Psychosis: a serious mental disorder (as schizophrenia) characterized by defective or lost contact with reality often with hallucinations or delusions
I have recently come across a children’s tale, The Monster Who Grew Small, by Joan Grant. This is a story about a young boy, Miobi, who was thought a coward by his uncle. The uncle regularly would frighten the boy by telling him tales of terrible monsters that lived in the forest. The boy, being a boy and trusting what his elders told him, believed the uncle’s horror stories.
Whenever the boy had to go down to the river he thought that crocodiles would eat him, and when he went into the forest he thought the shadows concealed snakes and that hairy spiders waited under the leaves to pounce on him. The place that always felt specially dangerous was on the path down to the village, and whenever he had to go along it he used to run.
Miobi’s uncle has succeeded in creating a boy fearful of what might be under every rock. A fear so penetrating that he could not walk to the village without being consumed. However, one day while walking on the path, Miobi – hearing a voice crying out from the forest – decides that he must investigate, as the owner of the voice might be more frightened than he is.
The voice belongs to a hare, tangled up by the leg. Miobi explains his constant fear to the hare, and the hare offers to grant Miobi that which he most desires – courage. But the hare cannot simply give courage to Miobi; instead he shows Miobi how to find it.
Miobi began the journey according the hare’s instruction. He first crossed a river of crocodiles. A few days later, he used his wit to pass by two snakes, each large enough to swallow Miobi whole had the boy not been so verbally creative.
Eventually he comes in sight of a village. Everyone in the village is sad and frightened. They fear a monster, one that they believe would eat every living being in the village – human and animal.
Miobi asks the village Headman, “There seem to be a quite lot of people in your village. Couldn’t you kill the Monster if you all helped?”
“Impossible!” came the reply. “Too big, too fierce, too terrible. We are all agreed on that.”
Could it be that such a terrible monster exists? One that threatens an entire village – threatens the very existence of village life? With a threat so incredible that it scares even the will to fight back out of the community? The villagers certainly think so.
Miobi volunteered to go kill the monster if the Headman would only tell him where it lived. The Headman replied, “Perhaps you are wise, for then you will be eaten first and won’t have so long to think about it.” The headman then gave Miobi the directions to the monster’s cave.
Off Miobi went. When he first saw the monster in the distance it looked very large, fire breathing out of its nostrils. Miobi continued his climb up to the cave. After a long climb, he looked again and the monster looked much smaller. This was confusing to the young boy. The monster snorted, and Miobi ran off a ways down the hill. When he turned to look back at the monster, it now seemed larger than ever.
Miobi said to himself, “This is very curious indeed. The farther I run away from the Monster, the larger it seems, and the nearer I am to it, the smaller it seems. Perhaps if I was very close it might be a reasonable size for me to kill with my dagger.”
Miobi went back up the hill, all the way inside the cave. When he arrived, he found nothing that needed killing. Did he run to the wrong cave? He felt something touch his foot. It was the monster, no bigger than a frog. He picked it up; it was comfortable to hold.
Miobi returned to the village. The village acclaimed him a hero, believing he had slain the monster. Miobi showed them the monster, held in his hand. A little girl asked the monster’s name. Miobi did not know, but the monster answered in his stead:
I have many names. Some call me Famine, and some Pestilence, but the most pitiable of humans give me their own names….But most people call me What-Might-Happen.
From what I gather, this short story is adapted from an Egyptian folk tale. Joan Brook wrote it as an illustrative way for children to deal with and confront their fears.
However I found in this story the possibility for a much broader target market, significantly larger than the frightened childhood population. The target audience should be most of the adult population in the United States.
The government has done a tremendous job of frightening Americans – around every corner is a potential monster.
Hitler is going to take over the world. The communists are coming, the communists are coming. We must stop them in Viet Nam, or the dominoes will fall all the way to California. The Soviets will destroy us all.
Watch out, the Arabs are coming. Every Arab is a potential threat to our freedom. The Muslims want to force us to live under Sharia law. Ragheads in caves half-way around the world want to bomb us because we are free. Every passenger at the airport is a potential risk. Check the grandmothers and the infants. Virtual strip searches must be conducted for our own safety.
It’s the Chinese. They want to extend their sphere of influence all the way to the Western Pacific – Taiwan, if you can imagine this. The nerve of those Chinese.
We need a missile defense shield against Iran, who one day, maybe, might have one bomb. Saddam Hussein is the next Hitler. Gadhafi is the next Hitler. Ahmadinejad is the next Hitler. Bashar al-Assad is the next Hitler.
If we don’t fight them over there we will have to fight them here. The only way to win this war is to kill all the terrorists.
I haven’t even listed one of the economic horror stories told by the government to the frightened children. These are legion. Food? Most apparently wouldn’t know what to eat without a government seal of approval. Medical care? Too complicated to be left to free choice.
The United States lives under a national psychosis. Miobi conquered his. When he did, the “monster” made no attempt to play the part. The monster knew he wasn’t a monster – once Miobi understood this, the monster did not fight back. The monster spoke quite clearly – you fear that which you yourself create in your own mind. It is not real. In fact, confront your fear and you will find comfort.
I remember watching a wonderful Rick Steves' documentary on Iran. After watching it, I thought (sarcastically) to myself: “Wow! They walk on two legs, just like we do. Look, on Sunday afternoon they take their family for a picnic. What! They ski? On white snow?”
The pictures would be the same if taken anywhere else in the world. These are the so-called monsters.
Are there monsters in the world? Certainly. Yet, we are brainwashed to overly fear monsters that would harm us illegally, so we allow others to harm us legally instead. It is sick.
A national psychosis.