You’re Being Manipulated (and one simple step you can take about it)
Once I saw the barrage of penises on the cigarette boxes, and I noticed the sudsy “S. E. X.” in the Drano, as it melted down the drain, I knew that my perspective on life would never be the same.
When I was in ninth grade, I did a speech on the subliminal use of sex in advertising. Yeah, I was that kid.
I’ve always had a fondness for human behavior. And I loved learning about the many ways our minds could be influenced. I was clearly either headed towards this exact career path or a role in the CIA.
Doing the work that I do, with clients and their stories, has made me an excellent bullshit detector. Who knew it would come in so handy for this time period on the planet, where the agendas are plentiful and we are bombarded by disinformation left and right…
But here we are, and here’s the deal:
You’re being manipulated. We all are.
It’s not really a question of “if.” It’s really more a question of “how much.” Because, yes, there are degrees of deception. Whether it is advertising, politics, industry, news or your social media algorithms, nothing is neutral. There are trillions of dollars that have been spent to learn how to tug on your particular heartstrings. And things are far more advanced than those old Drano suds.
So, how do you find the truth?
I wish I had an easy answer for you.
The reality is that your truth detection process is dependent on you. Because our relationship to truth, like everything else, formed in childhood.
Kids see the truth VERY clearly. But, adults, in their embarrassment, or sometimes in an attempt to soothe, deny the very real things that kids are noticing. So, we learn to stop seeing the truth. And, on top of that, if the people around us were not honest with themselves or others, we also learned to model that.
Remember, that dishonest behavior wasn’t always intentional or purposely manipulative. Humans are wired to get needs met. When we can’t get needs met in a healthy way, we adapt. And sometimes this means we adapt via deception of ourselves and others—“I’m fine. It’s not so bad. That didn’t bother me. She wasn’t trying to hurt me. I’ll just say this to get my way. etc…”
We grow up and mingle in a big soup of trying to get needs met, in relatively honest and dishonest ways. Then, add in a giant scoop of capitalism, that seeks to influence us into various levels of consumption, by preying on our strengths and weaknesses.
And do you see how our truth-o-meters get messed up?
So, what to do? Just like anything else, do your best. Do the best you can to be honest with yourself, others and also recognize the manipulation around you.
If I can give you any ONE piece of advice regarding truth detection, it’s this: SLOW DOWN.
Deception and manipulation rely on the lizard brain. Our lizard brain is the oldest part of our brain (our amygdala) and it is responsible for survival instincts like food and sex. Fear and rage hang out here. But this is not the place where your most conscious decisions are made.
So, there is a ton of stuff out there intended to activate the amygdala—activate your desires and your rage—and that stuff is playing on our brains biochemistry. Yes, we are being PLAYED.
When you slow down your responses—whether that’s a response to a social media post, the sharing of a meme, a reaction to a friend/partner/colleague or a quick purchase of the latest and greatest, you give the rest of your brain a chance to catch up. When you do that, you stand the greatest chance of recognizing when and how you are being manipulated.
So, slow down, pay attention, look for the suds.