Believe What You Believe?

san logoSomething About Nothing

My column from the Albert Lea Tribune July 30, 2018

This message has been trending on social media: “Crazy … it worked! After reposting this to all my friends, my newsfeed showed a whole new batch of friends’ posts I haven’t been seeing.

“Here’s how to avoid hearing from the same 25 Facebook friends, due to Facebook’s new algorithm. If you are reading this message, do me a favor and leave me a quick comment… a “hello,” a sticker, whatever you want, so you will appear in my newsfeed! Then, copy and paste onto your wall so you can have more interaction with all your contacts.”

I know this is false and does not work, but I have seen it so many times the part of my brain which feeds sensible thought changed and I began to believe that possibly this was true, even though I had checked it out with factual sources. After all, could so many intelligent people be misled? My truth was starting to change. Maybe I needed to try it because there is the chance it could work in spite of what factual sources state.

This happens in our lives too. If someone tells us we are stupid or ugly or are a failure and it is repeated often enough, one begins to change what we believe about ourselves. There are studies that support this theory.

How many products do we buy because the commercials appearing during our television viewing time repeat over and over again? We buy products too good to be true because we watch the hype merry-go-rounded until we believe using a certain vitamin will take away our bunions. In fact, ask yourself how many times during the commercial break on a television show you have seen the same commercial twice or even three times in a few minutes. Think about it — would fake products be selling if somehow we weren’t enticed into believing they can cure the incurable or make us want that which we always stated we didn’t need?

It also makes a difference who is speaking. Back in the ’50s, Verne Gagne was selling a certain type of vitamin. My parents bought it because Verne was popular, and in those days people tended to believe those who were in the limelight, whether they used the product or not. It was all about who was giving them the pitch. Were they trustworthy? And how did they know they could trust them?

In 2018 our brains are hit every single second while we are on social media with messages to buy, believe or fix something. They burn into our brain over and over again so much we began to believe that which is not true, such as the Facebook message above. And then we tend to not believe the sites, news people or others that actually report the truth. We do not take the time to investigate.

Is it a form of brainwashing? I feel it is.

An article on BBC.com by psychologist Tom Stafford posted on Oct. 26, 2016, is titled: “How liars create the illusion of truth.” He states, “Repetition makes a fact seem truer, regardless of whether it is or not. Understanding this effect can help you avoid falling for propaganda.”

These days, we seem to be arguing about Facebook posts, statements in the newspapers, what politicians and celebrities say as to the validity of the truth. We accept what is printed and posted and shouted as the truth without actually investigating where the statement is coming from or whether the person making the pitch is actually who they say they are. We accept it as valid, depending on what we believe, and we may believe the statement because of what we have been fed either by someone in our lives personally such as “you are stupid” or by what we do and see out in the world. We believe without question if the point of view that is fed to us aligns with what we concur. But I think we have to ask ourselves if we believe what we believe because we investigated and came to a sensible decision, or if we believe what we believe because we have seen it over and over again in front of us so that it is burned into our brain and has changed the way we perceive things — or if we believe what is being said because of it being passed down by someone who had the same values as us. And we don’t question who or what the source is or if it is valid because we think the same way.

I am as guilty of this as anyone else. I have to ask myself if I believe what I believe to be true because I have based my decision on facts, or if I have followed along blindly because it feeds that which I already believe whether the source is fact or fake. I also have to ask myself why I trust the speaker. Are they known to be truthful, or do they tell me what I want to hear for their own gain? After all, as John Steinbeck stated,” It has always been my private conviction that any man who puts his intelligence up against a fish and loses had it coming.” I guess I will believe that.

Oh, and I won’t be offended if you don’t believe me. After all, this could be all fake news.

This is the link to the article I quoted if you are interested: BBC Article

Can Hope Survive Disappointment?

My column published week of January 9, 2017 in the Albert Lea Tribune and Courier-Sentinelperception.

If you hear something often enough and it is repeated time and time again and you listen, you might internalize and believe what is being said, whether it is true or not.

A young girl is called an ugly duckling over and over again. She grows into a beautiful swan, but because she has always been told she is an ugly duckling she still sees herself as that duckling in later years.

A young boy is told he is a failure at sports even though he hasn’t developed his talent, and as he grows and becomes a teenager he doesn’t try out for sports because he believes he is not good enough.

A wife or a husband is told over and over and over again they don’t deserve love. They aren’t contributing to a family or they are not a good person and they believe the way they are treated is because they don’t measure up and don’t deserve better.

Someone repeatedly hears many times a day that politicians are crooked and corrupt, but they don’t look for the facts and because of the fabrications they believe what is said.

Maya Angelou once said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” But we don’t. We see it every day in our friendships, in our marriages, in our businesses and in politics. Our excuse for not believing when a person shows us their true character is to give them another chance, we know people can change. 

There is also the question: Does a leopard change its spots? Can we apply that to life? We hope whoever it is that is telling that young girl she is an ugly duckling or convincing the teenage boy he doesn’t measure up, or the husband or wife who verbally assaults their spouse or the business owner who convinces us his product can’t be defective because it is our mistake or the politician who is corrupt and lies, sees their mistakes and will become a better, more honest and kinder person. We hope they change their spots, and they may do so for a little while to further their agenda.

There are people who have changed their behaviors toward others — but not until they have done the work to understand why they need to condescend and lie and behave the way they do. They must have an honest willingness to treat others better and become a person of integrity.

If you have ever been in one of these situations or in something else similar, did that person show you who they were, but you chose to see something different even though the facts and the words were staring you right in the face? Where does our eternal hope come from that the leopard will change their spots, keeping us believing in them despite what they have demonstrated to us.

Maybe the reason we can’t accept the life we live is because we would have to own our choices. Was the politician we voted in a mistake, and if it was, what does that say about us as a person? What about other decisions we made, were we blind? Does that make us weak? Does that mean we have bad judgment and are a failure? Maybe we don’t want to face ourselves and the fact we have accepted less in any part of our lives, so we can’t see the true reality of the situation.

I am pondering this today because I tossed out the word narcissistic on my Facebook page to see what would happen. My post said, “Narcissistic. That all I have to say for today in this post or I’d be toast.” The responses were interesting all the way from “I totally understand,” to “upcoming administration.” The definition of narcissistic is to have an excessive interest in oneself and one’s physical appearance. Exaggerated feelings of self-importance.

That brought me to thoughts of the things I have seen blasted on the news lately about people and politics. It brought me to the thoughts of those who make others feel less than human because of narcissistic feelings about themselves. What they say, behave and act toward others says more about how they feel about themselves than the person or situation they are targeting. And it still comes back to hope. In the midst of the fear, sorrow, and feelings of desolation, hope still springs eternal that relationships can be mended, business opportunities can be fruitful and honest, and our government will survive.

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” — Desmond Tutu