Iraq, Subliminals, and Secure Base Priming – Part 2 of 2

Opinion2.jpgIn part 1, I talked about subliminals. Now let’s connect some more dots.

Here’s something weird. When people see the subliminal message, “Mommy and I are one” repeatedly over a period of time, they become better-adjusted people. When my boy was little, I heard a lot of Barney songs, and that had an uplifting effect on me. So why I’m listening to Frank Zappa right now, I don’t know. Maybe it’s the non-subliminal messages promoting anti-authoritarianism and complete sexual irresponsibility. Or maybe it’s the music; kind of a cross between klezmer, rock, and Barney.

By the way, did you know that klezmer music is to traditional spiritual Jewish music what Elvis is to Gospel? Only with klezmer, it happened in the 1500’s, or the 1800’s, or the 150’s, depending on what you consider to be klezmer.

Anyway, this positive effect of the “Mommy and I are one” subliminal appears to be from two main things. One is called the secure base. Then your secure base is switched on, you are more likely to feel less guarded, less like you should be ready to defend or attack. You are less stressed out with the world.

The other thing is priming. When you are exposed to something that promotes your being in a particular mood or state of mind, then you are being primed. Or, that state is being primed within you.

Put those two things together and you have secure base priming. It doesn’t turn you into a happy idiot, but it helps you feel connected. As we shall see, part of the beauty (or ugliness) of priming, is that your state can have a big impact on your attitude and thoughts, instead of the other way around. Look up “state dependend learning and memory” for more about that. Or just recall that bit in part one about the blush and the shame.

And now for the scary part. Like it or not, you have experienced the opposite: Secure base attack. Look at the text of any speech intended to lead up to war, or intended to pit one group against another, and you will find secure base attacks. These are words that make you feel threatened. People without the secure base tend to feel more hostile, aggressive, and suspicious. Maybe these two contrasting states have evolved to help us harmonize more with the social climate. Do you need to be a warrior today, or will baking cookies do?

Consider the lead up to the occupation of Iraq. The secure base attacks were sliced and diced for various demographic groups in the U.S. With the U.S. media owned by a small and privileged population, everything was orchestrated with very little dilution. For women, they emphasized oppression of women. For our sentimentality regarding capitalism, there was graft and dictatorship. To make us fear a weapon of mass destruction, there was the gassing of the Kurds and brutality that our culturally superior group would never carry out. (What civilized person would violate the Geneva Conventions in this day and age?) For the dominant U.S. Christians, there was another religion. Finally, there was Pearl Harbor. Oops, I mean 9/11. Over and over, we had images of the twin towers, with airplanes and building collapse welded together in our minds, as though there was no third building that tidily collapsed without an airplane inside. Then we had that connection welded to Saddam, so we could feel good about attacking the country that didn’t cause 9/11.

The pre-conscious types of subliminals even included very intentional mood-setting in the graphics preceding the network news. I hate to think what was done in the way of subliminals. But I did see one subliminal. That sounds like a joke, but I freeze-framed the news graphics, accidentally catching a single frame in which a shadow across the landscape appeared to be a caricature of George W., with a very long nose. Maybe some graphic artist with a troubled conscience snuck that frame in.

Anthropologists and zoologists tell us that we primates are genetically programmed to feel aggressive toward groups with which we are not affiliated. No wonder professional sports get such attention. It’s likely that before our current level of civility, around twenty percent of each generation would die from inter-tribal warfare. So much for our sentimental feelings about indigenous cultures (unless paintball isn’t bloody enough for you).

I remember seeing a video of Yanomamo shamans having a paste blown into their sinuses. After a lot of tearing up, vomiting, and carrying on, they went on a spiritual quest to steal the souls of a neighboring tribe’s babies. Now I don’t feel so bad about suburbanites dressing their kids in designer-label clothes as a form of competition.

Let’s connect the dots of secure base attacking PLUS our ingrained competitiveness with the out group. This goes a long way toward explaining just how malleable populations are when a leader (or a coalition of leaders and media moguls) want to get everybody excited about going to war or oppressing an minority group within society. The fear and aggressive urges inflame the population.

My first thought is that we must band together and use that sound projecting technology that focuses sound directly on people. We would provide subliminal messages, but not the anti theft messages the department stores are using on us; we’d use antiwar messages. Ah, but there’s a problem with this plan. Subliminals prime states that are in keeping with the person’s existing predilections. That’s why, in one experiment, “Eat more beef” increased sandwich consumption rather than beef consumption. “Live in peace” messages beamed at officials would probably just make war planning meetings more collaborative.

Okay, scratch that idea. How do you compete with secure base attacking? Especially given the condition, as Noam Chomsky put it, of the United States of Amnesia? Polls have shown that the American public quickly absorbs impressions that bump facts out of the way.

Consider the time between the Magna Carta (1215), the U.S. Constitution (1789), The Geneva Conventions (1925) and U.S. Military Commissions Act of 2006 (where the president gets to re-define torture, and there is no habeas corpus). This goes to show that civilization is a lot like a neural network; a lot like a brain. It takes a long time to grow, it’s delicate, and it takes a long time to grow back.


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Robert A. Yourell, MA

Robert A. Yourell, MA, has extensive experience in the mental health and social services dating back to 1975. His training includes Ericksonian communication and hypnosis with John Grinder, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing with Francine Shapiro, PhD, Body Integrative Psychotherapy with Jack Rosenberg, PhD, and solution-focused psychotherapy. He provides free audio experiences on his site that include bilateral sound and Shimmering.
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