It has now been revealed that, according to a relative, Robert Reza, the man who shot six people at the Emcore facility in
Albuquerque, New Mexico on July 12, 2010, believed that his employer had secretly implanted microchips inside his brain to read his thoughts. His family members, while apparently concerned, seem to not have regarded such clear cut and serious delusions as grounds to have the man immediately committed to a mental institution for psychiatric evaluation.
For most people, if one’s family member started talking about a conspiracy by people to read his or her thought via brain-implanted electronics, it is likely that many of us would be on the phone right away, seeking professional help for that individual. That is because we know that such ideas are so far outside of the realm of anything that we have heard is currently possible, that it seems a safe bet to question the sanity of the individual making the claim. Clearly when they turn to violence, then it erases all doubt, but often the hope is that such individuals can be detected before their delusions becomes tragedies for the rest of us.
Perhaps the problem is that many people are unfamiliar with basic principles of psychology. They hear people saying wildly irrational things, but they resist the impulse to conclude that such an individual may have a problem. We are, after all awash in all kind of conspiracy theories in books and movies today, so there is a higher threshold for what we consider absurd. So who are we to pass judgment on these people and their sanity, people might wonder?
Fortunately, one does not need to have a Ph.D. in psychology in order to conclude that a person is talking gibberish, and they are likely doing so for a reason, such as a neurochemical imbalance. Of course, only proper clinical evaluation can confirm these suspicions. However, we should not just dismiss bizarre behavior on the part of family members as mere eccentricity or frivolity. According to the psychological theory of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, people often experience psychological difficulties because they are not thinking rationally, and they need to be challenged to do so.
If we are told that the CIA has implanted microchips in someone, we might at least consider it, given their enormous resources. If we are told that a relatively insignificant company like Emcore Corporation has done the same thing, it should seem more difficult to believe.
Yet, even today there are behaviors which might have seemed “crazy” in times past that now seem normal. In the past, if we heard a person having a conversation with himself, with nobody else around, we would immediately become concerned. However, these days we will often just assume that the person must be on a cellphone, perhaps with one of those Bluetooth headsets which are too small to see.
Perhaps we will have microchips which we will implant in people’s brain one day, and on that day it will become harder still to tell the normal people from the disturbed ones. However, until then, the best policy is to look for strange behaviors and report them right away, so that future people like Reza might get the help they need, before it is too late.