When working as a psychiatric tech in a psychiatric hospital before I began my clinical practice in the early 1990’s, I overhead a conversation between two teen boys which revealed just how whimsical the mind of a mentally unstable person can be.
These two boys were about to participate in a trust-building exercise on a zip line. This zip line was a series of cables stretched between trees, high in their branches, along which a carefully harnessed client could learn to push physical limits and do so safely.
The lad, who I knew was being treated for psychosis, enthusiastically announced to another lad, looking up at the zip line, “Wow, I was up there last week and I just barfed all over the place!!!”
The other lad responded, “Wow, did you really?!!!”
The first lad responded, with a slight hesitation, “Oh, well…not really. But, but I could have?”
I wlll never forget just how casually this young boy could mistake fantasy for reality and announce it for real until someone innocently challenged him. Someone with psychosis, and with other kinds of mental instability, are governed by the whims and fancies that pass through their unfiltered mind. They mistake fanciful thoughts that all of us have to be real, thoughts which most of us chuckle at they flutter through our mind. And, yes, some of them even horrify us!
Donald Trump does this often. The ghost writer for his book,“The Art of the Deal,” Tony Schwartz, went into this personality trait of Trump’s in great detail in a New Yorker magazine article last year. (http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/07/25/donald-trumps-ghostwriter-tells-all) Just this past weekend Trump apparently heard on right-wing news media that President Obama had wiretapped Trump tower during the election campaign. Most of us, if we were in his position, we would consider the source to begin with and then dismiss it completely. At least we would then assign staff to further investigate and substantiate the allegation before we announced it to the world. But see, Trump does not have any such filter…or at least his is gravely impaired. It is kind of like someone with Tourette’s Syndrome who will often speak of totally inappropriate desires and thoughts that are horribly shocking to most people and filtered out by social sensitivity. Trump lacks this quality, best illustrated that last year he felt he needed to reassure a national TV audience about the size of his penis.
This problem of focus, i.e. attention deficit disorder, is relevant to what philosophers call the faculty of judgment. It is judgment that allows us to draw distinction and to prioritize. For example, let me use the penis size matter mentioned above. Most boys and men do not like to have their “manhood” questioned or ridiculed as Senator Marco Rubio did to Trump during one of the debates. But most of us, in the position of Trump in a presidential debate and having the memory of the insult passing through his mind, would simply not give the idea any attention and not be tempted to speak of it. But Trump, being profoundly insecure, felt no inhibition as he reassured the nation on this issue, being completely oblivious of how his reassurance would sound. The medley of “whims and fancies” flowing through his childish heart at that moment gave priority to his profound personal insecurity.
ADDENDUM—This is one of three blogs that I now have up and running. Please check the other two out sometime. The three are: