Frequent readers know that I’m going through my libraries, combining all into a single site. It bucks all blogging wisdom, but there you have it. I dug this post out from another site after reading about daily journaling and how effective it can be to write down what you intend your day to be and how you expect to feel about the day. The author makes the argument that, once we decide how to react and respond, and what kind of a day we will have, life tends to go that way for us. We will see.
This post is kind of a movie review, but I veer off into priming and advertising.
As a bonafide Francophile, one of my favorite movies is Paris, je t’aime. It’s a collection of shorts that take place in, well, Paris. One is about a man who falls desperately in love with his wife on the day he intends to announce that he wants a divorce. He’s having an affair with a cute-young-thing and his wife has just learned that she has terminal cancer. The two meet for lunch and, as he gins up to dump his wife, she reaches across the table, crying, and hands him a note.
It’s all about him, of course. ‘How could I have been so stupid?’ he wonders. ‘Of course, she knows. She must have known all along. How could I hide something like this?’
He reads the note. It’s from her doctor: ‘Cancer.’ Instantly, his life comes into laser-like focus. He receives a text from his girlfriend and immediately responds. ‘Forget me.’ Are his initial reactions coming from a sense of duty? We don’t know but from the time he reads that note, he is a changed man. By the end of the note, he is in love again and devotes everything to her. Her quirks that came to annoy him are endearing again. He reads to her. They cook together. They briefly fall all the way into the life they imagined as lovers. She dies and he never loses his love for her, never forgetting the image of her in her favorite red coat. Wherever he goes, he sees women wearing red is always startled, brought back to thoughts of his wife.
It’s a wonderful and heartbreaking story.
What Do You Choose To See?
Psychologists say he is fully primed to focus on a woman wearing red. All the feels and thoughts he has about his lost wife are wrapped up in a red button-down. Without deciding to, he walks around noticing red coats. Can we use this as a tool to see what we want? To carve out a little more of the life that we want? In this vein, Wayne Dyer wrote that he wakes up every morning and tells himself that no one is going to ruin his day. He purposefully sets a focus on enjoying the world on his own terms.
This isn’t new. Even old Brother Paul, writing to the Colossians, advised them to “Set your mind and keep focused habitually on the things above [the heavenly things], not on things that are on the earth [which have only temporal value]. From the Amplified Bible.
What would you like to see?
Do you want more kindness? More optimism? Then set your mind for these things. Look for them. You’ll be surprised at how much of it is around you that you might have otherwise missed. Is this pollyannish? Maybe. But you can just as easily find misery and gloom. Is one more real than the other? No. This is just you choosing what you will focus your thoughts on. If you look for gloom, you will find it.
Priming Works In Any Direction
If you want to intentionally prime yourself, take care to focus on the right things. Most of our priming is unconscious and we set ourselves up for difficulty or failure. We don’t usually even recognize that we are choosing to see things in a certain way. Even more rarely do we see any downside to our focus.
Here’s a story from my own vault that illustrates this.
I was gaga for Alice Cooper as a kid. I loved the music and the shows and the attitude. I still remember seeing a photo of Alice with a beer in hand. The caption read something like ‘And here’s Cooper with his ever-present beer…’ My sixteen-year-old brain said ‘Wow! How cool. I want people to say that about me! Here’s Mitton who is never far from a gin-and-tonic…’ As I think about it now, it’s stupid. I primed myself to see alcohol abuse as being cool. What I didn’t see was the downside of Cooper’s alcoholism. Nothing really came of it for me, but Cooper struggled with alcoholism for years.
Priming in Advertising
Intentional priming is a primary tool of advertisers. When they show happy, attractive people having a wonderful time drinking beer on the beach, advertisers set you up to associate beer with happy and attractive. Don’t you want to be happy and attractive? Well, you know how to achieve it. Buy our beer! Most of us are aware of this insidiousness but fall prey to it a hundred times a day.
Choose Your Battle
Most of our daily life is spent being pulled in directions that we don’t consciously choose. Choosing what to focus on is a worthy and profitable battle. Take time to battle your culture and your upbringing and your education. Be relentless in battling self-talk that is defeatist and wrong. Reorient yourself through the day to focus on what you choose. You just might start seeing the world as a different place.
Read here about a time I figured it out for myself. One of my favorite profs and scientists told me to ‘forget all that crappy stuff we stuffed into your head in college.’
Another French favorite: Amélie. C’mon. You want to love it too. I love the simplicity of the movie and the childlike Amélie.
Maybe my favorite weird story is the 1955 original Diabolique. One of those movies I never figured out until the last scene. Know that I know? It’s still as good.
If you want to feel depressed and cry and moan that the world is wicked, watch La Vie En Rose about the life of Edith Piaf, the French Little Sparrow. It will make you want to jump off a bridge.
If you haven’t watched it, then watch Paris, je t’aime. (Here at Amazon). Twenty filmmakers are given five minutes each with each short woven into a movie. Some are funny. Some (the one with Juliette Binoche – ugh) are simply heartbreaking. It’s a marvelous movie that explores all sides of love and loss.
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