It’s no secret to most of us that the election season in the United States these last few months have been among the worst we’ve seen in possibly a generation. The division between the Hillary and Trump supporters is as wide as the propaganda is vile. We’ve heard lies and distortions, half-truths and fallacy, and enough spin to make us vomit for a year.
You’ve seen the memes, right? Those ridiculous pictures with captions that all your “friends” share on Facebook. Some are lightly amusing, others are funny, and many are just plain disgusting. The disgusting ones are by design. They exist to hit you at your core, where you are most vulnerable, and they do an amazing job.
The Internet Memes
I’ll not draw the ire of those that create them, you can read Rolling Stone or Time Magazine articles about internet trolls to find out, but I will tell you how to not become their victim. Truth be told, I should have written this article a year ago, but things have been busy. I’ve been working behind the scenes and am now coming up for some needed fresh air here.
The more disgusting memes activate your fear response by design. It’s plain, simple, and very effective. When you see enough of these things, it can and will shape your world view. This is especially powerful when coupled with talk radio or cable “news” shows that reinforce these stereotypes and memes. I’ve seen many people go from casual, laid back people to raging angry and downright scary personalities in relatively short time frames. Make no mistake, this is by design.
How to Beat the Propaganda Machine
Repeated exposure to fear changes your brain chemistry and wiring. Stress and fear can cause us to get stuck in negative loops that play over and over again in our heads. The fear is mostly imagined, and conjured up by people who create these memes and spread the fear. It’s a machine, and it’s hurting people. What really concerns me is that even after this election is over, people’s brains might not reset back to normal without work. This is especially concerning among those with violent tendencies.
Luckily, we have a way to change our brains back. It’s called mindfulness, and this site has many ways to learn and use it.
Need some proof and encouragement? Try this article from Businessweek http://www.businessinsider.com/mindfulness-training-and-your-brain-2016-10:
A new systematic review in Brain and Cognition has looked at all studies published prior to July this year that investigated brain changes associated with eight weeks of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction or Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy.
The combined results suggest that a short course of secular mindfulness training leads to multiple brain changes similar in nature to those seen in people who have practised religious or spiritual meditation for a lifetime.
Rinske Gotink and her colleagues found 30 relevant studies that used MRI or fMRI brain imaging to look at the effects of mindfulness training on brain structure and function, including 13 randomly controlled trials.
Associated brain changes, in terms of activity levels and volume and connectivity changes, have been reported in the prefrontal cortex (a region associated with conscious decision making and emotional regulation and other functions), the insula (which represents internal body states among other things), the cingulate cortex (decision making), the hippocampus (memory) and the amygdala (emotion). Based on what we know about the function of these brain regions, Gotink’s team said these changes appear to be consistent with the idea that mindfulness helps your brain regulate your emotions.
Most of these brain changes linked with brief mindfulness training are similar to the brain changes associated with long-term spiritual or religious meditation, although the finding for the amygdala (reduced activity and volume after mindfulness) has not usually been observed in long-term meditators.
There you have it. While any study can be speculative and may be prone to certain biases, there is growing evidence that meditation and mindfulness can change your brain and chill you out. The important part is that with practice, people who have become angry and disaffected could possibly find help, and if you are one, please give mindfulness an honest shot. It may help you reclaim your humanity, or just feel good, ya know?