ON MENTAL ILLNESS: You Don't Have to be Mentally Ill to be Delusional

Jack Bragen
Friday November 02, 2018 - 11:08:00 AM

Because I have suffered severe psychosis numerous times, and with mild psychosis for all my adult life, by necessity, I am familiar with processes by which I can overcome more than half of my delusional thoughts. It involves questioning my own thinking as to whether it is accurate. It also involves the realization that thoughts are merely thoughts--they are a representation, but they should not be accepted as "reality," at least until proven by means of the five physical senses, or by means of checking out the thoughts with other reliable sources. 

Because of the above, in some respects, I am mentally ahead of many people. Most people have not attempted to question their basic assumptions. Questioning my assumptions, for me, is a matter of survival. Most people can get by with a few errors in thought that may or may not be corrected at some point. However, as a person with psychotic tendencies, I must continually question my thinking. And if I don't do that, my mind will go perilously far off track. 

Being medicated doesn't mean that psychotic people will not have symptoms. Medication is a prerequisite; it slows things down to the extent that correcting the thoughts is practicable. 

However, in this week's column, I bring up the apparent fact that "regular people," not just those of us with a diagnosis, are very capable of having severe delusions, and even delusional systems. 

There are examples in history in which groups of people have collectively become delusional. In the present day, countries have their own spins of reality, which has been spoon fed to the citizens by government or, in the U.S., by corporate controlled media systems. 

People in some foreign countries may be subject to propaganda as their only sources of information about countries, or about people of other ethnicities. This may not fully qualify as delusion. However, government seems to spoon feed or even force their versions of "reality"--the lies that citizens are expected to take in. 

If you live in North Korea, a very isolated country, you might never hear word that things are better in other countries, and you might never hear that in other countries, people have basic liberties and can get enough to eat. 

Thus, leaders of countries tell lies that citizens are expected to believe. When people assimilate a lie, it makes them delusional. When people intentionally propagate a lie, it is abuse. 

Clinging to a belief that is untrue is one definition of being delusional. 

And, let's not forget about Jonestown. A large group of people were in an isolated area and were subjected to a cult environment. Without reiterating details that are commonly available, nearly the whole group was made to become delusional; it ended in tragedy. Isolating a person or persons from contact with the outside world is a frequent strategy that some sociopaths use to subject their victims to their abuse and control. 


If a person who has no history of being psychotic adopts a basic assumption that is false, any thoughts which follow from that will be delusions. 

Many people in the U.S. have delusions. Some churches and other organizations promote belief systems that are borderline or even outright delusional. People don't adequately think for themselves. Yet, if a person thinks for oneself excessively, to the exclusion of common sense, they are likely to adopt their own set of delusions--beliefs that no one else will accept. At least, if you ascribe to delusions held by numerous people, you can interact and not be called "crazy" or be deemed an enemy.  

I do not have access to what goes on in the minds of other people. However, I can ascertain from people's speech and behavior that a lot of people have strongly held beliefs that cause them not to know what they are talking about. 

Many individuals will dismiss what they see with their five senses in favor of a strongly held belief. People will literally ignore facts that are directly in front of them. 

What makes someone mentally ill, as opposed to simply having incorrect assumptions or other incorrect beliefs? The mentally ill person is so bad off that they either cannot meet their basic needs, or they have produced violence or a threat of violence. The difference with a mentally ill person is sometimes only that she or he is split off from what other people accept. 

The human mind is not designed to objectively find facts. Doing that would not help in passing along our genetic information. Evolution has apparently designed human beings to live and reproduce. An objective mind is probably not the most efficient at achieving that. People are designed to hold onto just enough truth to be effective at passing along their DNA. 

There are numerous ways in which the normal can be subject to delusions. One of these is to adopt one or more erroneous assumptions. Also, sleep deprivation, or an extended period of isolation, can bring this about. Certainly, narcotics can make an otherwise "normal" person become delusional. The normal can become delusional if subjected to a crazy-making environment. 

People should realize that becoming delusional isn’t a sign that our mind is useless, and it isn't a sign of bad character. We are deemed "psychotic" or "schizophrenic" when we appear to be delusional due to an internal problem. Misdiagnoses do occur. However, including when correctly diagnosed, there should be no shame; we are in good company. 

Just to remind the reader--I have books for sale, several of them pertaining to mental illness, as well as two fiction collections. To get a look at my books on Amazon, click here, or do a search on the web.