The Opposite of Paranoia

In my lifetime I can never remember having three crises at once — Covid-19, a stumbling economy, and nationwide protests against police brutality. Put those before an electorate that’s already deeply divided and you have a perfect situation for spawning all types of conspiracy theories. It reminds me of that old saying “You’d be paranoid too if everyone was out to get you.”

The English language to the rescue! I’ve just learned there is an antonym for paranoia. It’s pronoia, a neologism (since I’m on a roll with new words, that simply means “a newly coined word or expression”) specifically invented to be paranoia’s opposite.

According to World Wide Words, “Pronoia is the suspicion that the universe is a conspiracy on your behalf” (http://www.worldwidewords.org/turnsofphrase/tp-pro5.htm). Most sources credit sociologist Fred Goldner as using it first in an article in Social Problems in 1982; he defined it as “the delusion that others think well of one.” In other words, you are convinced you do your job extremely well and everyone considers you essential to the organization.

Of course, feeling everyone is working for you can be as damaging as worrying everyone is against you. Both views can be destructive. And yet, it seems more comforting to think the entire universe is on your side in these troubled times.

In any event, now that you know about the extremes, I hope it will be easier to find the happy medium.

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