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What does it mean to engage in a conspiracy?

  • A general agreement to keep silent about a subject for the purpose of keeping it a secret
  • A secret plan by a group to do something harmful or unlawful
  • A secretly devised plan to accomplish an evil or treacherous end
  • To happen in a way that produces bad or unpleasant results
  • The activity of secretly planning with others to do something bad or illegal
  • A secret agreement made between two or more people or groups to do something bad or illegal that will harm someone else

Covid-19 lead me into a bit of a stoush with some friends over science vs conspiracy theory. If I am honest it affected me deeply. Perhaps it still does and why I feel the need to write about it. Yes, I could have capitulated into the deeply scientific wisdom of the other/s. However, I noted with curiosity I chose to hold onto an internal device that had ordered my life … sometimes rightly, sometimes wrongly.

I keep going back to two things that had guided my life and kept me cautious.

The first been an ever-growing list of stories that began as conspiracy theories and ended becoming a truth. And in that truth was usually a shocking and devastating outcome. On many occasions it has begged the question; had those events not been treated as a conspiracy theory, and as a potential truth, could some of these dire outcomes been less devastating. I was tempted to place some of the important ‘conspiracies-turned-truth’ in my blog to bolster my blog credibility, however, decided against it. My point has a different theme, which will come to light further on. Besides, a quick google search under something like ‘conspiracy theories turning out to be the truth’, will give you an endless list that might prevent further complacency around conspiracy theory.

The second is; that I learnt a long time ago that psychotherapy does not work if you cannot think into conspiracy … perhaps why I was drawn to psychotherapy.

You see psychotherapy is designed to be thinking into what is not being said, into what is laying in the substructure and what was put there through the interpretation of world full of complex and unclear messages. But more importantly, it was put into that substructure, very often, with an agenda to control, deflect, protect one’s own needs and or to make others responsible. Often, and most times, this not with malicious intent, but from ‘good’ intent that absolves the grown-up from responsibility. Often times, and that usually includes the people finding their way into psychotherapy, one’s life story does not add up. When stories don’t add up it means the child was given conflicting messages, and perhaps messages the main carers wanted and needed to them to believe about the family and the world. As the child grows this data does not fit into their adult-world-view, does not make sense and is often incongruent. Sadly it has a sort of ‘crazy-making’ effect, which can be exhibited in many ways. The popular ones are anxiety depression, addiction … at worst … it becomes an emotional or mental illness.

Psychotherapy is designed to interrogate this early interpreted data and aid the person in ditching what doesn’t fit into truth and keeping what does. Psychotherapy is not about giving strategies and medication to alleviate symptoms (though that might also be done on occasion).

If we are to go back to the word conspiracy and the myriad of meanings shared above, we can see a pattern of similarity … a secret plan or agreement (so secret that event the person passing it on usually has no idea of the message content and certainly not that the intent is to harm or hurt the other … though this inevitably does happen … hence the emotional and mental health imbalance) … to generally stay silent … to produce unhelpful or unpleasant results by way of thoughts feelings and behaviours. For many, but not all people, this can go as far as ‘harm’, treachery’, and ‘evil’. This is where psychotherapy can rise above the hard-current data a person has about their life story and growing up interpretations and flirt with assumptions, thoughts and feeling that do not fit with the ‘party-line’. People are suddenly given permission to think into how they might have felt about something and begin to own their own experience … and not the experience conveyed to them through family alliances and fables.

In the process of this work, it can give the client various ways with which look into what has happened and is happening in their life. It gives them a sort of fictitious or invented option with which to view their lives in a new lens, while they make sense of what really does fit and what feels like a dupe … or conspiracy.

A really good example of this, though not so much now, globally, baby boomers would hold a memory of a parent saying, ‘stop crying or I will give you something cry about’. The child is crying because something feels bad enough to cry about. But the parent is unable to tolerate the feelings they have that may have contributed to the child crying. As a result, they send a treacherous message; ‘what you are crying about is not cry-worthy’. The parent is sending the child a secret message that threatens the child to stop crying. What in fact is happening is that the child is learning, through those conversations, how not to have appropriate emotions, how not to respond to appropriate distress and how not to communicate upset fear and loss.

This is a family conspiracy.

After years in psychotherapy, it is not uncommon for clients to be shocked at how the messages from their main carers, into the child’s developing sense, affected how they reacted. And that the world was cloaked in the parents need for peace. This can create overly resilient, impatient, distracted and anxious children.