The Washington Post has an intriguing article on people who believe they are subject to secret government ‘mind control’ technology.
People who experience voices being ‘beamed’ into their heads or forces acting on their bodies, have formed communities on the internet to support each other and to lobby the government to stop what they claim are illegal tests of this ‘invasive technology’.
Critics argue that they are simply mentally ill, and indeed some probably are. In a paper published last year myself and some colleagues reported that some people show obvious signs of psychosis. Despite this, however, they have formed complex and innovative online communities.
Many members of this community are obviously not mentally ill though, and have concerns that might seem a little unusual but are no different from the types of concerns that drive JFK, 9/11 and Princess Diana enthusiasts.
One of the most interesting aspects of this community, in all its diversity, is that it challenges the psychiatric notion of what is considered a delusion.
In one of the more curious episodes during the last consultation for the UK Government’s Draft Mental Health Bill, an organisation called Christians Against Mental Slavery made a surprising submission to the parliamentary committee.
Even if you don’t buy their premise that the government is testing ‘Mind Invasive Technology’ on people, they make some pertinent points.
For example, they suggest that if a psychiatrist is presented with someone who complains of being affected by microwave mind control technology (not uncommon in psychosis), they should put them in Faraday cage to see if their experiences stop, so the psychiatrist can try and test whether they are genuinely delusional.
The fact that delusions are diagnostically ‘false beliefs’ but clinicians largely rely on assumptions (rather than tests) about the truth of a belief, is a point that has also been made in the medical literature.
Indeed, some authors have argued as a result, that the falsity condition should be rejected as one of the criteria in diagnosis.
One interesting point, rarely considered by the mind control community or its critics, is that it is possible, indeed common, to have isolated or restricted psychosis-like experiences that are relatively benign.
For example, someone might hear voices, have unusual beliefs, or experience their thoughts being broadcast or altered from outside, while not being significantly disabled by their experiences.
The fact that someone could have reasonable concerns about ‘mind control’ technology, which governments have certainly tried to develop, while also hearing voices or having other similarly unusual experiences, is often overlooked.
Link to Washington Post ‘Mind Games’.