Monday, July 14, 2008

How the Media Uses the Lies of the Magic Mirror

[This is part four in the blog series regarding the book I’m reading: “Trapped in the Magic Mirror.” If you missed the earlier blogs, or need to re-read, you can read them by clicking the links here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3]

In chapter three of “Trapped in the Magic Mirror”, the author talks about the impact of the media in regards to romance. She says that while sexual and violent conduct have been studied, as to their effects on the development on a child’s brain, romance has been largely ignored. Maybe that’s because it has yet to be identified as a problem.

When you take into account that the vast types of media contribute to the thinking patterns that last a lifetime, one would think that more studies would be relevant and beneficial. What child doesn’t remember their favorite childhood movies, old-school commercials, music, etc.? Those memories last a lifetime and influence our long term choices. Take the very simplest example of a commercial. How many kids, who are now adults, are using favorite name brand products because of the messages they heard about them when they were younger? How many people have a favorite commercial jingle in their mind when they buy a certain product from the store? The media is incredibly influential and has an amazing ability to persuade and influence our opinions (sometimes permanently!).

This is especially true of children. In a quote from the book, the author says: ”Neuroscience has proven that the information we see and hear repeatedly as children causes the formation of new neural pathways as our young brains develop.” The greater the exposure, the greater the risk of a permanent mindset. And, these mindsets have the ability to become strongholds if they are based on falsehoods. In addition to that, the author asserts that “our most primitive emotional responses and beliefs about life are laid down very early in childhood, and the more they are reinforced by experience, the more deeply rooted they become.”

Wow!! That’s a big dose of truth medicine isn’t it?! It kind of makes you want to be more careful about what you see and hear doesn’t it? In fact, it was also pointed out that having visual and audio combined only increases the impact that a concept has on a person’s brain. Yeah, all the more reason to be careful of television, movies, and video games!!

This concept of influence is what keeps the media machine running. It goes unchallenged and unchecked because we keep feeding our minds with whatever they crank out; whether it be good or bad. Many times, we use the “it’s only pretend” or “it’s not real” justification in order to create a sense of immunity to the mind games that the media plays with us. Though, are we really that immune? I should say not!! We are very easily influenced - whether we are aware of it or not. Even if we know that something isn’t true, that doesn’t stop many of us from blurring the lines between fact and fiction. We are simply just not that aware of how easy it is to be duped and brainwashed; and we imitate everything we see despite the “do not try this at home“ warnings (who of us hasn’t seen a report on kids imitating stunts from MTV’s show “Jackass”?). This kind of makes me think that maybe the Amish are a lot smarter than we give them credit for since they have enough sense to avoid all these methods of influence and “mind control”. ;)

I’ll be the first to admit that I have had moments where the fantasy/reality lines have been fuzzy to me. I’m sure we have all had these moments!! If you think you haven’t, I will venture to say that you’re lying because we have all lied to ourselves at times and have been gullible to different schemes and brainwashing. In fact, I could deviate from the topic by going on a political tangent in order to prove it…..but I won’t (since it‘s pretty hard to convince a brainwashed person that they are indeed brainwashed). Instead, I will cite the case and point with the romance issue.

Romance is hardly (if ever) painted in a negative light. So, seeing it as harmful is rare. Therefore, we are oblivious to the fact that our overly romanticized movies, television, and music are hurting us. We still go on thinking that we can be swept off our feet by that perfect mate and live happily ever after because that’s always how the story goes in the storybooks and movies. We start believing that love is all about “feelings” and all the good pleasures that “falling in love” brings. The truth of the matter is, real love begins when all the warm fuzzies wear off and you’re seeing the person for who they are. Love really is a choice; not a “feeling.”

That’s not to say that the feelings are an altogether bad thing. Our feelings do serve as a bit of a guide in choosing a mate. We all have hormones and brain chemistry that stirs us up and initially attracts us to the person we want to be with. Though, it’s because of those very same chemicals that we are “blinded” by love. The author describes all the interesting details of the “biochemical process”, but I won’t get into the specifics here. Though, the bottom line is, these “feel good” chemicals wear off after about two years. If that’s true, that should be the mandatory time a couple should be together before even THINKING about getting married; thus ensuring a clear-headed mind based on real love and not mere feelings.

So, what happens when the feelings wear off? Well, needless to say, I felt like she was talking directly to me when I read this: “Unfortunately, many couples assume that when the chemical soup goes sour, that means they’re no longer in love. This belief has even more power when a woman is addicted to that euphoric feeling, needs it in order to feel good about herself, and is anxious and unhappy when her need for romance and excitement is no longer being met by her husband. This is when we are most likely to start eating for comfort and looking for ways to relieve the boredom and anxiety that begins to bubble in the secret places of our hearts.” She also says that this also becomes the point where women decide they want to have a baby in order to fill up that empty space that their husband isn’t filling.

Egad!! That sounds like me!! I’ve definitely used food and children to try and “fill the gap.“ At least I have seen/realized it and have been working to change it. (Jesus is the only true “gap filler”). Is there anyone else that can relate with me on this? Come on, girls, be honest! Or, maybe you’re a guy and you can relate to how the author says men are just as addicted to romance as well; but more sexually rather than emotionally (no surprise there!! LOL). She says, “The two-year mark for a marriage is often the time when men who are not strong in their relationship with God and committed to monogamy, and who deeply crave sexual intensity will initiate affairs with other women. Certain narcissistic men will continue that pattern throughout marriage. Men often confuse intense sexual feelings with real love.”

Whether you are a man or woman, I’m sure we can all relate to the romantic letdown at some point in our lives. And, a large part of it is because of all the unrealistic romantic messages that the media feeds us. It’s engrained into our minds as the high standard and expectation for “love” and many of us don’t even know it! Is it any wonder we have a hard time being content? We are trying to achieve and retain the impossible dream!!

This book is really working on me!! I don’t know about you, but I sure want to get rid of all those fairy tale mindsets in my mind!! Even though those mindsets might be strongholds, conquering them is not impossible. 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 says: “(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;”

Through Christ, we have the spiritual weapons to tear down the spiritual strongholds. We can take those thoughts and mindsets captive and train ourselves to be obedient. There is hope for the “hopeless romantics”, even me!! ;)

I look forward to reading the rest of this book and blogging about it. Until the next chapter, read and ponder the study questions provided within this book (and consider buying a copy for yourself!!) Grace and peace to you. God bless you all!!

Chapter Three Questions

1. In what way(s) has secular television programming encouraged us to form irrational and false beliefs about life?

2. Do you agree that women today are in more bondage to romantic thinking than they were years ago? Why or why not?

3. As you were growing up, how did your family and friends view the romantic content of secular television programs?

4. How might a woman’s dissatisfaction with her husband relate to her dissatisfaction with herself?

5. Are there ways your husband shows you real, biblical love even when he isn’t demonstrating romantic love? How are you showing him real love?

6. What types of things do women do to fill the empty space created by anxiety about their husbands’ waning attention and the loss of the romantic experience?

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