Manipulation in the Media: Part One- Sensational Stories

I don’t know about you, but I do not like being manipulated. I want to think of myself as a reasonable person who is thoughtful and discerning in regards to who and what I allow into my awareness. After years of therapy, I have come to realize when my feelings and emotions are being high-jacked. Engaging my thinking mind when in the throes of an emotional situation has been a struggle in the past though it only occasionally trips me up in the present. This change has happened over time with years of practice.

Reading the news or watching videos of events taking place around the world or even in our backyard has been a juggling act for me. Many stories appear before us that tug at heart-strings or stir a rage within our breast that is difficult to control at times. I have trouble keeping up with the next big story that bursts onto the scene and relentlessly demands a reaction from me. In this onslaught of emotion-driven rhetoric, I have noticed a pattern. The stories of late are focusing on chronic problems but reported on as if they were another 9-11 or the latest hurricane that devastates a populated coastline.

Don’t misunderstand me. The events of a terrorist attack and various deadly weather events rightly deserve our attention. The difference in a situation that happens over a few minutes to a few days of actual crisis is that these experiences are acute- meaning they are sudden, intense and brief. The sensational stories we are shown in the news now are more of the chronic variety- meaning constant and continual events that happen over an extended period. The #metoo movement, the immigration of peoples, and government corruption are chronic problems reported as if they just sprang from the earth fully formed.

Our media seems to expect us to drop everything we are quietly working on that either better our circumstances or improves the world. At their insistence, we must then focus on a situation of their choosing that is presented in an emotionally charged way to extract maximum focus and energy from us. We are becoming a people who are traumatized and desensitized to the world around us. Some people may develop chronic anger, depression or anxiety over this type of treatment. If this were happening in a personal relationship or family, it would be called emotional abuse, yet we will put up with this from a trusted source outside our home.

For myself, this type of manipulation forces me to question the agenda of the media. In therapy, I was taught to take a step back in my mind and disengage from the emotional aspect of the situation so I could think a bit more clearly. I was instructed to examine what was the purpose of the event. Was it here as a mirror of my own beliefs and behaviors or was it someone else projecting onto me their thoughts and actions? It can be challenging to tease those aspects apart to find the real culprit.

I have felt the need to step-up my self-care strategies in regards to the world happenings. While a vacation from social media and the mainstream news can be helpful, it is a short-term solution. Increasing our distress tolerance would be of more significant benefit for the long term. Disengaging our emotional response when we read or see distressing news items is challenging, but you can do it. Thinking clearly about the story’s real topic is the goal. Then you have the discernment as to whether any action you take at that moment is the one you are to pursue.

Begin by acknowledging that you are feeling a particular sensational story in your body. Explore where you are feeling it. Does it give you a headache? Does your chest hurt? Do you want to throw-up or perhaps you feel a tightness in your gut. Maybe you are feeling a constriction or the opposite- an agitation all over your body. These are all signs that you have faced a similar traumatizing event at some point in your life journey. You may have never experienced sexual assault, never been an immigrant dangerously crossing a border, or been the victim of someone’s corrupting influence. Instead, you may have been in a situation where you were angry, known fear, or felt betrayed. Your body does not care what the circumstance is- the chemicals flooding your body (adrenaline, cortisol, norepinephrine) are in response to the emotion you are feeling. Your body reacts to the remembered emotion from the other time when you felt this same mental state.

Take note of when the last time you were aware of this particular feeling. That episode is where your hurt is waiting for you to deal with the issue that you couldn’t deal with back then. This event reminds you in a relatively gentle way that there is some trauma in your emotional body that needs releasing. When you keep putting off addressing past hurts, they can take up residence in your body causing you to experience disease or disability. It is imperative to resolve past trauma before it reaches the physical stage where it is more difficult to shake off those long-ago hurts.

Once you take care of your pain, then you can give your attention to the news item that triggered your emotional response. Feeling empathy for the people involved in the story is okay, but when it provokes a stronger reaction, you are poorly equipped to handle any thoughtful engagement to help remedy their situation. Taking care of your needs may inspire you to action, or you may only feel you need to stand in solidarity with others who take action. You will then know which course to take.

As you discover what your needs are in the stories you see and read, you can then view them as opportunities to heal. Taking care of your needs first will bring to your awareness abilities, knowledge and inspiration to help others. It can not be the other way around, or you will only experience greater suffering with each news event. Building tolerance by changing your perspective makes you more effective in all your endeavors. We may take the potential manipulation by others to influence us by turning the tables on that harmful activity. That which was meant to harm can be used to heal.

I have written a memoir chronicling my journey from being diagnosed with bipolar disorder to becoming whole. I first tried traditional western medicine and therapies but eventually turned to eastern remedies and holistic treatments to gain the wellness I now enjoy in all aspects of my life. I have found the therapeutic modalities that involve body, mind, and soul to have been an effective way to live the life I had not had at any point of my younger self. In this book, I outline resources that I used and some I recommend for others to try. I advise clients to do their research as I guide them in the remedy they choose. You can order Metaphysical Girl: How I Recovered My Mental Health on Amazon at the link below.

Five Basic Principles of Propaganda plus an Expanded List

Metaphysical Girl: How I Recovered My Mental Health

4 thoughts on “Manipulation in the Media: Part One- Sensational Stories

  1. Cathy, I think this sentence is very powerful. “If this were happening in a personal relationship or family, it would be called emotional abuse, yet we will put up with this from a trusted source outside our home.” I never thought about the media that way but now I will look at with a different perspective. Thank you.


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