ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Random Events Versus Conspiracy Theories, and, Hard Delusions Versus Harsh Realities

Jack Bragen
Friday May 05, 2017 - 01:03:00 PM

Most "delusional systems" tend to make the affected person believe he or she is special. For example, delusions of being Christ or being some other messiah are not uncommon, also delusions of some special role to play in the world, such as the belief that our actions alone could save the world. Other delusions could include the belief that we will be President, that we are about to write a bestselling novel, or also, a delusion that we will become a billionaire.  

{While there is a place for self-confidence and believing in one's abilities, delusions of grandeur are much more common than actually becoming a billionaire, a bestselling novelist, or the President. Most psychologists and psychiatrists, when they hear someone speaking of such beliefs, automatically dismiss them as delusions, unless they see evidence that substantiates these ideas.}  

The delusion of conspiracy theories is related to this. The belief that there is an elaborate plot to do something to us, for example, is not uncommon. Interpreting normal events, events that could otherwise be upsetting, in the framework of a conspiracy theory, affects the pleasure centers of the brain and allows production of brain chemicals that can ease the pain of unfortunate events. In addition, delusions can prevent us from facing actual problems we may have that would otherwise be difficult and painful to fathom.  

As an author, I speak to thousands of readers. Therefore, it is a good thing that I have learned to reject delusions of grandeur. I once had delusions of grandeur.  

Paranoia hasn't been as easy to let go. Since I am currently dealing with difficult events, including my car being hit by and Uber driver, and a difficult insurance negotiation, it is easy to go into paranoia. It takes effort and it takes talking things out with saner heads to prevent me from slipping too far into that.  

For a psychotic person, there are at least two parts to getting free of delusions. These include being properly medicated, and the psychological part, which itself includes learning how to recognize, emotionally release, and dismiss delusions.  

Conspiracy theories may come up when there seem to be a number of unfortunate events occurring in a short timeframe. Rather than deal with these events, a psychotic person is vulnerable to escaping them by producing delusions.  

The above isn't "weakness"; it is a neurological problem. Correcting such a problem in the absence of medication usually will not happen. However, medication, by itself, may not be enough. We may need to work on reinforcing the mechanisms that would normally help us track reality. In some instances, it helps to talk to those close to us about questionable thoughts, and obtain some feedback about them. 

There is an emotional hurdle to overcome that could allow us to let go of delusions more. This is in a gray area between the neurological and the psychological. This is where we overcome the addiction to the brain "rewarding" delusions. This could be a situation of delusions making us feel better in the short term, or it could be where we trigger fear due to delusions. Either the desire for, or fear of delusions reinforces them.  

The ability to refuse these emotions comes about by means of meditative practices and/or cognitive techniques. Sometimes it can take years to accomplish this.  

Delusions are partially able to remain in place due to their ability to stimulate the pain and/or pleasure centers of the brain. This is somewhat analogous to bacterial or viral infections--both items have strategies for overcoming our defenses. 

None of this manuscript should be construed as a suggestion to quit medication.  

A conspiracy theory comes about partly because we want an explanation for why difficult events happen. However, you should consider that perhaps there is no explanation.  

Jack Bragen's books can be previewed and/or purchased on Amazon.