What is mind-killing? It is the use of your own patterns of emotional reaction to lead you to do what another person, a system, or even your own patterns of reaction want you to do. The techniques of mind-killing have been carefully honed in politics, advertising, marketing, public relations and many other areas of modern life. They also operate internally. The genius of mind-killing is that most people do not know they are being manipulated. They feel they are doing what is in their interests and, in effect, destroy themselves.
To be awake and aware requires that you have enough free attention to recognize and counteract mind-killing, whether it comes in the form of personal interactions, of the social conditioning that we are subjected to through the media, or of the voices that your patterns use to preserve and maintain their operation. In the next few newsletters, I am going to discuss six methods of mind-killing. Although he does not use the term mind-killing, Naom Chomsky describes precisely these six methods in the documentaryManufacturing Consent (available on YouTube).
Today, I look at the first two: seduction and alignment.
Both these methods use attraction, which, along with aversion and indifference comprise the three fundamental emotional reactions known as the three poisons.
In seduction, you are led to feel that the fulfillment of your dreams depends on your doing what the other person (or the system or your own patterns) is encouraging you to do. In mind-killing, there is always an implicit threat, and it is the fear evoked by that threat that is used to coerce or manipulate you. In the case of seduction, the threat is that your dreams will never be realized unless you do what is being asked of you. The threat is rarely made explicit. To do so would make it possible to examine it objectively and it would lose its power. But the threat is there and acts on you through your own fears. In effect, the fulfillment of your dreams acts as a lure and the implicit threat pushes you to take the bait.
In alignment, you are led to feel that your survival, your viability in society and/or your very identity depends on your doing what the other person (or the system or your own patterns) is requiring of you. You are being offered a way of life, a position in the world and/or recognition, and the threat here is barely concealed: if you don't do this, you don't belong in the world.
One method of counteracting mind-killing is to use a set of four questions originally developed by Byron Katie:
- Is this true?
- How do I know it is true?
- How do I feel when I believe this?
- Who would I be if I let this go?
The key in employing such a method is to be willing to stand in the storm of emotional reactions that these questions elicit. The storm is inevitable because the mind-killing has already provoked emotional reactions, particularly desire, longing and wanting in all their different forms. In effect, you are making your own patterns of attraction and desire the object of your attention. There is little, if any, need to analyze. It is sufficient to stand in the experience of the physical, emotional and cognitive sensations that arise when you ask these questions. When you do so, the energy of the emotional reactions is transformed into attention. You are able to experience attraction as an experience, not a compulsion. You step out of the world of projected desire. The mind-killing loses its power. You wake up from the spell that the seduction has cast on you. You break out of the jail that alignment has confined you to. And you taste the fresh air of freedom.