I’ve been struggling lately with the concept of allowing someone’s personal negative experience to give that person a free pass to interpret aspects of that experience however they wish, regardless of the factuality of those interpretations.
To provide a clear example, imagine a mother struggling with a severely autistic child, and blaming that autism on the MMR vaccine. The evidence is quite definite that MMR cannot cause autism, so the conclusion reached by the mother is simply false, but because the mother is in an emotionally difficult position, are we meant to placate her and say nothing? Are we meant to ignore that falsehood being perpetuated by her in order to not upset her already difficult life and emotional state?
Isn’t it condescending to think that someone can’t handle being corrected just because they are upset?
Of course, no one ever likes being corrected, and there seems to be a strong social trend towards NEVER UPSETTING ANYONE EVER, which seems problematic to me at the best of times. I mean, where is the emphasis on harm minimisation when we don’t dare correct someone who is spreading falsehoods which could cost lives? Just because someone ‘feels’ like doctors can’t be trusted, and we should all listen to some online health guru who espouses natural treatments to a range of medical conditions including cancer, does that mean we should sit by idly and let them misguide other people? What if that person has cancer themselves?
It definitely seems to be the socially accepted method. Don’t say anything to upset anyway. And definitely don’t say anything to upset anyone who is already in a difficult position.
I think this gets worse too, when people start imagining personal assaults where none exist. The most extreme example of this would be the cliche schizophrenic, who sees secret agents spying on them where the reality is just regular people on the street. This person could be incredibly upset by the constant harassment they are experiencing at the hands of the “NSA” or whoever, and thus would expect the same social grace to not have this absurd belief challenged.
That is the most extreme example, but like all mental extremities, all people exist somewhere on a spectrum, and we all project our mental focuses onto our world. This Key and Peele skit makes the point quite nicely I think:
Of course, not all people who interpret neutral events as personal attacks are actually “assholes” as this video puts it, but I think this sort of projection of persecution fears is more common than we think. And I think we are at risk of letting them become the norm, and having a world with too many false-incidences. ie: A population of people under assault from no one but themselves. Rallying together friends to support them in their time of need, against nothing but a personal interpretation of events.
It seems like that would take an awful lot of energy and resources to fight against an imaginary enemy.
I think we have enough genuine problems and real scourges without creating an army of imaginary ones too.