Essay, Reflections

A Schizophrenic’s Guide to Navigating Through “Alternative Facts”

NOTE (TRIGGER WARNING): this post is intended as satire, for those unsure how to react, but like most satire, it is firmly founded on kernels of truth…  I only mention this because I know that many who follow this blog (whether they read its content regularly or not) are, or have in the past, dealt intimately with mental illness.  I am NOT mocking you, or your struggles; rather I am mocking a world where such “illness” has become the “norm” now…

You know, given the state of the world these days, I’ve discovered that many of my past ramblings have taken on new context.  I mean, “What is Real?” after all?  Are there still baseline, foundational “facts” to support a shared reality?  Are we still living in a consensually constructed world with recognizable, even “provable” laws existing independently of (or in spite of) individuals’ preferences?

I keep hearing the musical intro from Rod Sterling’s (or is it Serling now?) Twilight Zone running through my head, as every day brings new disillusionment to light.  What with the White House and their followers’ reliance upon “alternative facts” to explain away their disappointments, and the current onslaught of diametrically opposed “fake news” stories, coupled with a rousing call for “fact checking” everyone and everything (still with no agreements, by the way), it would appear that “reality” has become quite malleable and personal.  And no two versions of it are quite the same…

So…  Acknowledging this state of uncertainty as the new “norm,” I’ve decided to offer you all the “wisdom” of my experience as a functional schizophrenic in a formerly consensus based reality.  My qualifications are easy to fact check (if you know where to look), as I was diagnosed a “paranoid” schizophrenic some 37 years ago or so, and have been living side-by-side with “sane” people in society (whether they knew it or not) for all that time, institution and medication free for the last 32 years of it or so.

I know what it is to have “weird” experiences, to sense shifts in reality that no one else seems to notice, to feel ungrounded and free flowing in a world that prides itself on its gravity and solid structures.  I understand the sudden panic that threatens when the people around you are discussing something seriously, all in alignment, and everything within you cries out “what the f**k are they talking about?!  Do they honestly believe what they’re saying?!”  I have felt that deep sense of disorientation that occurs when something “not right” happens, or keeps happening, and you can’t help but wonder if you’re dreaming it all…

And yes, I know the pressures of trying to “fit in,” of being the proverbial round peg trying to get comfortable in a square hole (this version more accurately describes my experience than the traditional analogy).  Because I have no trouble pretending to be “normal,” most of the time anyway, but it becomes so uncomfortable over the long run, that I frequently revert to my own ways, just to alleviate the bruising that occurs getting banged around in an irrational, unfriendly reality.  And I certainly know the frustration that happens when you try to convince others of your truth, when they are neither interested in, nor willing to consider, a different perspective.  (There’s a reason schizophrenics get violent, and most often it is borne of this very frustration, and the labels the “norms” impose on us to explain our insistence in defending our point of view; think “paranoia” here.)

So…  Please accept the following guidelines (yes – suggestions, not demands) in the spirit in which they are offered: as an attempt to promote peaceful interactions in a world where no one can agree on the simplest or most basic “facts” defining “reality.”

Guideline #1:  There are no such things as facts…

Let’s be real here, friends.  Facts are, by definition, data that is observed, measured, quantified and verified; in essence they are empirically based truths.  But even someone with the most crude understanding of quantum mechanics (like myself) knows that the mere act of observing anything alters it, even creates it.  Therefore, there logically can be no “true facts,” only biased, expectation-driven observations that amount to little more than opinion.  Accept that, and some of your cognitive dissonance should ease…

Guideline #2:  Don’t argue opinions!

Opinions are based on belief, and belief requires no proof.  Therefore, no proof exists that can alter someone else’s opinion.  It’s simple, really.  Accept that each of us lives in our own version of reality, and that, while some overlap (shared beliefs) are to be expected and exploited, it is neither necessary, nor helpful, to try to force expansion of that overlap; identify the commonalities and focus on those.

Example:  Try commenting on the weather when first engaging someone else, or the color of the sky (“wow, that’s the bluest sky, I think I’ve ever seen!”)  Then watch for reactions.  If the person agrees, feel free to move the conversation forward, in slow, testing steps.  If they look around, confused, or stare at you like you have two heads, wish them a good day and move on; you clearly do not share enough reality overlap to converse!  Feel free to move on at any point in the conversation where your realities begin to substantially diverge; it is the kindest and “sanest” thing you can do.

Guideline #3:  Flexibility and balance are going to prove much more useful to you than strength; work on developing them.

Remember that your reality is yours; own it but don’t bemoan it.  The same is true of everyone else.  To maintain a sense of sanity in a world where no two realities overlap completely, you must be able to dance and dodge effectively.  You can actually learn a lot from listening to Others’ versions, but only if you retain your sense of self.  It’s a balancing act.

A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is this: Insistence breeds Conviction which leads to Resistance, the hallmark of Affliction, the spawn of Conflict(tion? – lol!)…  In other words, stubbornness creates unnecessary conflict (see Guidelines #1 and #2)…

Guideline #4: Value is defined by usefulness rather than “right-ness”…

In a world where reality shifts and founders, and consensus leaches away more each day, the very concept of “right” and “wrong” alters.  Keep in mind that these people doing or saying incomprehensible (to you) things are NOT sharing the same reality as you; that very incomprehensibilty tells you that.  Take comfort in that knowledge.  And understand that there is still some value to be had in observing and/or interacting with them.

Because our realities are self-defined, it is easy to trap ourselves, to get stuck in a self-perpetuating loop.  Allowing yourself to be open to other possibilities (available only by interacting with Others), gives you opportunities to devise new pathways and understandings.  These are necessary to grow your reality in new directions.  Unless, of course, you prefer to just keep spinning that hamster wheel of yours…

Guideline #5: The absolutely most important tool in your toolbox is a sense of humor!

Illusion occurs when you are convinced that something is “real” when it isn’t, even for you.  Delusion is what everyone else believes to be true when it doesn’t coincide with your own point of view.  So when someone accuses you of being delusional, it is most likely true (no need to argue about it – see Guideline #2).  But that accusation is all the “proof” you need that they are as delusional as you!

Even two (or more) diagnosed schizophrenics cannot understand each other’s delusions; what we can do is be kind to each other, listen to each other’s point of view, and celebrate the uniqueness of our personal experiences.

Often times, I’ve found, the very best medicine is a good laugh, not in mockery of others, but in a shared understanding of the irony and absurdity of trying to co-exist in a world where we cannot agree on the simplest of observations.  But that truly is the beauty of this existence in the end; so many possibilities to explore, so limited our time to do so.  Thank goodness there are so many Others to explore the paths I cannot travel myself!

That is how we help each other – love and respect.  Nothing else truly matters in the end, as none of it is factually real after all…

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2 thoughts on “A Schizophrenic’s Guide to Navigating Through “Alternative Facts”

  1. My toque off to you, a brilliant write. Nobody else has ever explained my pink elephants like this. Speaking of reality, or “facts” – the fact is, until recent times, reality and facts were pronouncements by “the Church,” “the King,” “parliament” and academia (universities, “degreed” types, science in general, specifically the medical coteries and at the bottom, the local school teacher, preacher and most successful businessman who would be the town’s mayor. These individuals defined the truth and “the truth” became fact and the numbties acted upon those facts, if it meant bullying the immigrant or native kids at recess, rounding up innocents to hang, drown, or burn alive or casting votes for free drinks at the saloon. Those facts, for example, said that Negroes had no souls and were designed by God, or punished by God to be the white man’s slaves. Facts. Then came enlightenment, if only through a tiny window that is fast closing again, and suddenly those facts weren’t facts anymore. Now we’re in the transitional place between out-of-favour facts, and not-yet-fully-defined-or-accepted sets of facts. We’re crossing the marsh. We may yet get across, or we may founder half-way through but for now… no facts, just Trumpisms.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Sha’Tara, for the compliment, and for the thoughtful commentary; you bring up some excellent points. Though I’m not sure I’d call any of those facts “facts,” I DO get what you’re saying, and I agree that those in power have always determined what “reality” will prevail. It’s what I call consensus based reality, and I’ve been at odds with that my whole life…

      But I would still say they aren’t facts, just the presiding opinions of the times. Which is precisely why it’s impossible to truly argue against them. Especially when they are spread by threat and force. Still doesn’t make them true…

      As for today, and the rule of Trumpisms, I have to admit to enjoying them a bit. Not that I approve of his administration’s actions, or the environment they are creating. But to see the looks on people’s faces when they hear what those fact-shifters are saying is priceless, if only because I know I’ve worn that expression myself for most of my life here this time!

      It would all be hilarious if it wasn’t so damn dangerous…

      Liked by 1 person

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