Who Took The ‘Real’ Out Of Reality?

Posted by: michael  :  Category: Factors affecting Brain Health

When I’m struggling to explain things related to the workings of the body and mind I sometimes find it helpful to take a trip back to early-man (not literally as I don’t have Dr Who’s TARDIS) as it gives me a sense of where we were and where we now are.

In this post I want to look at the development of one’s personal ‘map of reality’ and how it can become distorted. By ‘map of reality’ I mean how an individual interprets the world around her/him, who they believe they are, how they think they fit into the world and where they believe they are going.

Hey… that’s a lot of stuff, no wonder our maps get distorted!

From birth your subconscious mind organises and stores information collected by your sensory systems and emotions created by your personal circumstances and experiences. From this information you create your belief system and this, in effect, becomes your ‘map of reality’.

In other words you use it to make sense of what’s happening in the world around you and where you fit into it. However your map of reality is not static… by that I mean once it’s formed it doesn’t stay the same for life. Far from that, it is dynamic and highly impressionable. 

That’s not all bad, in fact if it wasn’t flexible you would find yourself progressively more lost (excuse the grammar) as the world evolved. The problem is that it lays your mind open to manipulation. 

And no, before you even ask the question… I’m not about to launch some or other conspiracy theory. It is a fact that as you receive new information the brain either accepts or throws it out. It tends to more readily accept what it considers new, relevant information, along with that which has strong emotions attached to it.

There’s a clue on how minds might be manipulated… did you pick up?

Anyway, back to the matter of information processing. That which the brain accepts is organised and stored for future recall. As such, the stored information then has the potential to reinforce or modify your belief system and hence your view of the world and your place in it.

So, with that in mind it is very important how you assess any incoming information.  If you don’t properly evaluate it, the new information rather than modifying an existing belief to make it more ‘real’ it may well reinforce an existing perception that is patently false.  

There’s another clue on how minds might be manipulated. How did you go… did you pick that one up? If you didn’t never mind…  let’s put the two clues together and you’ll see just how simple it is the put mind manipulation (which is really mind control) into practice.

In essence all one need do is, firstly, to rely on the fact that the target (you) is unlikely to properly evaluate incoming information – either because they don’t know how or can’t be bothered or don’t have time or whatever. And second, arouse emotional appeal with the information.

Back to early-man…
In those days life was pretty simple. The priority was survival. By that I mean physical safety, shelter from the elements, food and procreation. Man wasn’t concerned with world events and it is highly unlikely he/she was concerned about how they looked or what image they projected and so on.

 The components of early man’s map of reality most probably were: some animals attack and kill; some animals and plants provide food; caves provide protection from the weather; sex produces children; and other tribes threaten my survival.

In my view, early-man had a pretty accurate view of reality – of the world around him as it actually was. It was formed largely through his circumstances and experiences and some habitual practices handed down. In the main, early-man’s perceptions were formed through what I’ll call ‘direct input’ What I mean is that he received the input directly and not through some ‘third-party’..

How different things are today…
In addition to direct input from our circumstances and experiences we are inundated with information and opinion from third-party sources. Such sources include: books; newspapers; magazines; the Internet; films; videos and television. But let’s not just single out the media… governments, religious organisations, charities, scientists, advertisers and so on, all make contributions. The target in each case is your mind or your money or both!

Although surprisingly little of this third-party information is directly relevant to our circumstances, we absorb it (largely unevaluated) and cling to it out of a need for certainty in our lives with the result that our map of reality may be far from the actual reality of the world around us.

Whereas early-man built up his map based on direct input, modern man uses both direct and third-party input. The problem this presents for modern man is how to evaluate the incoming information so as to remove the interference and identify the true signal so he can form a more accurate perception of the actual reality that surrounds him.

I propose a couple of strategies you might like to consider…
            1) The Desert Island
This strategy entails cutting off the flow of information. For a period of say two weeks turn off all your normal sources of information. Off goes the television, the radio, the Internet, newspaper and magazine deliveries… no films, videos or any other sources of third-party input. No discussions with friends or colleagues on topics other than what you consider essential… simply act as though you are marooned on a desert island.

Well, how do you feel after doing that? Did your life fall apart? I can virtually guarantee that it didn’t and that you’ll have a changed and more certain perspective of the world and your place in it in terms f what is important.

Oh dear… you haven’t! Well, maybe at the least, you’ll realise just how much of your time and mental energy is wasted on concerning yourself with trivia and in processing information that is of very little relevance to your life.

Okay, so you can’t do a couple of weeks… how about a couple of days? Can’t do that either, then it’s time to look at a second strategy.

            2)  It’s Your Mind
This strategy is about taking back control of your mind. I can just hear the howls of protest… “But I have control of my mind, no-one manipulates me”. If that is truly the case congratulations are in order because you are one of exceptionally rare breed. For the rest of us mere mortals we need to make a conscious effort to keep control of our mind.

Let’s go back to the phrase “no-one manipulates me”. Therein lies the problem for modern man. Mind manipulation techniques are sophisticated and particularly well disguised. So well, in fact, that we actually welcome into our mind and use their input to build up our maps of reality.

Still think no-one manipulates you… well, try this for size:

Stage 1: You hear a report of a celebrity having an affair. The presentation of the report arouses emotions such as “what a bastard to do that”,  “how could he be such a cheat”, “what about the poor children” – and of course, that’s exactly what it was intended to do.

Stage 2: You take the report on board. Now you have something to get your teeth into  Something you can immediately form an opinion about. Something you can be an immediate authority on. Something to discuss with your friends and anyone else who’ll listen.

In your mind you have now established or reinforced an image of someone who gets across issues, who has status, who can make decisions and can argue their case – no doubt with great passion  

See how easy it was to manipulate you, even with a trivial example. But I wasn’t manipulated… oh yes you were. Wondering how come?

Well, firstly you didn’t evaluate the input so you really know very little about the circumstances surrounding the event that was itself selectively chosen and reported in order to engage your mind. Second, you allowed your emotions to run free when they could have been quite different had you undertaken an assessment of the information.

Al this begs the question – what can we do to move our perception of reality closer to that of the real world?

The answer is to practice critical thinking. Oh dear… that sounds like it requires effort. Yes, it does. Is it hard to learn, no it isn’t. It is not the intention here to do any more than outline just some of the considerations that make up the background to the critical thinking process.

Here are some things to look for in information to which you are exposed:

1) Presentation Aspects

  • Omissions – things that are deliberately left out.
  • Suppression – information that doesn’t fit the information purveyor’s ideology may not be revealed.
  • Lies and made-up stories – statements that cannot be backed up with evidence.
  • Unbalanced reporting – although claiming to present all sides of an issue, one argument is given more exposure than others that might not fit with the information purveyors’ ideology.
  • Passing on unevaluated information – information that is known to be untrue or has not been assessed may be passed on
  • Using labels – colouring perception by attaching ‘labels’ to people and events. For example, war protesters may be called “terrorist sympathisers”.

But the above only deal with what I call the ‘presentation aspects’ of the information and we need to dig deeper to uncover the ‘psychological triggers’ hidden in the information. By psychological triggers I mean that which arouse the emotions.

Again, I’m only offering an overview as the topic deserves an in-depth consideration in its own right.

2) Psychological triggers

  • Fear – designed to make people afraid of something. For example, the supposed threat of swine flu epidemic got millions, to have vaccinations.
  • Guilt – for example, you are made to feel you have so much when others have so little.
  • Duty – for example, it’s your duty to buy your country’s goods rather than the cheaper foreign imports in times of economic downturn or be considered as unpatriotic.
  • Sharing the load – it’s easy to get most people emotionally aroused by invoking the fair-play principle. For example, businessman AB earns $5million a year but pays only 10 cents in the dollar income tax. … with the punch line “now what’s fair about that?
  • Your image – for example, if you are not wearing this or doing that or buying this or eating that or whatever…. what will people think of you.

There are many more presentational and psychological aspects to which you should be alert but hopefully this small sample gives you the bones of mind manipulation strategies to chew over. When you do, I think you will quickly realise why the map of reality for many of us is so far removed from the actual reality of the world around us.

All we’ve done so far is to try to understand how our map of reality is formed, how vulnerable it is to manipulation and expose just some of the strategies that can be and are used to distort our map of reality. We haven’t yet detailed a strategy by which they might be countered using critical thinking – that will have to wait for a future post.

Who took the ‘real’ out of reality? You did! Now doesn’t that make you feel guilty!

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2 Responses to “Who Took The ‘Real’ Out Of Reality?”

  1. nightmares every night Says:

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  2. Giras Panama Says:

    Bookmarked your web site. Thank you for sharing. Definitely worth the time away from my coursework.

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