The vicious cycle of paranoia and extremism


All Writings, Observations, Psychology / Saturday, November 11th, 2017

During times of difficulty and great anguish, the subtlety of human thought suffers.  There is not the attention to detail, and nuance seems only hypocritical.  What a relaxed mind, one at ease in a secure environment can do, a stressed mind cannot.  This is easily understandable.  This understanding should have caused humans to aspire for security and peace, but it has instead been used to create mischief.  There are also those who, out of a sense of envy and hate wish to create difficulties for those who still have a peaceful existence.  Why would someone want to do this?  It is difficult to understand.  Should it not be desirable and doable to have a measure of peace and security for all people?

Certain beliefs have long existed in both, religion and in philosophical thought, that shows a fascination with evil.  What is evil?  It could most simply be identified as, the deliberate injuring of another.  Evil is malice.  Yes, there is unintentional injury also possible at the hands and mouths of humans.  This can be understood through later examination.  It can be grounds for exoneration.  A man can truly abandon any improper guilt if he admits his own error.  Once it becomes clear that, something was not done out of malice, peace can be restored.  A person can have peace within himself.  He can also find peace with others.

The beliefs which paranoia is known by, disallow a person from having inner peace.  Such a person is always afflicted by suspicion of others.  The reasons for holding such beliefs can be complex.  However, the existence of the belief can itself be put to the test by comparing it to evidence.  Does the evidence show over a period of time, that the suspicion is validated?  Let us spend a little time understanding this.

If a person is determined to be suspicious of an individual or a community, his mind becomes conditioned to finding the very evidence that supports his claim.  He can become a faultfinder.  His negativity even attains a patience.  He waits to find the terminal flaw in his “enemy” to prove his suspicions.  Without his conscious realization, he has become paranoid!  Once it is deeply set, he might find no escape.  If a person is – as examples – suspicious of white people, or of Jews, or black people, or Muslims he will keep finding evidence.  Where his suspicion is invalidated, he disregards the evidence as inconsequential.

At the other extreme, we can take the most unlikely example of a person who is willing to believe all others.  Such a mind of a child is most unready for the reality of the world we live in.  How could such a person accept that this world has thieves, murderers, and liars?  How could he understand that such people can emerge from any religion, nation, or from any political conviction?  Even more so, he is willing to live by the idea that his own good will not allow evil to come upon him.  When the evil unfailingly comes and trust is broken, only time shows if a person will re-emerge from his descent into the deep well of suspicions.

Of course, the balance between the paranoid and the naively trusting is the sort of person who keeps his thinking and decisions measured.  It takes more effort and deprives a person of knowing the joy of being fully able to trust someone, but it helps one be realistically safer.  The world we live in does not allow us the freedom to have absolute trust.  We still like to believe in its possibility, though.

How can we keep a protective balance?

We are going through tremendous social changes at this time.  Humanity is in the grip of a time of great transition.  And it is not as if a change happens in society, then everyone gets time to adjust.  Wave after wave of change and even many cross-winds over the surface of human society are churning everything up and down.  Either one steps away from the changes, or one goes so deep into the sea, he becomes unaffected by these changes.  Both these possibilities seem next to impossible right now.  What so many are choosing to do is, jumping right into these social changes and hoping to still the sea of mankind.

Katsushika Hokusai [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The simple advice given in the private settings of a room, sitting opposite to a counselor seems to be insipid during the great turmoil.  The advice should match the enormity of the challenge.  Or, there has to be an honest admission of not having the desired answers.  Everything has seemingly come out of the privacy of a room, and out into the open society.  Every day, there are conversations on social networking sites.  In these, there is as much advice and diversity of opinion as there are people.  Soon, there is such a deluge, that nothing seems to have a meaning anymore.

There still is an answer.  We have to honestly admit, with humility, that we are confronted by forces that are too great for any man to face.

Rather than taking the fight to society and its members, why not reconsider the need to fight.  Fighting will not solve anything!  The arguments will never end.  One thing is clear: staying in the problematic, turbulent environment will produce stress.  When stress heightens and stays so for a long time, balanced thought succumbs to it.

The means to tackle paranoia and extremism

Paranoia and extremism feed each-other.  The imbalance in thought causes a person to resort to black-and-white conclusions.  It would, however, be a mistake to think that the entire mechanism to handle these two negatives – paranoia and extremism – rests entirely within the individual human being.  As human beings, we are naturally connected with our environments and with others.  Who we choose to remain bonded to is, to a large extent in our own hands.  Beyond that, associations and influences are not in our control.  So what needs to be done?

Just like a person who is seeking to altogether give up a harmful habit needs a combination of courage and strategy, the same way it takes courage and strategy to give up harmful influences.  Not only harmful ways of thinking but also those who keep us stagnated in those beliefs need to be disassociated from.  Yes, one needs to disassociate from harmful companions and negative beliefs.

In doing so, one would most naturally feel the need to replace those associates and beliefs with what is healthy.  If the vacuum isn’t filled, evil will fill it.  In this case, paranoia and extremism are the evil we seek to remedy.  Over a longer period of time, a balance will be found in which, there is the ability to be suspicious when needed and also to be trusting where deserved.  Once such a balance is found, the effort would be to maintain it through proper use of internal thought mechanisms and intelligent association with external factors.

It wouldn’t be wrong to say, there is even a legitimate place for paranoia and extreme thinking.  It also wouldn’t be wrong to conclude, there is the rare time when absolute trust is required.  Both have been found in times of war.  Those are the extremes of life which one hopes not to remain in.  May it be, when you find yourself in either extreme, you find the wisdom to do just as is proper at its time!  I hope, we much rather find peace and security.

 


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