Are We Programmed By TV? Are We Addicted To It?

 Are We Programmed by TV?
Image by Gerd Altmann 

If we are to take seriously the many ways consciousness influences reality then we cannot ignore the impact of the media on our subjective landscapes. We move through the world in terms of our inner messages. When we watch TV, we are in the alpha level. Much to the gratification of the advertisers, it is a highly programmable state of awareness. For too many of us, television has become a companion who is always there, doesn't argue, and is full of entertainment -- the problem is, we are not in the habit of arguing with it either. Remember we don't distinguish between the real and the unreal -- we simply act in accordance with the images present in our consciousness.

Whether we're actually confronted by a mad dog or simply imagine that we are, as far as our adrenal glands are concerned, it's the same. There's no difference when we watch TV; we are constantly awash in a sea of images and no matter how much we may use rational discrimination, our bodies and psyches respond to them. Notice the bodily sensations you get when watching a horror movie. Once I understood the power of the imagination, I stopped exposing myself to such atrocities, for they are genuine pollution of the mind.

Eric Peper, an expert in biofeedback tells us that:

The horror of television is that the information goes in, but we don't react to it. It goes right into our memory pool and perhaps we react to it later but we don't know what we're reacting to. When you watch television you are training yourself not to react and so later on, you're doing things without knowing why you're doing them or where they came from.

For many of us, television has replaced life. The image in the box has become more vivid and "real" than our everyday existence. It claims the center of our attention. Witness what communication experts have to offer on the subject:

The people who control television become the choreographers of our internal awareness.... By (television's) expropriation of inner experience, advertising makes the human into a spectator of his or her own life. It is alienation to the tenth power.

By its very nature, TV impoverishes the sensory environment. Recent studies show that TV viewing induces severe sensory deprivation.


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When listening to the radio, or reading, we provide our own images. The insidious aspect of television is that it provides the images. They go directly into inner consciousness. We become passive receptacles for the images it bestows on us. How often have you heard someone say, "Just like on TV." as an expression of how real something was? Now we don't live life, we watch it; then the most exciting moments in our actual lives get compared to what we saw on TV.

Television is now being recognized as an addiction in our society -- two out of five adults and seven out of ten teenagers acknowledge that they have a problem." How bad is the problem, really? 99 percent of American households have a television set. The average person in the U.S. spends over four hours a day in front of the television though it's likely to be turned on for seven hours a day. This adds up to an estimated nine to eleven years devoted to television viewing in an average life span.

American children also spend an average of four hours a day watching which adds up to twenty-eight hours a week, 2,400 hours a year and nearly 18,000 hours by the time they graduate from high school. This is 5000 hours more than what is spent in a classroom. Now young people can't even escape the influence of television as it invades the classrooms with Channel One:

...a marketing program that gives video equipment to desperate schools in exchange for the right to broadcast a "news" program studded with commercials to all students every morning....Channel One boasts, "Our relationship with 8.1 million teenagers lasts for six years."...According to Mike Searles, President of Kids R Us, "If you get this child at an early age, you can own this child for years to come. Companies are saying, 'Hey I want to own the kid younger and younger.'"

Young people see an average of 100 TV commercials a day... Most kids can list more brands of beer than American presidents.

The spread of television unified a whole people within a system of conceptions and living patterns. Because of it, our whole culture and the physical shape of the environment, no more or less than our minds and feelings, have been computerized, linearized, suburbanized, freewayized, and packaged for sale.

For the first time in human history, most of the stories about people, life, and values are told not by parents, schools, churches, or others in the community who have something to tell, but by a group of distant conglomerates that have something to sell.

We've become mindless consumers, but there's an even scarier aspect:

If commercials are the appetizer and dessert of each TV time slot, violence is its main course, the meat and potatoes that make the sponsor's message stick to your ribs. "To the advertiser, violence equals excitement equals ratings."

An hour of prime-time television includes about five violent acts. An hour of children's Saturday morning programming includes twenty to twenty-six violent acts. The average American child will witness 12,000 violent acts on television each year, amounting to about 200,000 violent acts by the time he turns eighteen years old... In a University of Illinois study, people who had watched the most violent TV between birth and age eight committed the most serious crimes by age thirty."

An appalling number of juvenile crimes -- torture, kidnapping, rapes, and murders -- have been traced to events portrayed on televisions.... A boy's television habits at age eight are more likely to be a predictor of his aggressiveness at age eighteen or nineteen than his family's socio-economic status, his relationship with his parents, his IQ, or any other single factor in his environment.'

Boys are conditioned to be violent towards others, while girls turn the violence inwards: along with all the images of the ideal put forth in TV programming and commercials comes the inevitable inability to measure up and ensuing low self-esteem and self-destructive behaviors. For girls in particular, the ideal borders on emaciation; anorexia and bulimia are now epidemic. Eighty percent of 4th grade girls are on diets and one in five women in the U.S. has an eating disorder.

If we don't want to be homogenized, the best thing to do is turn off the set or talk back to it for your own self-protection so your deeper levels of consciousness don't absorb it all non-critically in the name of reality. The people responsible for the programs won't hear your arguments, but your deeper awareness will. So talk back! And take back your consciousness! Every time you compare yourself to a movie star bring in the affirmation, "I believe in myself" There is nothing more frustrating than trying to live up to something that isn't real. You can protect yourself from the destructive messages by imagining yourself surrounded by an invisible mirror that bounces back the ones you don't want to absorb.

If our creativity isn't buried under the sludge we'll have better ways of spending our time than in front of the tube. Remember our creativity comes from deeper levels. We have to give it space to surface. And we don't want to energize all the junk we watch by carrying it around in our real imaginations.

Get out the popcorn, invite your friends over and do an Energy Circle together. You'll be entertained with images that fuel desirable futures.

Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Sourcebooks, Inc. ©1985, 2003. www.sourcebooks.com

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Working Inside Out
by Margo Adair.

Working Inside Out by Margo Adair. The classic book on practical meditation, updated and revised. Originally published in 1984, Working Inside Out is one of the first books to bring pragmatic meditation techniques to westerners. Now, for the first time, the classic meditation book is paired with a specially created audio CD of guided meditations. Margo Adair teaches the reader to use symbols that make meditation available to even the most restless and busy people.  The book includes more than 45 guided meditations, a select number of which are contained on the 72-minute audio CD.

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About the Author

Margo Adair

Margo Adair, founder of Tools for Change and co-director of the Tools for Change Institute, is the developer of Applied Meditation. She is co-author of numerous articles, including two pamphlets: The Subjective Side of Politics and Breaking Old Patterns, Weaving New Ties. She travels extensively, offering workshops, and doing public speaking. Margo passed away on the afternoon of September 2nd, 2010, in the loving, sustained care of her life partner Bill Aal and a community of dear friends near and far.

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