Lucidity and Ephemeral

February 25, 2021

The lucidity: clearness; state of being a lucid person, who understands well, expresses his ideas with clarity, uses his mental faculties perfectly. To psychiatry, lucidity is related to the period of health between moments of mental confusion.

Foucault in his “History of Madness” discloses madness not as biological data, but first as culture data. In the Middle Ages, mad was the person that transgressed the social norm in place, what makes him the proper representation of the non-satiated desire of the whole society, wakening at the same time fear and allure. From this ambiguity elapses the necessity of the person to be sent away, so that the order could be kept, and people were not contaminated by the impetus of satisfying these desires.

The Ship of Fools, a painting of the XV Century by Hieronymus Bosch, discloses the hedonism presented in the representation of the insane people who were put in these ships to live adrift and distant from the sound citizens. Barbacena, in the countryside of Minas Gerais, at the beginning of the XX Century, had its version of the ship when established seven psychiatric institutions and became the shelter of those who searched for treatment for the “illnesses of the soul”. The train that took them from all different regions of the country was baptized by Guimarães Rosa as the “train of crazy”, expression used in other contexts until today. Years after the foundation of these hospitals, the social function that was attributed to them has become even more evident, further approximating the famous train to the medieval ship: 70 % of the interns did not have any register of insanity, but they were homosexuals, alcoholic, political militants, single mothers, beggars and black people, frequently submitted to torture while they were interned.

During the Renaissance, madness found its place in the arts and the distinction between madness and eccentricity gained contours less evident. Descartes and the Rationalism traced a clearer separation between reason and madness, that allowed the scientific study of the insanity and the proper birth of psychiatry. To the insane person would fit the insensateness place, the absence of reason, which would attribute them the nickname of “alienated”.

Madness and Culture

Madness has gained different interpretations at different historical moments, showing a concept modified throughout the years, denoting the socio-historical component of the criteria that defines health and illness. Currently, it is known, for example, that there are insanities typical of some cultures. Moreover, different studies have demonstrated the existing direct relation between insanity and socio-cultural characteristics: The larger the social inequality is, the larger is the frequency of insanity of its population. These studies explain not only this correlation from the difference of income, but also the social status associated to this and the weaken sensation of belonging to the less favored populations. Science has put some lights on the close relation between the biological being and the social being, and the influence suffered by this biological being that gets ill in face of the unfavorable social scenarios.

The epigenesis is the biology area that studies the changes in the functioning of a gene not caused by a change in the DNA. The studies have already demonstrated that parents being exposed to traumatic situations can transmit to their children a fragility in handling stress situations. In other words, our current experiences can clearly modify the way how our descendants will be biologically apt to deal with their own experiences.

The psychiatrist Aiming Y Lopez while describing the psychic world will approach what we call the “Four Giants of the Soul”: Fear, Anger, Love and Duty. The first would be the origin of the instinct and the survival. Anger, the desire of power, expressed not necessarily as aggressiveness, but as irony, magnificent, irritation, slander. Love would be the ancestral root associated to the reproduction and perpetuation of the species, increased by its creative potential. Duty networks would be weaved by the force of the law, the tradition, or the predominant reason in the group we belong to. To the author, in face of believing on the inevitable occurrence of certain events, human being compels himself to determined privations or actions. What induces us to question: What has the contemporaneousness to offer us? To which duty does it compel us? Or which are the duties that support the constitution of our psychic world?

The Ephemeral

We have been seen an ephemeral world, liquid relations, in which time is more demanding and insufficient for the volume and speed of the available information. The bankruptcy of institutions that were before responsible for guaranteeing the person stability and is now missing. The relative times and the relativization of the human being relations, more specifically the clear change in the social configurations, manifested especially in the social relation spaces created to supply the absences and to follow the hurry.

One trending topic may last few minutes, what makes explicit the speed the information lose their relevance and obsolesce. Studies are still contradictory due to the variability of the themes, but the average of some researches find out that the duration of a theme in the first place in the ranking is from 12 to 36 minutes. The same topic would remain between the 10 most cited by an average of up to 5 hours, the moment when it would summarily be substituted by other subjects.

The social networks have shown to be the space for the human being existence, one part of his personality (or persona): either as an active participant influencing his network and influenced by it, or as a passive behavior spectator of his connections.

The Society of Tiredness

According to Byung-Chul Han South, Korean philosopher, every time is marked by its afflictions. The bacteria age had culminated with the discovery of antibiotics. The XXI Century is marked by neurons. Illnesses as the ADHD, personality disorder, burnout, panic, are between the most relevant topics of the beginning of the century. Understanding the way how our organism produces these states of illness is one of the largest challenges of science in the present time. Foucault while approaching the “disciplinary society”, disclosed the role of the institutions (schools, factories, army, asylums, etc.) that worked by means of little penalties, which molded the citizen and its subjectivity in a way to attend the normal standards. The changes mainly technological and social of the last century has molded the current culture in such a way that there is no more external coercion, but an intrinsic system, that operates internally in the person making him - as Byung-Chul Han calls -" the entrepreneur of the self”.

By closely analyzing the social networks and the contemporary capitalism, it reveals the way how this process happens in a society that promotes the maximum monitoring and at the same time the maximum visibility that feeds this mechanism of coercion, making the individual to use his own freedom in a paradoxical way: while entrepreneurs of ourselves, we are constantly searching for maximizing our results in all the spheres of our life. This success needs then to be transformed into image so that it can be posted, appreciated, “shared”. The exposition brings the feeling of hypervigilance followed by the exhaustion sensation: the visibility and the look of the other construct the sense of self assurance and even the consecration of our own existence.

The organic vision of ourselves, human beings, can be extended to the idea that, under the control of the virtual algorithms that rules and mold our virtual experience we all become immunological individuals deprived from health, exposed to exclusively more than ourselves, held in social bubbles as isolated tribe members, vulnerable to the other and his differences. We have kept us stunned with a false sensation of security transmitted by the constant confirmation of our social status, while we become ill by the isolation and less apt to abandon the bubble. The fluid and scarce time and the ephemeral characteristic of the information and relations keep us connected to the bubble and its unfruitful environments.

Current studies have demonstrated that the analysis of the individual’ social networks can predict the risk of the depressive symptoms and the way this individual tends to answer to situations of social exclusion: people endowed with more sparse and less dense networks when their contacts are less connected between themselves discloses a greater vulnerability, while people connected to denser networks would be less susceptible to the depressive condition, as well as would emotionally better handle exclusion situations.


The social networks and the virtual environment clearly constitute a way to provide immediate satisfaction to distress the anxiety generated by isolation and speed of the things. The way the brain answers to social rewards in heavy users is different from the way it does in moderate users.  Heavy users tend to be more sensible to feedback and have their emotions more susceptible to these answers. Moreover, these individuals possess a similar cerebral physiology observed in alcoholic people, disclosing the classic functioning of addiction, with trend to search for immediate satisfactions when facing tasks that involve making decisions.

In this way, it is evident that these networks and the using profile of their members not only mold the social behavior of these individuals, but also their biological functioning, making them more vulnerable to frustrations, while searching for purposes and unachievable successes mirrored by the social networks.

The Lucidity and The Ephemeral

So far, the described social scenario brings together characteristic illness strengthening the theory of the cultural aspect of the insanity as described by Foucault.

Fear of missing out (FOMO), is an anxious condition, described for the first time in 2000 by Dan Herman and characterized by the fear of other people having good experiences that we do not have, or that we do not belong. According to studies, its origin happens when the relational necessities of the citizen are not satisfied. The same studies have demonstrated a strict and significant association with the use of smartphones and other electronic devices and negative affection symptoms as anxiety, depression, stress, rumination, trend to boredom. The trend to boredom has shown to be a factor that can trigger the FOMO, since it generates the necessity of social contact to prevent it.

The social networks have also disclosed a relevant element in the improvement of the way people function as it promotes the dissemination of important information about health and allows contacts that were not possible before. This is what some psychological, psychiatrist and neuroscience researches have pointed out. However, the status of what is relevant in our culture makes the search for networks a mechanism to supply the absence and therefore to relieve preexisting symptoms.

The impostor syndrome is related to the maintenance of negative attitudes in relation to the own performance or capability. A sensation that, despite the success and the external validation of his capabilities, the person imagines not to be up to what is attributed to him or that these “social markers” are not real, making the person fear he would be discovered as an impostor.

The idealized and hardly reached aspirations, especially related to work, the constant sensation of inability to follow the rhythm of evolution and change of the world, not only triggers the fear of not be up to the task, but also gives the sensation that one’s success comes from suffering (extreme effort) or luck (out of one’s hands). The emotional reply of those who suffer from the impostor syndrome shows the direct bond of their mental functioning to the space granted in the virtual world for the people to get successes manufactured, that results of an unreal image of themselves, as well as of the own success that seems instantaneous, closely related to an intrinsic ability, a talent. There is no time for construction, either they are, or they are not.

Although it is not considered a mental disease by the American Psychiatric Association, the impostor syndrome is close and significantly related to symptoms of anxiety and depression, further causing important impact in the daily activities of these individuals including psychosomatic symptoms.

The burnout syndrome was included in the last edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder - DSM-V. The Burnout appears when the ego “overheats" following the excess of “the self”: the performance age “Yes we can” reflects the relation with the limitless power, the extreme positiveness. Technology brings the endless access to the information and exposes us to other's opinion, without filters and to the social pressure taken to the last consequences.

The hyperactivity in work is a frequent reply of people who search for internal and external acceptance and the Burnout appears as a prolonged reply to the emotional and interpersonal chronic stressors in the work, causing expressive damage of the social and personal functioning, characterized by emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduction of the accomplishment sense. Depression, anxiety, hypochondria, combativeness, loss of control and inability of concentrating are symptoms related to the Burnout.

Organization as nucleus of cultural dissemination

At the historical moment when experiencing the institutions bankruptcy that cease to function as support and maintenance of the behavior and the own culture, it is fundamental that the organizations are possibly seen as the only entities capable to represent the cultural dissemination role and, consequently, to guarantee health and care to the ill people.

It is known that previous psychiatric illnesses are factors of risk to the previously described scenario. Fragile individuals become more vulnerable to establish real and virtual sick relations, in the personal or professional scope. The possibility to guarantee attention to those who are ill or fragile and to provide favorable environment to the mental health can significantly diminish the risk of mental illness related to work.

Studies have demonstrated that the satisfaction with work and the real possibility of enrollment with his tasks, guaranteeing the real opportunity to make decision in this context, are factors that protect them against the Burnout, as well as keeping an ability and accomplishment sense that can diminish the risks of the individual to feed impostor sensation.

The possibility to contribute with other members of his team’s work has also proved to be an important tool of mental health promotion and sensation of belonging and acceptance. The promotion of the collaborative work guarantees the disruption of the social bubble and fortifies individuals and teams.

Resilience and self-knowledge are elements considered intrinsic, natural of each person, although susceptible of learning. Stimulating flexibility, the usage of feedback that aim at the promotion of these abilities can be fundamental in the context of the occupational health.

Not rarely, people are their own torturers. Shadows and difficulties formed by the lack of self-care and self-knowledge are frequently unfolded in behaviors that reveal the unfamiliarity or the recklessness of the individual in relation to his own limits and habits that either guarantee health or lead to illness.

In a dominated and even more controlled world by the available technological tool, where we see ourselves covered by a constant and invincible flow of information, the largest source of security and stability is in the self-knowledge strategies that guarantee us the capacity to recognize our own power and limits, directing our attention to what becomes relevant to each one of us and to the contexts where we are inserted, preventing to be loaded by the constant flow of information, alienated.


Marina von Zuben is neuroscientist, professor, and researcher of the Hospital das Clínicas of USP, and Chief of Neuroscience and Learning of the Bossa,etc.

August Daniel Motta is Partner and CEO of the BMI Blue Management Institute. Doctor in Economy for the USP is also Alumni OPM Harvard Business School. Tech Bossa.etc. also acts as Senior Tupinambá Maverick in content.