Divide and Conquer: How to Have a Powerful Mindset When Everyone Acts Like Turd Tossing Toddlers

Are you sick of the pissing match being played out in politics and the media?

Can you no longer be friends with folks because you have differing political views?

And what if it’s possible that we’re being manipulated to believe this funhouse mirror version of reality?

Today we take a look at some practical ways we can reclaim our power and peace of mind while the media and masses act like turd tossing toddlers. Feel free to keep whatever ideas work for you and discard the rest.

In this episode:

  • Tripp’s history in the dark underbelly of politics
  • Why we’re far more similar than different
  • Why some actively want to “divide and conquer”
  • How to tell when we’re being manipulated
  • Ways we can drop the drama and focus on solutions instead

Click here for Tripp Lanier’s book This Book Will Make You Dangerous: The Irreverent Guide for Men Who Refuse to Settle.

Below is a transcript of this podcast:


I Was a Mercenary

I was a mercenary.

And on this particular night, I was hired to end someone’s career.

It was waaaay past midnight, and there were coffee cups and fast food wrappers scattered around the office. My client, a political consultant, was directing me to edit a “hit spot” — a TV commercial designed to smear the opponent.

This particular hit was especially ugly and only vaguely rooted in reality. If this thing hit the air, it was going to do more than just leave a mark. It would probably send this opponent crawling back to his district begging for a new job.

I turned around to the consultant — the guy who wrote and directed the hit — and asked him, “Out of curiosity, why does it have to be so brutal?”

He gulped down the last of his coffee and said, “That’s because people don’t write checks or get out to vote unless they’re pissed off and scared.”

Designed to Push Our Buttons

Years before I became a professional coach, I owned a video production facility. In addition to our normal bread and butter work, I spent about eight years working with political consultants from both sides of the aisle during campaign season.

To be clear — I’ve never cared much for politics, and after seeing how the sausage was made I certainly don’t associate politics with solving problems.

Back then, I was hired to edit those ridiculous TV ads that should have only aired as parodies on Saturday Night Live. The money was fantastic. To justify doing this kind of work, I told myself that viewers would know it was clearly bullshit. I told myself that the distortions and fear mongering were so obvious that no one would take it seriously.

But I was wrong. People did take it seriously.

The ads did what they were designed to do. They pushed buttons. They distorted the truth. They misinformed. And as a result, people got pissed off. They got scared. And many of those people wrote checks to campaigns and voted accordingly.

The shit worked.

I never forgot what that political consultant said to me that night. And it helped me understand the power of two important phrases:

1 — Divide and conquer
2 — Follow the money

Fast forward 20 or so years, and here we are. As a culture blinded by our own herd mentality, we’re living in a world of distortions and fear mongering. As a collective, we’re willingly eating our own tail.

But we don’t have to play the victim to this divide and conquer stuff. Today I’m going to share a few thoughts to help us recognize this bullshit so that we can pivot into power when our buttons have been pushed. I’m going to give us a few tools so that we can ultimately stay out of the collective fever dream that so many have come to believe is real.

So let’s start there. What is real?

We’re Not That Different

First off, let’s consider that we — you, me, and that asshat you can’t f’n stand — are far more alike than we may believe. Meaning, we all basically want to get up the same mountain. We just have very different paths for getting there.

Recently, Mark Manson published a newsletter where he shared a study that set out to find just how similar we are. The number?

93% — As in, across many cultures all around this planet, we all tend to agree on what’s most important about 93% of the time.

I’ve included the links to his post and the study if you want to check them out for yourself.

But if this is indeed true, and we — as an entire human race! — are 93% in agreement on what’s most important, then how do we end up with the felt sense that we’re living amongst the enemy? How do we end up believing we’re on the verge of a civil war? How do we end up becoming so divided?

Why Are We So Divided?

The short answer is because a few folks benefit greatly when we’re at each others’ throats.

And so to figure out who, we simply need to ask:

Who would gain more power from dividing us?

Who would benefit financially from distorting the truth?

Remember — pissed off, scared people take action. They watch the videos and end up seeing the ads. They click on links and see the ads. They share articles. They donate money to organizations. They vote and put people in power.

Now it’s easy to want to blame the enemy, “those guys,” or the side we already despise.

But keep in mind — those benefitting from pushing our buttons may be the very people we currently trust. The very people that want to distort reality and activate our nervous system may be in our tribe.

We don’t need to put on our tin foil hats just yet, but we do want to be willing to consider the possibility that our tribe is attempting to manipulate us for greater power and financial gain.

Scratch that — our tribe is most definitely manipulating us for greater power and financial gain. This is just what groups do whether they realize it or not. In fact, many times they feel absolutely justified to do it because they believe what they see in their distorted, funhouse mirror view of the world. They may truly believe they’re at war.

Now getting us to watch the latest ad for Urethra or click on a link or vote for a candidate may not seem like that much of a dick move, but there is certainly a greater cost that we all pay.

What’s the Cost of Being So Pissed Off and Scared?

First off, when we buy into this funhouse mirror version of reality, we end up living in a world where we fear one another. Our neighbors, our fellow countrymen, and those that look a bit different from us are assumed to be the enemy unless they signal otherwise. And this means we feel more isolated and alone even though we’re surrounded by so many others.

Second, when we become fixated on problems and pointing fingers, we stop looking for solutions. As long as we stay stuck in the boxing ring tearing each other down, we waste valuable time to find a way to actually make things better.

And third, this ultimately kills our peace of mind. Instead of enjoying our good fortune and finding ways to lift one another up, we end up getting older and grumpier and oblivious to all that is already going well.

If we truly want to live in a better world, then instead of waiting for our enemy or the system to change, what’s possible if we take responsibility for ourselves? To do that, we’ll need to recognize when someone is trying to push our buttons, come back to our common ground, and learn how to solve problems like adults instead of turd tossing toddlers.

Recognize That You’ve Had Your Button Pushed

The first step to ending this tail-chasing madness is to simply recognize when we’re being manipulated. This one’s pretty easy.

How so? By noticing when we’re feeling scared or outraged or shocked. And we’ll know we’re feeling this way when we say things like, “WTF? Can you believe this shit?!?”

Let’s imagine we have a gauge on our dashboard that flashed when we felt this way. But instead of being hijacked and doing something reactive, we could learn to see our anger, disgust, and fear simply as information.

“Oh wait. I’m pissed off. I’m scared. This means someone may be attempting to manipulate me. If I’m pissed or disgusted or scared, they believe I’ll click. I’ll share the post. I’ll send money. I’ll fall in line and stop thinking for myself.”

Developing this kind of awareness is simple, and with practice it will become a little easier. Let’s explore a few more indicators that someone may be trying to push our buttons.

The Drama Triangle

We can always spot bullshit when there is a clear villain, a clear victim, and especially a hero or rescuer. As humans, we love this trio of archetypes. It’s great fun for a Saturday afternoon action movie plot.

But we all learn through experience, that complex, perpetual conflicts are not created by a single villain. They’re co-created by everyone involved.

One group was a little naughty and so the other group felt justified to be a little naughty and then the first group felt really justified to be even naughtier and now we’ve got a stage 5 shit storm. Welcome to humanity.

Meanwhile, as this is happening, both groups firmly believe that they were victimized by the villains on the other side. They firmly believe that attacking and tearing down the enemy is completely justified. They just can’t see it any other way.

And all of this opens the door for a rescuer to make his or her entrance. When we’re in this drama triangle, we willingly want to believe that this person or group or movement or whatever is going to save the day. We willingly give over our power and freedom, and if this rescuer doesn’t make all of the bad stuff go away then guess what? They become the new villain!

That’s a trap, folks. There’s just no winning this game. It’s a huge waste of time and resources.

(BTW — Do yourself a favor and take a few minutes to click here and check out the video I made about The Drama Triangle.)

Regardless, we’ll know our buttons are being pushed when we believe that one group are clearly the good guys, another group are clearly the evil villains, and somebody or something is going to come along and save the day (or make it all great again).

Let’s talk about another way our buttons get pushed.

Our Need to Belong

This is a huge trigger. It shows up when we believe we’re in a bind and are forced to choose between two sides.

“You’re either with us or against us.”

In this delusion, there is no nuanced or middle way. One side is correct, and the other side is wrong. If we disagree with or even criticize our own group, then we open ourselves up to be punished, shamed, or cast out altogether.

As social creatures, we’re highly sensitive to this deep desire to belong. We’re programmed to avoid doing anything that will get us kicked out of the group. This is why author and moral psychologist, Jonathan Haidt says that “what binds us also blinds us.” And as long as we’re fixated on the threat from the other side, then we tend to become blind to the ways that our own side could improve. We’re even fearful to constructively criticize for fear of retribution.

(Click here to check out my interview with Jonathan Haidt, and I highly recommend his book, The Righteous Mind)

Point being — we’ll know our buttons are being pushed when we feel pressured to overlook the faults of our group or choose a side just to avoid punishment, judgement, or criticism.

And there’s at least one more way that we can tell if our buttons are being pushed.


We don’t have to look very far throughout history (or today) to see how demonizing or dehumanizing others has been used to justify doing horrible acts against one another.

It’s one thing to disagree with folks, and it’s quite another to want them to suffer or die. When we jump the gap from differing opinions to believing the other side is the devil in the flesh, then we can start to believe it’s our job to tear that person or group down. And it’s much easier to do this if we believe that the others aren’t human beings with hopes and dreams and fears and loved ones, too.

From this heartless perspective, we’re more likely to end careers, “cancel,” or even commit violence because we feel perfectly justified — even righteous — to do so.

Let’s be clear — there are plenty of pricks walking this planet. There are certainly legitimate threats in our world. But let’s wake up and realize that the guy you went to high school with isn’t one of them just because you can’t stand his moronic comment on Facebook.

Point being, we’re probably getting our buttons pushed when we feel justified to believe, say, or do awful things to another human being — just because we disagree with them.

So, once we start to track that we’re getting our buttons pushed, what can we do instead?

Get Curious Instead of Defensive

Well, instead of losing ourselves in anger or giving our power over to the drama, we can zoom out. For example, in the case of some kind of “news” story the leads us to feel pissed off or disgusted, we can see that gauge on our dashboard, recognize that we’re in a reactive state, and get curious.

We can look at what’s being said or suggested and ask…

What if this isn’t completely true?

What if I’m not getting the entire story?

What if this is a distortion of what’s actually happening?

We can reclaim our power in that moment by simply recognizing what’s more likely to be true.

“Oh, wait a second. Instead of giving up my peace of mind, I can remember that for some, this is a game. But I don’t have to be a pawn in it.”

From this place, we can make better choices about what needs to be done to correct the problem. If we truly care about finding solutions, then we ditch the finger pointing and get curious. Instead of looking for ways to prove we’re right, we can look for solutions that actually move the needle.

We can look for data instead of demons. We can find research instead of rescuers.

We’ll meet resistance for sure. It may seem “dangerous” to our primitive minds to unplug from these habits. After all, we’re deeply afraid to be bored or miss out on the action. We’re deeply afraid of feeling left out of the group — even if they’re the ones swept up in this countrywide pro wrestling match.

But eventually we may find this way of living far more rewarding than getting into pissing matches or lashing out and giving the other side more justifications to dehumanize us. Test it for yourself and see.

Bottom Line

People and organizations — and I’m not just talking about politics or media here — are knowingly and consistently trying to provoke us, scare us, and piss us off. They’re doing this largely for their own gain — either in terms of power or finances.

They can’t see any further into the future than their own dicks and wallets. Which means, they don’t care how divided we become. They don’t care if we lose sleep at night. They don’t care if we end long held friendships. They believe dividing and conquering is justified and worth it.

Recognizing what we feel and say will help us identify when we’re being manipulated. Instead of falling into the trap, we can use this realization to take more grounded, creative action. Instead of giving away our power, we can reclaim our peace of mind and act with brains, heart, and balls. We can remember that we’re far, far, far more alike than not.

If you’d like to learn more about owning your power and protecting your peace of mind, check out This Book Will Make You Dangerous.

And click here if you’d like to learn more about coaching with me.

Thanks for listening.


Click here for Tripp Lanier’s book This Book Will Make You Dangerous: The Irreverent Guide for Men Who Refuse to Settle.

Tripp Lanier is…

Tripp Lanier is the author of This Book Will Make You Dangerous, and host of The New Man Podcast: Beyond the Macho Jerk and the New Age Wimp which — for over a decade — has been downloaded millions of times.

As a Professional Coach…

Since 2005, he has spent thousands of hours coaching people all around the world to get out of the rat race, become an authority in their field, and make a great living doing the work they were put on this earth to do. Over the years he’s designed several businesses to support a simple lifestyle focused on freedom, ease, meaning, and fun.

As Host of The New Man Podcast…

Tripp Lanier has conducted hundreds of interviews with experts and authors from all walks of life including:

As a Human Guinea Pig…

Tripp has thrown himself into everything from 10 day silent meditation retreats to plant medicine journeys to men’s groups in the Costa Rican jungle to somatic sex intensives in his bedroom to drinks with Zen masters — He even learned some life lessons by hanging out backstage with David Lee Roth.

At the age of 23, Tripp created one of the first digital video post-production companies in the Southeast. To support his music career and love for travel, he crafted TV shows and commercials for national and regional clients. Wanting to align his personal values with his work in the world, he sold the company after 12 years to become a professional coach. Other contributions include working with world-renowned philosopher Ken Wilber as Co-Director of Integral Institute’s Art Center.

Tripp is married to therapist/relationship coach Alyson Lanier and has the best daughter in the whole wide world. They live in a small beach town in North Carolina where he spends much of his time surfing, playing music, and enjoying a simple life.

Click here for Tripp Lanier’s book This Book Will Make You Dangerous: The Irreverent Guide for Men Who Refuse to Settle.