The story of the vegan mom who was recently convicted of murder for starving her toddler was sad but not as shocking as one might think. She likely thought she was doing what was best for her child. She’s no different than those parents who refuse to vaccinate their children against diseases like polio. They all fall into the same, ignorant category. Psychologists call it, ‘The Totalitarian Ego.’ That is, we are victims of our own confirmation bias. In layman’s terms, we are victims of our own thinking and sometimes that ‘thinking’ kills.
Yesterday, an acquaintance of mine said that he thinks the huge increase in our mental health crisis is due to, “the legalization of marijuana.” I wanted to laugh but he was dead serious. ‘Thinking’ is often questionable, but rarely to the thinker. It is true that due to our two years of isolation and alienation, people are starved for connection. However, I think something else is at work; something more insidious and endemic. I believe we have all become grossly, self-absorbed.
Consider the recent study that showed that more video meetings equal less brainstorming. That’s because (surprise) people spend much of their attention staring at their on-screen selves rather than letting their eyes and minds wander. In addition, all that scrutiny has made people fixate on their perceived flaws and wrinkles. Result? Our society is more image-conscious than ever before! Botox injections took a huge spike upwards over the last two years. Plastic surgery is at an all-time high and luckily for those who get it, masks cover up the ugly, gruesome, healing process.
As a therapist, I see about 30 new clients each week. They run the gamut from simply lonely to outright psychotic. But the one thing they all have in common is that they think they are thinking clearly. (Yes, even the one who told me her smoke alarms secretly communicate with aliens). Sometimes, when listening to a client in my plush, air-conditioned office, I wish I could transport them to a homeless shelter, a migrant camp or even a war-torn town in the Ukraine. There is something about thinking about others that takes you out of your own, small-minded head. Of course, If that doesn’t work for you, as my grandmother used to say, ‘Go fly a kite!”