Psychology Magazine

Warping Reality in the Era of Trump - Some Interesting Essays

By Deric Bownds @DericBownds
I try to not pay attention, feel worn down by the continual bombardment of alternative realities presented by today's media, but have read and enjoyed the following articles recently, and want to pass them on to MindBlog readers.
How to Escape Your Political Bubble for a Clearer View Amanda Hess lists a number of Smartphone Apps, and Twitter and Facebook plug-ins, that expose you to views that are opposite to those that normally predominate during you internet viewing.
Trump’s Method, Our Madness Joel Whitebook distinguishes neurosis, in which individuals break with a portion of reality they find intolerable, from psychosis, in which individuals break globally from reality as a whole, and construct an alternative, delusional, "magical" reality of their own.
Trumpism as a social-psychological phenomenon has aspects reminiscent of psychosis, in that it entails a systematic — and it seems likely intentional — attack on our relation to reality...anti-fact campaigns, such as the effort led by archconservatives like the Koch brothers to discredit scientific research on climate change, remained within the register of truth. They were forced to act as if facts and reality were still in place, even if only to subvert them...Donald Trump and his operatives are up to something qualitatively different. Armed with the weaponized resources of social media, Trump has radicalized this strategy in a way that aims to subvert our relation to reality in general. To assert that there are “alternative facts,” as his adviser Kellyanne Conway did, is to assert that there is an alternative, delusional, reality in which those “facts” and opinions most convenient in supporting Trump’s policies and worldview hold sway.
On the hopeful side, there has recently been a robust and energetic attempt not only by members of the press, but also of the legal profession and by average citizens to call out and counter Trumpism’s attack on reality.
But on the less encouraging side, clinical experience teaches us that work with more disturbed patients can be time-consuming, exhausting and has been known to lead to burnout. The fear here is that if the 45th president can maintain this manic pace, he may wear down the resistance and Trump-exhaustion will set in, causing the disoriented experience of reality he has created to grow ever stronger and more insidious.

Are Liberals On The Wrong Side Of History? Adam Gopnik does his usual erudite job in reviewing three books that deal with the continuing historical clash between the elitist progressivism of the enlightenment (Voltaire) and the romantic search for old-fashioned community (Rousseau). A few clips:
A reader can’t help noting that anti-liberal polemics ... always have more force and gusto than liberalism’s defenses have ever had. Best-sellers tend to have big pictures, secret histories, charismatic characters, guilty parties, plots discovered, occult secrets unlocked. Voltaire’s done it! The Singularity is upon us! The World is flat! Since scientific liberalism ... believes that history doesn’t have a preordained plot, and that the individual case, not the enveloping essence, is the only quantum that history provides, it is hard for it to dramatize itself in quite this way. The middle way is not the way of melodrama.
Beneath all the anti-liberal rhetoric is an unquestioned insistence: that the way in which our societies seem to have gone wrong is evidence of a fatal flaw somewhere in the systems we’ve inherited. This is so quickly agreed on and so widely accepted that it seems perverse to dispute it. But do causes and effects work quite so neatly, or do we search for a cause because the effect is upon us? We can make a false idol of causality. Looking at the rise of Trump, the fall of Europe, one sees a handful of contingencies that, arriving in a slightly different way, would have broken a very different pane.
...the dynamic of cosmopolitanism and nostalgic reaction is permanent and recursive...We live, certainly, in societies that are in many ways inequitable, unfair, capriciously oppressive, occasionally murderous, frequently imperial—but, by historical standards, much less so than any other societies known in the history of mankind. We may angrily debate the threat to transgender bathroom access, but no other society in our long, sad history has ever attempted to enshrine the civil rights of the gender nonconforming...anger...seems based not on any acute experience of inequality or injustice but on deep racial and ethnic and cultural panics that repeatedly rise and fall in human affairs, largely indifferent to the circumstances of the time in which they summit. We use the metaphor of waves that rise and fall in societies, perhaps forgetting that the actual waves of the ocean are purely opportunistic, small irregularities in water that, snagging a fortunate gust, rise and break like monsters, for no greater cause than their own accidental invention.
Depressed by Politics? Just Let Go. Arthur Brooks:
I analyzed the 2014 data from the General Social Survey collected by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago to see how attention to politics is associated with life satisfaction. The results were significant. Even after controlling for income, education, age, gender, race, marital status and political views, being “very interested in politics” drove up the likelihood of reporting being “not too happy” about life by about eight percentage points..behavioral science shows that the link might just be causal through what psychologists call “external locus of control,” which refers to a belief that external forces (such as politics) have a large impact on one’s life...An external locus of control brings unhappiness. Three social psychologists showed this in a famous 2004 paper published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Review. Studying surveys of college students over several decades and controlling for life circumstances and demographics, they compared people who associated their destinies with luck and outside forces with those who believed they were more in control of their lives. They conclude that an external locus is correlated with worse academic achievement, more stress and higher levels of depression.
So what is the solution? First, find a way to bring politics more into your sphere of influence so it no longer qualifies as an external locus of control. Simply clicking through angry political Facebook posts by people with whom you already agree will most likely worsen your mood and help no one. Instead, get involved in a tangible way — volunteering, donating money or even running for office. This transforms you from victim of political circumstance to problem solver.
Second, pay less attention to politics as entertainment. Read the news once a day, as opposed to hitting your Twitter feed 50 times a day like a chimp in a 1950s experiment on the self-administration of cocaine. Will you get the very latest goings on in Washington in real time? No. Will that make you a more boring person? No. Trust me here — you will be less boring to others. But more important, you will become happier.

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