Mattias Desmet is a professor of clinical psychology at Ghent University in Belgium. He lectures on psychoanalytic psychotherapy, and the process of how society gets hypnotized on a mass scale. He has a PhD in Psychological Sciences and a master’s degree in statistics. His new book, The Psychology of Totalitarianism, comes out June 23 and is already hitting the Amazon bestseller lists.
While doing his PhD in 2005, Mattias noticed that most academic research is seriously flawed, with “many erroneous and forced conclusions.” Over 85% of the published studies in the medical sciences are radically flawed. When COVID hit, he immediately suspected that the Corona statistics were also wrong—and that people were dramatically overestimating the dangerousness of the virus.
Mattias says there’s a psychological phenomenon that causes people to stick to absurd beliefs and radically wrong information under certain circumstances. This phenomenon is as old as mankind itself. It was seen during the crusades, the witch hunts, and the French Revolution. If left unchecked, it can lead to the emergence of totalitarian states.
In this episode we discuss:
- The difference between a dictatorship and a totalitarian state (a dictatorship controls the public and political space; a totalitarian state controls political space, public space, AND private life and private space)
- Why Mattias says we’re now at risk of “technocratic totalitarianism,” which Hannah Arendt warned us about in 1951 (she said it would not be led by gang leaders such as Stalin and Hitler, but by dull bureaucrats and technocrats)
- How a growing sense of loneliness, disconnection, and lack of meaning can make people more susceptible to being hypnotized, which allows totalitarianism to emerge
- How our technology has led to a “mechanistic” view of the world, which has increased the number of lonely people throughout the last few hundred years
- Why a “mystical view” on humanity should be preferred above a “mechanist view”—and why the basis of human existence should not be rational understanding, but ethical principles
- How the corona narrative disappeared a bit, only to be immediately replaced with a new “object of anxiety” that popped up in society—the war in Ukraine (and now the monkeypox)
Mattias says that in the end, a totalitarian system always destroys itself. We just need to make sure it destroys itself before it destroys us. The most crucial thing we can do is to continue speaking out in a quiet way—not by trying to convince people, but by claiming our right to articulate our own opinion in public space.
Links & Resources
The Successful Mind Podcast on YouTube – Episode 519 Full Throttle Thursday – A Conversation with Mattias Desmet
The Psychology of Totalitarianism by Mattias Desmet
The Pursuit of Objectivity in Psychology
The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl
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