New: On Mental Illness: Something for Nothing

By Jack Bragen
Thursday September 22, 2011 - 10:53:00 AM

I spent most of my life with my mind dominated by magical thinking, and this caused me to have a lot of problems. My mind seemed to be on a different wavelength than those of other people’s. Without knowing it, I had a poor grasp of reality. When I made mistakes, ones that could create bad consequences, my mind didn’t acknowledge those mistakes. The rule was that my mind had to believe that everything was always O.K., and my perceptions of the world were warped to conform to that. Partly, I lived in a world of wishful thinking. Also, I was protecting my mind from the often upsetting nature of the truth. 

A person who suffers from magical thinking may believe that if they want something, it means that they deserve it. The person doesn’t acknowledge that work must often be performed to get whatever the thing is. Instead, merely wanting a thing is enough “work” to make one believe that they deserve it. 

I haven’t read the book, “The Secret.” However, I have read books that appear to be similar, that were popular long before “The Secret” was published. These were books that promoted the belief that a person could have everything they want by telling the universe to give it to them. 

If we lived in a society in which everyone believed that wealth and success arrive from merely asking or telling the universe to give it to them, we would all perish, probably of starvation. Good things don’t come from merely wanting them. One must do the things that are required to get things that are wanted. This is unless a person has a “sugar daddy” or “sugar mama” to bestow gifts merely for the asking. 

If a person suffers from psychosis, it is important that they remain as grounded as possible, as much as possible. By grounded, I mean being connected to the five senses, to the things that are happening in the “now” moment, and to basic, common-sense truths that will keep a person out of trouble. My involvement in a couple of cult groups, one that espoused extrasensory perception, and another that promoted loving everyone and never feeling pain, were not grounding pursuits. 

It is easy for a person who already has psychotic tendencies to have beliefs that defy common wisdom. A person who suffers from psychosis is much more likely to get sucked into the unwise and esoteric belief system, whether it is that of a popular but foolish book or that of a spiritual growth group. A psychotic person could even become a cult of one person. This means that a person can coin their own strange beliefs that don’t get them anywhere. I once believed I could control traffic lights. My belief was supported whenever the traffic lights turned green. 

The human mind is designed to prove the (believed) reality of its assumptions. It is this failing in the design of the mind that makes it possible for people to fall into these erroneous sets of beliefs. In the case of a psychotic person, this tendency of the mind can be much stronger. Although I know that in the two groups I attended there were plenty of “normal” people, with jobs even, who were thoroughly immersed in the belief systems of the cult groups. This is applicable to “Christian” fanatics just as much as it is to “new age” followers. It is not necessary to have a mental health diagnosis to be delusional. Those who are delusional but who are still able to function in society may never get a diagnosis. That doesn’t make them well. 

It is important for people with mental illness to remember that there is no free lunch, except maybe the one at Loaves and Fishes. And it is important to remember that it is never too late to overcome erroneous thought and achieve basic wisdom.