Are you being 'influenced' by someone?

A critical part of your brain quite literally switches off when your feelings go on an overdrive. Do you know what that critical part is?

When a person is overcome by primal emotions the ability to take complex decisions based on facts, and in everyone's long term interest, is lost. Because the part that makes us stronger than other living beings - the part which makes us human - is not functioning anymore. Do you know what that part is?

Our rational brain. Once it is switched off, while you still retain your consciousness, the conscientiousness is lost. When this happens, it doesn't matter what your IQ is - 70 or 170 - because, in a way, you are not using your brain anymore. So, are emotions bad?

The answer is not straightforward. Research has indicated that people who are purely rational, after surgical removal of certain parts of the brain, are not far from dysfunctional. The emotions are what make us alive. They give our lives meaning and purpose - and give us the energy to do whatever we do. They are the reason why humans have been able to achieve what was once considered impossible. They are also the reason why art, dance, music and poetry exist. Then what's the problem?

Emotions can be dangerous, in two ways - they can harm you, and they - your emotions - can be used to harm you. Former because you might get emotional and do stupid things - can I assume this is something you already know? Latter because knowing the former, some people can make you become emotional when they want and where they want without you even knowing what is happening. And, then they can make you do things which are harmful for you and even for the people you love. Can I assume you also know about this?

It is possible, even for people who you have never met, to manipulate you and make you do what they want you to do. And, they are doing it. 'Systematic Electronic Brainwashing' is a reality. 

Can I assume that you think you are smart and that this can't happen to you?

If so, you are wrong. The truth is, it can happen to everyone - it is happening to almost everyone. Even the revered psychologists who've won the Nobel for their work related to human decision making and cognitive biases acknowledge they are not immune to it. Even they must remind themselves repeatedly that their decisions might be wrong, just because they didn't think - because the naturally embedded heuristics and biases took over.

Okay, we are emotional, and we can be manipulated - can we save ourselves? 

It is certainly possible to improve from where you are currently. I can share some broad suggestions - it is you who will have to put in the effort. But, if you do - if you are rigorous and dedicated - you will be able to improve - and you will see a resulting positive change in all aspects of your life whether it is career, relationships, or something else.

Are you ready to take the leap to better thinking?

Here are some suggestions:
  1. Understand how your brain works - the neurology: Psychologists often educate their patients and patients' relatives about the problem. It has been found that merely understanding the problem can significantly improve the situation. What does this mean for you? Read about how your brain works, how you take decisions, and what biases affect you. There is plenty of literature available - written specially for common people in plain English. If you need a lead, start with Thinking, Fast and Slow by Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman and Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely.
  2. Understand yourself - the psychology: Be mindful of your feelings, your emotions, your thoughts, your actions, your decisions... your self. There is plenty of material, including awesome apps such as Headspace available to help you out with this. Even if you are able to be mindful of what you think, speak and do; and accurately discern what is a fact, a belief, and an opinion in what you say and what you write - that would serve you well.
  3. Use the 'peace-time' for 'war-time' preparation: When you are in a calm state and can think rationally, prepare for the times when you are not. Because when you are not, then most probably you wouldn't even know - preparation and defense are out of the question. There are two things you can try for sure: First, create frameworks to structure your thoughts - ex: to avoid making an emotional high-value purchase, create rules like "If I'm buying anything above $1000, Then I must (a) clearly lay out what the objective of the purchase is, (b) evaluate at least 3 options, (c)...." Second, identify what could be possible threats to good decision making - where people can use your emotions against you, then educate yourself about what will come so that you can prevent damage - ex: very common example today is propaganda using social media - also known as systematic or electronic brainwashing (the quote in the cover photo indicates systematic brainwashing happened even when internet did not exist.)

So, are you under the influence of someone? Have you even thought about this before now?

* * * * *

This article started as a post for friends on Facebook, with the idea of sharing what I currently know, due to my avid interest in psychology and mass communication (including propaganda theory), about the relation between thinking and feeling, and how it can be used to manipulate human decision making. And, also what you can do to save yourself from it.

Hope you found it useful, and it helps improve your life in some way! Feel free to share with your friends and colleagues, if you feel this would benefit them.

PS: My psychologist friends and colleagues, I hope you will pardon me for the simplification of concepts - this post is for laymen.

Disclaimer: Any views or statements expressed are mine and not those of my employer. The content of this article is based completely on my personal knowledge and research; and is not based on any work my employer may be engaged in, or any practices followed by it.
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March 4, 2022 at 7:45 PM
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