I watched the important parts live on the TV in between clients yesterday… I had to… I am not sure if it was the actuality of the occasion, or just wanting to sheepishly follow the hype… Incredibly hypnotic event yesterday, wasn’t it?
Unless you crawled into a dark room, unplugged your television, threw the radio out the window, and unlugged your phone, and then avoided every living person on the planet… You probably realised that the inauguration of Barack Obama went on yesterday.
In fact, whether you are excited or concerned about his presidency, whether you are a US citizen or not, you have probably been engaged in a lot of conversations about him since he was elected in November. Why is he such a big topic of conversation? Even here in the UK? What is the hypnotic allure? Let me explore that…
The obvious answer is that Obama is a big deal for a wide variety reasons. Many people are dissatisfied with George W. Bush, and are excited about a new administration, I guess… That is the impression I get from my peers and friends in the US…
Obviously, the election of the first African American as President has huge social and historic implications.
But what is it that makes people want-and need-to talk about this? There are lots of events in the world that are enjoyable and widely known, but they do not engage this level of conversation for this long… There is a mass hypnotic influence emanating from this event, isn’t there?
The way that human beings make sense of our world is by creating knowledge structures called schemas. A schema is a bundle of knowledge that tells you what to expect in a situation and why it is happening. For example, going to a party at a friend’s house could be a buzzing confusion of people if you did not have knowledge about what to expect and how to act.
Because of your knowledge about parties, though, you may expect loud conversation, music, dancing, or drinks. You know that you should find the hosts and let them know you are there. You might not ordinarily throw a coat on someone’s bed, but if they are having a big party, that is an acceptable place to pile coats. All of this knowledge helps you get around the world.
An important way that we form these schemas is by telling stories and repeating them. Anyone who has spent a lot of time with a child attending play school knows that they ask you the same questions over and over. They want repetition of stories. They are using this information to help them figure out how the world works. For a 4- or 5-year-old, almost everything in the world is new.
As adults, when something strange, new, wonderful, or traumatic happens, we return to that preschool behavior. Think first about a traumatic situation.
Following the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were all that anyone could talk about. They talked about where they were, and what they were doing. They followed the news reports to find out what happened and why. All of this was done to try to create some bundle of knowledge that would help this unthinkable tragedy make sense.
We often need to make generalisations of our knowledge as we filter in the information we receive… How do we generalise such massive, seemingly ground-breaking events?
On a happier note, the election of Barack Obama marks a significant milestone in American history. Less than 150 years separates the end of slavery in the United States from the election of our first African American president. An occasion like this that breaks significant new ground violates our expectations about the way the world works… Isn;t that a wonderful thing to behold?
As we try to understand this momentous event, we are driven to talk to others. We certainly do this to share the moment with others. More importantly, though, we talk about it in order to make sure that it makes sense to ourselves.
In essence, this is a form of hypnotic communication going on within us and around us that is marvellous to see.
I got a link through from my good friend this morning and she said to me “I may be imagining this, but I think Barack Obama has a “just don’t trip!” look on his face for his swearing in. You know the one…you imagine falling flat on your face in the middle of the most important day of your life. He then messes up his words. Self hypnosis?” 😉
Yuo can see it on the 2nd video down on this page. As well as being the central component of the most hypnotic world event… He also has to remember his lines and make sure it is flawless… That is some self-hypnosis that must be going on there!
I thought it was a fabulous spectacle yesterday… Utterly hypnotic…