As 2012 edges into our collective world, more and more alarming items will accompany it- books, documentaries, movies, talk, cults, news reports, etc. The stress levels we're already undergoing with the current economy will pale in comparison, and if our economy is still in crisis (and reliable sources say that this is a distinct possibility), the additional fear-pressure of 2012 will add that much more gasoline to the fire.

The bombardment of memes will be hard and fast. There will be facts mixed in with the nonsense, and cons, predators, and cults of every conceivable sort will take advantage of the craziness.

How can you cope? How can you counter all the stuff that is going to be flying at you? What is real, and what is nonsense? Can you sucker-proof yourself and your family and friends?

It is possible, but it takes persistence and knowledge. Both are major aids in coping with the madness and getting through the storm with your sanity relatively intact.

Knowledge is power. I'm going to say that a lot, but it is something I not only believe in, but understand for a fact. If fear is the mind-killer, knowledge is the antidote, the fear-killer. The more you know, the less you'll be afraid- or, if you are afraid, it will be of realistic things, like tornadoes, floods, and solar storms. Those things can be prepared for- mentally, as well as physically.

But man-made disasters often outnumber natural ones, and those are the real boogieman you have to be ready for. I'm not talking only about famine and riots, but the more subtle and dangerous events- like mass movements and the like. In normal times, most of these are harmless, sweeping as fads across countries and cultures. They grow, max out, and fade. So do the more virulent ones, like political and religious movements and personality cults- but they leave far more damage in their wake than a few dusty Hula Hoops or pet rocks. One does not need to rewind history too far to run into what happened to Germany prior to World War II- and that is only one of many toxic events in human history. But it is an example of how a toxic meme can take over and destroy a country and culture.

How are these memes created and spread? Mostly through deliberate programming- using techniques garnered from Neuro-linguistic programming and good old-fashioned mental manipulation. It isn't as obvious as being tied to a chair with a strong light trained on you- no, you are softened up for it, and actually end up craving the experience:

So, to begin, I want to share a basic fact about brainwashing: IN THE ENTIRE HISTORY OF MAN, NO ONE HAS EVER BEEN BRAINWASHED AND REALIZED, OR BELIEVED, THAT HE HAD BEEN BRAINWASHED. Those who have been brainwashed will usually passionately defend their manipulators, claiming they have simply been "shown the light" ... or have been transformed in miraculous ways.

Think about that carefully. Then, make sure that you read The Battle For Your Mind in its entirety.

No one is immune to these things. Not even me- and I've been studying this for years. Yet, I can still fall for it- as I did not too many weeks ago when a telemarketer convinced me to add three years to my Herb Quarterly subscription. I nodded along and agreed to do it, then realized that I'd been had after I'd hung up. He started off with a 'yes series' of questions, and I was on the hook. I did cancel the order later, but I was furious at myself for falling for it. I was home resting while on some heavy meds- but that isn't an excuse. Just don't answer the phone if you're on major painkillers! They say that you should not sign any documents or make any decisions within three days of having anesthesia- and they mean it!

So, you may not be immune to these things, but if you are aware that they are being used, you can at least stand up to them, of find some sort of diversion. The major signs to look for are media saturation, aggressive promotion, outrageous claims, huge crowds and continuous reinforcement. You can implement some personal coping rules to keep you away from the worst of it. Here are some of mine:

-If it's seems too good to be true, it probably is.

-Do your homework- learn all you can, especially early on, before any revisions are made.

-If they are pursuing you- either by phone, email, mail, or otherwise, they may not have your best interests in mind. Don't be afraid to say 'no', and more than once.

-Do not forget that legitimate entities (like the government) sometimes use these tactics to spread information or gather it. Don't let hysteria make you do something really rude to the census takers. (Yes, there is a US Census coming next year. Learn what their badges look like, and watch out for their forms- as well as the fakers.) If in doubt, call the authorities- city, state, government- they'll know. Become familiar with your State Attorney General's consumer hotlines, and those of the federal government.

-It's sad to say this, but if you are poor, live in a poor neighborhood or in a zip code that is considered 'poor', you will be more heavily targeted by predators out to steal your money or identity. (Predators believe that poor= stupid, uneducated and/or desperate, so they prey heavily upon them.) Be aware of this, and let your neighbors know, too. I've received nearly a dozen solicitations- some very cleverly crafted to reel in vulnerable and desperate people- from a certain 'church' in Oklahoma. All of my neighbors reported the same thing. Our neighborhood was being targeted and saturated by this fake church, simply because it was considered a 'poor' neighborhood.

If you empower yourself with knowledge, you can dispel fear and 'sucker-proof both yourself and your family, friends, and neighbors.