In the same way that an individual must maintain his own sanity, so too must the collective conscious. Unfortunately, the collective conscious of a civilization is just as susceptible to disharmony as the mind is of an individual. Without a solid foundation, the collective conscious can develop its own types of neurosis, and the most dangerous of all collective neurosis, is Mass Psychosis.
During a Mass Psychosis, delusional beliefs and disregard for logic becomes the norm in a society. Throughout history, most societies that underwent bouts of Mass Psychosis had detrimental outcomes. Mass Psychosis has ranged from benign symptoms such as dancing manias all the way up to witch hunts, genocides and mass murder.
In this article, we will explore how Mass Psychosis can be artificially (or naturally) created, the dangers of Mass Psychosis, and how Mass Psychosis can be both recognized and countered by its victims. With this knowledge, we can better prepare to alleviate the illness of Mass Psychosis before it’s too late.
Mass Psychosis has always been a part of the human experience, and the patterns of it can be recognized throughout history. Although the symptoms and outcomes of Mass Psychosis differ, the formula for its genesis are always the same. Interestingly enough, the psychological formula for artificially inducing Mass Psychosis follows the exact same formula as individual hypnosis– which is commonly used by hypnotherapy professionals in the mental health field. Most simply, “hypnosis involves a change in the way we sense, perceive, feel, think, and act while following the suggestions of someone else” (Hypnotic visual illusion alters color processing in the brain).
The Summarized Process for Hypnosis is as Follows
- Earning Trust: The hypnotist must earn the subject’s trust by convincing them that they are a trustworthy and safe expert. Hypnosis is more effective when the subject/s perceives the hypnotist as highly credible, in control, and knowledgeable.
- Relaxation or “Free Floating Anxiety”: In therapeutic hypnosis, the subject must be fully relaxed before entering into a hypnotic state. Paradoxically, fear can have the same effect. Once a subject is either in a state of complete relaxation or constant fear (de-basing the mind), the hypnotist can begin focusing the subject’s attention on a singular point.
- Focusing Attention: Focusing attention is a critical component of hypnosis. Most simply, this means getting the subject to focus on one point in reality- whether this be the hypnotists voice, a singular object, a mental image, or even a tone. More sisterly (and perhaps more effectively), attention can be focused on an external threat. Once the entirety of the subject’s attention is focused on one point, it is possible to alter the “blind-spots” of their mind through Suggestion.
- Suggestion: Suggestion can be performed through subtle messages, imagery or “logic” based wording. A therapeutic example of this is suggesting to a subject with an over-eating disorder that, “you might find yourself noticing you are fuller sooner, and so can decide to stop eating.” Or more perversely, a subject can be convinced that their discontentments are due to someone else.
- Affirmation and Awakening: While the subject is still under trance, it is necessary to continue reaffirming that their unconscious adjustments are for the best, and will lead to a desirable outcome. Once the subject comes back into full consciousness, they will remain convinced that they are on the right track- for example, the suggestion to stop overeating is valuable, and will ultimately lead to better quality of life. The subject can then slowly awaken back to a fully conscious state while retaining these suggested unconscious adjustments.
It is not difficult to spot the parallels between individual hypnosis and the process for inducing Mass Psychosis. Simply replace the beneficial steps, with those of which are more malevolent and can further a political agenda ie. Replace Relaxation with Fear, and insert whichever Suggestions that drive the agenda. In modern times, it is easy to see how an entire population, perhaps even global population, can be completely focused on one point in reality; whether that be war, natural disasters, a virus, etc.. Once an entire population is focused on a singular point, the process of intentional hypnosis can take place. And remember, since Mass Psychosis follows the process of individual hypnosis, it is best if a population’s individuals are physically isolated from others- like what has happened with the introduction and rapid development of technology.
The Dangers of Unbridled Mass Psychosis
“The masses have never thirsted after truth. They turn aside from evidence that is not to their taste, preferring to deify error, if error seduce them. Whoever can supply them with illusions is easily their master; whoever attempts to destroy their illusions is always their victim.”Gustav Le Bon
There have (unfortunately) been many cases of Mass Psychosis throughout human history, the first one that comes to mind, is the genocide in Rwanda. It almost seems unbelievable that an entire population can turn on itself, and obliterate an entire portion of itself based on a false narrative. However, the power of Mass Psychosis offers a perfect explanation of what occurred. The propaganda fed to the people had convinced them that the Tutsis (point of focus) were to blame for all of the society’s problems, which led to their execution.
Most present day examples of Mass Psychosis contribute to the formation of totalitarianism, in which an entire population is put under hypnosis by artificial means. Then, the agent who invokes the Mass Psychosis, after fanning the flames of free-floating anxiety (common fear), can step in and provide a solution for everyone to ease that fear. It is a classic formula for totalitarianism.
Although Mass Psychosis has been artificially induced many times in the past, that does not make it any less effective and dangerous in present time.
Mass Psychosis’ primary danger is its ability to create “othering.” Othering is what takes place after the “Free-floating anxiety” phase, as a large percentage of individuals within a community are living in constant anxiety, and are looking for a way to end it. If a common narrative provides a solution out of this suffering, a large percentage of individuals will consider that path to be the only way out, and anyone who opposes that path, becomes an “other” or a hindrance in the individual’s ability to escape this painful anxiety. As in the Rwanda case, “othering” can even lead to genocide.
Dissenters from the narrative become enemies of all those who are bought into the psychosis, because to them, they appear to be in the way of regaining their own mental peace. A classical example of an opposition to dissenters who attempt to share truth can be seen in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. In short, the one who escapes the cave and sees reality for what it is, then later attempts to share what he found with his cave-mates (those who are convinced that the shadows on the wall are reality), is killed by them.
Another dangerous factor of “othering” is that those who are subscribed to the narrative, find an almost blissful unity with their leaders, and their fellow “narrative followers.” Since they see that the leader has a solution to their ever-so-painful anxiety, they will do whatever it takes to follow their commands– even if that means losing everything they once knew as normal life. Morals, laws, ethics, best practice and all that were all held as right and good can be thrown to the wayside in attempts to restore homeostasis. Typically, those with a strong moral compass become the “others” in these totalitarian induced psychosis- and often are subjected to the merciless wrath of the “narrative followers.”
How to Treat Mass Psychosis
Mass Psychosis’ magic resides in its ability to infiltrate entire societies without recognition. When a mass psychosis begins taking effect, it it typically recognized by a small percentage (30%) of the population. Even in Nazi Germany, groups of intellectuals and other professionals expressed their frustration with Nazi party’s lies and immoral actions. However, a similar percentage of the population will not recognize the psychosis and will willingly go along with a narrative to extreme ends (30%). The remaining individuals (40%) tend to side with the winning or louder side.
So what can be done to mitigate the damages of a Mass Psychosis?
Once a Mass Psychosis has rooted itself in a society, it is nearly impossible to get rid of it, as the majority of the population will be sold out, and will enter the “blissful unity” stage with others who are as equally as sold out. However, there will be another group in the population who are not convinced (on the fence) of the narrative and have a subtle idea that something isn’t right (40%)- this is where the key to restoring the health of a society resides. These individuals must be won over in order to prevent the disease from spreading.
Here are a few ways to slow down and mitigate the damage of a Mass Psychosis:
- Recognize and accept that this is a Mass Psychosis.
- Do not stop talking and spreading the truth in the public space (despite strong opposition). Share facts, media, protest, unite, conventions, concerts, podcasts, articles, etc.. Do everything in your power to get the truth out.
- Do not comply with the narrative and operate peacefully. Peaceful non compliance is an effective method of battling illogical narratives, as it will expose the other side by inviting the other side to behave unethically/immorally in the public eye.
- Build networks and unite with others as much as possible to amplify your voice.
- Do all of this as if your life depends on it, because IT DOES.
Mass Psychosis is an unfortunate reality of the human experience, however with your help, its effects can be mitigated. If a mass psychosis rears its ugly head within our lifetime, hopefully we will have the knowledge, fortitude and confidence to alleviate its symptoms.
Can you think of a time when we’ve faced a Mass Psychosis in modern time? If so, leave a comment below.
Kosslyn, S. M., Thompson, W. L., Costantini-Ferrando, M. F., Alpert, N. M., & Spiegel, D. (2000). Hypnotic visual illusion alters color processing in the brain. American Journal of Psychiatry, 157, 1279-1284