I would like to take you all on a journey today, a journey into the mind of a psychotic individual.
Let us first begin by defining what exactly the term psychotic means, given that it is often misused in popular discourse. Clinically, the term psychotic is used to refer to an individual who is actively experiencing irrational and disorganized thought, a distorted sense of reality, impaired functionality, changes in personality or behavior, and delusional perceptions of the surrounding environment. In most instances, there is an underlying, biological cause for clinical psychoses.
The term psychotic can also be used in everyday language to describe a line of thinking that is so out of touch with facts, reason and reality, that there can be no logical justification for harboring such thoughts. And unfortunately, psychotic cognitions have become a prominent component of popular and political discourse.
For example, we have seen numerous instances of raging bigots on radio and television who are fond of spending all day disparaging Latinos, disparaging Blacks and disparaging LGBT citizens. When someone (justifiably) calls them out on their bigotry, these individuals are also fond of shouting that they are now oppressed, because their “freedom” to be bigots has been taken away. They may even claim to be victims of “reverse discrimination.”
Such ramblings are often dismissed for their level of sheer lunacy. However, within many realms of political discourse, there exists a much more insidious form of psychotic rationale. We have seen a rise in the number of legislators and pundits who call for a society based on “rugged individualism,” wherein an individual’s care and concern is focused solely on themselves and their own loved ones. Empathy is branded as inherently un-American, and the less fortunate are characterized as merely paying the penalty for their supposed lack of work ethic.
As an example, many policies proposed (and passed) in Congress – most of which come from the modern-day GOP – often target certain groups of individuals unjustifiably, branding these individuals as holding primary responsibility for the country’s ills. Even worse, many of those proposing such legislation claim to be fervent followers of the teachings of Jesus Christ.
There exists a clinical term used to describe such individuals who lack empathy for others, who will justify such lack of empathy at any cost, and who will support measures that cause great harm to individuals en masse: sociopaths.
Recall the 1976 Republican National Convention, when Ronald Reagan disparaged the poor Black community of Chicago, inventing the term “welfare queen.” And now we have Paul Ryan, the presumptive vice presidential nominee for the GOP ticket. Ryan, like many of his fellow constituents, is fond of calling himself a devout Christian. Yet, this is a legislator who, literally, has supported or voted to:
Wow, what a bastion of Christianity.
In the mind of a sociopath, it is not enough for the less fortunate to simply be blamed for the ills of the country. It is not enough to possess a nostalgic longing for the days when, supposedly, such individuals knew their place. These individuals must also be made to suffer. When you combine irrational thought with the absence of empathy, what results are draconian policies that incite unjustified vitriol and cause serious, tangible harm to many innocent lives.