As promised, I will now share with you, my valued readers, many of the tricks and tactics that I've picked up relating to the idea of controlling and improving who you are by using various external stimuli. In the previous rant, we discussed many of the things which can have an affect on you and we will now use those same basic categories to help us to navigate this topic (I told you that there was method to my madness).
The environment in which you live can have a great impact on who you are and how you perceive the world. One element, which I find to be very important, is light. Not everyone will have the same taste in any of these areas, but as a villain I find lower light levels to be most appealing. In general, lower or filtered levels of light tend to lend themselves to feelings of relaxation, whereas more intense and harsher light can have a more jarring affect. These types of considerations are important when deciding how to light your surroundings.
Another thing to consider is where the light is coming from. The most obvious and by far most common choice is to have your light source coming from the ceiling of your lair. However, there are other options such as uplights and accent lighting. Uplights are lamps or lighting sources that are on the floor and are directed upward, often close to a wall, pointed at a particular object of interest or in a corner of a room. This type of lighting tends to have a very dramatic effect and can make an environment more visually interesting.
Although accent lightning, by definition, is not enough to act as a predominant light source, it does create distinct points of interest within any environment; especially dark ones (think mad scientist laboratory with glowing buttons and beakers) and I highly recommend it. Some very common examples of accent lighting are track lighting or the "runway lights" found on the floor of many movie theaters, neon signs, as well as your basic lava lamp. Another lighting tactic that can create interesting (or creepy) atmospheres is to direct a light source to shine from behind a certain type of object, thus creating eerie or dramatic shadows (this works well with plants, fake or real). Also, shining spotlights at strange angles at various points in a room can also have a disorienting or "otherworldly" effect. Remember, the more visually interesting your environments is, the more it will inspire you. And if villainy is your goal, then you should not hesitate to create a diabolically inspirational environment for yourself to dwell in. Often, changes of lighting can be one of the easiest ways to accomplish this.
You'll also want to consider what color of light you'll be using. Even many "normal" light bulbs can range in slight hues of color, from those with a yellow or orangeish tint, to a blueish color, to just plain white and everything in between. These subtle differences can have a very big impact on the look of a room, as well as the sensations and emotional reaction that being in the room will instill within you. I am, personally, a big fan of colored light bulbs or "party bulbs", as they are often called (the color I prefer to use the most is blue). It is night right now, and the room in which I am working has three light sources; one predominant blue light hanging from the ceiling on the far side of the room, another, smaller and less powerful black light in one corner of the room, acting as a accent light and the cool glow pouring out from the dual monitors at my computer. This creates an affect that many would probably find eerie or frightening, but that I enjoy. Sometimes I like to add a bright, red light to compete with the blue light at the opposite end of the room. This generates a very clichéd, horror movie type atmosphere which I find strangely appealing.
When selecting the colors that you will surround yourself with, whether the lighting, the paint color of the room or anything else; remember to consider what kinds of emotions and subliminal reactions you would like the room to inspire. In general, cool colors = cool emotions and warm colors = warm emotions. Of course, you can go as subtle or as extreme with this color palette as you wish. And speaking of warm and cool, we should discuss temperature now.
It has been shown that heat and hot temperatures can cause feelings of tension, anger and frustration within us. When we become too hot, often our emotions can get out of control. It is generally thought that the rate of violent crime goes up in hotter months. I certainly wouldn't doubt this. Despite the fact that many people seem to find the summer heat to be pleasant and worthy of all manner of outdoor activities, I find such conditions to be, virtually, unbearable. I don't like the negative emotional affects that hot temperatures have on me and my state of mind. One of the best ways that I know to deal with this is to keep my face and head cool. The fact that you tend to lose a lot of heat from your head can be a problem in the winter and a solution in the summer.
One, somewhat strange, but very pleasant feeling tactic that I use is to briefly put my face very close to the out flow vent of an air conditioning unit. Having so much cold air blowing directly on your face can be very exhilarating and even relaxing. I suspect that this might also explain the recent popularity of desk fans (as well as the fact that more and more people are working on computers, which are often found on top of desks). I have one on my desk right now and I find it to be very refreshing. In a pinch, if you really begin to feel frustrated and angry, you can also try sticking your head in front of an open freezer and cool off a bit (notice how even the words that we use to describe emotions are often the same as words that we would use to describe temperatures). Another trick that I used while working outdoors as a zookeeper in the summer heat, was to put ice cubes under my hat to keep cool. I found that this little trick helped me to keep from getting annoyed or burned out as quickly as my coworkers. I would either get a little ice from a nearby concessions stand, or, grab a handful from one of the many bags of ice located in a large freezer where we kept the animal's food and other perishables. Then I'd put them under my hat and as they melted they would keep my head cool for a good while.
Another way of cooling down very quickly, which is very effective when you have an opportunity to do it, is to take a cold shower. This approach has become cliché as a method for dealing with another type of emotional heat (sexual), but it works very well for alleviating rage as well. The effect can be very calming. Drinking a cold beverage or, even better, a frozen one can also cause a very refreshing feeling which can help to alleviate frustration and anger. I cannot recommend any form of alcoholic drink for this however, due to the fact that alcohol tends to act as a depressant and, in some cases, can cause one's body to feel warm; thus potentially negating some of the desirable cooling affects. For best results, I'd say select a beverage with other mild stimulants such as sugar or caffeine. Incidentally, when it comes to getting a good night's sleep (or day's, in my case), temperatures above 75 degrees Fahrenheit and below 54 degrees should be avoided. Although there has been some debate about the ideal temperature, in general, most sleep scientists believe that a slightly cool room contributes to getting good sleep.
In my "Apathy is Bliss" rant, we examined some methods of dealing with the people around you in a way which will help to minimize any unwanted influences they may have on you. These tactics work pretty well in situations in which you absolutely have to deal with people who may have a negative impact on your own psychology and I suggest that you read that rant for advice on those types of situations. Another method, which is not covered in that rant, is to constantly, internally (as in to think, not to say aloud) criticize the people around you in order to maintain a subconscious separation between your own thoughts and consciousness and theirs. This works because sympathizing with people is the best way to cause them to rub off on to you. The more you can "demonize", "devalue" or otherwise create a psychological separation between the other person and yourself, a less effect they're likely to have on you. And if you're cunning enough, you can do this without them even knowing it! Of course, this information can be applied the opposite way, allowing you to "open up" to other people and influences that possess traits which you find desirable and wish to bring into yourself.
I must warn my fellow villains out there that other people's influences can be some of the most powerful and most difficult to ward off of all external psychological factors. Ultimately, the ideal scenario is to have enough control over your life and possess the intelligence to determine who is worthy of interacting with you; and just avoid all those whose influence would not be of any help to you psychologically. Unfortunately, there will be times when we all just have to endure the unhealthy, psychological effects of certain people. When this occurs, it is best to just get it over with and then try to "cleanse our palates"; psychologically speaking. Deal with the rotten individual(s) if you must and after it's over, expose yourself to more inspiring or pleasant external stimulation, in order to help rid yourself of any unwanted mental crap left behind as a result of your socializing.
It is best to surround yourself with external stimulation that inspires you to pursue your goals and helps you to maintain a sense of mental well being. When it comes to fiction, my advice is to watch and read about characters that have certain traits that you would like to see within yourself. And, in general, consistently expose yourself to entertainment which excites you and makes you feel good. Even better, try to customize your own entertainment and media to suit your needs. It has been suggested in many self help type books that you put up visual reminders of your goals and desired attitudes. If you want to lose weight, find an image of someone who looks the way that you would like to look and put it up (on a wall, your desk, your computer screen or anywhere that your eyes are likely to see it on a regular basis). If you're saving up for a car, then do the same thing with the image of the vehicle that you desire.
Using custom external messages to program your mind to think the way you want it to can do wonders. You can even create your own motivational posters. On the most basic level, it's just a matter of printing out bold black type on a white piece of paper and sticking it on your wall; though you can go as nuts with this as you like depending on your artistic abilities and the equipment you have available to you (for readymade evil motivational posters, look no further then our products section). Cynical villains should find it easy to "evil up" more obvious or traditional motivational messages; which may seem a little too sappy at first. One homemade poster message that I have in several places within my lair reads, simply: "I am filled with dark, sinister joy and happiness".
A similar tactic that I use to craft my own mind and thought process, involves audio instead of visual stimuli. Next to the toilet in my bathroom, I have a small recording device with a few short, but well thought out sentences on it which I play every time I sit down to go. I designed the sentences themselves to have the most powerful and all encompassing psychological impact possible; with consideration to both my goals, as well as what tends to be most appealing to me. The entire recording lasts only two minutes or less and I don't even have to consciously listen to it; I just press play and by hearing it at least once a day (while I'm taking care of other "business") over a length of time, the messages begin to sink in.
Despite claims of objectivity, it has been noted that the media can often be very subjective and that true objectivity may be impossible. This however, need not necessarily be a bad thing. We can use this to our advantage. Often, I find that news media is not particularly psychologically beneficial to watch or read; let's face it, it's a downer. But if you insist on keeping up with current events, you can at least decide who you're going to hear it from. It has been observed that are many sources for news and current events and that many of them have their own slants, agendas, priorities and ways of covering stories. This selection allows us to choose which types of attitudes that we wish to expose ourselves to and which point of view we'd like our news delivered from. Since there doesn't seem to be any real standard for objective accuracy in news reporting, at least we can expect to have it customized towards certain tastes.
I hope that you have gained some helpful insights into various methods of altering and controlling your state of mind for the better. I realize that many of us would like to think that such tactics are not necessary and that our wills are strong enough not to be affected by these types of factors. But regardless of how mentally powerful we are, we'd be fools to underestimate the impact that external input can have on our own, unique, psychology.