In the past, I’ve argued that one mechanism for delusion involves forgetting key “fact points” that would normally cause us to reject new ideas that contradict our fact points. When certain fact points go missing, we may form conclusions that disregard information we previously had access to. There is another type of delusion that I would argue stems from a combination of non-conformity and arrogance.
Ordinarily, people follow beliefs from thought leaders, often either scientists or religious leaders. This is useful because humans’ capacity for discovering true reality is very poor. It took us many generations and millennia to reach the level of shared knowledge we have now. We developed the scientific method because we have realized the terrible inability of the human mind to process “truths” of reality. We teach children in school how not to end up delusional. We do not conform to experts because we have become experts on those beliefs ourselves, but we conform because we have not become experts. We rely on and trust experts to give us the most trustable beliefs to have faith in. This applies to science as it applies to religion.
The utility is obvious. It helps us acquire the judgments of experts via social osmosis, without having to become experts in every field ourselves. I also suspect that our tendency to conform to thought leaders is not purely rationalized by all of the people who follow them. This seems to be something that would be evolved or be trained into people via culture and adults.
Most people are not so arrogant that they think they could transcend thought leaders. We are also punished for doing so. People will mock us, bully us, and exile us from their communities as a heretic. Those who are arrogant, might be at a greater risk for creating delusions. Particularly those who have not been trained to critically think. Great thinkers often hypothesize ideas rather than jump to conclusions. Those who have not realized the importance of hypothesizing may simply jump to conclusions.
One of my hypotheses for states of mania is that those who are manic have become insensitive to suffering and the potential for suffering on some level. This may lead an individual to act without regard for the ways in which they may inflict suffering to themselves and their future selves, along with inflicting harm on those around them as well. They may also become semi-immune to the social punishment that keeps us afraid to act against conformity.
It is likely not so black and white and this is likely only one kind of manic state. Dysphoric manic states clearly exist too. This is sort of semantic problem. It depends on how we define mania, which isn’t really the point of this post. There just appears to be an existence of a kind of manic state in which people develop a tendency towards fearlessness, reduced pain sensitivity (Boggero & Cole, 2016), and increased risk-taking (an insensitivity to future loss) (Reddy et al., 2014). To be even clearer, I think there may be other states that don’t involve these tendencies but result in a similar expression that causes people to get diagnosed.
Those who become insensitive to the social punishment that maintains conformity may feel freer to deviate from norms. When combined with great self-confidence and arrogance, one may decide they have the capacity to discern reality rather than obey thought leaders. In essence, they may decide they are their own thought leaders and in culty cases, they may actually become thought leaders of an actual group of people.
The propensity for delusion here may be in one trusting their own capacity to form beliefs rather than consume beliefs from those who know more than us. Rather than stand on the shoulders of giants, one believes they are worthy of becoming a giant, to become a god, deciding to trust one’s own judgment to discern reality or truth over others. I sometimes wonder if bipolar disorder results from an evolved tendency to become thought leaders that went terribly wrong (at least in clinical cases). Those who are self-confident have a greater potential for charisma and influence, regardless of the insanity of the ideas they profess (up to a point, obviously). Think about this the next time you see a manic individual with a megaphone, ranting in the streets about the coming apocalypse desperately hoping to become another thought leader.
A recent episode of the podcast covers a similar realm of ideas.
Weirdly, my last name is Clark, which means cleric. This roughly translates to delusion-prone thought leader:
Clark is an English language surname, ultimately derived from the Latin with historical links to England and Ireland clericus meaning “scribe”, “secretary” or a scholar within a religious order, referring to someone who was educated.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clark
It seems fitting as I have experienced delusions when I was younger and here I am, attempting to be a teacher or “thought leader”. Perhaps my lineage is recognized for their tendencies that also happen to line up with bipolar risk factors. My family has a seemingly long line of psychotic- and manic-type issues. Absurdities aside, my goal is more so to exchange ideas with others to expand myself. I do not wish to be too arrogant. I don’t take this name hypothesis too seriously but it is somewhat interesting. If I take it too seriously I might be accused of delusion.
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Boggero, I. A., & Cole, J. D. (2016). Mania reduces perceived pain intensity in patients with chronic pain: preliminary evidence from retrospective archival data. Journal of Pain Research, 9, 147.
Reddy, L. F., Lee, J., Davis, M. C., Altshuler, L., Glahn, D. C., Miklowitz, D. J., & Green, M. F. (2014). Impulsivity and risk taking in bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Neuropsychopharmacology, 39(2), 456-463.