I was at a seminar this past weekend. The main purpose of the seminar was to teach people how to become successful in their lives, personally and financially. One of the things oft repeated is the importance of reading books and listening to audios of a positive, uplifting nature, and to avoid negative influences in your life, such as tv, toxic "friends" and the like.
It's a constantly repeated theme, as it's so vitally important to change our thinking before we can move beyond where we are now, to where we want to be. It's also one of the most difficult things to accomplish, as we are so inundated by negative images and messages around us. A frequent occurance happens when people we considered friends find out that we are doing things like listening to audios or reading books, instead of watching the lastest episode of Survivor or going to the bar to get drunk with them again; these "friends" usually get rather upset and start saying things like "you're getting brainwashed!" One of the more common responses to this that I've heard from numerous speakers has been along the lines of "Yes I am - my brain *needs* to be washed!"
As accurately amusing as the statement is, it's something the average person doesn't understand, or is uncomfortable with, because of the cult-like associations with the term "brain washing." It was during this past seminar, however, that it suddenly became obvious to me.
It's not that we're "washing our brains" by deliberately moving away from these negative influences and replacing them with positive. What we're really doing is learning a new language.
Think about it for a moment. Throughout our lives, we are immersed in the language of negative thinking. At school, we are judged not by what we do well, but what we do poorly. Rather then building on one or two things we are strongest in, we are forced to work on the many things we are weakest in - particularily if those things involve the maths and sciences. If a child shows artistic promise but a "deficit" in math, this is considerred a bad thing. That child is generally made to stop being artsy (unless, of course, they do it in art class in a teacher approved manner) and given extra work on math. That child's artistic promise is not allowed to develope into its full potential, or even to discover what that might possibly be. The end result is a child who is mediocre in both math and art, and who sees his or her self as a failure.
This thinking continues in other areas of our lives. We are constantly bombarded with our failures rather than our successes. We are told to strive - but not too far, because somehow, "too much" success is morally wrong. Add to that the focus on the negatives of the world around us. Magazines that tell us we're too fat and ugly, unless we buy the latest diet pill or make up. Tv shows that focus on the worst of human behaviour and market it as being somehow funny. News that is always bad. The focus of all these things isn't on how we can improve our lives, but on showing us how terrible life is, was or will be. Doom and gloom sells. Even media showing supposedly positive messages somehow manage to twist it into something negative.
Over the years, our "language" becomes one of constant negative self talk and imagery. We focus on our weaknesses instead of our strengths. We constantly berate ourselves for not meeting some ambiguous ideal of perfection. We constantly relive in our minds our most embaressing moments or most humiliating defeats. We envision futures of failure and mediocrity, because we truly don't know how to get anything else, and have difficulty believing that we are worthy of better.
One of the things we are doing with our kids is using Rosetta Stone to learn French. The concept behind Rosetta Stone is to learn the language as naturally as possible, much the same way we learn our own native tongue - through total immersion. Using the written and spoken word, together with images, we are expected to be able to figure out what is what. If we get it wrong, it just cycles back to give another chance later on. There is only one language used on this software - the language you are trying to learn. Eventaully, the brain makes the connections and - aha!! - you understand what you are seeing and hearing. Immersion is the fastest, most efficient way to learn a new language.
This is exactly what we do when we focus on books, audios and videos that tell us we can achieve our dreams and goals, and how to do it. We are immersing ourselves in a new language. The language of success. The language of positive self talk. The language of possibility thinking.
So the next time someone tries to tell me I'm being brainwashed, my answer will be no, I'm not being brainwashed.
I'm just learning a new language.