Imagine the evening news and the productions of our media as the dreams emerging from a troubled patient or the myths that linger around a culture in distress. I’ve considered that the tools of comparative religion might serve best to parse the meaning of these cultural constructions, but it feels like a societal perspective provides more play. Ad agencies make commercials, production companies create shows and political observers/editors design the news. Produced by these institutions of enterprise, the product feels like the fever dreams of corporations lying half asleep in a sweaty bed after overeating.

Pace and lead is the foundation of psychotherapy, salesmanship and communication theory. To establish rapport and provide guidance, it is necessary to mirror or reflect the target’s behavior and beliefs until the person trusts that they are understood. Once the person believes what the practitioner is saying, because the practitioner is saying what the target believes, that target can be guided to what the practitioner wishes the target to understand. The practitioner can be acting in the best interests of a patient when a psychotherapist practices pace and lead. The practitioner might not care what is in the best interests of a consumer if it’s a corporation that seeks a specific goal.

In this media fever dream we are all constantly exposed to, information emphasizing sex and the importance of status mirror our ubiquitous hormonal primate heritage that informs our thoughts, our feelings and our self esteem. These themes keep emerging, often together, in commercials, shows and the news. These motifs pace our deep experience, leading quickly, once we are engaged in the story driven by sex and status, to what they want us to buy. Whereas in dream and myth a tale has been composed to offer insight, the media design communications to lead us to outsight. We are guided to view things we could have that we don’t have that we could buy. We are guided to participate in the stories that will guide us to feel compelled to watch or listen to the story. It is not necessary that we be introduced to understandings within.

Seeking to understand us so that we can be led, media reflect back to us who we are and what we seek.

As has been noted in other entries in this blog, the unique way that humans engage in sexual selection deeply informs how we live our lives. We have evolved to a place where the performance/evaluation feedback loop characteristic of some species has become invested in almost every aspect of our daily existence. We don’t just evaluate or perform to achieve a mate; we evaluate and perform as part of our basic thought process, our very ability to use language to usefully recreate the world in words. Language, the choices we make and our compulsion to evaluate are all the results of sexual selection. We are peacocks and peahens gone wild. We see compelling feathers everywhere we look. We preen, almost without pause.

Media, reflecting back to us this compulsion, lead us easily to what they would have us evaluate and buy, purchase and preen with. Again, corporations intuit our deepest biological drives, mirror them back to us and lead us to where they want us to go. They are not leading us to any understanding. They don’t understand themselves. They think that what they are about is achieving goals.

Sex, status and sexual selection. Three things the media use to pace and lead.

Next channel on evolution’s dial is social structure. This one is more difficult for media to mirror. There are the two primary polarities, patrifocal and matrifocal, with hybrid subcultures within societies that exhibit characteristics of both. Whereas the news takes clearly patriarchal positions that side with hierarchical authority demeaning horizontal, compassion-based, democratizing orientations, commercials and shows will take either frame, sometimes both at the same time. Critical of the extremes (polygamy and marriage less communes), one show might encourage serial relations while another might honor long-term bonds. Commercials emphasize both the need for a woman to showcase her beauty and for a man to display/exhibit.

In a patrifocal frame, a man seeks to communicate his high status by his close proximity to the accoutrements of wealth. For the matrifocal man, commercials are created that appeal to the male desire to satisfy the woman by appealing to her aesthetic side or making her the center of his world.

The patrifocal man climbs high, gathering stuff and showing off the stuff that he has gathered. The matrifocal man shows how much better a performer he is than the competition and that he understands what it is that a woman wants.

“Look at my stuff,” says the patrifocal man and his new, gas-guzzling car. He can afford this powerful vehicle. He can afford to waste the money that goes into paying for the gas for this vehicle. He can be trusted to provide.

“Look at me paying attention to you,” says the matrifocal man, showing off the stereo with speakers throughout the apartment. He knows how to provide a positive experience.

We the dreamers often don’t know the import of our dreams. Societal myths operate at several levels, at depths unexplored by most experiencers of the words. The popular productions of our culture pour from the devices advertised on those devices, creating a loop that ensures little conscious control or understanding of the process. Like dream and myth, there is evidence of deeper or larger awareness. Like dream or myth, there are signs of compassionate intent. Though news programs, shows and ads often seem like some psychotic corporate Yurtle the Turtle/King Midas/Saudi King shared-hormonal hallucination, there is sense to this madness.

By becoming experts in compelling us to buy, corporations have become exquisitely trained at reflecting the human experience. Exploring corporate productions, we can find ourselves. Like the myth of Narcissus, we have the media to serve as the mirror to discover the reality, and beauty, of who we are.

But, as the myth suggests, there is the danger of falling in love with our reflection. De-enamoring ourselves is a good place to begin.


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