ON MENTAL ILLNESS: When Delusions Become Assumptions

Jack Bragen
Saturday November 09, 2019 - 10:47:00 AM

The human mind is organically produced, and the attributed organ is the brain. Since the brain is a biological thing, it isn't really a machine. Except that in some instances, the brain and mind do seem to act like a machine. An example is where the human mind seems to operate in a linear, logical manner.

I'm not speaking of "logic" like you might've heard issuing from the character "Spock" in Star Trek. The human mind's logic is, as often as not, inaccurate. The "logic" I speak of points to how we function from assumptions. Assumptions are like postulates. If the assumption is correct, then accurate thinking will follow. If a person's assumptions are inaccurate, the mind will produce inaccurate thoughts and beliefs from these assumptions.

Except that human beings are designed with some mechanisms that allow some level of truth to filter in, despite possibly holding erroneous assumptions. These self-corrective mechanisms, however, don't always work very well. The latter fact pointing to how people can behave in a misguided manner.

People with psychosis usually have a delusion at the bottom of the thoughts. This is where, as a basic assumption, we believe something that isn't so. When erroneous behavior inevitably follows, we get into some type of trouble, and in a best-case scenario wind up being put in a good psychiatric ward. 

The mechanisms of self-correction, for human beings, are inadequate much of the time. Most people sync with the beliefs of others as their way of getting grounded. That opens the door for collective delusions. And we've seen a lot of that in human history. 

In the case of a person deemed psychotic, we've had beliefs that most people would consider grossly disconnected from truth. This, by itself, is not usually enough to get someone locked up. A psychotic person, to become hospitalized, is unable to meet his or her basic needs, and/or poses a threat or severe nuisance to people. Once we've been branded mentally ill, it is easier for authorities to decide we need intervention, voluntary or not. 

Antipsychotic medication seems to allow a psychotic person to resume syncing to the beliefs of people in her or his surroundings. I've read that it places more emphasis on external senses. That means that medication may resolve being stuck too much within one's own mind. When other people's projected beliefs are incorporated into the thinking, it allows for that corrective mechanism to function. 

Just because everyone believes something, it doesn't make it true. However, there is a lot of value to incorporating the beliefs of others. If your beliefs are totally apart from those in your surroundings, you will be considered insane or something to that effect. Consensus guiding the beliefs will usually be more accurate than only believing oneself. 

The issue isn't always about seeking some kind of absolute truth. As people with limitations, we need to have other people's cooperation on many things. You won't get cooperation from other people if everyone believes that you are psychotic. 

When a person suffering from psychosis is not medicated, it is futile to try to talk them out of their delusions. Psychosis is not the key to the universe, and it is not a way of finding a better truth. It is a malfunction in how the brain processes information. You can see evidence of that through thermal imaging. You can also see evidence of deterioration of brain structure in MRI's of untreated people with schizophrenia. 

This is not about persecuting people with differences. If you want to be different from others, be my guest. However, your method of presenting being different should incorporate enough social norms so that it doesn't get you in trouble. And, in order to accomplish that, you must, at least in part, be able to sync with the beliefs of other people. People judge individuals in large part on appearances. This may not be fair, yet it is so. If you want to be a nonconformist, you have to do that in a way that follows at least some of the social and legal rules that we have. 

When a delusion is an assumption, it programs the mind to compute all things based on that assumption, and this causes every perception to be off. Human beings may have poor corrective mechanisms to use to compensate for this contingency. Yet we do have some corrective mechanisms, and they should be up and running. Medication may help with that. Additionally, interacting with people will help you sync, and it will also make life more enjoyable.