‘Suspicious Minds’ by Dr. Joel Gold at Greenlight

Clinton Hill doc’s new book explains the ‘Truman Show Delusion’

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Ever feel like your life is a TV show? You are not alone.

Around 2002, Clinton Hill psychiatrist Dr. Joel Gold noticed a rise in patients who thought their lives were secretly on display, much like the 1998 Jim Carey movie “The Truman Show.” He dubbed the condition the “Truman Show Delusion,” and has now co-authored a book about how today’s culture shapes people’s psychosis, which he will bring to Greenlight Bookstore on July 24.

“A handful of people believed their lives were essentially reality shows being broadcast around the world,” said Gold, who wrote “Suspicious Minds: How Culture Shapes Madness” with his brother, a philosopher who lives in Canada. “They thought people were reading from scripts — including their family members.”

The condition may sound funny, but is can seriously effect sufferers’ lives. One patient thought taking his own life would get him off the air, and another tried to seek asylum from the United Nations, but got in a scuffle with security when he appeared at its Manhattan headquarters.

Historically speaking, humans have always suffered from delusional thinking, but culture informs how those delusions are expressed, Gold said.

“As time and culture change, so do the qualities of the content of people’s delusions,” he said.

In his book, Gold also touches on a patient who believed that he was a living meme — a running joke on the internet.

Not only does popular culture shapes delusion, Gold said, it also informs how practitioners approach their patients.

“Some things considered paranoid in the past — the government listening in on phone conversations or reading emails — those things have been shown to be true,” he said, explaining that doctors are now more likely to believe patients who make such claims in the age of National Security Agency whistle-blower Edward Snowden.

During the Greenlight event, author and “This American Life” contributor Jonathan Goldstein will join Gold for a more in-depth discussion of the book and how the content of peoples’ delusions have shifted with the times.

Joel Gold presents “Suspicious Minds: How Culture Shapes Madness” at Greenlight Bookstore (686 Fulton St. at S. Portland Avenue in Fort Greene, July 24 at 7:30 pm. Free.

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at or by calling (718) 260-8303. Follow him on Twitter @MJaeger88.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

hb from park slope says:
Such an important observation. Cultural events, news, violence, the things that are freely shown in the media reach into the deepest parts of unprotected minds--not only those with psychosis, but also into the minds of children. We need to be cognizant of this as a society...
July 21, 2014, 9:43 am
John from Williamsburg says:
Synecdoche, New York is a much better film that seems to touch on a similar subject matter.
July 21, 2014, 3:10 pm

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