in the UK or in Europe or the U.S. If that is different. Break the physical pattern.

Playing the Slots/intermittent rewards understand the role in abuse
Slot machines, the infamous one-armed bandits of the gambling casino, are well engineered instruments of operant conditioning. The human operator inserts coins and pulls the handle. After some random number of attempts, the gambler is rewarded by a jackpot of coins, ringing bells, and distinctive sounds. The gambler is quickly trained to feed coins into the machine and pull the handle in pursuit of further rewards. Withdrawing from all betting is essential. Withdraw from the abuser completely and totally, if absolutely necessary use an intermediary.


Extinction of abuse reactions

Whereas conditioning is about creating a desired behaviour, it is often desirable to eradicate other behaviours. This is called 'extinction'.

Natural extinction
Behaviour that have been created may become extinct if they are not fully maintained. Stop responding to the abuser, cease behaviours the abuser preferred. Wear makeup if they didn't like it (stop going barefaced), put on your kick ass red high heels (stop wearing fluffy slippers). Move home, throw away joint items, buy new bed sheets.

Gradual decay of the abuse over time
At any time, a response has at best a probabilistic correlation with stimuli. A loud noise that has been associated with pain will very likely cause a person anguish, but is not 100% certain in all cases. If the stimulus is not applied and the response thus not generated over a long period of time, then probability of conditioned behaviour happening will decay in a given pattern. For example the person who has not heard the rant for some time would not experience as much discomfort as they would soon after conditioning. There is a danger of forgetting the hurt and starting the sweet cycle of abuse again.

An important factor here is that conditioning must be maintained, with sufficiently frequent rehearsals and re-stimulus-and-response, for the pattern to continue over time. This implies that the underlying persona is not changed at a fundamental level, and that conversion, for example, is not a one-shot activity and requires constant attention.

Predictability of stimulus of abuse and love bombing (intermittent reward)
If the condition has been created with regular and predictable reward or punishment, then the absence of the reward or punishment will quickly lead to extinction. If, however, the reward or punishment has been applied irregularly, then a second condition has been created where, upon receiving the stimulus, the person forecasts and imagines the reward or punishment being applied.

This situation takes longer for the pattern to become extinct, as the person is now maintaining it themselves, without external stimuli. Eventually, by accident or trial the person will find that the reward or punishment does not happen and thus the behavior gradually becomes extinct.

This is one reason why gambling is so addictive. The uncertainty as to whether the person will win or lose gives opportunity for prediction (and hope) of winning.

Extinction through accustoming
Another way of making a behaviour extinct is to help the person become accustomed to the stimulus and hence not find it frightening or stimulating in any way. Not recommended with abuse unless the target is capable of indifference and 'whatever'. In that case the R may well be over as the target has regained self esteem.

When a person receives a stimulus and experiences the conditioned response a number of times, then the intensity of the emotion they feel may well become dulled with familiarity. This is used in therapy for example by starting with a weak triggering, and increasing the stimulus at the speed at which the person becomes desensitised.

This is also apparent in the use of abuse. A person who is stimulated by abuse will find that it soon has less effect than it previously had. This leads them to seek to capture the experience with further stronger abuse, and sometimes yet more intense abuse (and even illegal) tendencies.

Inoculation is a simple method, analogous to medical inoculation, where you present a weakened form of the experience such that the person finds it easy (and even laughably so) to resist a simulated 'attack'. When faced with the real situation, then they remember how easily they defended against the weak attack and so are better able to handle the real thing. Practiced responses against the abuser to hold them at bay.

Extinction through extreme experience
A strange thing that happens sometimes is that a behaviour may become extinct not through ignoring the triggers that cause it, but actually exacerbating it to the extreme. In other words abuse always triggers a crisis in extremis in the target. The abuser loses control and has to move on.

Reversing breakdown
Pavlov found, with his discovery of the three stages of breakdown, a fourth stage, where dogs faced with near-death experiences 'forgot' all of their previous conditioning (and it took Pavlov several months to reinstate them). This is the spell break point or crisis.

Abusers may keep testing to see how far they can go. All the way to level 6 abuse.

This is used in therapy, where it is called flooding. A stimulus is constantly applied and more extreme responses encouraged until there is a sudden reversal and the stimulus no longer has any effect. Not good in the case of abuse.

Aversion therapy
Aversion therapy uses the methods of conditioning to break a conditioned experience. Thus a behaviour that is not desirable is punished when it appears. In therapy, techniques such as electric shocks have been used, and are understandably controversial (if you have seen Stanley Kubrick's 'Clockwork Orange' then you will appreciate the potential effects). It is not clear the extent to which aversion therapy works at all, only by revisiting abuse diaries and other tools can the target be reminded of the abuse. Only truly necessary to avoid the sweet cycle.


If you want to eradicate a behaviour or response to abuse, you can either ignore it and hope it goes away, or you can deliberately use desensitisation or flooding methods - be extremely careful with flooding (it is not recommended except by psychological professionals), as done wrong it can simply worsen the situation. Don't bother with non targeted aversion methods - they are not reliable.

This has been extracted from several text books on CER, consider this as general information and the relevance to abuse is very interpretative.


Last edited by Vanilla; 07/07/15 12:21 AM.

Freedom is just another word for nothing left to loose.
V 64, WAW