The belief of a young child is limitless. Every new thought has a power greater than an adult can possibly experience. There is little current of expectation to wash it away. It is concentrated, potent imagination. So potent that if you can read this you are likely unable to reproduce such a great imagination without the help of a substance that disconnects your brain from a large fraction of its tempering network of cooperating neurons.
Neurons do little to temper a child’s imagination until they are programmed by relentless experience to do it. Imagine a young boy who believes that a toy car when launched from its earthbound track will hit the wall, explode in a grand protrusion of power, and navigate onward to the sky. He previously rid himself of the idea that he could do this to his own body after a wealth of bruises and sore feet. Yet, not feeling the pains of his car, only hearing the crash and sensing the vibrations of the collision transmitted through his feet and ear drums, he maintains hope as long as he possibly can. In the end, he may give up entirely, or become entranced in how the car actually bounces off the wall.
To be an adult, especially a young adult, or worse an adolescent, and to be enamored is to be afflicted with a condition that disconnects us from our normal ability to predict the future. We see a potential lover and experience a profound drive to continue the adventure, even when bouncing off a wall. The image of the person we love that dances in our minds probably has as much objective reality as Shakespeare’s Titania. We are overwhelmed with a feeling that more things are possible than we have ever imagined. Like Sinatra said, “You make me feel so young!” We have to explore the relationship to whatever end. In effect, we become like a child again with highly motivated reasoning and less aversion to risk.
This is similar, but not identical, to a manic person. A manic person cannot temper their lust. To be floridly manic is to believe there is little more spectacular than every thought swirling through one’s mind. This brain combines an irresistible lust with a unencumbered innocence. Everything others say or do somehow reinforces to the manic mind that it has access to extraordinary knowledge: the key to universal happiness, a solution to poverty, an uncanny ability to be able to find the right answer to every question. The manic brain may decide that it is, in fact, The Prophet, or at least, exactly what The Prophet would have wanted it to be. Pick your savior. Pick your metaphor. They lead back to an amazing, eternal, unconquerable self.
That is, until the chemical cocktail the brain has been drunk on for so long is removed and the mind sinks into the depressed depths of manic withdrawal. In this stark world, nothing seems possible, and life may seem hardly worth living.
There is another more burdensome way to reach the same sort of irrational confidence inspired by childhood, love, or psychosis. This brain has been fed continuous reinforcement to accept as truth an unreasonable proposition or set of beliefs. (The vernacular for this often is “brainwashing” when one disagrees with the result, and “education” when one agrees with the result.) In extreme examples, all evidence to the contrary has been blocked from sight or twisted through a logical fallacy machine, and one believes that no such contrary evidence could possibly exist.
This “educated” believing brain is very different than the manic, enamored, or innocent brain, because its belief is often solitary and nearly impenetrable. This kind of brain is likely only irrationally confident about one set of beliefs, and may still think rather reasonably about the rest of the world. Indeed, a delusion is an irrational belief in something impossible or highly improbable that others don’t share as a matter of course and in conflict with overwhelming evidence. The believing brain, as opposed to the innocent brain or the manic brain, did not simply wake up one day twitterpated or with a mission from God. The mission was laid down over years of intentional planning.