Sethi Learning


Psychological Warfar

Since the past few days, I have been yearning to write a letter to as many people I can reach. I believe that in the midst of this pandemic, most of us struggling to stay balanced, speak wisely, and maintain perspective. I see people around me making an effort to cope with this ‘new normal’ in their own ways. Adaptation is not easy. It cannot be enforced overnight. While it’s easier to bash those who are acting ignorantly, disregarding calls for ‘social distancing’, it’s equally important to understand that behavioural patterns are hardwired deeply into our psychology through years and years of conditioning. It’s easy to blame. It’s easy to judge. But it’s difficult to take a step back, reflect, and empathize with the inner experiences of people.
The way you experience events, happenings, and life itself might be completely differently than mine. It is also likely that it is different compared to your family sharing the same roof. Your parents can put a strong face and pretend not to be bothered by the shifting paradigm of reality. Conversely, deep inside you might not be that afraid but you still banter incessantly on how bad things are and how everything is doomed for the foreseeable future. In short, how you feel and think inside on a moment to moment basis is a highly personal experience. While others can try to decode the social cues you give, that’s the most they can do to understand how you are experiencing life inside. Sometimes, they get it right, but a lot of times they don’t. If you or the people around you are one of those who have mastered their public personas with finesse, it is likely that you do not know how they are experiencing the everyday drama of existence. It’s time to become aware and accept our own ignorance of what we thought we knew. May we don’t’ know our loved ones as well as we thought we did. That’s the beginning of developing deep empathy. Approach the other with childlike curiosity.
During all these years, how often have you actively wondered about the ‘human spirit’? In ancient Chinese traditions, it is called the ‘Qi’ or the life force and in India they call it the ‘prana’. It’s the vitality that flows through our beings every second of the day and drives movement, thinking, health, and an inner sense of being ‘alive’. The universe and all life on earth vibrates with this energy of life as flowers blossom, seeds sprout into vegetables, and we feel inspired to wake up every morning and do something. This energetic life force also flow through every human being and revitalizes the ‘human spirit’. It’s the human spirit that is the cornerstone of all life experience. When you spirits are high, you feel inspired, ready to achieve greatness, be brave, and act generously. As you read this, if your human spirit is bursting with the richness of life, you feel content, clear headed and capable of experiencing beauty. If adversity comes your way as it often does, you would jump out of bed, brush off the dust from your clothes, and feel brave inside to deal with all that comes your way. Mentally, you may still be upset and concerned over the battles that need to be fought and the mountains that need to be climbed, but you will still have the inner courage to face difficulties with inner strength. Your mind will feel clear and strong, capable of thinking through the details and reaching a decision balanced with wisdom and care. Your mind will not be drowning in obsessive worry, and repetitive thoughts that keep you awake for long hours at night. If your spirits is high, so would be your morale. In that case, how so ever you are taking care of your ‘human spirit’ or your ínner world, you are doing a wonderful job. Now as leader, it’s your responsibility to raise the spirits of those around.
I remember that when my dad was battling a couple of years ago, we made a special effort to protect his ‘human spirit’. We would consciously ‘colour’ our days with every day trivialities, events, outdoor activities, and daily chores that are part of a normal life, healthy life. The chemo sessions were painful and at times he would question his own mortality. For the three years my dad fought with cancer, we nurtured his mind and spirit with optimism to protect his morale and give his body the inner strength to endure the suffering. We did not let him feel sorry for himself. As long as he lived in during his last days, there was glimmer in his eyes. In his last few days, he once asked me to purchase him a new phone since his older phone was giving him a tough time. The day he passed away after losing to lung cancer, he made his own healthy breakfast in the morning. His spirit acted with bravery and courage through the toughest. However, this did not happen magically on its own. It was a collective effort by our family to keep him vivacious and fan the flame of hope even in the darkest hour. Perhaps, if we would have crushed his morale with negativity and the darkness of what might happen, he would passed away sooner and would not be at peace. In testing times, nurturing the human spirit is the need of the hour.
Armed forces and warfare experts understand the sensitivities of the human spirit and its impact on the outcomes of war better than anyone else. In war terminology, crushing the morale of people so that they lose confidence in themselves, their army, or the cause they fight for, is called ‘psychological warfare’. It’s easier to lose a battle when you are feeling crushed, less confident, and hopeless. In a state of hopelessness, your mind will no longer seize you with game changer insights that transform the odds in your favour. Your body will no longer produce the right combination of neurotransmitters to protect your immunity and conquer disease. When the human spirit is crushed, man becomes defenseless.
During World War II, military strategist s consciously deployed ‘psychological warfare’ to destroy the enemy and turn the odds of victory in their favour. Documents, memos, and other historical evidences revealed how military strategist planned psychological warfare to make the enemy side feel depressed, and lose the courage to fight. The propaganda worked in easy but effective ways. The strategist would study the psychological weaknesses and prevailing sentiment in the enemy side and then would craft messages that deliberately lowered the morale of the enemy. The themes of the ‘psychological weapons’ would revolve around losing your loved ones in battle, infidelity of one’s spouse, and other insecurities that people typically harbour. The leaflets would either be dropped in bundled by AirForce so that they ‘mushroom open and scatter over the area’ or distributed by hand through leaflets. Once the morale of the industrial workers was crushed, they found it difficult to focus and put heart in making weapons. They felt defeated. The propaganda worked.
In today’s day and age, the nature of psychological warfare has changed. The platform for delivery and execution has shifted to digital. Most of us at some point are guilty of sharing ‘leaflets’ of information that wreak havoc with the sentiments of others without verifying the source and credibility of that information. Most of the ‘news’ that we have comes from a long chain people we know; these are not first hand encounters. As word spreads, it loses its original context and true meaning and becomes distorted with language and layers of our own interpretation. We might be engaging in psychological warfare and crushing the human spirit without conscious awareness. We might be doing what military strategists in World War II did to destroy huge segments of the population.
In these testing times, it’s important to nurture the human spirit, stay mindful of what news we share and the extent we ‘need’ to share, and protect ourselves and our loved one from being victims if this phenomena.
Nurture the human spirit of yourself and those around you with the richness of life that still gleams in the midst of this social anarchy. You will emerge stronger, braver, and courageous after every hill you climb.