Delusions of Grandeur and Paranoiaby Robin Cunningham Patient Expert
Delusions of Paranoia and Grandeur are common among those of us with schizophrenia. These are generally constructed from materials at hand. It appears that religious ideation has been the most common over the centuries. In the 1950s abduction by space travelers or anything to do with the CIA were popular. In my experience, and the experience of many others, these delusions do not represent irrational thinking so much as rational thought based on aberrant belief systems. These beliefs in turn are the product of faulty brain chemistry.
A Simple Example: If you truly believed that the CIA was out to kill you, you too would look through the Venetian blinds before you left the house and frequently check the rearview mirror in your car. In all probability, you would carefully watch everyone and everything around you. Inevitably, however, the question arises - Why is the CIA trying to kill me? I've done nothing wrong. The obvious answer is - I must be something special. I must be set apart. But how? In what way?
The odd behaviors of many people who suffer from delusions of grandeur and/or paranoia become quite sensible if you examine the belief systems on which these are based. What many people fail to understand is that paranoia and delusions of grandeur are often closely related. These can be two sides of the same coin. This fact often creates a great deal of confusion.
In my case, the delusions of paranoia were the first to develop. I thought that Satan was trying to possess me and had assigned three demons [which I named One, Two and Three] to prepare me for this singular event, which they described as my "destiny." My visual hallucinations involving strange illuminations of selected items in the room simply poured gasoline on the fire. An abridged excerpt from my memoir will illustrate. In reading this, you will be made privy to the seemingly uneventful creation of a delusion of grandeur; one that turned out to be the central focus of my life for many years.
Sitting quietly in the patient lounge, I waited patiently for the mysterious light to return, to highlight the vase as it had the day before.
"We told you the yellow vase was only the beginning," Two said.
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"Your preparation, of course," One replied
"I don't believe in this preparation of yours."
"Do you deny that yesterday the French doors were illuminated like the yellow vase?" Two asked.
"No. But it has nothing to do with any sort of preparation to serve Satan."
"Surely you saw the door shining a brilliant white and the windows like diamonds?" Three asked.
"That doesn't prove anything."
"We're wasting our time with this dingbat" Three said. "He doesn't get it? Even a dunce would know the light clearly indicates the doors lead to somewhere special and the yellow vase marks the way."
"Oh, I believe these are all marks of something special, just not your lousy preparation."
Convinced the illumination of the vase and French doors, as well as the arrangement of the furniture in the lounge were most significant, I had carefully studied the layout, the positions of the chairs in relation to the couch and the coffee table, all the spaces and angles in the room.
"We know you've figured out the importance of the lounge furniture," Three said. "We watched you as you studied the layout of the room."
"And you continue to insist this all has to do with my preparation to serve Satan?"
"What else could it possibly mean?" One asked.
"These must all be signs from God!"
I could feel my heart beating faster at this realization. It was exhilarating. All of a sudden it all made sense!
"What?" Three scoffed. "What would make you think something so absurd?"
"God has given me a mission and the illuminations are clues to guide me. Part of my mission is to interpret these."
"Why would god resort to using clues?"
"God is using clues that only I will understand. No one else is to know the details of my mission."
"Let me get this straight," Two said. "Our Benefactor has spent weeks preparing you. He has talked directly to you and offered you wonderful things. He's even sent three of us to counsel you. Meanwhile, your precious god has not made even one appearance. And now you suddenly conclude that the illuminations, our Benefactor's magnificent efforts to prepare you for your destiny, are god's handiwork. That's just absurd."
"God has given me a mission. The only reason Satan and the three of you have been hanging around is to screw things up."
"Talk about arrogance," Three said. "This is unbelievable."
"I have been chosen to be God's humble servant."
"You're sadly mistaken," One said, sounding as if he were hurt. "These are all doorways you must pass through to complete your preparation. Your destiny lies on the other side. You must pass through these portals and embrace it."
I knew my demons were not only wrong but deliberately trying to mislead me. Recent events were clearly signs from God intended to inform me about the nature of my mission. As with the prophets of old, He expected me to struggle to understand His message. As a consequence I was growing stronger in my convictions in preparation for the challenges I would face. I was thrilled. I had been chosen to do some special work for God. It was the highest calling of all.
The perspectives on schizophrenia I provide are not those of a psychiatrist, psychologist or licensed clinical social worker, but rather a consumer and family member. I have walked the walk on both sides of the street. As such, I can speak with experiential authority. It is my objective to share with you, as best I can, what my experience with schizophrenia has been like on a day to day basis, i.e., to compare notes with you. Equally important, I will also make observations about being a family member and advocate based on my own experience. Any observations or comments you choose to make in return will be of great value.