It is always necessary to critically question our assumptions and the information that informs our social behaviour. In this light, I intend to cast a glance over current social manifestations regarding how the pandemic has been redefining our social patterns and relations. I will also be examining these patterns from the perspectives of mass psychology, mental intoxication, and a reprogrammed solidarity. According to Prof. Mattias Desmet,[i] the four conditions that allow mass formation – popularly referred to as crowd psychology – to emerge are: a lack of social bonds; people experiencing life as meaningless or senseless; free-floating anxiety; and free-floating frustration and aggression. In recent years, going back decades, these conditions have been building up within our modern societies. As I mentioned in a previous essay,[ii] social anxiety and psychological suffering were already growing exponentially even before the pandemic outbreak of 2020. The foundations for establishing a mass psychology were existent in many, if not most, of our industrialized societies and cultures before the traumatic experience of the current pandemic. At such junctures of psychological vulnerability, a shift of attachment – that is, a transference of identification – can be achieved rapidly. What has likely occurred within the past 18 months has been a widescale process of reprogrammed solidarity.
Prof. Mattias Desmet believes the world has experienced a huge, global ritual that has established a new form (a recalibrated form) of social bonding. Desmet also states that this newly arrived mass psychology is a manner of compensation for many years of extreme individualism where people felt they needed to seek out new and different collective bonds of solidarity. This new solidarity frees people from their prior isolationism and atomization. It is a socially programmed and managed method of social re-gathering. And it is being accomplished on a worldwide scale. Also, it is being brought into being through a form of ritual. Rituals are not only for religious or sacred circumstances. By definition, a ritual is ‘a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, actions, or objects, performed according to a set sequence.’[iii] That is, they are a range of actions performed according to a prescribed order. And that ‘prescribed order’ can come through agreement or imposition – or a mixture of both. Participation in rituals also develop a degree of loyalty to the group/grouping through adherence to and the performing of acts that support the main narratives. These acts of obedience (behaviour sets) can be regarded as rituals, similar to how more familiar religious rituals are performed to denote loyalty to a specific religious faith. When social acts are performed through an emotional attachment of ritual, a form of ‘hypnotic allegiance’ is established that is then extremely hard to break away from. This can then lead to a form of misplaced ethics that can cause people to engage in acts of self-sacrifice in order to uphold what they have been led to believe is their ethical position. People caught up within the mass hypnosis are made to sincerely believe that the mainstream narratives are correct and that they are right to be following and supporting them – even when the evidence points to the contrary. In other words, such people strongly believe in the moral rightness of their position, and this gives them a more powerful sense of solidarity and justification. Similarly, during the Crusades each side felt they were doing ‘God’s work’ by engaging in mass slaughter. What we see here is a condition of misplaced ethics.
People swept up within a mass or crowd psychology tend to protect and maintain it whether consciously or unconsciously. This is why they are most likely to reject any contrary information when it is presented to them; or will reject even the chance for such information to be presented. This amounts to a state of mild induced hypnosis which has shifted from an external identification to a self-maintained state. That is, people engage in the process of their own induced hypnosis. This may sound implausible to some people, yet we need to observe the conditions that were present to allow such states of hypnosis. Part reason for this is that many of the people who accepted the slippage into the formation of a mass psychology were already experiencing psychological discontent. This could come from perceiving a lack of life purpose and meaning; a dislike of their jobs; general restlessness and anxiety; and similar issues related with their previous life status. In such cases, the way to break the hypnosis is not by trying to persuade such people to return to their ‘old normal’ ways, which they were not happy with previously, but by searching out ways to alleviate the source of their psychological discontent. And this suggests a radical transformation in our social and cultural systems and ways of living. Furthermore, it points to a shift away from increasing materialism, automation, and technological dependency into a path that celebrates more the beauty and meaning in being human.
Mass Hypnosis of Solidarity
Persons susceptible to mass psychology are less likely to be responsive or sensitive to rational argument and debate. It is because they did not fall into line with the main narrative through reasoning but rather through a form of ‘mental intoxication’ that triggered a transference of social bonding to the newly established mass solidarity. Such triggers are generally most effective when they are presented through emotional states – these are often based upon fear; (in)securities; and mortality. When such fear-related triggers are heightened and expanded through widescale media coverage, then most, if not all, alternative narratives are discredited, discarded, and ignored. When within such heightened emotional states, cognitive decisions become overruled by inter-personal circumstances. Importantly, the state-supported narrative (the new consensus) gives people an object to connect their anxiety with. They have a mental representation of what is the cause of their anxiety. Their previous condition of free-floating anxiety has now become anchored, and people feel they are then better able to control their frustrations. To take away their belief in the dominantly imposed narrative would confront the person with their initial unease and psychological discontent. For this reason, it is difficult to break or stop such collective psychological formations once they have been established. Once the psychological patterning and emotional identification has been constructed it is then difficult to deconstruct – a significant collective solidarity has been established that imprints the mass mind.
Another factor that strengthens the mass psychology is that the imposed mainstream narratives appear to speak in one collective voice. They are clearer in what they represent and appear to come from a place of unified agreement (i.e., all state actors and state-affiliated actors are showing public agreement). It is important that there is no public disagreement on the narratives. This sense of external clarity further strengthens the issue as a ritualistic act – a hypnotic formation. The other voices that speak out against the dominant imposed narratives are not regarded or seen as coherent because they speak in many, varied voices. This is usually because they come from many and varied sources that have liberty to say things in different ways. Yet this seeming lack of narrative coherency is weaker at confronting or opposing the hypnotic collective. Those people who remain uncertain and not yet fully decided are then more liable to choose the ‘crowd narrative’ because the mass storyline falsely appears as more solid. Those people caught within the mass programming believe themselves to be expressing their own opinions when in fact there has been a clever sleight-of-hand in that they have been provided with a set of pre-formed ‘opinion bundles’ that they can then put forward as their own. Such people are therefore not expressing personal opinions arrived at through individual critical questioning but rather conditioned ‘thought bundles’ provided through the programming techniques built into the establishment of the psychological collective mass. The mass hypnosis of solidarity comes with a pre-prepared collection of opinion sets for bulk dispersal. However entrenched this situation appears, there is always the possibility for counteracting the collective hypnosis.
Regathering our Unity
It is important that those people who see, perceive, and understand the contradictions and falsity in the mass narratives continue to speak out. Hypnosis can be lessened or weakened through continual exposure to rational information, even when that information opposes the narratives of the mass psychology.
The first step in countering the mass psychosis is to disconnect people’s anxiety from the ‘object’ that people were persuaded to transfer their identification to. This can be understandably difficult when the mainstream media is not at your availability but is working to maintain the hypnotic imprinting of the mass narratives. One way, however, that works to make this disconnect is by presenting a scenario – an ‘object threat’ – that may be greater than the one used in the original collective imprinting. For example, if people realized that the current ‘health crisis’ could lead to a condition of totalitarianism, then this realization could be sufficient to awaken people from their hypnosis as they still have the cognitive capacity to grasp that the social condition of totalitarianism is a graver threat than a biological agent with low mortality rate.
The real issues, and the one that creates a fertile ground for inducing a mass psychology in the first place, is the lack of social bonding in our societies and a perceived lack of meaning. This perceived lack of meaning and purpose in everyday life is what produces the feeling of ‘free-floating’ anxiety. The danger here is that a populace under the sway of mass psychology – mass induced hypnosis – is more likely to support or go along with a totalitarian regime that maintains this mass hypnosis. This was one of the reasons why Germany’s National Socialism (the Nazi regime) was so successful in its aims.
The people who were less susceptible to hypnosis of mass psychology tended to be those who disagreed with the ideology behind it or had more experience in using critical analysis of social phenomena, and/or were more aware of the processes of social conditioning and the uses of mainstream propaganda. They were much more capable of spotting from the onset how the narratives of the mass psychology were treating people as mere biological units to be moved around the board. The question that now needs to be asked is: how can those people who stand apart from the mass hypnosis be able to unify? Those who can speak out against the mass hypnosis need to connect together. And their advantage is that they are unified through an understanding whilst remaining diverse in their backgrounds, belief structures, identities, etc. Such people can find cohesion in perspectives whilst remaining as diverse and independent individuals. This diversity and individual independence bring greater strength than a collective mass that has been unified through the programming of a false solidarity.
It is important that those people with perceptive cognition recognize that a global ritual has been set into motion that has as its goal the ‘retraining’ of the populace into welcoming upon them a new civilizational model. The willing compliance to adopt this new model of order, at the local, regional, national and global level, will sever humanity from its own biological and constitutional roots. In order to move forward as human beings, we will likely need to reject certain materialistic futures offered to us. These offers will come with promises of comfort and convenience; yet they will hide an underbelly of human disconnect and the loss of the human spirit. If a deal is made with the devil, then we can be sure that our souls will be collected without delay. And the great truth that gives humanity its strength is that the human soul and spirit can never be taken without our willing compliance. In that, by denying them our willing compliance we strengthen our unity by default. The unity established through conscious awareness is always greater energetically than the perceived unity through unconscious programming. If the fewer are aware, and conscious of what is being attempted by the mass hypnosis, then this shall energetically give us a stronger unity. And the way to break the mass hypnosis is by aligning with a greater truth that shall gradually resynch and recalibrate the energetic vibration of the collective.
[i] Psychotherapist and Professor of Clinical Psychology at Ghent University
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