by Ovidiu Brazdau
Understanding what really happens inside the experience labeled as a “delusion” may provide psychiatrists and psychologists some new perspectives for understanding the real causes of these experiences.
I described these psychological explanations in the context of inner growth, but I want to mention that these “delusional experiences” may also appear during other types of life situations, e.g., past traumatic events, substance abuse or brain disorders.
Index of inner growth challenges
The schizophrenic believes that he/she is being followed or is under surveillance, or that he/she is being made fun of, tricked, or treated very unfairly by others. When schizophrenics experience this type of delusion, they may feel very frightened or paranoid. As a result, they will often do things to protect themselves from the persecutor(s).
Psychological explanation: when the person unconsciously starts to develop a sense of interconnectedness (either by activating the witnessing awareness, by opening the heart, or as an effect of an extraordinary event, either positive or negative, which dissolves the boundaries of the ego), they may feel as though they are under permanent surveillance. In fact, they see the connections between everything, but they fear them. If the individual has activated “the negative” as a primary filter due to their fears, they will see “the negative” in the people around them. Initiating from these unconscious insights, the person’s mind may start to create stories or believe that other people are persecuting them, as a coping mechanism.
Delusion of reference
The person falsely believes that insignificant remarks, events, or objects in one’s environment have personal meaning or significance. For instance, a person may believe that he or she is receiving special messages from the news anchorperson on television. Usually the meaning assigned to these events is negative, but the “messages” can also have a grandiose quality.
Psychological explanation: The reality of unitive individuals is that every passage in every book is about them, as we are one collective being. This view is another result of the newly discovered connectedness being unconsciously processed by the bodymind. We are one collective organism, and we are so interconnected that everything around us is connected to us in many ways. Everything is in the right place in the right moment. In other words, we just need to open our eyes and see that all we need is around us right now.
This “delusion” is similar to the grandiose delusions mechanism. Indeed, these messages are “exactly” for me. Everything that I experience in my environment is there for me. The right interpretation would be “because it is also there for me”. People in the initial stages of opening tend to reduce everything to their ego, as the ego desperately acts to defend itself from dissolution. The more interconnectedness that people feel, the more their ego’s defenses activate, thus narrowing their scope of attention. An intervention that may be useful is working with diffuse attention. This may relax the grip of the ego over the experience. However, in psychotic states, therapeutic work is difficult. I just want to show here that when the ego’s boundaries are no longer so rigid, the collective information is able to flow in. The “special-ness” is the issue here, not the message they receive.
Involve the belief that he/she has exceptional power, talent or worth, or is someone famous. He/she may believe he/she is God or some other type of deity.
Psychological explanation: In the inner growth process, this happens during the symbolic journey before the first ego death. The mind is deeply connecting with its structure and the person is opening up to cognitive and emotional empathy. During this process, while the person is connecting with a specific archetypal energy, the story of all the symbols related with that archetype starts to develop. For example, if the person is reconnecting with the feminine or mother archetype, they will think of the Virgin Mary. They spontaneously “feel the thought” and they come to feel as though they are the Virgin Mary. Then, they may think of the story of Cleopatra, and again fall into this thought, becoming Cleopatra for a few moments. My intervention in these cases would be to adapt the person’s meaning-making system, phrasing the experience like “the Virgin Mary is also in me” or “Cleopatra is also in me”. These are the shapes and forms of the archetypes; connecting with them is a sign that the symbolic journey is ongoing.
This type of delusion involves the belief that a particular person, usually a celebrity or someone especially important, is romantically or sexually involved with or in love with him/her.
Psychological explanation: this is a result of the interconnectedness, but seen through a relational filter. At our deepest levels, we are all in love with each other, as we are all interconnected humans.
This involves the belief that he/she has a medical condition or other physical problem or flaw.
Psychological explanation: this delusion can have multiple sources. When the ego starts to disintegrate, a somatic delusion may appear as a coping or defense mechanism of the ego, keeping all the person’s attention on their body. This fixation on a problem with their body may be the last way for the ego to defend itself against change. Usually, this fear takes a lot of mental energy. Somebody I know was scared of getting cancer, and it was so paralyzing that for a while, all of her unconscious processing was locked onto this topic. Eventually, her post-conventional transformation journey began. She is now informally helping other people to go through this kind of transformation.
Delusion of control
This is a false belief that another person, group of people, or external force controls one’s thoughts, feelings, impulses, or behavior. A person may describe, for instance, the experience that aliens actually make him or her move in certain ways and that the person affected has no control over the bodily movements. Thought broadcasting (the false belief that the affected person’s thoughts are heard aloud), thought insertion, and thought withdrawal (the belief that an outside force, person, or group of people is removing or extracting a person’s thoughts) are also examples of delusions of control.
Psychological explanation: this happens during the first stages of ego disintegration, when the person begins to feel (unconsciously) that we are all connected to a hive mind. In fact, this is mostly true: we are all part of a collective organism, with a collective mind, with mechanisms as yet unknown. When there is no ego, the bodymind moves according to collective movements and according to the individual programming received through education. Of course, our seemingly individual thoughts are broadcast to the collective mind: we are a part of the collective mind and we are connected in infinite ways. “Thought insertion” is the unconscious recognition that some of our thoughts appear in our mind because of an empathic connection with someone else or with the collective, and have no identifiable source.
A delusion whose theme centers on the nonexistence of self or parts of self, others, or the world. A person with this type of delusion may have the false belief that the world is ending.
Psychological explanation: yes, the world ends. “Two months from now, on exactly September 30”, one person I met informed me. And that is OK. The world as she knows it will end. This is a sign that the ego is about to pass through the first “dark night of the soul”. This nonexistence is real. The world has many layers, which are about to be discovered by a journeyer who decides to abandon his ego. During this process, the ego will be rebuild again, but this time with more flexible boundaries. Still, when the transformation process is at this point, my intervention would try to support the reframing of the situation, saying something like: “yes, the world of your ego will end on September 30; I hope my world is not going to end, I have gone through many moments like the one you are experiencing right now”. This usually creates a state of relaxation and an acceptance, which will facilitate the disintegration of the ego and the passing through the “dark night of the soul” experience.
Delusion of guilt or sin (or delusion of self-accusation)
This is a false feeling of remorse or guilt of delusional intensity. A person may believe for example that he or she has committed some horrible crime and should be punished severely. Another example is a person who is convinced that he or she is responsible for some disaster (such as fire, flood, or earthquake) with which there can be no possible connection.
Psychological explanation: this is another effect of the unconscious connection to the global human organism, focused on the topic of personal responsibility. The big idea is that we are all, in time, responsible for all of our actions, and even the smallest individual is important to the collective. A flood in Africa has happened because of my imperfection, which is true. Even if my contribution to it is 0.00001%, this small percentage is important. Individuals in this configuration learn the value of our existence. In fact, what these individuals unconsciously feel and fear is an insight that will change their life.
Delusion of mind being read
The false belief that other people can know one’s thoughts. This is different from thought broadcasting in that the person does not believe that his or her thoughts are heard aloud.
Psychological explanation: well, some people can sometimes really hear our thoughts. Spontaneous telepathy just happens. But it is not happening consciously all the time. Having said this, in fact, we all have a kind of connection to the collective field, otherwise we would die. However, this is mostly not under our voluntary control. This delusion is also generated by the fact that, when people open up to this interconnectedness, they start to feel increasingly connected. My approach to this delusion is that yes, some people can sometimes gain insights about my thought flows. Even if my thoughts are being broadcast to the entire collective mind, the evolution of our species is not currently allowing the direct conscious exploration of the global mind.
Any delusion with a religious or spiritual content. These may be combined with other delusions, such as grandiose delusions (the belief that the affected person was chosen by God, for example), delusions of control, or delusions of guilt. Beliefs that would be considered normal for an individual’s religious or cultural background are not delusions.
Psychological explanation: archetypal symbols from religion are very powerful if a person is from a religious background, and specific religious symbols will start to activate in their mind. For example, if the transformation process has reached the source archetype, the person will begin to feel and think that they are Jesus, Buddha or another symbol of the source archetype. That is why in hesychasm, they say “Do you see Jesus? Ignore him”.
It describes an underlying disturbance to conscious thought and is classified largely by its effects on speech and writing. Affected persons show loosening of associations, that is, a disconnection and disorganization of the semantic content of speech and writing. In the severe form speech becomes incomprehensible and it is known as “word salad”.
Psychological explanation: first, there is a phenomenon called “hyper-priming”, when people can easily connect distant groups of concepts on many levels of abstraction by using abstract or visual connections; second, I have observed that the activation of the witnessing awareness changes something in the way we think, deeply activating a visual way of thinking.
If a person is unfamiliar with the visual thinking style, this amount of information is so huge that the mind is blocked, and the only thing to do is to catch up using words. I would rather consider this as a temporary stage that happens when people’s thinking evolves from conceptual thinking (using concepts) to visual thinking.
This is why art is a perfect tool to facilitate deep changes in the way we experience inner life.
How to get out of delusions
Some years ago, I wrote these guidelines to help people get out of the psychospiritual crises. I posted it on Quora, answering the question “What is it like to have schizophrenia?” Here it is:
“I would like to see what happens if a person diagnosed with schizophrenia really believes that what I say below is true and accept this:
1. All the logical perspectives are true. We could find logic in everything.
2. We are all interconnected. All our thoughts, all the thoughts that had been thought during human evolution are stored and accessible right now in the collective mind.
3. So, we can think anything, from a certain perspective it is true. I am Jesus, I am me, I am you. Jesus saved me. I saved Jesus. At the deeper level of information, we are all connected. Still, in order to live we need our egos, so we need to find our way.
And usually, we need to keep this ego (personal story) so that we could live as a person. Everyone is doing this. Most of us are on the automatic pilot.
4. The voices are the thoughts launched in the collective mind. Hearing them is ok, it is a deeper level or reality, but it is real. But we need to keep a balance between our story and other’s stories. Ideas create images. So, the images you see are visualizations of your mind, based on the ideas. If I have an image while writing this, you can have the same image while reading this. There is no problem. It is called empathy at its best. But don’t do this all the time. Have fun when you want, but follow your own way.
5. Accept that hearing various ideas and seeing connections is just an immersion in the collective information. There are flows of ideas, some of them scary, some of them lovely. See them, and let them pass through your mind.
6. Accept that everything is possible. Yet, some possibilities are not going to happen. Accept everything, and create your own Self, as you wish to be. Don’t fight with your insights. Just follow your chosen way.
7. For many, schizophrenia is just a spiritual emergency, an awakening. Indeed, the world of thoughts is amazing. Being conscious is a scary stuff.
Let all the ideas pass through you, and enjoy it in a mindful state. Observe, witness, and let all the ideas to pass through your mind. There is no need to reconcile the worlds. You are both: the observing self and the mind (ego) that is thinking. Accept this.
Google for Conscious TV, Buddha at the Gas Pump, Advaita, spiritual emergency, schizophrenia. Just see that this is a step in the human evolution. Becoming a witness is just the half of the job. You need to balance your personality, to create a balanced ego. To consciously choose who you want to be.
8. 90% of the population is adhering to a system of thinking and refuse other perspective. Isn’t it fun to see that all of them are logically true? I would say – Go ahead, explore the wildest possibilities of logical reasoning, but after that come back to our physical world, go meet your friends, and discuss with them what they can understand. And ask-pray or do what you need to do, ask to meet people that accept your perspective.”
I was happy to see a comment that said “I disagree with the necessity of ego, believing ego to be only a tool within mind and not all of mind, but other than that I believe everything there. In fact, I progressed through your points in the order you gave them in. What a darling coincidence”.
* Source of the delusions descriptions: