Memory

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(Not about health)

When you spend a lot of time in bed, you get a lot of thinking time. My brain is not as sharp as it was, but I do find myself musing on many things. The other day, after I was promoted by a song, to blog about Mary and I meeting and marrying, I started to muse on memory. These are my thoughts.

You hear a song and it brings back a memory of your first love, or in my case only love. Smell some pickle and you are back at school trying to force down a serving of chewy processed ham, dry peas and watery tasteless mash all served with a dollop of strong-smelling pickle. Touch a cold piece of marble and you are a tearful child again, on a cold wet day standing by a grave. Sad faces looking down at you. See a crackling fire and you are gathered around a Christmas hearth warm and cosy, excitedly waiting to hang up your stocking. Our senses connect to our memories in powerful ways, both negative and positive.

Memories, both long and short term are used by magicians, marketing people and politicians to influence and manipulate us. I watched an episode of Britain’s Got Talent where Simon Cowell apparently had his mind read by a police dog. I will make no comments about how hard that would be. But in this instance the way it was done, look away if you believe in magic, was by trickery. All the performance before the ‘mind reading’ had emphasised and reinforced the idea that the dog was ‘heroic’. The policeman had said it, and a video had demonstrated it. So that when Simon was given a ‘free’ choice of word to describe the dog, there was only one possibility, ‘heroic’. Which of course had been planned and pre engraved on the dog collar. Similar tricks are done by magicians all the time. Words are imprinted into the subject’s memory by suggestions visually and audibly. A typical trick is to lead a person into a room, with images and physical representations of a particular word all around, the magician also keeps repeating the word and the result is to imprint the word into the memory of the subject that way. Then the magician just says, “think of a word.” And the subject will think of the imprinted word. It seems like magic when the magician produces a ready produced document with that word on it.

Marketing people do a similar thing with adverts. Not imprinted words, but ideas and feelings attached to our memories are connected to a product. We think we are not influenced by adverts. Yeah right! Adverts are just much cleverer than ever before. They don’t say “buy this product, it’s great.” What they do is build up a feeling, a desire or aspiration within you. Then show you how the product meets what has become a felt need within you. Take a car advert, any car. You would think they would advertise its features, safety, economy etc. But those things tend to run in text along the bottom. The adverts are all about feelings, impressed on you by visual and audio influences. You are sold an experience an idea a feeling. They tap into your positive memories, really what they do is imprint thoughts about this car alongside those memories, connecting them. If you were in this car you would feel free, excited, comfortable, respected etc. You would be having fun, enjoying life, carefree and so on. Your experience of life would be changed. In the advert the roads are empty, the children if any in the car are happy and occupied. The weather is either sunny or at least dramatic and exciting, never dreary and boring. The advert seems to say, ‘this car would change your life.’ ‘You would be a better person.’ ‘People would respect you more.’ Not this car would get you from A to B economically, comfortable and safely. Sight and sound are used to draw on your positive memories. It builds up a feeling of desire, warmth, aspiration, content, fulfilment, happiness etc, that you then link to that car. It’s all trickery. This is used for all products and is even evident in shops and online.

Next time you are shopping look around you and see the imagery, sounds and sometimes scents that are there to trigger your positive memories. What is it connecting to in your memory? What feeling is it trying to engender within you? Comfort, warmth, hunger, desire… Are the marketeers trying to take you back to your youth? Or are they reminding you how hungry you feel. One thing is certain they are playing with your feelings and emotions at a level you are probably unaware of. Interesting isn’t it, when you look for it.

Politicians now use the same techniques. That’s the real way we can end up with people in power who most of us scratch our heads about and say: ‘how did they get elected?”. We are much more easily manipulated and managed than we realise. Our memories both positive and negative can be touched on by clever rhetoric and images. People and parties repeatedly bombard social media with those images and the regular news with sound bites. So that the consensus becomes steered towards whatever they want. It’s not hard to turn a lot of people against a whole people group, idea or religion. Or towards an idea. The sad thing is that many people can end up believing that they always had those views and fiercely fight to defend them. If we are not careful, we can get swept along on a wave of emotions that taps into deep seated memories and feelings from our past. Facts, reality and common sense can all go out of the window in the face of such an onslaught.

I make it all sound a bit hopeless, like we are manipulated and can do nothing. But that is not the case. The first step to undoing manipulation is recognising it. We have intelligence and we can use that to counter the influence. We are not dumb animals to be led by the nose. Yes, we do get a spark of feeling from a triggered memory. But if we realise that it is being deliberately triggered then we do not have to respond. Look for the clues. Let me give you a practical example. As I watched Britain’s Got Talent, I knew the word ‘heroic’ was being imprinted. So that when Simon Cowell was asked for a word, I could see the word ‘heroic’ was going to be asked for somehow. I would have chosen another word. OK so that’s an example that would spoil a trick. But it’s a principle and works in every situation.

Ask yourself why is it that some political parties put out the images they do? What is the natural response to the images they propagate? What is the purpose of their sound bites and headlines? Are they just tapping into your emotional response? Do you want them to lead you by the nose that way? Choose your own response. Better still look at what they are talking about and search deeper. Don’t look at their images and news stories and respond in the obvious way, find the deeper truth. I find that more digging will unearth a greater truth beneath.

Let me give you a practical example a few years back an image was circulated on social media of young Arabic men getting off a boat. The headline suggested these were the “so called refugees fleeing persecution.” Going on to suggest they were young men seeking jobs under the guise off fleeing persecution and asking where are the women and children we are supposed to be helping? In fact, the photo was of young men on a ferry to Italy on their way to work, legitimate work. They were not claiming to be refugees or asylum seekers at all. But the photo had a huge impact turning people against asylum seekers. Many people believed the image at face value without checking it out. The storm of vitriolic comments on social media was shocking. Such manipulation of images plays on our minds to negatively influence and turn us against those in genuine need. In the case I have given it worked the way the people planned. They manipulated many people by visual trickery, drawing on deep seated emotions and feelings. This technique is used a lot by politicians and those who want to influence us. Be wary, if you see a picture, don’t just believe that the headline is true to the picture or even that the headline itself is true. Do wider research on many different sites.

Headlines are not truth. Let me repeat that for emphasis ‘Headlines are not truth.’ They are snippets of truth at very best and very often distortions of truth. You can distort any truth by how you phrase a headline. The image you put with a headline can totally transform our emotional reaction to it. Look deeper, don’t allow sound bites, images and headlines influence your emotions and thus your decisions. Images are also not truth. Think of images of yourself, how a photo taken out of context with an inappropriate headline could paint a complete lie. Images are not truth. At this time of crisis and division in our country in particular we all need to be very careful not to react quickly to gut instincts and emotional calls. Don’t be tricked by sound bites, headlines and images, whether on social media or the regular media. Our minds are being played with, we need to be aware and take back control of our own thinking.

What about with adverts and shops. Ask yourself how am I being manipulated? What am I meant to feel about this product? Then ask real questions about it. If it’s a car, what about economy, safety and comfort. If it’s food what about nutrition, flavour, environmental issues. Don’t be led by the nose. Advertisers are happy to lead us the way they want. Break free and go the way you want.

Memory is powerful and the effect it has emotionally on us seems to rule our actions. But our intellect can over-rule if we chose to let it. All I am saying is that we have a choice, our emotional memories and feelings don’t have to rule our actions.

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