(This blog was originally posted on December 5, 2016)
|Photo by Rick Hustead|
You may have heard or read about a preponderance of fake news that was being shared on social media outlets recently. The sources of these erroneous reports and the reasons/motivations to share this information is of less interest to me than how and why people so easily accepted and believed what they read and heard.
The last few months have been very stressful for a lot of people, especially in regards to the contentious United States presidential election that we just went through. There was plenty of rhetoric to go around from both (all) sides of the electoral ticket. Between nonstop television advertisements and various political canvassers calling several times a day, every day, to encourage us to vote for their candidate, there was hardly a moment of quiet to collect our thoughts. It didn’t even stop when the election was over.
These days, a lot more people get news and other social information from the Internet compared to television or even newspapers. As most of us have experienced, once we are on-line it is like being sucked into a stimulation vortex. Video links automatically begin to play and pop-up advertisements for consumer products or holiday gifts flash across the screen—tailored to each user’s specific interests, no less. It is natural to seek sources of information or entertainment that resonate with our own beliefs and ethics/morals, so any “facts” that we read or hear are more readily believed and accepted because we want them to be true. If you don’t believe this, consider how often you change the television channel if you don’t like what a reporter is saying, or abruptly end conversation or on-line chat exchange if the other person challenges your beliefs. Such discord is painful to the subconscious mind. When we are on the Internet, it is much easier to simply tune in to someone or somewhere else that supports our view-point. Furthermore, the more emotionally and cognitively/intellectually invested we are in the subject, the more likely we are to react and respond to this information; the more we react and respond to it, the more invested we become. Of course, people who work in advertising/marketing and dissemination of information are very aware how this process works and possess the skills to draw our attention where they want it to go.
Fortunately, the fake-news schemes have been exposed and executives of the sites that allegedly participated in them are taking steps to correct the programs that allowed these transgressions to occur in the first place. But this experience has understandably left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths: We trusted ‘X’ to tell us the truth! They lied to us/I believed what they said! What does that say about me?
As I explained in my blog titled Time Flies When I’m On-Line, it is very easy to become overloaded by sensory stimuli while we are on the Internet or even watching television and drift into a state of trance (hyper-suggestibility). Here are a few suggestions to prevent this from happening:
· Regularly count yourself out of the trance state by saying, “One, two, three, four, five, eyes open [say your name], wide awake.” This mantra will help you immediately return to an alert and less suggestible state of awareness.
· Get in the habit of walking away from the computer, put down the hand-held device or turn off/change the channel on the television or radio and do something different for a little while. Take this time while you are off-line to think critically about what you have read or heard. Does it make sense to you? Consider possible flaws in that original argument. If necessary, give yourself permission to imagine there are other possible explanations and imagine what an alternative scenario might be. How does that picture feel to you?
· Have a nutritious snack that includes some protein to stabilize your blood-sugar level and thus minimize potential irritability, frustration and over-reaction to what is going on around you. This step will help you remain more objective and patient to listen to and even consider opposite points of view as you come to your own decision about what you have heard, seen or read.
· Remember, you are most suggestible to yourself. If you (your conscious mind) don’t like or do not feel comfortable with the information you are hearing and/or the way you are behaving, decide to make a change. That change may simply be to log-off the computer, change the channel/switch off the TV or radio, or learning how to relax and think/evaluate situations around you more critically rather than automatically react to them. Hypnotherapy is great for that, too.
Sara R. Fogan, C.Ht. is a certified hypnotherapist based in Southern California. She graduated with honors from the Hypnosis Motivation Institute in 2005. For more information about Calminsense Hypnotherapy® and to set up an appointment, please visit http://www.calminsensehypnotherapy.com/.