Stripped of False Realities: Americans’ Political “Psychotic Break”

Stripped of the false realities of democracy, legitimate media authorities, and American exceptionalism, U.S. society is having a “psychotic break” of sorts. What many Americans have previously believed to be “reality” is disintegrating.

Science provides us with no monolithic explanation for what is commonly called a psychotic break, but for some people who have lived this experience, they describe their sense of who they’ve believed themselves to be as disintegrating in a massive way, a discovery that their sense of self is in some way false. This experience can be overwhelming, emotionally and cognitively, and can propel them into an altered state.

Every so often, the American societal-political veil lifts, and what was clear to George Carlin and other cynical nonvoters is difficult to deny even for voters skilled at denial. In the 2016 presidential selection/election process, the veil lifted, making it difficult even for previously trusting Americans to continue to believe that they lived in a democracy that provides them with a choice and a say, and made it difficult to continue to believe in the legitimacy of mainstream media. Even for those skilled in denial, it has become difficult to believe in the American exceptionalism that their nation is immune from what other nations are not immune from: a con man taking power by exploiting a sense of victimization—a reality that is now difficult to deny even for a growing number of betrayed Trump voters.

Before getting to the disintegration for Sanders and Trump supporters, first some of the unsettling blows that have made it difficult for millions of Americans in general to deny that they had a false sense of their societal-political reality:

  • The chronic tension of the lesser-of-two evils choice, which had previously produced “democracy dissonance” for some Americans, was ratcheted up considerably in 2016, expanding the number of Americans incredulous that they lived in a democracy that provided choice and say. In 2016, the dislike for the Republican and Democrat candidates reached historic unfavorable levels, with Trump’s July 2016 unfavorable polls average at 57% (favorable at 36%) and Clinton’s July 2016 unfavorable polls average at 56% (favorable at 38%). Perhaps unfavorable levels for both candidates need to hit 70% for that variable alone to result in a psychotic break, but this wasn’t the only assault on many Americans’ “societal-political sense of self.”
  • The “loser” of the presidential election received nearly 3 million more votes than the “winner.” Of course, for some Americans who believe they live in a democracy that provides them with a choice and a say, perhaps the “loser” needs to have to have 10 million more votes than the “winner” for their psychotic break.
  • The day before the 2016 election, mainstream media were close to certain that Hillary Clinton would win (New York Times 85%; CNN, 91%; Huffington Post, 98%). This prognostication failure has further shattered what was left of trust for mainstream media authorities.

While science provides us with no monolithic explanation for a psychotic break, one trigger explanation that resonates with some people who have had this experience is a horrific “double-bind.” An example of such a double bind: A sexually abused child is told by the family member abuser: “It’s now too late for you to escape, because I will deny it and nobody will believe you”; and the child is left with the choice between continuing the sexual abuse or denouncing the abuser, an action the child believes will result in the child being accused by family of lying and/or the child held responsible for destroying the family. And so this unresolvable dilemma overwhelms the child.

The lesser-of-two-evils choice—especially when the two choices are both extremely evil—is a double bind of sorts.

Bernie Sanders put his 12 million primary voters and other supporters in a double-bind. For Sanders supporters, Hillary Clinton epitomized what they despised. Clinton has been: heavily supported by Wall Street and arms dealers; repeatedly pro-war from Iraq to Libya; a friend and admirer of Henry Kissinger, who for Sanders supporters is one of the greatest war criminals in world history; a former board member of the anti-labor union Wal-Mart Board of Directors; a co-sponsor of the Flag-Protection Act of 2005, which included prison terms for those who destroy the flag; and has had an otherwise despicable and untrustworthy history for progressives.

Bernie Sanders’ choice was to either support someone that his supporters despise and distrust or don’t support Clinton and Trump wins, and the Democratic Party and its media operatives politically assassinate Sanders as was done with Ralph Nader post-2000 election. Sanders’ public reaction was to choose what he had many reasons to believe was a false reality—that Clinton was not going to betray her new-found progressivism. Given Clinton’s history, Sanders had good reason to believe that Clinton as president would likely betray campaign progressive promises and simply blame failure on the Republicans. But rather than choosing Nader’s path, Sanders suppressed the reality of Clinton, and asked his supporters to do the same.

Many Sanders supporters could not shed the reality of Hillary Clinton’s anti-progressive history and that the Democratic Party establishment had sabotaged Sanders (who the polls had shown had a much better chance than Clinton of beating Trump); and these supporters lost faith in both Sanders and the electoral process and did not vote—a political-self psychotic break of sorts for people who had ardently believed in voting.

Other Sanders supporters followed Sanders’ direction and voted for Clinton, only to find themselves now assaulted by the reality that Sanders had instructed them to support a corrupt political process that resulted in Trump winning anyway.

How about Trump supporters? Millions of Trump supporters, even before his inauguration, began having their political-self psychotic break, recognizing that they had been “played,” that Trump had no intention of keeping his campaign promises, and used them to gain power and attention.

A major issue for Trump supporters was “crony capitalism,” but even before Trump was inaugurated, he orchestrated the Carrier deal of tax breaks for jobs, which was so obviously a betrayal that even Sara Palin decried it calling it “crony capitalism.”

That has not been Trump’s only pre-inauguration betrayal.

Trump repeatedly promised to “drain the swamp.” The epitome of the “swamp” is the revolving door between the U.S. government and Goldman Sachs, yet Trump’s nominees for his administration include former Goldman Sachs employees Steve Mnuchin for Treasury Secretary and Gary Cohn for National Economic Council. It’s now become increasingly clear that Trump appears to be well on his way to creating the most putrid swamp ever, as he nominated for cabinet positions six of his top donors, as well as several establishment politicians (for example, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s wife Elain Chao as Transportation Secretary; 20-year U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions for Attorney General, and others).

Trump promised his supporters an “anti-politician,” and they received a caricature of a politician who didn’t even wait until he was inaugurated to betray his promises.

For the patriotic “Make America Great Again” Trump supporters who have believed their entire lives that Russia is America’s enemy and that the CIA protects Americans from “commies and terrorists,” what do they do with the reality that Trump has made war on the CIA and has befriended Russia, who the CIA reports actively worked for Trump’s election?

From Trump’s history, it is not likely that these mind-blowing assaults on what was once considered “conservatism” and “patriotism” will end.

Among Trump’s approximately 63 million voters, some now claim that the most passionate rallying cry of every Trump rally—“lock her up”—was just theater, and that they are unbothered that almost immediately after the election, Trump stated that he is not going to prosecute Clinton. Their focus is only on the financial promises that Trump—who they believe to be a “warrior businessman”—will grow the GDP at a fantastic rate, and that this along with deregulation and corporate tax breaks will result in a return of high-paying jobs. For this group, the future holds another likely shock. Should corporations accrue more cash, recent history has shown us that they do not hire more workers at higher salaries but instead spend this cash on stock buybacks.

What happens post-psychotic break?

The individual psychotic break and resulting altered state, from the outside, is a frightening frenzy of beliefs, speech, and behavior that makes no sense. But to those experiencing it, there can be an array of new ideas—some which they ultimately reject as delusional (e.g., no, they can’t fly) but some not delusional (e.g., yes, they have been traumatized by authorities who have lied to them).

On an individual level, psychotic breaks routinely go two ways. If one is lucky and has support, one can emerge from this altered state with greater clarity of one’s true self. But if one is unlucky and fear and unsafety sabotages this process, one can become permanently labeled as “seriously mentally ill.”

So, with America’s societal-political psychotic break, it is quite possible that a few more million people will emerge with George Carlin-like clarity about the truth of the American sham democratic political system—a truth borne out by studies such as “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens” (see video of findings) that validate Carlin’s observation that no matter whether Republicans or Democrats in charge, average Americans have no fucking influence on government policy.

Or, this societal-political “psychotic break” can result in further deterioration, further “social-political illness,” transforming the United States from “friendly fascism” and bullshit hypocrisy about democracy to violent, boot-in-your-face fascism where truth tellers in the tradition of George Carlin are driven underground, way underground.


8 Responses

  1. Survivor
    Survivor January 3, 2017 at 8:08 am |

    *Sigh.* I have already lost faith in the political process since Murphy the Merciless had his piece of witch-hunting legislation unanimously passed by Senate. I read some of the details of the bill to pro-psychiatry relatives and THEY thought it was horrible.

    Tried to contact my Congressman and Senator with no response. I doubt they read my emails or even had their secretaries do so.

    It sure was strange that a bunch of “nays” turned to “yeahs” suddenly, for no apparent reason. Could the dissent have been staged from the beginning? Or maybe they hadn’t all received adequate campaign contributions from Big Pharma lobbyists yet?

  2. Althea Schoen
    Althea Schoen January 6, 2017 at 9:41 pm |

    I am aware of several problems with the Murphy leg., but am not conversant enough in it to know how the law is “witch-hunting.” Can you please explain that?

    Also, your comment implies that several Reps. and Senators (probably Dems) were committed to opposing the bill but then switched sides–is that what happened?

    Thank you.

  3. Survivor
    Survivor January 7, 2017 at 2:17 pm |

    Hi Althea. I refer to it as “witch-hunting” because just like the Salem witch-hunters punished virtually anybody with no real evidence, this bill will make it possible to lock up and torture people (they call it “treatment”) with no real evidence. The witch-hunters would generally point at their victims and scream that they were tormented by the woman or man’s specter. That was often enough to get a person hanged.

    The crazy-hunters are called psychiatrists. They point at their victims, summarize a few superficial behavioral characteristics, assign some subjective, elastic diagnosis by use of the DSM5–a manual full of odd or annoying behavior patterns elected to the category of “mental illnesses” by a committee of privileged crazy-hunters– and accuse their victim of being a crazy whose “condition has deteriorated” though that could mean basically anything the shrink wants it to. Hardly a specific or quantifiable medical prognosis. Certainly not scientifically verifiable.

    Just like the Salem witch-hunters, the American psychiatrists are unable to satisfy their desire for victims. Hence the reason behind warning the public that over 500,000 Americans are running around undiagnosed; in grave need of psychiatric treatment and aren’t getting it. (Where did they get that number? They must have pulled it out of the air. If the people are undiagnosed, how can they know that such a large number exists?)

    Murphy isn’t content with drugging and defaming adults, teens and even children. Now he wants to expand the drugging to toddlers and infants he considers high risk. Watch out minority babies born to women on crack!

    That answer was lengthy and involved. In answer to your second question: yes–as far as I can tell.

  4. Dutch Kooning
    Dutch Kooning January 24, 2017 at 8:46 am |

    This is an absolutely brilliant reply Survivor. Thanks for your lucid observations.

  5. Survivor
    Survivor January 24, 2017 at 1:42 pm |

    Thanks Dutch! My thoughts grow more lucid the longer I remain “non-compliant.”

    Psychiatrists would say I have agnosognosia and am therefore very sick indeed. I say that my personal denial of the shaming diagnosis they saddled me with has given me a sense of self-worth and the will to live. Since I realized my diagnosis of bipolar was bunk I started to think of myself as a human being and no longer feel it’s my duty to relieve the world of my presence.

    I plan on designing t-shirts with the slogan: Agnosognosia saved my life!

  6. Althea Schoen
    Althea Schoen January 25, 2017 at 7:32 am |

    Survivor, I meant to thank you for your explanation and somehow it fell totally off my radar screen. I participate in the U.S. chapter of an organization called the International Society for Psychological and Social Approaches to Psychosis where many or most espouse your views. You might want to check it out if you have not already.

  7. Survivor
    Survivor January 25, 2017 at 5:48 pm |

    Thank you Althea. I’ll look into it.

    Couldn’t reply directly to your most recent comment.

  8. mike k
    mike k February 1, 2017 at 7:16 pm |

    I just discovered this blog from an article on counterpunch. A friend put me onto Peter Breggin’s book Toxic Psychiatry, and it helped me get off psych meds and find myself in AA. I’ve been sober and not “crazy” for many years now, and try to help folks with problems escape the psychiatric diagnosis and “treatment” scam that can destroy their chances to have a real recovery and a good life. When Society Becomes an Addict by Anne Wilson Schaef is another great book on how widespread denial, delusional thinking and addiction is in our society – which society actually fosters these kinds of problems.

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