My background is in film and television and in that world there’s a large group of people whose only job is to influence your brain in ways you can perceive but that you’re not consciously aware of. And I’m going to amaze you by showing you proof of what you haven’t noticed.
Your mind is such a subtle thing. It’s difficult for you to accept but your version of reality is little more than a collage of your thoughts and beliefs. The influences on you are many and they are both intentional and unintentional. But in this blog I’ll prove that all day long your mind is doing far more interpreting than you realize.
A good example of how things outside of your awareness influence you; note that a talented motion picture Sound Editor can suddenly have all of the birds go quiet in an outdoor scene at the exact same moment that the lead actor says the screenwriter’s key “Oh oh…” line in the film. You get a sense of dread. You think the actress is brilliant.
The actress is brilliant. But she is helpless without the line being written well, the score subconsciously defining the right mood via music, the lighting setting a tone, and the sudden absence of the birds–which triggers an ancient response in us that something is wrong, because that’s when the birds historically all suddenly went quiet. And that affects you far more than you realize.
But you won’t notice that any more than anyone noticed that the Wardrobe person took a character who was harsh and wore sharp, hard-edged clothes and how as the character softened so did their clothes. Smith in The Matrix looks like The Man because represents The Man. The Production Designer and Colourist will literally set tones for a project–it goes on an on. That’s a big part of what makes a TV series look like a series.
It’s also unlikely that you never noticed that the Director of Photography made the hero look good by lighting her from above, referring to daytime–when we feel safe. And that the same DOP made us not like the villain by lighting him from below, as though it is nighttime and we’re huddled around a fire listening carefully to the darkness that leaves too much room for our imagination.
Another great example is aspect ratios. You don’t even know you know about aspect ratios. But you know all kinds of things about them based purely on on the patterns you’ve seen. If one aspect ratio is always associated with certain things, then when you see it your brain begins to presume those other things must also be present. The video near the end will explain it very well.
Every talented and skilled film professional is working to move the story forward through their own artform. If they’re good and they know what they’re doing then they are intentionally manipulating wiring that you already have in your brain for interpreting the world. That matrix of beliefs is why the world appears to you as it does. And that extends beyond movies and TV shows and into your everyday life. It’s only a matter of–what did you get taught to edit into your own life movie?
To use a couple different metaphors to help make the point; it’s like your life feels like you’re cruising through an ocean with a fishing line and bait in the water, but you keep catching a fish you don’t like because it likes that bait. So you think the world tastes bad when really it’s the bait you’re using.
The same if you’re locked in a dark house with a flashlight. The house is like the universe and the flashlight is like your attention. The rest of the world/house doesn’t matter because you only process what you’re attention is on. So if you constantly shine it on things that scare you, don’t blame the house. The house is not scary. You just have a habit of focusing your attention on scary things. The house was filled with other stuff. Someone taught you to pick scary things. Or sad things. Or upsetting things. Or… enjoyable things.
Watch this video and realize how much you’re influenced by people who know more about your brain than you do. And then think about their agenda. These people just want to take you on an emotionally satisfying journey. There’s other people with less generous agendas, and there are many ways in which the world mesmerizes you with beliefs that you are convinced to turn into “actual things” in your imagination.
Your only defense is to know it happens, and to know that it means you never can be super sure you ever really know what’s going on. For all we know we could’ve been in a coma for the last 15 years and we’ve imagined this entire life from a hospital bed. So if the entire thing is that flexible you can see there’s no real way to know exactly what to do, so you can just relax. Treat the place less like a testing ground and more like a playground. Have some fun.
The world is an extremely flexible place. Your perspective is much more fluid and arbitrary and open to change than you ever thought possible. This does not make the world more frivolous. It gives it more potential. Because once we become aware of how much our thoughts change our perspective on what we see the less those thoughts affect us. And the peace that remains is what absolutely everyone is ultimately seeking. And that’s a movie we’d all like starring in.
Now go edit yourself an awesome day.
P.S. The screenwriters who wrote the Joker’s line were Jonathan and Christopher Nolan, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower was written by Stephen Chbosky.
Scott McPherson is a writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.