Maybe it is just a coincidence that some people in Indonesia participate in out-of-control acts while they anticipate the anniversary of their national independence on Aug. 17, 2010. Early this month, there were three profligate events on the patio of the House of Representatives in Jakarta, all of them bordering on hysteria.
The first was extravagant action by senior actor Pong Harjatmo, who succeeded in deceiving the House’s security officers to climb the roof of the House building to paint messages, calling on legislators to be honest, just and resolute.
The second, an astonishing act of hackers who displayed porn on a House touchscreen monitor. And the third, a dramatic act by a man named Hendri who screamed and cried on the terrace of the House building, following his unsuccessful efforts to give an account to the House chairman about his dissatisfaction with the Ogan Ilir regent.
These three actions were bordering on hysteria. As we consider the actions from a psychodynamic perspective, we may possibly delineate that an act of hysteria has five characteristics. The first characteristic is the act presented in extravagant ways with the purpose of seeking attention. The second characteristic is when the action is carried out only by persons who really have difficulties which personally cannot be resolved in a realistic manner.
The third characteristic, the quintessence of the act is people’s cry for help, which ought to be performed since people feel they have no power to overcome their overwhelming problems. The fourth characteristic is that the act is performed by persons suffering from loss of reliance and trust that their problems can be managed through usual, conventional and realistic ways.
The fifth characteristic is when the action is realized by persons who feel that they are no longer listened, valued and accepted by people who actually should listen to them, value them and accept them in the context of struggle the whole way through their lives.
Recently, other extreme actions were demonstrated startlingly too, by relatives of gas explosion victims, and by a family who was shocked by harsh treatment carried out by security officer related to the presidential car procession. All of them expressed their suffering loudly to the public.
Therefore, it can be observed that extreme acts have been emerging spontaneously in society. It is reasonable to anxiously envisage that in this era of sophisticated information technology, a series of extreme action will stimulate other series of extreme actions, which are becoming longer and stronger, similar to hysteria in crowds, such as crowds of school students and factory workers. In such crowds, when someone is attacked by hysteria, and then she is crying and screaming vociferously, other people around her will abruptly demonstrate similar symptoms, for example crying and screaming loudly.
Nowadays, the propagation of hysteria may possibly be more extensive than just a limited propagation in either a crowd of school students or a group of factory workers. The spread can be massive so as to generate people hysteria.
People hysteria may perhaps take the form of a huge rally, which could shatter the government and break the establishment.
However, since hysteria is basically a manifestation of a fairly unhealthy psyche that uses unrealistic and unhealthy ways in facing problems, hysteria may possibly assume a form of a decrease in the degree of public mental health, which then will negatively affect either quality of life or quality of work of people in a broad perspective.
There is another possibility, which is not less ironic, for example, people hysteria will function as noisy ridicules to democracy in the country. If hysteria proliferated through many people, anyone can say that democracy, which is considered hitherto to be the best system of governance, is creating massive hypocrisies, which then force people in this country to suffer from hysteria, as they can no longer behave in realistic ways in order to overcome their problems, also they can no longer trust the usual, conventional and realistic ways to solve problems and succeed struggling in their everyday lives.
The five characteristics of hysteria, which have been described at the beginning of this article, should not be regarded as trivialities.
That hysterical acts hint at deep-seated problems related to Indonesia, primarily is the inabilities of the state and government of this big nation to look after and preserve reality as a place that is trustworthy for people to overcome their burdens, solve their problems and succeed in their day-to-day lives.
Wrecked by those inabilities, people are necessitated to create an untrue reality, and then allow themselves to attend that fake reality. This is a portrayal of a considerably frustrated nation, which no longer has trust, whereas in fact trust is one of the most important values in every nation’s life.
To cure people hysteria, the Indonesian government should get back to that most important value. By getting back trust, people can recover hope, and with hope the nation will continue to exist and develop.
Therefore, the key point is the government in the country should realize actual and tangible actions, which will recover trust. Those actions are listening to people attentively, genuinely appreciating and accepting people, solving people’s problems directly, and reducing their burdens concretely.
The writer, a psychotherapy-consultant psychiatrist in Malang, is chairman of the Psychotherapy Division of the Indonesian Psychiatric Association.
Some of you who are old enough (that means at least 60!) may remember the May 1968 riots in France that almost brought down the Rightist de Gaulle administration.