What You Need to Know About the Conspiracy Mindset

(The following is a condensed excerpt from the chapter on conspiracism in my forthcoming book The Minds of Mass Killers: Understanding and Interrupting the Pathway to Violence).

Conspiracy stories surround us. The tales have gotten stranger and stranger over time: alien lizard people kidnapping children and drinking their blood; cannibal “Deep State” cabals secretly running the government; Covid-19 vaccines that contain tracking devices and cause sterility. Though conspiracy theories have always been part of the human experience, we’ve seen a burgeoning in recent years, as flat-Earth proponents blend in with anti-vaxxers…

Sometimes you have to say a few things

I’ve always been a proselytizer, though the content of my pushy messages has evolved over the years. I am no longer the 15-year-old absurdly confident pseudo-missionary, street-witnessing for Jesus on Saturday nights on E Street in San Bernardino, California. It was the main street through the city, where teens (and those who still acted like them) cruised up five miles, and back five miles, over and again for hours, looking for fun and trouble. E Street was full of action; a perfect place for soul-saving.

That behavior says as much about my…

My dear friend

your laugh is still hardy, though
it comes less often than

before, we planned adventures
Alaska in the summer or
Iceland, to see the northern lights

we planned to start that business
a splendid one we’d both enjoy, precisely
the color of our parachutes

spinning tales of our futures and fortunes,
we did none of those things
no time, less money of course

but when I forgot my song
you sang the lyrics
back to me

when you lost your heart
I held it in my hands
close and warm

now, we make accommodations
no more driving…

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.” — Abraham Lincoln

Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve pondered what is wrong with our species. The ridiculousness of wars among countries over political ideologies, the focus on competition, the battles over resources. It’s never made a bit of sense.

Was it an old film (War of the Worlds?) where humanity had…

The road no longer stretches out before her,
it’s soft visions from behind that occupy her mind.

In her dreams she’s 16

tawny hair whipping in the breeze,
on the back of a roan colored horse who loves to gallop.

Or 26, with three children

two girls and a boy,
peddling off in the distance through hot asphalt summers.

Sometimes she’s older,

in a courtroom, exhorting a jury,
competent and confident,

her voice always strong.

That favorite cobalt suit still hangs in the back of the closet.

There have been more funerals than weddings
for the past two decades.


There’s more than one way to have a spiritual experience

I’ve had quite a circuitous journey with God; it began when I was a preschooler.

I was raised on a steady diet of the Bible and prayer, starting off at a Baptist church as a toddler which lasted through my childhood years, moving to the Pentecostal brand as a teen. I was filled with the holy ghost, spoke in tongues, and could recite scripture as soon as I learned my ABCs. …

“Support your children in finding their own path — even if turns out to be different than what you had in mind,” says this therapist.

The eighteen-year-old young woman hunched forward on the sofa in my office. Tears spilled down her cheeks, leaving muddy streaks of mascara beneath both eyes. “I can’t disappoint my parents no matter how much I hate it here,” she said. “I’m stuck at this school. This is what they planned forever and they’ve already paid the tuition.”

I leaned forward. “So you’re telling me that even though you’ve been thinking of suicide you’re not going to let your mom and dad know how miserable you are? You’d rather die than disappoint them?”

She stared at the floor and nodded. “If…

Shavaun Scott

Psychotherapist and writer, exploring uncommon bravery and shining light on the human experience.

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