No, that’s not a misspelling. I suspect (ha!) that we all may have some experience with the sensation of paranoia — the feeling of being under seige and scrutinized which leads one to be wary about the motives of others. At its extreme, it can result in — or at least be indicative of — psychosis.
So I got to wondering if there was an opposite concept. Lo and behold, there is! According to Turns of Phrase:
Pronoia is the suspicion that the universe is a conspiracy on your behalf, the opposite of the popular sense of paranoia. It seems to have been invented by the sociologist Fred Goldner in an article in Social Problems in 1994, in which he defined it as “the delusion that others think well of one”, the unreasoning belief that your superiors think you are indispensable, that your colleagues adore you, and that you are doing brilliantly in your work. He was warning against the dangers of the rose-tinted view, in which an over-positive view of oneself and the world around one can lead to fatal mistakes. It was soon taken up by the short-lived group called the ZIPPies (the Zen Inspired Pronoia Pagans) invented by a London club promoter named Fraser Clark. The word has a small continuing niche, though its adjective pronoid is less common.
The Pronoia site contests this perspective with:
It was brought to our attention several years ago, via e-mail by Mr. Fred H. Golder, that he believes HE in fact deserves credit for the revival of the word Pronoia in 1982. To his point, Pronoia.net offers a taste of his serious academic paper here. Writing at Queens College in October 1982 (in SOCIAL PROBLEMS,V.30,N.1:82-91), Mr. Golder summarizes:
Pronoia is the positive counterpart of paranoia. It is the delusion that others think well of one. Actions and the products of one’s efforts are thought to be well received and praised by others. Mere acquaintances are thought to be close friends; politeness and the exchange of pleasantries are taken as expressions of deep attachment and the promise of future support. Pronoia appears rooted in the social complexity and cultural ambiguity of our lives: we have become increasingly dependent on the opinions of others based on uncertain criteria.
Our response: Well, maybe feelings of pronoia are always just a ‘delusion’… or maybe Mr. Golder just hasn’t gotten the vibe? 🙂 Seriously, it seems to us as if this pop-psych definition of the word Pronoia holds up a dysfunctional and delusional minority to a scientific zoom lense, and reports the view as if it were an accurate representation of the larger youth phenomenon. Pronoia.net disagrees with this basic premise.
Any way you look at it, the concept is interesting. In the coming week, explore the Pronoia site and consider whether or not you agree with its premise. You might also want to pop in at the Creativity Cafe. Are there times in your life when you have experienced a sense of flow, of “things falling into place” for you? If you want inspiration as you ponder, try out Pronoia Therapy: The First 13 Steps.Explore posts in the same categories: Arts, Humanities, Quotes, Social Science