Now for many baby boomers it is when I believe it, then I will see it.

Wayne Clark PhD <[email protected]>

Seeing it with your own eyes, used to be the way we lived our lives. Being an eyewitness to an event or an incident meant you could accurately describe what happened. Today it seems that perspective on reality has been turned upside down, now I will see it only when and if I believe it. This is a new norm for many of our fellow citizens. For a large part of our society, one’s belief about something will determine whether they see it or at least what they make of it. For those of us who ascribe to the old standard that witnessing something makes it real, this new phenomenon is puzzling.

I am a golfer, for thirty years I never had a hole in one. In golf a hole in one is a very unusual, uncommon occurrence. You are on a par three hole, meaning it takes three strokes to get in the hole for a par.  A par three is usually a short hole, you hit the ball and in one stroke it goes in the hole (hole in one) some sixty, ninety, hundred or more yards away. In the last three years I have had three holes in one, some of my golfing buddies have never had any. But these friends have witnessed all three of mine, they thought it was unbelievable, but they saw it with their own eyes. They saw it hit onto the green, roll ever so slowly and miraculously fall into the hole. I did not have to convince them that holes in one exist, they saw it with their own eyes.

Today the major issues over the last several months for those of us following politics find that there is a new phenomenon, it is called an alternative reality. People are experiencing what they believe, not what they see with their own eyes, they believe something and then reimagine what they saw to conform to their viewpoint. In politics it seems what you see is based on what you believe and who you believe in. If for example you believe that the former president is the greatest president ever, then you will create or only accept evidence that confirms your belief. You have an alternate viewpoint of the of events you saw, like the results of the election and the most recent attack on the capital of our country.

Within a one-week period in early January we saw the former president incite a mob to go to the capital, in his own words tell the crowd to “be strong not weak”, march to the capital, and attempt to stop the essential process of our democracy, our election of the president and the transition from one president to the newly elected one. This action at the capital was preceded by a taped conversation (only five days earlier) with the former President asking the Secretary of state for Georgia to find 11800 votes to turn the states election around. Our eyes and ears did not lie, the man speaking on the phone to the Georgia election officials was the former president, the man exhorting the crowd to stop the election process and storm the capital was the former president. These actions were witnessed in person by members of Congress and some did take off the glasses of deception because they observed first-hand the truth. Not all members of the House of Representatives changed what they believed but more than eleven members did clearly see that what they had previously believed was wrong. Let us hope that others can also come out of the fog of alternative facts and see clearly there is a problem, and that the former president did do something wrong, something that we all witnessed in real time, with astonishment, and sadness. But it is something that we should no longer look through alternative reality glasses, we should see clearly that it happened, it was wrong and there should be consequences.

For over fifty years I worked in the behavioral health field specifically in the prevention and treatment of mental health and addictive disorders. One of the fundamental problems we face in behavioral health is the presence of denial. The unwillingness to believe that the behavior you see is indeed a problem. I used to find that the most troublesome part of that phenomenon is when a family member has a behavioral health challenge. Most family members do not want to believe that their son, daughter, uncle, cousin, grandfather, brother, or sister is for instance an addict, deeply depressed or has schizophrenia. They make excuses, they do not want to confront it, they cannot believe that little Timmy, Uncle Fred, or Aunt Alice is having trouble, instead they minimize what they see in the behavior of the addict or the schizophrenic. They do not believe that the behavior they see means their family member could be a drunk, an addict or have severe mental health issues. Denial of the problem then becomes their reality, they make excuses, the overlook incidents, they protect, until all too often it is too late. The results are an accident, an overdose, an altercation, an arrest, a death shakes them out of their denial that there was a problem. All too often they stick with their alternate reality until it is too late. Our society today has alternate realities that need to be confronted before it is too late, we have a democracy that has strongly stood the test of time for over two hundred years. We in the family of democracy, have to intervene and face the reality that we see there is a problem rather than NOT see it because we do not believe it. We can return to seeing is believing.