Reflections on electoral prophesies and mental health

Ballot Box Voting Ballot box. File photo.

Sat, 5 Nov 2016 Source: Osei, Nana Yaw

Religion is a very delicate subject to discuss in public. We are told from history that the eastern question led to World War I (1914-1918).

In history, the eastern question refers to how the Ottoman sultanate predominantly Muslims treated their Christian subjects. Up to 1878, the eastern question centered on one issue: What should occur to the Balkans if and when the Ottoman Empire collapsed as a formidable political factor in the southeastern Europe?

Apart from the WWI, religion had bequeathed many atrocities to humanity. For example, Bartolome de Las Casas (c1484-1566), was a Dominican Friar (a monk, if not evangelist) who recommended the use of African slaves in the plantations. Las Casas’ suggestion was a phenomenal boost to the Obnoxious Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade in the 16th century.

Religious men misinterpreted the book of Isaiah Chapter 19 to plant the institutionalized apartheid system in South Africa.

There is a castle in Accra called Christiansborg (Christian’s Fortress) after the Danish king Christian IV. In spite of the name, Christianborg was the seat of cruelty and despotism. The first church in Ghana, Church of England’s society for the propagation of the gospel (SPG) was located on top of the male slave dungeon at the Cape Coast Castle museum.

Islam means peace, and “abad” in Arabic means city. There is a city called Islamabad, yet there is no peace in Islamabad. One would expect that the sacrosanctity (sacredness) of religious claims would be set aside and lessons taken from the religious atrocities of the past.

However, contrary is the case as many so-called prophets of God in Africa continue to threaten the security of the nation with their electoral prophecies. This writer wants to reflect on the relationship between electoral prophecies and mental health.

Prophecy simply means speaking out the mind of God to the people of God. “Thou saith the lord” was a common phrase among the prophets. The book of Old Testament (OT) is made up of three parts namely: the Torah (law), writings (like the book of Job, Proverbs, Psalm etc.) and the prophets.

The New Testament is composed of the letters, the gospel, Acts of the Apostles and the book of revelations. Prophesies in the OT were given in response to a given situation.

For example, prophet Ezekiel was among those taken into captivity in Babylon. Ezekiel was 25 years old when Nebuchadnezzar conquered the southern kingdom in 597 BC. During his time in Babylon, Israelites gathered around river Chebar and pondered whether they could worship God in the foreign land. “How can we sing the songs of the lord in a foreign land” (Psalm 137: 4). Ezekiel, had a Prophesy of the valley of the dry bones (Ezekiel 37) because the lord revealed to him about the restoration of the kingdom of Israel.

The book of lamentation is composed of a sorrowful poems. Prophet Jeremiah was otherwise known as a weeping prophet because he was probably weeping as he authored the book of lamentation after the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians in 586BC. Jeremiah was an eyewitness to the fall of Jerusalem.

He and other prophets had predicted the destruction of Jerusalem and as he experienced the collapse of Jerusalem it reflected in his worries in the book of lamentations. There is nothing wrong for a prophet of God to talk about his revelations concerning a nation.

However, such prophesies must be logically connected to the prophetic formula in the Bible: “But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort” (1 Corinthian 14:3). When prophesy discourages, and causes panic, it is not prophesy but divination.

Prophesies must also be disentangled from psychological encumbrances. For example, if a prophet asserts that a certain man was seen weeping in the clouds, what shows that the said man was weeping because of President Mahama? What shows that there was truly a man in cloud but not a figment of the prophet’s own imaginations? What shows that God lives in the clouds? What blood did the prophet see in the hands of our president?

In his psychoanalytic theory, the Jewish psychiatrist, Sigmund Freud entreated us to ignore the coherency, lucidity and accuracy of dreams and concentrate on its interpretations.

In the view of Freud, most dreams or visions are due to a repressed sexual feeling which result in the middle age psychological maladaptive behaviors.

These feelings are exacerbated by Oedipal anxiety with a repressed anal and oral fixations among men as well as a repressed “penis envy” among women.

A repressed sexual feeling interfered with human ego (reasonable part of individual’s mind) normally at middle age. Dreams and visions are somewhat pictorial representation of a repressed sexual feeling interfering with ego.

This is common among middle age men and women who experience shocks such as death of a wife or a husband, an unexpected divorce from a loved partner and so on.

In his individual psychology, the Austrian psychiatrist, Alfred Adler (1870-1937) asserted that individual’s life cannot be understood apart from social context. Adler called this assumption social interest. For example, financial constraints and unfair nature might bereft an individual of woman of his choice. This means such a man is lacking social interest.

The struggle between demanding social interest and lacking social interest leads to a shock. Underneath untreated shock is depression. Untreated depression leads to suicidal ideations or suicide. Thus, Adler thinks, suicide, psychosis, and neurosis are due to a throttled social interest.

Lack of social interest could result in psychopathological cases such as schizophrenic symptoms of frequent dreams and visions.

Individuals’ convictions about things can make them struggle mentally. Private logic or mistaken beliefs are individuals’ thoughts about something that is not true. Private logic is known in cognitive behavioral therapy as cognitive distortion or thinking error. Some people believe somebody was responsible for the demise of President Mills. Such a conviction could appear in prophesies such as seeing an old man weeping in the clouds.

This writer believes in dreams and prophesies but he also think the Freudian and Adlerian psychodynamics concerning dreams and visions explained above influence their outcomes. Seeing an old man in the clouds weeping because of President Mahama (I think Mr. President must change his name) could be a true prophesy but also not devoid of serious mental health implications.

According to the diagnostic and statistical manual of American psychiatrist association, 5th edition (DSM 5). Schizophrenia is a brain disorder that affects how people think, feel, and perceive. The hallmark symptom of schizophrenia is psychosis, such as experiencing auditory hallucinations (voices) and delusions (fixed false beliefs).

The symptoms of schizophrenia may be divided into the following 4 domains:

• Positive symptoms - Psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations, which are usually auditory; delusions; and disorganized speech and behavior

• Negative symptoms - Decrease in emotional range, poverty of speech, and loss of interests and drive; the person with schizophrenia has tremendous inertia

• Cognitive symptoms - Neurocognitive deficits (eg, deficits in working memory and attention and in executive functions, such as the ability to organize and abstract); patients also find it difficult to understand nuances and subtleties of interpersonal cues and relationships

• Mood symptoms - Patients often seem cheerful or sad in a way that is difficult to understand; they often are depressed.

Hearing of voices normally come in the form of dreams and visions. Schizophrenic clients could have as many as 20 dreams in a night. They see unreal things partly due to past shock. These symptoms are also found in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I am not insinuating that any prophet is experiencing schizophrenic symptoms but comparing electoral prophesies to mental health symptoms. Too much anger against president Mahama and his NDC government could result in seeing a man in the clouds. I don’t think seeing a man in the clouds means Mr. Mahama will lose 2016 election.

In sum, prophesy must strengthen, encourage and comfort individuals. Electoral prophesies can endanger the security of our country in an election year. Pastors who prophesy must pray to intercede on behalf of the country rather than telling us who will win elections or the dangers of the country if we don’t pray. Some of the electoral prophets in Ghana need a psychological evaluation. Per the aforesaid Freudian and Adlerian theories, dreams, visions and divination could be due to psychological maladaptive behaviors.

The electoral prophets must stop instigating the public against the electoral commissioner. God Bless Our Homeland Ghana. “I know that I am intelligent because I know that I know nothing.” (Socrates).

Feedbacks must be directed to padigogoma77@yahoo.co.uk

Nana Yaw Osei (Padigo) is a PhD Candidate in Psychology at Arizona, USA.

Columnist: Osei, Nana Yaw