“I think no one can deny the seed of violence remains within each of us. We must recognize that, because that violence is capable of consuming each of us.” – Jean-Luc Picard
In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, “Violations,” (1992) Counselor Deanna Troi is subject to forced thought insertion. What is highly important is that these experiences are not presented as being casual, passive experiences – temperate thoughts – but are actualized occurrences of violence, control, and devastating violations. These experiences are presented as more than just mere thought, but demonstrate the importance of mere thought. Thoughts are experienced. They are emotionally experienced through a lens of reality. What is more these forced displacements of internal harmony being committed by Jev, the Ullian onboard the Enterprise, result in a type of temporary coma, even with the manifestation of amnesia regarding the traumatic experience afterwards.
The presentation of the experience of thought insertion in “Violations” is so important because it reflects a true, though dramatized, lived experience of a portion of the 1% of the population that lives with schizophrenia (as well as some of the additional 1% that live with schizoaffective disorder) that have this particular symptom. To many, 1% does not seem like a significant portion of the population, but just think of how often in your day about town or passing through the city that you pass 100 people! Now imagine that 1 out of every 100 you have navigated in proximity to are suffering from these conditions. Then you start to see just how common these conditions are. This is not to mention the additional 4% to 6% also living with other terrorizing diagnoses. What gets missed in the mental health environment is that the experience of delusions and hallucinations are themselves, traumatic. Thought insertion is the clinical terms of the mis-belief that others are forcing thoughts into your mind. These are often negative thoughts, but not always so. This is not to be confused with another clinical symptom, thought broadcasting, which is the delusional experience that others can hear your thoughts to one degree or another. This can be experienced as isolated individuals or groups given privileged access to your mind, or, in some cases, everyone on Earth. (Sometimes these terms get grouped in with the delusional experience of the subject being able to force, willfully, specific thoughts into others’ minds.) As stated, what gets missed in the mental health field is how devastating these experiences are. However, that is not overlooked in “Violations” as evidenced with Troi’s reaction and response to recalling the traumatic episode. Thoughts themselves, can be a form of violence. The experience of foreign thoughts can be highly grim and disabling.
Lt. B’Elanna Torres also experiences what The Doctor refers to as “implanted thoughts” in the Star Trek: Voyager episode, “Remember” (1996). In a twist of circumstances from “Violations,” Jora, an Enaran elder on the ship, sought to make an historical mass murder (re)membered, (re)called, and (re)visioned through telepathic means for noble purposes by sharing, imposing her memories into first B’Elanna’s night dreams that later developed into day-visions that rendered her unconscious.
“It’s like each new dream advances the story,” B’Elanna tells Chakotay. “It feels like it’s actually happening. Physically, emotionally, it’s no different from real life. I’ve never had dreams like this before”
These were direct, lived experiences that coerced B’Elanna into a role of remembrance-ing. This is unlike Betazoid passive telepathy as Troi experiences, which is more a form of emotional clairvoyance with the exception of greater, clearer ability Troi has with other Betazoids. The Enarans’ ability is also far removed from the full potentiality of speech-telepathy Tuvok was able to engage in with Chief Examiner Nimira on the Mari homeworld (“Random Thoughts” 1997) or the full range of invasive mind reading Tam Elburn was able to detect with overwhelmingly precise umbrage in the episode “Tin Man” (1990). The fact that thought insertion is deleterious is shown in the symbolic timing of Jora sharing her final memories of the truth of Enarans’ history that coincides with her own death.
Jareth, the Enaran father figure in the (re)membered, (re)visioned experience B’Elanna is subjected through represents a seed of thought insertion’s form of manipulation. He coaxes Korenna into rejecting, even resenting, her lover and in that fact through extension the whole population of “regressives.” On the occasion that Korenna is told the “regressives” are not voluntarily being resettled, but instead, exterminated, Jareth whispers in her ear:
“Now I know how hard it is for you to accept that anyone, even Regressives, could lie about something like that, but it is all part of their manipulation. These people have no conscience. They’ll say anything to get what they want. Like that boy Dathan. Has he told you he’s in love with you? He’s not. It’s his way of gaining your sympathy. And not only yours. I’ve seen him talking to quite a number of young women. Has he been asking you to trust him? He’s poisoning you against your own people, even your own family. That’s very cruel. No wonder you’ve been confused. But now you understand what these people are really like.”
The reality of the forced thought insertion can be fully understood in terms of the fact that B’Elanna stands witness to her lover, Dathan’s, execution and cheers. What began as a wonderful, amazing love affair that B’Elanna looked forward to re-experiencing, becomes a twisted journey of role presentation that is a complete opposite incantation of the person B’Elanna really is. This depersonalization that is the result of thought insertion represents the violence of foreign thought. Yet, there is liberation in truth, in shared memories. Just as there is a holistic path to recovering the truth for the Enarans, there must be truth in understanding and (re)calling that these experiences, dramatized or lived in a small, but important percentage of the population, must lead to a greater enforcement of empathy, sympathy, and compassion for atypical cognitive experiences.