[Editor’s Note: Today we have the third chapter of our series Beyond Influence, Brainwash Yourself (read I and II first) from our first two-time contributor, Chance Lunceford. Check out his prior post, Personal Sacred Practice. Enjoy!]
When Garrett asked me if I’d be interested in writing a guest post for his blog in this series of protecting your motherfucking brainspace, I jumped on it.
This kind of content is right up my alley, and I’m almost always keen on sharing insights with those who are curious about the subject, and now I’m here ready to convince you that brainwashing is real, that it’s being practiced on you all the time and that you should learn to practice the art for yourself.
That’s gonna make most of you uncomfortable, and I’m perfectly fine with that – one should be uncomfortable with being influenced without consent or even awareness – but before we go too much further I’d like to draw some lines around what I mean by brainwashing.
Do I mean some nefarious process, done under an uncomfortably bright and hot interrogation lamp, a good cop and a bad cop circling around you like buzzards ‘round a corpse, offering snide poke and comforting rejoinder after injecting some super-secret-serum into your ballsack?
I can neither confirm nor deny that such methods exist, but I can confirm that those measures would be reserved for critical and kinetic situations, if they did exist, and I can also confirm that those measures are largely unnecessary due to the ubiquity, constancy and efficacy of the more subtle craft of influence.
Influence in the context of this line of musing represents a process which shifts the thoughts of another person, or group of persons, in such a manner that the actions resulting from the cascading thoughts proceeding from the artifice of influence will serve to further your will.
This kind of influence requires a relationship, or at least the perception of a relationship, to be truly effective.
Imagine that you’ve decided to buy your first house and you’re beginning to look for real estate agents. You understand that there are thousands of them in your area, and that some of them are either shady or incompetent, some of them will do the job, and some very few of them are all-stars.
If you know of nobody who’s ever gone through the home buying process and if you have no way of understanding their strengths, weaknesses and other relevant information, then you’d be most likely to go with, presupposing you don’t totally hate their face or voice, an agent who has an ad with their face on a billboard near your house or an advertisement on television/radio.
But that’s really a crapshoot, ain’t it?
I mean, just because someone buys ad space doesn’t make them good at their job, yeah? And what’s more, even if we take the idea that having enough money to buy ad space means some level of success, how would you know whether the success you’re measuring is their success as fucking people over?
Now let’s suppose that you have parents, a neighbor, a coworker and a homeless guy in the alley outside of your office who have all bought homes. Let’s further suppose that you’ve asked all of them for advice on an agent, and they have all offered their best wisdom.
Your parents are on their third – they would prefer their third home to be their final home – house, which is nearly exactly their dream home, and they feel like they were lucky to get it at the price and have gushed about their agent. They further say that, since they’ve used him for two of their three homes and have known him for more than 20 years, they can get you in with him and he’ll waive part of his fees as a favor to your parents.
Your neighbor lives in an apartment, just like you do, and is a 45-year-old divorcee named Maude who is currently looking to buy a new home now that the dust has settled from her divorce. She let her, and she always emphasizes the first syllable, EX-husband Claude – Claude and Maude seemed destined to fall apart from the jump with rhyming names, if you ask me – handle almost the entire process the first time through, but she’s using the same agent Claude used to buy their shared home just over 10 years ago. After joking that she got the real estate agent in the divorce too she confesses that she really doesn’t know how effective she is, she just knows she likes taking anything she can from that lying, cheating bastard Claude. Then she cries a lot…
Your coworker is actually your boss’s boss, Pat, who you dated in high-school, and who clearly still has feelings for you. You don’t feel the same, and you always feel a bit uneasy in their presence. Pat, somehow, got wind that you were looking to buy a house, and has offered to get a friend involved. Pat’s friend, “Rick by the way,” Pat goes on to tell you, usually only works on multi-million-dollar deals but would be willing to “slum it” with you if Pat asked. “Never can overestimate the power of powerful friends,” Pat remarks while making awkward eyes at you and standing a bit too close.
The homeless guy in the alley outside your office, which you escaped to for a breather after getting creeped out by Pat again, tells you that the guy who’s face is on the bench just across the street in front of the Burger King, is a “fucking scammer” and that he, Jeffrey, got caught up with Richard Parkinson, the agent on the bench, through a referral from his former boss. In the end, he signed some papers he shouldn’t have, and went from looking for a new home and thriving in a career to homeless and penniless and plotting to exact his revenge on his former boss who works, he says as he points to the building you just walked out of, “IN THAT BUILDING RIGHT THERE!”
Now… there’s a lot going on in there besides just the message at hand, but I’ll let you do the thinking on the branching issues and stick to the heartwood. This hypothetical has a seemingly obvious outcome if we take it at face value. And that’s because I spun it that way, but I left out a critical detail:
The real estate agent is the same for all four scenarios.
You see, I told you the stories I wanted you to hear, and led you to a conclusion I wanted you to land on. This is the very same as the narrative manipulation that occurs in the media and news landscape, the marketing and advertisement realm, the political sphere and everywhere else that opinion is shaped, shared and shoved. The entire operation of public opinion is filled with messages and narratives and angles that have been put forward by people, or groups of people, with intention.
They want you to believe the things that will serve their agendas.
Don’t get me wrong, not all agendas are bad or malevolent, and not all influencers are plotting your demise or seeking to fleece you. But, all agendas are intended to benefit who their creators even when they are intended to benefit those who they’re delivered to, and all influencers seek to improve their own circumstances even when they also seek to improve those they influence.
If you are on social media, follow the news, read books, listen to music or the spoken word, or consume any other content created by other people, then you are being influenced by their agendas, both overt/intentional and subtle/subconscious, into thinking certain thoughts.
Thinking certain thoughts causes certain behaviors.
It is not the same across all people, but there is something like a Gaussian distribution here; the reason that terms like “normal” and “average” are applied to people is because given certain inputs within the context of certain environments, a fairly predictably high percentage of people will act within a small number possibilities. Almost all the rest will act within the “weird” or “uncommon” range, and a very few will act within the “exceptional” or “disastrous” range.
To condense the thought, what you think is not only linked to what you do, but is also highly predictive. To condense the though even further. What you think is what you do.
What you think about what you do is how you feel.
The way that you view your actions inside a moral and/or principled framework will determine how you feel about the actions you are taking. This is where factors like peacocking and shaming come into play, and they play hard.
The Venn Diagram of the Action-Matrix and the Feeling-Matrix have only moderate overlap. If this were not so, then you’d never continue down a path of destructive behavior for more than a few instances, because your feelings of negativity and guilt would steer you away from doing so. You’d essentially have no free-will outside of your moral conditioning. This is a description of a highly-neurotic person.
On the other hand, if you had no moral conditioning then you’d be a psychopath, and you’d have little ability to “feel” emotions in the same way as other people, because you’d have no processing framework with which to plug the sensory data into for decompression and parsing. You’d be ultimately free to act, but would lack the mechanism of meaning.
Either of these outcomes is problematic and creates a hollowness to the experience of being alive, because both think and feel are required to be fully human.
Some of you will be feeling a little freaked out or daunted right now.
If someone else can shape your thoughts, actions, and emotions through the ideas they present and the way that they present them to you, then couldn’t you do the same for yourself?
The answer is yes.
You’re likely asking yourself how to do that, and the process is complex and detailed and unique to every person, but the following list of principles and practices will go a long ways towards teaching you how:
1) Write down a list of principles and declarations: Principles are precepts that you believe to be true and/or good which you shape your decisions and actions by. Declarations are statements affirming your commitment to your principles which you declare, literally, every day.
2) Curate your content tyrannically: The music, podcasts, conversations, books, etc… that you engage with should support your principles and goals. If not, you’re conditioning yourself for failure.
3) Find good teachers: Find the people who are already living your principles, who have already accomplished some of your goals, and convince them to share their knowledge with you. Convince them to guide you on your path to success. Tip: This will require money often, and time always.
4) If you’re getting bent out of shape by something that doesn’t directly affect your survival, your finances or your relationships then cut it out of your life. If it does affect any of those categories, figure out how to mitigate the negatives and embrace the positives.
5) Desperation kills morality: Take care to keep your finances, your relationships and your reputation healthy. Running out of rope is, paradoxically, the quickest way to hang yourself. Don’t let poor life management drag you into a beaten down dog in subservience to a dark master in trade for table scraps.
6) Create mantras, or use ones that already exist, and say them to yourself a lot. Record yourself saying them and play them on repeat. There are a lot of messages that pop into your head during a day, and if you can return your mind to the messages you want to habituate, it will mitigate much of the mental energy spent on and susceptibility to counterproductive narratives.
7) Meditate and pray: Do both. Nuff Said.
8) Ask a lot of questions: Ask questions of everybody. Don’t ask questions just so you can rebut them, ask so you can learn more about the subject and the person who is answering.
9) Follow the power: When you are exposed to new ideas, find out who benefits if it turns out to be true. Do a little research, and engage in deductive reasoning. Try to figure out which parts are true, which are spin, and why it was presented the way it was. This will illuminate much, and keep defend agains much of the unconscious influence encapsulated in a narrative.
10) Be a skeptic, not a cynic: Don’t disbelieve because you’re too weak to believe anything in an uncertain world, but don’t believe because you’re too weak to disbelieve in an uncertain world. Measure and test your beliefs, and change them when you learn they’re wrong, but keep them if you’ve not been shown evidence or reason to let them go. Be diligent in this, it will determine what you think and who you are.
If you can engage in the 10 concepts listed above, you’ll be well on your way to having the capacity to brainwash yourself, and to allow far less outside influence that hasn’t been given permission to live in your head a seat at the table of your thoughts. Very few people practice more than one or two of these tools, especially in a conscious manner. If you could even pick 3 or 4 of them to work on consistently, you’d be well ahead of almost everybody in developing a narrative immune system.
The idea that you ought to be brainwashing yourself might seem weird or dark on the surface, but the reality is that you’re being brainwashed by every message you receive, every day, for your entire life. Doesn’t it seem like a good idea to take that process into your own hands as much as possible? Otherwise are you not an unwitting slave to the desires of others?
Don’t be a slave, brainwash yourself.
If you’d like to learn more about these ideas, and gain access to a much deeper collection of precepts and practices, then I’d encourage you to check out the book I wrote to help you gain mastery over your mentality:
Thanks for reading.