I'm familiar with terms and concepts like cognitive dissonance, confirmation bias, conformism and belief systems (a political term).

I'd like to learn more about what some might call an "awakening." For example, imagine a person going through life only vaguely aware of things like "Big Brother," government corruption and conspiracy. Suddenly, an event(s) or observation(s) triggers a realization that at least some of these rumors are true.

This person finds himself desperately searching for answers while simultaneously struggling with the need to cling to cherished beliefs.

Do psychologists have a term for such an awakening and/or the ensuing trauma that can accompany it?

It would be especially helpful if you could mention any psychologists who have studied it, books written about it, etc.

  • $\begingroup$ I would have called it a "breakthrough", but apparently that's not a technical term... $\endgroup$ – Seanny123 Apr 6 '18 at 23:22
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Popular terms like "awakening" (my favorite) and "breakthrough" are of interest to me. However, I specified a technical term, since this is a psychology forum - and a technical term would make it easier for me to search for literature or studies. $\endgroup$ – David Blomstrom Apr 6 '18 at 23:28

"Sudden conversion" probably covers at least a subset of what you seem to have in mind. Sudden conversion has been studied in the psychology of religion, as early as psychology has been around basically; I found an article (which is reviewing a book of Morton Prince on the topic) published in Psychological Bulletin in 1907.

  • $\begingroup$ Interesting. I'm not sure how religious conversion (based on faith) compares to a political awakening, but that definitely gives me something to work with. I may mark it as the correct answer, but let me wait to see if any other answers are posted first. $\endgroup$ – David Blomstrom Apr 6 '18 at 22:24
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidBlomstrom: if you're looking for articles on political conversions, they're definitely fewer. There's 2007 PT article summarizing some research on L->R conversions mostly following 9/11 and a more recent paper on "Obama conversions". $\endgroup$ – Fizz Apr 7 '18 at 7:26

Depending on the situation and reaction you might call it a mental or existential crisis. While possibly not exactly relevant, theories on mental crises (Erik Erikson, while focus is on psychological development the concept of "age" is shifting) provide a wide variety of articles and books might be helpful, I leave references out as the situation itself and possible useful research would be better defined by you.

Additionally, I've seen the term "paradigm shift" used to describe a personal drastic shift in beliefs without focus on the psychological ramifications. Unfortunately I can't find proper references other than a uncited note in Wikipedia.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Ah, "existential crisis" and "paradigm shift" are both familiar terms. I'll do some research on those. $\endgroup$ – David Blomstrom Apr 10 '18 at 23:13

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.