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Unless you live under a rock, we have all felt the manipulative power of people who claim to be insulted, displeased, injured, antagonized or “sinned” against. How is it that we can be so easily affected by the claims of injury by another person? What is it that, in this social climate, now triggers such an intense and total obligatory response in us? I believe it comes from previously learned personal training from our upbringing. Yet, in an age when power and effectiveness are so strived for, revered and admired, how can this be? Do we really feel obligated and culpable to the condition of others or is there something else? I believe that there is something else. Something that lives deep within us. Something which has been imprinted on our psyches from childhood that has taught us how to respond to the world from an almost subliminal place. Something which doesn’t run our games, desires and goals but acts as an undermining censor, an interferer and an inhibitor for what benefits us and our family over the rest of the world. It’s something that has very fully but tacitly and slowly convinced us that our fate and well-being are in the hands of others. Let’s take a look at the dynamics underpinning this process.  

We humans will react to each other out of one of two motivations. Either we react out of entitlement or out of something lacking in us or in our lives. The alternative to these two is not to react which does not encompass most of us. Almost all of us have an ulterior motive for everything we say or do to each other all the way through to the most trivial of issues. We may want to simply have some attention, prove a point, or to do for or give someone something (which almost always has some desired or expected response  regardless of whether we’re conscious of it or not). Even making conversation is geared toward alleviating an uncomfortable silence or just to quell an uncomfortable feeling of being alone. The point is that we humans never do anything without some objective at the root of what we do no matter how simple or unconscious we may be about it. If we’re conscious of it, rationalization becomes a tremendously beneficial mental tool used by our ego and geared toward ensuring the validation of our choices and preferences.  Our mind is an extremely resourceful tool and clever in its attempts to protect itself while often fooling ourselves or others about the “rightness” of or innocence in our choices.     

Entitlement and lack are almost always the perspectives we act from. Both these perspectives come from a perspective, conscious or not, that the world somehow controls what we need or want. In psychology this perspective is called having an external Locus of Control (LOC). This perspective is learned and originates from the first moment we realize that we are separate and distinct from the rest of the world. As a child, this is learning that there is a self and a not self. Internal LOC, the perspective that we control our own circumstances, originates from our own simple actions and expressions with no external stimulus or encouragement from the “outside” or “not self” world and is our original disposition and is essentially innate.

Just after our birth, and during the time which we were, as yet, unaware of any separation between us and the “outside” world, only the internal LOC is in play. We feel, move, breathe and exist in our own space. We slowly begin to learn what our actions will bring. We cry, we get attention…or not. We cry, we get fed…or not. We cry, we get changed…or not. All we “know” is from the perspective of an internal LOC. However, as our mind develops, we begin to realize that it isn’t so much that our actions bring us what we want but that it comes from something or someone independent of our actions. This is the birth of awareness of not self or external LOC. Since then, we’ve learned that our parents control a lot more of what we want or need. We’ve grown into looking toward our parents for everything including permission to be, do or have. We’ve learned the difference between self and not self and what we had to do, say or be in order to get what we want or need. This has programmed us for how much control we have or not over our own lives. As recently as fifty years ago, most people eventually grew into holding perspectives that resonated relatively equally between both internal and external LOC. We then came to believe that the world held sway over some of our circumstances but that we generally had at least a say, if not an influence, over what we had to contend with coming from the world.

But over the years our perspective has slowly shifted. Since then our parents have taught us to become more and more responsive to the outer world’s demands and requirements and to acknowledge less and less what our own feelings and common sense have been telling us to be, do or say. Encouragement for being ourselves has slowly evaporated and has been replaced with, “Listen to your parents. Listen to your pastor. Do what the doctor says. Do what the policeman says. Do what your boss says.” No longer do we hear, “You can do it or we’re proud of you or I trust your judgment.” The little inner voice acknowledging what we should be, want or feel has been crushed under the world’s incessant onslaught of what we should think, want or be. Pursuing our own personal path seems to be growing into an implied social taboo in the face of answering the demands of the outer world. We have morphed into feeling and believing that answering the needs of others must be accomplished first before we may be permitted to pursue our own needs and preferences. Thinking and doing for ourselves has sunk to the bottom of our list of priorities. This was the first nail in the coffin of our individuality and creativity.

In the last twenty years or so this depersonalization has been accelerating. How did we allow ourselves to lose so much power and influence over how we handle our lives? Sadly, it appears to have developed through our greatest accomplishments in technology. Technology itself is not to blame but what we have become as a result of its benefits. The most dominant and influential part of our technology is the media and what it has subtly seduced us into becoming.

The media has lulled us into becoming passive. We have become so externally focused that we don’t do sports anymore. We watch “the game” on the television. We don’t live our lives anymore. We watch sitcoms trying to imitate the “proper” way to live. We don’t go to college to get educated. We pay for credits so the world will “owe” us a better job. We don’t travel the world anymore experiencing different cultures. We watch them on television judging their lifestyle based on our way of living. We don’t have conversations about what is right or wrong anymore. We watch the news and are told by the experts, panels and pundits how we are to live, what we should believe and why. The media and its “benefits” have allowed and encouraged us to become lazy and passive. Through this increasing passivity, we have been coerced into not only not thinking for ourselves but giving up being in control of our own lives. We’ve become passive humans. Is there any question as to why we have become so angry and depressed as a culture and don’t understand why?

To add insult to injury, we’ve transferred our parental authority to the media which has become our surrogate parent. It tells us what is right and wrong and what we’re permitted to be and do. Following it serves our self-image of being “good.” Underlying this is our ego’s safety in the absolution of any responsibility for our actions because we are doing what we are told by the authority we have given our power to.

With our personal authority having been given away coupled with the feeling that everyone else’s needs must come before our own we have arrived at a perspective where we feel that it is inappropriate or even taboo to ask for what we want. This saps our energy and trashes any confidence we might have in our own ability and potential, or even deservedness, for getting what we want. In this light we have only one option to get what we want; to shame or guilt someone into believing that what we want is owed to us by them. This brings the “I’m offended” ploy into action.

In accusing someone of offense, we don’t risk being exposed as being inadequate or selfish while feeling entitled to what we are blaming them for depriving us of. Blame and responsibility for our welfare and status is squarely placed on the person being accused. From their perspective, we should feel selfish and insensitive while allowing them to capitalize on the belief that we should have known better about our social obligations and responsibilities to them. This is essentially a very convoluted passive-aggressive tactic on the accuser’s part with overtones of the “tyranny of the weak” ploy where someone feigns helplessness to receive benefit from others. The only difference between them is that one perpetrator will truly feel entitled from a narcissistic perspective and the other will feel abused and undeserving and are too afraid to ask for what they want.

Being “up front” in our culture requires courage and a strong sense of personal dignity (not to be confused with inflated pride). Since our fading culture and persistent media has driven us far into a helpless, undeserving and inadequate perception of our own worth, such a person who has become steeped and heavily invested in an externally vested LOC will find it much harder to resist or repel these types of “conscience aimed” attacks from the “me too” and politically correct crowd. The only “cure” for minimizing our vulnerability to these types of tactics is to bolster our perception of our own personally perceived value. This is easier said than done and requires a long recovery period that must essentially untangle the mixed messages our culture has subliminally implanted into our unconscious belief system. It requires absolute self-honesty and a willingness to forego the seeking of acceptance and approval of our current socially sanctioned groups whose rules qualify our belonging to them through the  sacrifice of our personal benefit and preferences in exchange for the safety and security that the group offers. The irony in this perspective is understandable through the sardonic humor offered by Woody Allen when he said, “I wouldn’t want to be part of any group that would have me as a member.” While in recovery and regaining our confidence and personal dignity, our response to an “I’m offended” accusation should be, “It is unfortunate that you feel that way.” This provides a social disconnect which lets the accuser know that we will not take responsibility for their unfortunate welfare or status. We may feel some guilt or shame related to what they’re going through but we must realize that we are not responsible for the choices of others. Chalk it up as a distasteful residue of the type of training we are jettisoning and should not have received in the first place. What should be going through our mind is “Charity begins at home” and “Doctor, heal thyself!”

Outer Limits-1With all the talking that goes on about thinking outside the envelope, there have been very subtle, if not important, changes happening to the envelop itself. If we understand the concept of the envelope, we recognize that it represents the usual limits or boundaries to which people think or perceive within. When we speak of someone thinking or working outside of the envelope, we assume that their thoughts and actions occur outside that of the average person’s awareness and comfort zone. They are out of the ordinary. They tap into a little know current of thought and awareness.

shoes-too-small-1But, what if those outer boundaries change? What happens if the field of what is considered normal shrinks into a smaller range of potential; a smaller range of what is acceptable as being usual or common to our mental and spacial capacities? Minimizing the field of choice may make it simpler or easier to see and understand what is considered normal but it also makes anything seen as unusual or creative to be perceived as being more remote, father away from possibility and more outrageous as compared to what we’re used to and comfortable with. The further away the choice, the less likely we are to be aware of it let alone choose it for our action.

With life becoming more organized, automated and programmed, we find ourselves becoming much more dependent, complacent, lazy and more prone to allow ourselves to be led by those who establish “new” technological limits. We are gradually being “farmed” into a headspace where we will readily expect less and be complacent enough to accept only what is offered by those doing the programming. If we know and expect less, we are much more manipulatable in areas that we are unaware of. Let’s examine this premise from another perspective.

strict-teacher-1Our educational system is becoming much more regulated and stringent in terms of what is “necessary” to fulfill our idea of being educated enough to successfully live and work in our rapidly changing world. Fifty years ago children in elementary school only had to contend with a few aptitude tests, IQ test and general testing for academic proficiency upon leaving elementary school. The general consensus of thinking by teachers then was that they were “crystallizing” a child’s innate abilities lying dormant in each by teaching them reading and math in order that they might have a common language with the rest of the world to share their individual creativity. Since then, things have radically changed. State testing of our children now occurs beginning in the second grade. This seems innocuous enough but when we more closely examine what is being tested, it becomes acutely obvious that technological skills and their testing far outstrips the humanities and all but eliminates truthful knowledge about our history and the history of the rest of the world. This, in itself, is alarming enough, but when we then consider that most teachers, having only a limited amount of time to teach and too many students to service effectively, resort to only teaching Robots-1children what is necessary to pass the test rather than developing their innate talents, all of our internal alarms must now ring off the wall telling us that children are now selectively being channeled and programmed into becoming specified cogs in a technological wheel depending on their tested ability to regurgitate facts and knowledge. It becomes distressfully apparent that individuality and creativity are no longer valued by the educational administration unless they promise to enhance or improve the existing proficiency of wanted and expected performance and its ease in being tested. Despite the rising percentage of children being home schooled and enrolled in private schools due to fears of unwanted potential violence, undesirable social influences and a desire for their increased physical safety, creativity and humanitarian education are still being kept alive even in its wake. Based on our current financial structure and the powerful influences presented by consumer and manufacturing lobbies, its continued evolution towards its technological end shows no signs of retreating. In this light, maintaining humanitarian values in our children is a task that rests solely and squarely on our shoulders; their parents.

portrait of stressed teacher and blackboard backgroundIt should not be assumed that blame for the outcome of our children’s lack of humanitarian awareness rests within the responsibility of our teachers. There own survival as teachers is included in the coercive dynamic. We can see this in the fact that teachers themselves are “graded” on their children’s ability to perform well on the state testing and their tenure or continued services in the educational community depends on how high their quotient of effective performers compares to other teachers. Those who accelerate the effectiveness of children performing well on state testing are the ones who are retained by the schools, especially, since funding for public schools comes almost exclusively from the state.

TV-lockupThe shrinking envelope can also be evidenced by what appears on television now and what was programmed fifty years ago. Current programming which is banal, inert and corporately owned is geared to effectively enable and monitor a public mindset which does not questions, counter or threaten the validity and effectiveness of our currently existing political administration. In the same vein we can also see a stark absence of programs that support our curiosity and our TV-cooking showattention toward examining our feelings and circumstances with an eye toward improving the depth and richness of our own personal lives. What have taken their place are reality shows, cooking shows, a larger variety of “cops and robbers”, survival shows, forensic shows, crime investigations, “Judge Judy” shows, “lockup” shows, and many other shows espousing the prudence of focusing on and aligning with popularly known systems of living and conformity. The media has effectively directed our attention away from what we feel within ourselves and is refocused on the TV naked & Afraidcircumstances surrounding others who we’re encouraged to believe have it worse than we do. If that’s not enough to discourage us from “listening” to our hearts and our conscience, the onslaught of extreme and offensive advertising insists that we buy products or services validated by an underlying implication that we are somehow less desirable and less efficient to others than we have an assumed responsibility to be and that we need their assistance to regain the appropriate power and dignity. What is so ironic is that it is we who are not being listened to or considered by others when it comes to our needs, our opinions and our individuality. Our culture, religion and family beliefs systems are responsible for making us capitulate and become susceptible to accepting less for ourselves by TV NCISmaking us believe that others’ welfare should come before our own and that we are somehow responsible for fixing their needs and comforts before even considering our won. Our value system has been totally turned upside down. Why do we talk about self-improvement when the end result is only to be coerced into believing that it is our responsibility to give those same self-improvements over as advantage to others coupled with the enabling of a guilt generated feeling of neglected obligation when we don’t? When we allow this to occur, our “envelope” of what we consider normal and acceptable shrinks even further.

WebAs a culture, this change has been perceived by very few since its progression has happened over a long period of time. Similar to the old analogy of the frog and hot water, if the frog is immediately thrown into hot water it will immediately feel the sudden change of temperature sparking their awareness spurring them on to struggle feverishly to escape. But if the temperature starts to change at body temperature and  rises slowly, it will take much longer for them to become aware that it has become unbearably hot. In the slower change, the frog will even notice the change much later than when it occurs in the moment. Most people are notorious for not noticing or sometimes ignoring changes that occur right under their noses. Others will be afraid to mention what they feel out of fear of offending others or believing that “this is the way it’s supposed to be.” Those of us with a longer memory, like our elders, may notice simple things like actors no longer having the refinement they had “in the old days” or “We never had to do that in school when we grew up.” And because these observations of change come most often from those who are retired or aging, they’re observations are chalked up as their being “stuck in the old days” or “going senile and living in the past.”

Rose-Colored-GlassesAs technology and the media have evolved to growing and changing faster, and as we as consumers have had to chase “progress" simply in order to survive, the process has become an all encompassing  distraction from looking at our human values and considerations from the perspective of what our hearts need simply to feel peaceful and relaxed. But now with the Shrinking Envelope, and as we slowly lean back into that well deserved peace and tranquility, we can’t help noticing that our world has lost a bit of its color, its individuality and the things that spark our curiosity and interest in feeling the awe in recognizing how we and nature are and have been so superbly intertwined.

 

Obey-TV-BRAINWASHING-1Raising kids in this day and age is no easy task. And as if that is not enough, you have to know that you have very stiff competition. That competition’s main aim is to find what it is that sets them off, maximize their triggers in order to sell them their wares and ways and to keep them as returning customers. That competition is the media. They’re masters at salesmanship and propagandizing.

The most important factor for any salesman is their knowledge of what it is that their customer, your child, is feeling at the moment and what it is that they want to do or become that answers those feelings. Right now, they’re way more ahead of the game than you are. It’s not that they’re innately better at it than you. It’s that they have taken the time to think through how to reach them. Remember, that’s their job. It is their only goal; to make them addicts for whatever it is that they’re peddling. Right now they’re doing a better job at raising your kids than you are. The key that is their “edge” is that they have the time and ability to listen. But you have an edge too. The media knows this. It’s that you’re their parents and that your children want you to listen and care. So, the media’s best ally is the time that they have available with your child that you don’t. If you don’t believe me, just look at all the influence and advertising above and beyond TV, their biggest tool. Your best ally is that your children want you to care. Knowing this, you’re making the time to listen can be your best ally in regaining the control of their futures for them.

Stressing over billsSo, what is it that thwarts your ability to invest the time? Life. Just life. Paying the mortgage, putting food on the table, clothing you and your children, planning their education, finding the means to pay for it and a whole host of other distracting factors that steal time away from you being able to be with and emotionally support your family. All the terrorism, politics, murders, school shootings, pedophilia and a whole host of other things that the media over-emphasizes in their incessant broadcasts only serve to heighten your fear of protecting your family and doing the “right thing.” They’ve got your number too.

Scolding-1So how can we make up for lost ground in regaining an effective rapport with our kids? We must make the time to re-prioritize our lives so we can have the meaningful conversations with our children that answer their emotional needs showing them that we are listening and that we do care. Telling them all the things that we’re sacrificing for them and all the things that they must do in order to make their lives run better (than we did) only serves to make them feel guilty, resentful, obligated and drives them further away. If that’s all they hear, of course they don’t want to listen! How did you feel when your parents told you what they were sacrificing for you, what to do, how to think, what to want and what will happen if you didn’t follow their lead? Your kids are not stupid. They see the stresses you’re facing. Do you think they want to saddle up for that? I think not. They’re looking for something more meaningful than just advantageous survival, although they’re just not experienced enough to realize it yet. Perhaps you are. Perhaps you realize that if you had had conversations with your parents that would have addressed what you felt and you thought, you might have grown up feeling a little more trusting and confident in your own ability to handle life and its twists and turns a little better than you have up to this point. All I’m saying is that, most likely, your Self-Trust and Confidence were never really addressed or encouraged by your parents. They were just doing and reacting to what they were facing in the outer world and protecting you from it just like you’re doing for your kids right now.

So, how do we converse with our kids so that we hit pay dirt in helping them to find value in something more than what the media is peddling? We can ask the following questions that will do two things; show them that you actually do want them to know that you care about them and are emotionally supportive of what they’re feeling and starting the ball rolling in a direction that gives them the Self-Trust, Confidence and opportunity to develop their ability to direct their own lives through addressing their inner urges and needs…what it is that we didn’t receive from our parents. So, let’s start with the list.

There is one parameter or condition I’d like to set here before we begin. Our kids will all benefit from our encouragement beginning at any age but I’ll address the following questions to children beginning around the age of puberty since they’ve had, at the least, some time in accumulating life experience and are in the process of developing some of the rational capabilities minimally needed to think through what they’ll be facing for the rest of their lives…no easy task for a teenager.

Teenage actor1. Ask them what excites their interest. What it is that excites them and arouses their curiosity in life? What and who would they would like to be like and live like? What is it that they long for? I don’t mean getting a fancy car, having a date with their most preferable partner, having lots of money and freedom or being old enough to stay out late. We all know what most teenagers want at that age. It’s what the media has made them fantasize or romanticize about. But what is it they have an inner burning urge to do or learn about? Every little kid wants to be a fireman or an actress. But, are they draw to archery? Painting? Music? Science? Another culture? When they imagine themselves in that role or doing that activity, what do they feel? What do they think it can do for them?

Teenage archeologist-1Once you’ve asked this question and they’ve answered, and they will probably look very surprised that you did, ask them what they think that they could do now or what can they plan in the future that will put them within the grasp of fulling that imagined role. This question alone will open two doors for both of you. First, it will begin to let them know that you truly do care about them and what they feel. And second, they may realize you as an optional resource or sounding board for bouncing off ideas as to how they might be able to arrive at their most private dreams.

Parents-Report-Card-12. Ask them how they think you’re doing as a parent. This question alone may come as a shock to them. The fact that you care about what they feel relative to how they’re being raised will show them your openness to their feelings and perceptions about your parenting. But it does something more. It puts you on an equal footing, person to person basis rather than a parent/child format. This temporarily puts aside the authority/obeisance rapport that parents and children almost always get locked into producing irreconcilable resistance over a developing autonomy. It doesn’t mean that you have to stay in that space always requiring their input, but it lets them know that you acknowledge that they too are growing and becoming an adult which shows your allowance and encouragement of their self-determination which, in turn, will earn their respect for you and that lets them know that you have respect for them. If your parents showed respect for your growing maturity, this will be easy for you to do. If not, you will have to “feel” your way through this domain sensing when the parent or authority role must take precedence over a person to person equanimity. It lets them know that a parent/child rapport is not always necessary and that a shared adult person to person rapport is possible and in the works.

Archery kid-23. Ask them what they would like you to do with them, and then make time to do it. Time is our most valuable and most evasive resource, especially when we’re so pressed into providing the material support required to maintain our family’s survival. We show love by giving our time and attention to another. By asking and following through with your child’s request for your time and attention will do a whole lot in showing them and helping them to believe that you care about them and that they have support. There are way too many “latch key” children in our culture. When children don’t feel like anyone cares about them, they seek their nurturance from peer groups. This accounts for many of the gangs that kids find themselves in leading them toward acquiescing to hazing and rites of passage simply to earn the loyalty, love and comradeship they’ve been unable to get at home. In doing this they earn a pale reflection of their potential personal worth. It is my belief that the obsession many people feel with Face Book substitutes for much of the family love and intimacy lost through our culture’s dissolving nuclear family and prior felt closeness. The loss and inability to initiate and maintain personal intimacy learned in our earlier historical family structuring is a much more serious issue than current day psychologists allow credit for. For many people, feeling unloved and unlovable has escalated to epidemic proportions. The sad part is that we don’t even know that it is such a dominant part of our contemporary emotional landscape. Is it really any wonder why so many people are on anti-depressants and other mood altering drugs or seek to escape themselves through hallucinogenic and illicit drug use? We can’t even name, let alone recognize, the unworthiness so many of us are feeling. Perhaps, even the increasing advent of teen suicide is testimony to feelings of emotional isolation and desertion being on the rise as they come to feel that they’ve no support in handling what should only be considered the natural ephemerality of our feelings. In other words, having feelings of emotional isolation and unworthiness and feeling that they have no support and one to talk to about it is slowly becoming accepted as being “normal.”

6-fear4. Ask them what makes them happy, sad, angry, afraid or lonely. Doing this will do three things. First, it will allow you to assist them in putting into words and thoughts feelings which are natural and often fleeting as their situations change. Second, it will subtlety let them know that you are an avenue for them to process these feelings so they can, third, allow themselves to relax into them knowing that they are temporary and that they have the ability to reframe how they perceive them or if they feel they can’t, know that “this too will pass.” This line of thinking is an underlying current helping us, and them, into understanding that we are much more than what we perceive about ourselves in the moment. Interacting with your children in this way also eases some of your own emotional residue left from early experiences and faulty perceptions assumed about yourself and your worthiness. The more you are able to process your own self-worth and Self-Trust, the better the job you will be able to do with your kids. Raising them is a two way street for self-awareness and emotional understanding.

Ironman-15. Lastly, but I’m sure there are many more variations of what I’ve described here, ask them whom they respect and why. This will give you valuable insight as to where and how they place value on their lives, you and their interactions with the world in general. Respect is a synonym and reflection of the ideals they’re beginning to form. It can be an indicator of both whom they admire and whom they fear, which often can be the same person(s). Our life experience and what we feel about it are prime movers for how we form our chosen beliefs contributing to how Superman-George-Reeves-1will continue to address the world and how we assess our place in it. This is why every generation has had a fascination with super heroes and why the media has capitalized on our idealization of their abilities. It allows us and our children to see how it’s done, believe that it can be done, imagine ourselves performing the same feats and what Self-Trust and Confidence would look like and feel like in action. The question then becomes, can we, and our children, transfer that respect and admiration to those in the real You can do it-1world around us but, more importantly, can we accept and activate those qualities within ourselves? Listening to our children is one of the best avenues for helping them to develop their Self-Trust and Confidence and assisting them in believing that they can become self-determined in their world. This is probably the most valuable gift that you can give them. Can you be secure enough to allow it?

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