Monthly Archives: January 2014

Detachment: emotional education and a writer’s vision

I watch a handful of television shows, mostly the addictive ones that suck you in, leaving you to hang from perilous cliffs between episodes.  For example, I have sporadically watched “The Walking Dead” series and finally caught up to the mid-season finale show that aired in early December 2013.  About half-way through this particular episode, perhaps from the shock of storyline events, I abruptly decided to stop watching.  Some boundary had been crossed and the reaction was immediate. “Nope, I don’t buy it,” I said to myself and clicked the screen off, a $1.99 wasted.  An investment had hit rock bottom, depleted, zeroed out. With that last severed head, I had severed my emotional connection to the characters; their past, present and future.

This reaction was extremely interesting to me; especially, the emotional investment aspect.  The script writers had created their vision of the zombie apocalypse world and I could believe it for a couple of seasons. Then, certain elements began to crumble until the whole thing exploded into tiny pieces in that episode.  I could no longer believe that in a system failure, only a few humans maintained their moral integrity, and that those who did were somehow weakened and now victims who would be ultimately murdered.

Even though the writers may have needed to continue the fabrication in that direction to progress the story, why would I invest my time, attention, and emotional energy in perpetuating a point of view when I do not believe in its underlying messages?  If I do not believe in a vision that someone else is providing, why not just stop watching, listening, or investing?

While this perspective can be applied to every energetic decision made, to stay on “television” topic, the questions made me think of emotional education obtained (with one’s knowledge or not) through watching shows and movies.  It’s common place to discuss stereotypes and “normalized” opinions perpetuated through Hollywood-generated plots, but what about learned emotive responses based on the manipulation of viewer’s emotions through the presentation of the writer’s vision of the world, expressed through a character’s actions and reactions, or fate.

Is emotional manipulation an intention so entrenched and normalized in our relationships off-screen that they are inevitable and the norm on-screen?  Does this create an unhealthy relationship between a viewer and the television show?  From experience (ie I have watched “The Walking Dead” for four seasons), compromises and excuses may be made by a viewer internally to maintain those unhealthy relationships with damage or “energy suck” occurring sometimes without realization.  Specifically to “The Walking Dead” series, this type of unhealthy relationship, could lead perhaps to a detachment from emotion or caring altogether, after repeated emotional burns.  (Example:  the graphic murders of well-liked characters who appear to represent wisdom, compassion, innocence and future in a brutal manner and then tugging at the viewer to forget about it, move along, disconnect.  Maybe after a few repetitions of this action, the viewer will remember not to get attached and to expect violence and murder. In that presented environment, why would it be “safe” to connect on any level to any other characters again?).

So, does the repetitive intake of a world vision, through one or multiple television shows become a type of emotional education for the viewer?  And does that emotional education influence the viewer’s off-screen interactions and personal visions and perspectives?  Of course, this brings up the discussion whether the art is a reflection of society, or if the society is a reflection of the art.  Why would it need to be one or the other?  Perhaps, they help each other along.

As a seasoned audience member, I realize that in most cases, the world presented on-screen is make-believe, not necessarily a representation of the world we live in; however, since humans are depicted in most storylines, there is an inevitable and undeniable connection and therefore, a likelihood of miniscule to maximum influence experienced with viewer awareness or not.

© M.R.Collier, A Way of Your Own, 2014

My First Steps

The new calendar year begins.  A prime time to think about life, direction and perspective; to reflect on past thoughts and seek out new lines of reasoning. So, on a rainy fog-filled morning, with coffee cup in hand, I strained my eyes thoroughly, browsing through the multitude of headline stories presented by online media outlets.  At the start, I searched for inspiration among the black and white lines of text.  Then, as my posture slunk further to a form that asks “are humans really supposed to sit for hours this way?,” I realized that inspiration was the distant star of emotions triggered by my perusing.  Frustrated, disconnected, fearful, sympathetic, enraged and ultimately betrayed – those were the emotions and reactions ranking near the top of the list.

From death and destruction caused by suicide bombers, to people complaining about the requirements for the Nobel Peace Prize, to a child plagued by unstoppable weight gain due to a surgery side-effect, to a list regarding the ‘11 Dumbest Things Said By Media About Women In 2013.’ These were just a smattering of story lines; each snagged my attention and triggered a distinct emotional response.

Actually, because of my responses to those stories, I am reminded of my earlier blog post (“Frustration Loop” published October 2, 2013) when I mentioned briefly a method of thinking, described as reaching outside of one’s self as an immediate response to anything encountered.  I then continued by asking if perhaps there is another first step, which would include “reaching in.”

To develop and apply the concepts of thinking methods, I wanted to break down how I normally think, which I will describe as “looking outward” and then try a different perspective or method of thinking, that I will describe as “looking inward.”

So, what is that first step in the method of thinking timeline (either outward or inward), before any emotion, or any action may be triggered?  Is that initial step so natural and engrained that it pushes my train of thought down a well entrenched path without me even thinking about it?  I think so, or else that’s just my excuse for procrastinating with this blog post and staring at a blank screen.

Okay, down to business then.  In order for this to make sense to me, I need these concepts (looking outward/looking inward as methods of thinking) in a useable everyday format.  Let me work with a concrete example.  I’ll take a media story that I just saw online and process the experience in both methods and try to note the timeline and details of both.   Here goes….

I  just saw a story streaming on the Today show about a teen bullied because of her looks and deciding to get plastic surgery.  She got a nose job and a chin implant and feels confident enough now to go back to school and make friends, after not wanting to leave the house for a couple years.

Outward – First Steps:

*I think about the story as it is told, those involved, the circumstances, the choices, the outcome.

*I feel judgments rising, emotions gathering energy.

*I feel frustrated that this kid got plastic surgery in an attempt to affect people’s judgement of her.

*Then, the frustrated spiral continues when I ask myself, are these the values that we want our kids to live by?

*Then, there is the counter-argument in my own brain – she is empowered and can do what she wants as long as there are the resources for it.  If it raises her confidence, then great.

Ah, the loop of no clear answers and frustration, feeling a pressure to form an opinion and a convincing argument, the automatic and expectation that I should have or make a judgement.  I am left feeling slightly manipulated, drained a bit of energy, leaning toward  ‘who cares’ apathy.

Inward – First Steps:

*I listen and watch without judgement – a calm pool.

*I gather the details for the sake of knowing, observation.

*I have no opinion; I feel compassion.

*I understand the story’s perspective, but give no energy to it.

*I maintain my perspective.

*And I let the encounter go.

*I move on.

There is no analysis, comparison or pressure to form an argument. In this example, I do not think as the first step, I listen.  I am not launched onto the mind’s path of judgement, of creating an opinion.  I do not personalize the story, or take it in.  I maintain my own perspective and empathize with the characters involved in the story and observe the various facets of a society intertwined.  I feel full and deep with the warmth of heartfelt interaction.

Interesting.  So, the first few steps lead perhaps to more questions, to more “concrete example” work.  Hmm…another coffee cup in hand, another rainy fog-filled morning and the new calendar year continues….

© M.R.Collier, A Way of Your Own, 2014