Arkisto: November 2015

Are Delusions Beneficial?

30. Novemberta, 2015 | Kirjoittaja: Antti Niittyviita

In the Second World War, the Germans were bombing London. Numerously and without mercy. The British command was afraid that the number of casualties during the first week could climb even as high as 250,000. As the bombings started, it was thought that millions of Londoners would flee their homes and cause the British war industry to halt to a standstill.

That did not come to pass. The casualties reached 46,000, but amidst the ruins the life kept going on. Crazy Brits kept their cool and did not hesitate with their daily routines.

A Canadian psychiatrist J.T. MacCurdy explained the phenomenon by dividing the people into three different groups.

  1. The least meaningful, and the smallest, group as far as the explanation was concerned, were the people who were hit by a bomb.
  2. The traumatized people, whom the bombs either wounded or who lost someone close to them. But they too were a small number compared to the entire population.
  3. The largest group by far were the third group of Londoners. The people, who heard the sirens, saw the bombers and could witness the explosions from afar.

MacCurdy noticed that witnessing the crisis and the tension related to it always caused the largest group a delusion of invulnerability. The same phenomenon seems to repeat everywhere, where human masses are exposed to crises. That delusion can increase the morale of the victims even to amazing proportions.

The delusions of invulnerability are beneficial to the people who live among the terrors of the war. They also bring people to stand as one even in the face of terrorism. When a colleague told me that his wife had planned attending the Eagles of Death Metal concert in Paris, I myself got a confusing sliver of that delusion.

There lies a danger in the delusion, however. Experiences of close calls can produce feelings of invulnerability even in traffic, sports, or let us say, in software projects.

Strengthened basic level in everyday surroundings is more important than surprise successes fueled by risks.

Have you had a close call? Good. If you are not in war, give thanks and ensure that it will not affect your judgment regarding the future.