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Thursday, March 4, 2021

What is it with Groups?


 Okay, guys, what’a think of this?

Allen Francis M.D, a psychiatrist, makes a case for the idea that while insanity in individuals is somewhat rare, it appears to be the rule in groups and nations.

Last night my daughter and I observed how groups begin with lofty ideals, maybe even a mission statement, but if they don’t follow it. They can become abusive and cruel—like a cult series daughter was watching on television. This group (TV show) would tell their participants to “Push through. To face their fears.” If a participant questioned the procedure, the answer was that they weren’t pushing through or facing their fears. We know that facing fears and pushing through is a standard therapeutic technique, but cutting off dialogue and placing the control solely on the leaders can be detrimental. In this scenario, the fault always lies with the participant, not the group.

I have noticed how groups push down the individual. Think of medical breakthroughs. I remember reading–long ago–how MRI creators were severely criticized before MRI imaging was accepted by the medical community. Now, look at it. It is used regularly. When a new concept threatens the established system, it is ridiculed or severely debunked.

Yet those individuals that make up the group are nice people. We could talk to them one on one. Most aren’t crazy.

When we moved from California to Oregon, my daughter saw a ferret for the first time and thought they were the cutest things. She ended up having ferrets for 25 years. One day we visited a Ferret group in the park. We found a group, while loving ferrets, instead of celebrating them, wanted to control ferret’s owners. They wanted to keep the owners of ferrets under some jurisdiction and legislate who could own a breeding pair. (A couple of breeding ferrets is costly, and un-bred females must be spayed, for their continual estrous will wear out their body). Yes, people need to be educated in the care of most animals., but let’s get reasonable. 

Think of Home Owners associations—the controllers rise to the top.

(Leaders inspire. Controllers, well, control.)

We’ve been involved in start-up schools and see how they can, not always, but often, fall short of the tenants they set up initially. While having a humane and inventive idea, the members soon fall into their own bias and belief systems and bring in the same method they were trying to avoid. (Or become so weird you can’t stand them.) 

Nine-tenths of people are afraid of public speaking. Why is that? If we talked to each individual specifically, it would be easy, yet a group scares us. 

A group can make or break us. They can ridicule us, embarrass us, or kill us if it reaches massive proportions.

Yet those individuals that make up the group are nice people. We could talk to them one on one. They aren’t crazy people. 

Back to the man I was quoting at the beginning of this commentary, Dr. Allen Francis, a psychiatrist. His book is twilight of american sanity (with no caps). He also wrote the criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder that first appeared in DSMIII, and is still used in DSM-5, the most recent edition. He began writing his book on social insanity long before any thought that Trump would enter the pages.

He says that Trump isn’t insane. Society is.

He hates it, he says, when a psychiatric diagnosis is so carelessly used to mislabel as mental illness every conceivable example of bad behavior. 

“Most mass murderers are not mentally ill,” he says. “Most terrorists are not mentally ill. Most dictatorial rulers are not mentally ill. Trump’s boorish manners, vulgar speech, and abusive actions make him a national embarrassment and the worst possible role model. He diminishes America, reducing its’s greatness. But none of this makes him mentally ill.”

But what does that say about us? 

Why would we elect someone so manifestly unfit and unprepared to determine mankind’s future? 

“Trump is a symptom of a world in distress,” says Francis.

Calling Trump crazy allows us to avoid confronting the craziness in our society. 

Trump has scared so many people that dystopian classics have jumped to the best sellers list. Orwell’s 1984, Huxley’s Brave New World, Sinclair’ Lewis’s, It Can’t Happen Here, Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. 

I would say that Trump brought out the worst in us. He gave us permission to be fanatical, racist, and misogynistic. 

“It is an inherent part of human nature to create inaccurate explanations that comfort us in the face of life’s uncertainties,” says Francis. Trump won power because he promised quick, phony cures for the following real problems burdening a significant segment of our population who felt left out of the American dream.

Thank Heavens for the Unites States Constitution (based on Greek views, by the way) that we adhere to and that politicians are honor-bound to withhold. It gives us a framework of sanity. It gives us checks and balances (supposedly).

Have you noticed how stirred and unsettled we have felt during the last four years? 

Don’t you feel a peacefulness settling over you now? 

If each generation looked to that seventh generation as the Native Americans did. Then the next seventh and the next, the goodness of the world would rise exponentially. 

The world will probably continue until I leave for the happy hunting grounds, but I want it to continue beyond. I want it for my children and grandchildren and their children and yours.

This past week my naturalist doctor said, “If having me leave would save the world, I’d be the first to volunteer.”

That’s dedication.

We’re good people. Let’s leave the earth that housed us for other good people who are coming up behind us.

We don’t see things as they are; we see things as we are.”

—Talmud

Two neighbors went to their Rabbi, each complaining about the other. One neighbor gave his story, and the Rabbi said, “You’re right.”

The other neighbor gave his story and the Rabbi said, “You’re right.”

The Rabbi’s wife called from the other room, “Both guys can’t be right.”

Responded the Rabbi: “You’re right.”

–From Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli

This book has its own page

New cover. formerly called “Hello Beautiful.”

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