At an event the other night, I heard someone speak profoundly on the life they used to live. It was full of things that many people can’t even imagine being involved in, doing, or seeing. The type of stuff you would see on TV, in music videos, or in the movies. Not fun, exciting, good things – but things that would traumatize you to watch. Things that would make you cry to see happen. But they do happen. They happen every day, in our neighborhoods, out on the street, in the restaurants you eat at, in the high rise next door, you name it.
One sentence really stood out to me. He said, “Some people ask me what I was like before this, how I changed – was I a good person before I did all of the things I’ve done? The answer is yes – I was raised with good principles and values and wanted to do good in the world…but man, its the people I surrounded myself with. Slowly but surely the way they lived, said and did really influenced my way of thinking until I started wanting the same things that they wanted. And thats how it all began.”
This struck me, because I have thought about this a lot. Were people who are out there in the world doing terrible things and living a destructive lifestyle, or using people for a living, or contributing to hurting the innocent and controlling reality for their own gain while others suffer under their feet “always” like that? Have some humans simply been these types of people since very early on, or did many “used” to be good people with good hearts and worthy values who simply took a tangent turn in their lives and became immersed in a place where their major influences were people around them who were not?
It is human nature to soak up what is around us, and we are very susceptible to influence and subliminal programming no matter where that is coming from. When you hear something repeated enough times – even if it is something you do not believe or is completely opposed to what your heart originally values…you will find yourself eventually considering it, or even believing and following it due to the porous nature of our minds and how the subtle layers of neurolinguistic programming work. This is why some people believe that we have to be careful what we listen to, hear, or surround ourselves with – because our minds, unfortunately are so susceptible to subliminal influence.
This is how mind control begins. Whether that be in a controlling or abusive relationship, through television and music (both in consumer culture and counter-culture), social engineering, joining a cult, political programming, etc. If you’ve ever gone to hypnotherapy, you can see how this works in live action. It can be as subtle as hearing a friend make a statement about something – having that moment pass, and then hearing them say it again a couple of weeks later – the moment again passing.
A few days later, you find yourself in a conversation with another person and you yourself make that same declaration or statement about something as though it were your own, not even realizing that you are simply repeating something that was planted in your mind subliminally simply by hearing someone else say it twice with confidence.
Again, this is how brainwashing and mind control begins. Just the tip of the ice berg – but it warrants the question – can this be used for bad? Can it turn good people bad? And can it turn bad people worse? Is this how some people end up doing terrible things, in terrible situations that they would never choose for themselves if they could see outside of the box? Or are there people who are inherently dark, sick, and twisted individuals who simply are that way, perhaps save a miracle?
I think the answer to both is yes.
The transformation I saw in this individual was beautiful, astounding, and amazing. I believe that he was someone who was a good person, became heavily influenced by those he chose to surround himself with – and one day was rocked awake from his nightmare. In order to change what he was doing and how he viewed the world – he absolutely had to move away from a lot of the people and things he was spending his time on and with. A “sea change” requires the acknowledgement of what exactly it is that is influencing us. Is it material? Is is power? Is it superiority? Is it vanity? Is is addiction? Is it selfishness? Has arrogance taken over? Is it carelessness? Do we care how what we do affects other people, or is it all about us getting to our end goal? And who or what is influencing those thought patterns and ways of viewing the world?
Does it really matter who we hang out with? Who we hear speaking? Who we allow to influence the subtle waves and thought patterns in our minds? Of course we can’t walk around with earmuffs on or put ourselves into a protective bubble 24-7 – but I think we CAN choose where the majority of our influence comes from…who we surround ourselves with, listen to, and take seriously. Be aware and notice things. Then make your decisions.
Those who begin with good hearts are clearly influenceable, but I believe they have a good chance at coming back from circumstances that caused them to veer off track if and when they take action during those moments of clarity. And remain committed to making it through the detox that happens afterward.
Still others, will not do this. Negative influence, programming, and trauma has such a hold on their minds and psyches that it has almost become a part of who they are. In fact, I think many of them truly believe it is who they are – so the motivation to change is scant to naught. Some of them seem to enjoy hurting and using others, and the level of possession that it has over them seems impenetrable. I think that these folks are in the greatest danger because their slide is already fully greased, and if subliminal programming affects us all in a similar way – these people will truly be influenced in a way that can heighten their sadism and negativity. I don’t think that means there is no hope for them – but in my opinion, the answer is absolutely not to try to “change” them – for this is not something that you can change – but rather, something that they have to make the decision to do on their own.
I say this from a position of someone who has dreamed as big as the day is long that *I* could change a person (or two) who fell into this spectrum. I thought that if I only led by example, reasoned with them, if I could just show them – and they would listen, and they would change. Thats not how it works. We can lead by example, and that is the best thing we can do, in my opinion – but we will never be the one who changes another. It has to be their choice. We may spend countless, fruitless hours mooring over how we can fix or change the situation, but this is simply a sand trap pulling us in deeper and closer to their own sickness – and it is in those moments that we have to decide for ourselves where that is going to take us.
While a lot of us don’t want to abandon others, and we do want to be able to shine light into dark places – we still have to be careful where the majority of our influence is coming from, and there is a fine line between ‘helping’ and allowing your energy to be syphoned from or compromised.
Food for thought…and while we cannot always control everything we eat – if influence is truly this dynamic – we have to remain vigilant in those moments where we do have a choice – to pick and choose our food as wisely as we can.
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There is a story in one of the histories of the desert Fathers that uses this illustration: If you are on your journey and you happen upon somebody who is drowning in quicksand you shouldn’t extend your hand to him lest you be not strong enough to pull him out and he pull you in with him so that the both of you perish. Instead you should offer him the end of your staff in order to try to pull him out, and thus are you preserved from danger.