Recently, I was hypnotized for a medical condition. While I found nothing too surprising about the experience, which by the way, is very relaxing, what I learned about how hypnosis works was fascinating. Picture your brain as a marble with three layers. The core is the subconscious, controlling and processing everything we are not aware of, such as our breathing, the blinking of our eyes, and our heartbeat. Our subconscious is constantly taking in information we are not aware of and filing it away. Even now, as you are reading my words, your subconscious is registering information about your surroundings. The outermost layer is your conscious. It controls your voluntary movements, focus, and decision making. In between the subconscious core and the conscious outer layer is the critical faculty, your brain's filter or sorting system, deciding what you are conscious of, and what gets filed away in the unconscious mind.
The subconscious mind cannot process negative information. When you are walking across a log above a river, everyone knows that you don't look down, or you will surely fall. Instead, you focus on where you are going. And you especially don't tell yourself, "don't fall, don't fall, don't fall," because your subconscious will only hear, "Fall, fall, fall." Language is that powerful.
After watching Sean Spicer's press conference today, I am reminded exactly why propaganda is so poisonous. It doesn't matter if fact-checkers work night and day to dismantle the lies Trump's administration is telling the American people, because with enough repetition some part of what they say will be filed away as true, even if we do not believe this consciously. The phrase "alternate facts," is the most dangerous phrase I've heard yet from this administration.
This is why the Women's March matters and will continue to matter. Just the fact that it happened. The visual image, and even the very idea, of 2.5 million people peacefully marching around the globe, a sea of pink hats, many with children in tow, is also being filed away in our collective subconscious. We are the anti-propaganda machine. We are the critical faculty, and we have to flex that muscle, by using our voices, by being seen and heard, and by engaging with others. I'm afraid we really are living in a Post-truth America, one where we will never feel understood by each other because we will become pegs on a map with no starting point, no mutually agreed upon truths. Propaganda cheapens everything about language and communication.
My challenge to myself this week: believe that words are gold. Only say what is precious and true. Listen to understand, not to respond. Let people show you who they are and believe them.
Definition of propaganda
: the spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person
: ideas, facts, or allegations spread deliberately to further one's cause or to damage an opposing cause; also : a public action having such an effect