Four Symptoms and Attempted Remedies for Nixon-itis

by Bill Brenner on September 6, 2013

When my OCD was at its worst, fear, anxiety and paranoia crippled me. People who didn’t share my ideas were enemies out to destroy me. It was never true, but a damaged mind concocts crazy shit.

Mood music:

I call this Nixon-itis. Richard M. Nixon trusted no one. He saw conspiracies everywhere. Opponents were enemies to destroy before they could destroy him. It’s the stuff the enemies lists and the Watergate cover-up were made of. A favorite book on the subject is Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America by Rick Perlstein.

Here are four personality traits of Nixon-itis and ways I try to fight it.

Inanimate objects attack when I enter the room.

Whenever my car broke down or I stubbed my toe walking into a chair, those objects were, in my eyes, sentient beings out to fuck with me. My solution has been to yell at the objects or punch them. I put quite a dent in the roof of my first car, a 1983 Ford LTD station wagon with a constantly flooded carburetor.

Attempted remedy: These days, when a device malfunctions or I stub a toe, I remind myself that these aren’t living things and therefore can’t possibly be out to hurt me. There are still days I forget, but only momentarily.

Co-workers are back-stabbing SOBs.

Work environments all have their stresses, and when colleagues are tasked with competing objectives clashes happen. If you work in sales or marketing at a newspaper, for instance, goals often conflict with the ethics drilled into editorial people. Or you might work for a tech company and come up with an idea that your bosses shoot down. Over time you see these folks as co-conspirators out to make you fail.

Attempted remedy: When someone goes against me in a work setting, I try to look at their own pressures and mandates and realize they’re not out to get me. They’re simply trying to fulfill their own tasks. By seeing their side of things, I find ways to compromise with them. Then we all get something accomplished.

The government’s out to get me.

When life sucks, it’s easy to blame the government for your every misery. You can’t make it because they make you pay taxes. Regulations exist to beat you. I once followed political events as if my life depended on it. As I get older, I become more convinced government affairs have little to do with my day-to-day life. But I know people for whom politics and government are very personal, dangerous matters that lead to hatred.

Attempted remedy: I stopped watching news programs. I no longer subscribe to Time or Newsweek. I still scan headlines so I have a general sense of what’s going on. But I’m largely detached from it all — and much less paranoid.

My family wants to kill me and take my money and kids.

In every family there’s dysfunction. When loved ones can’t reconcile their differences, emotions boil over and fry the brain, leading to all manner of irrational behavior. Parents who go through a bad divorce are a good example. They’re so bitter with each other that they see every differing opinion as a plot. Maybe it’s a scheme to leave you homeless and destitute. Maybe it’s to poison you so you’ll die in your sleep. Maybe it’s to poison everyone against you. As ridiculous as those notions are, they become feasible if you are at odds with a former loved one. Then you try to hurt that person back, using the children as weapons.

Attempted remedy: Like the second remedy, I try harder to see the other person’s side of things. I try to be more forgiving and accepting and no longer see family I don’t get along with as enemies. But the art of compromise in this arena is something I haven’t even come close to mastering.

Richard M. Nixon

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