CONSPIRACY THEORIES: WHAT WOULD FREUD SAY?

the rash of conspiracy theories and their virulence demands an explanation. The proliferation of these phenomena seems invasive. Why are there so many? Where do they come from? How can we explain them?

Undoubtedly the Covid 19 experience has place the nation, possibly the world, in a state of post traumatic stress, especially when coupled with recent civil disobediences and other catastrophic events including meteorological insults. All of this no doubt ratchets up the likelihood of para-psychotic phenomenon. Economic divestiture amplifies the coefficient of despair. Insisting that the Covid 19 virus is nothing more than a “Trumped-up” pseudo-illness designed to unseat the president is a means of relieving one of the concerns of such a deadly virus. There is no need to wear a mask or take infection precautions if one is convinced it is a fictional coefficient of presidential removal. One is neither susceptible to infection or capable of spreading an imaginary disease. A realistic fear of this virus is neutralized by the delusional denial.

The president has amplified the puddle of paranoia by interpreting scientific findings and recommendations as missiles. His refusal to wear a mask, for example, conveys an attitude of spiteful whim against those he interprets as enemies. But this doesn’t explain the enormity of the conspiratorial movements seen swirling around him. We can examine the case of Daniel Paul Schreber, an infamous schizophrenic who wrote a detailed memoir in the late 1800’s about his psychosis, later analyzed by Freud. Freud attributed his paranoia to a ‘father complex’ in which Schreber exhibited repressed sexual longings for his father, ultimately transferred to his doctor whom he was convinced wanted to kill him. These longings, denied by Schreber, but evident in his psychotic, paranoid phenomena, were out of the patient’s consciousness. Schreber projected the longings onto his doctor then reversed them into hateful impulses. He believed the doctor’s aides were trying to drown him and that swarms of bees had been sent to attack him and that God himself was envious of his ‘voluptuousness’.

If we assume the presence of repressed, Oedipal impulses in the conspiracy devotees, we can surmise that their longings have been transferred to liberal, Democratic, deep state personnel as well as certain celebrities. The conspiracy theorists attribute to them a large sex trafficking ring, in which children are utilized sexually. This, of course, mirrors the very impulses they are trying to repress… a child’s sexual involvement with a parental adult. It allows them to revel in outrage against such imagined behavior and its supposed cover up. It also allows them to play the role of savior toward their ‘father’ the president. They are protecting him against attack, a sort of paranoia by proxy. They also, however, fear the wrath of the powerful, insidiously organized, imagined child sex traffickers. This is the same power a child attributes to its parents.

If we accept the above explanation as plausible, the only question remaining is why the repressed Oedipal wishes are threatening to surface at this time, requiring symptomatic gratification in conspiracies. One can only surmise that the intense stresses described above (quarantine, riots, massive fires, economic debility, and the potential removal of the father-like figure by election) has taken its toll on societal stability in some. Let’s hope that we don’t see a further breakdown in civilization’s cohesion as political and environmental casualties unfold. Civilization as we know it may be subject to a monolithic deterioration fueled by the energy of psychotic conspiracy. Perhaps the arrival of an effective vaccine will provide a measure of relief, but it seems like a long-shot.

Published by Steven Lesk, MD

Board certified, adult psychiatrist for over 35 years. I have written a book on evolution and schizophrenia. It's call Neanderthal's Dream: How Changes In Evolution Brought Us Mental Illness and May Someday Take It Away Again.

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