- Post 19 December 2005
- Last Updated on 23 April 2008
- By Ozodi Thomas Osuji
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY OF THINKING AND BEHAVIOR
(Focus on Paranoia)
Ozodi Thomas Osuji
Psychology began with the noble intention of understanding how human beings think and behave. Unfortunately, it seems to have lost its way. One no longer knows what the business of psychology is.
What do contemporary psychologists do, anyway? The discipline now seems lost in scholasticism and, therefore, seem irrelevant to actual human beings efforts to understand and change their thinking and behavior.
The real business of psychology is to strive to understand how human beings think and behave. Psychology is the science of thinking and behavior.
Having understood how people, in fact, think and behave and appreciated self defeating thinking and behaving patterns, psychology ought to design a technology for helping people think and behave in the most adaptive manner.
Thinking and behavior have an aim, to enable the individual to adapt to the exigencies of his world, his physical and social environment. Psychology ought to enable people adapt to their world.
In this paper, I attempt a science and technology of thinking and behavior that seems realistic to the actual human beings I see in my world, not the fictional human beings studied by academic psychology.
Real psychology must be realistic and show people how to adapt to their environment and make material living in their world. Psychology should not dwell on esoteric concepts that have no relevance to the real world people live in.
Real human beings find themselves on planet earth. As Alfred Adler observed, they find it difficult to adapt to the exigencies of their world. Some are particularly challenged by the exigencies of their world. All of them, and some of them more so, hate their bodies and what they call themselves. They reject themselves. All human beings reject their real selves. (These seem like dogmatic assertions; they call for you to disprove them?)
Using their thinking and imagination, they invent alternative selves and bodies. They invent ideal selves and ideal bodies. They invent superior selves and bodies.
The ideal, superior self is purely mental and imaginary. It cannot be attained in the empirical world. Nevertheless, since it seems better than the actual imperfect body and self the individual has, he prefers it to his actual self. He embarks on a mission of trying to become his imaginary ideal superior self. Most of his activities are directed towards actualizing his imaginary ideal self (and the ideal other selves, ideal social institutions and ideal world of that ideal self).
Pursuit of the ideal superior self is an escape from reality. It is a waste of mental energy. A mental model of which one ought to become cannot be realized in the empirical world where matter and energy limits what human beings can and cannot do. Space, time and matter set limits as to what real human beings can do. We cannot fly unless we have wings.
FALSE PURPOSE AND MEANING
Impossible of attainment, yet the individual pursues his ego ideal. He does so because his ego ideal appears to be what gives his life meaning and purpose. The effort to attain his imaginary fantasy self, fantasy other people and fantasy social institutions is what gives him (neurotic) direction in his life.
If the idealist stopped seeking to attain his imaginary ideal self, the fiction of superior self, life would suddenly become ennui for him. The individual would not know what to do with his life if he did not pursue some sort of ideals.
Yet pursuit of ideals, ego ideals and or spirit ideals (as in religion) is a waste of time and effort, for nothing pursued that is not rooted in the reality of space, time and matter will be realized by human beings.
MISSION OF SCIENCE
Science is that endeavor which attempts to understand empirical reality, as it is, not as it should be. In the area of human beings, science attempts to understand how real human beings think and behave. It does so objectively; it describes how actual people think and behave not how they should think and behave.
Science does not indulge in value judgments, and does not moralize that this or that behavior is better than others; it merely describes how people think and behave.
However, since some thinking and behaving patterns are clearly more adaptive to the exigencies of the environment, science recommends them, not from a moral point of view, but from a dispassionate assessment of what is more useful and productive. In this light, science of thinking and behavior shows human beings the pattern of thinking and behaving that are more likely to enable them get what they want out of their lives.
All human beings think idealistically but some more so than others. All that we can do is understand and redirect human beings? idealistic thinking and behaviors; we cannot eliminate them.
Escape into idealism, be it in philosophy, religion or politics, is a waste of time. The science of psychology must focus on the science and technology of thinking and behavior.
PARANOID THINKING AND BEHAVIOR CONSIDERED
In the last year, I participated in several Internet news groups. What became obvious to me is that some of the Igbo participants exhibit paranoid traits and don?t even know it.
I am motivated to help these people. I will, therefore, focus on paranoia, and show how such persons think and behave and then point out alternative patterns of thinking and behaving.
The terms persona and paranoia derive from Greek. (See Meissner, 1980) In ancient
The pioneers of psychology borrowed Greek and Latin terms. Persona, mask, was transformed into personality. The idea is that the human personality is a mask that the individual wears and that it merely hides his true self. Personality is an act, not reality. Each human being, as it were, hides his true self and learns those behavior patterns that his society would approve. In relating to other people, he presents a personality (which is the same as self concept and self image) to them to approve, a self image that he thinks that they would approve. The individual masks his real self and presents a socially approvable self to people to relate to in his social interactions.
Who the individual?s real self is, is not shown to other people. Indeed, the individual may not even know who his real self is. (My dear reader, do you know who your real self is? Are you just your body and or your personality? If not, who are you?)
Carl G. Jung observed that beneath the persona (lity) is another human being. Jung considered the real self that is hidden by the mask of personality a spiritual being. (See Jung, 1963)
Whereas all human beings, to certain degrees, wear masks, personas, have personalities, to be paranoid means that the individual has taken the phenomenon of personality to its logical conclusion. The normal person wears a personality and presents it to other people to approve but suspects that he is not his personality. On the other hand, the paranoid person thinks that he is his personality. The paranoid person, in effect, has taken the tree for the forest. He, like all people, has a cherished persona that he wears in society and wants other people to see him as that personality. At some point, he thinks that he is the persona he pretends to be.
The paranoid person now believes that he is the ideal self, ideal self concept and ideal self image, ideal personality that he wants to be but is not, in fact. He wants other people to see him as he wants to be seen, as the ideal, superior self he wants to be but, in fact, is not. He has completely denied his real self and identified with a false ideal self and wants other people to collude with him and validate that false self as his real self. He wants society to confirm his false self as his real self.
If the paranoid person is seen as the ideal self, the persona, the important mask, he feels good, if not, he feels upset. His real self feels inadequate and inferior. He rejects that real self and compensates with a pretended superior self. He wants other people to see him as a superior self. If they see him as a superior self, he feels okay, if not, he feels upset. His affect is a yoyo, up and down, depending on how he perceives other people as treating him. He is angry at those he perceives as not colluding with him and seeing him as a very important, superior self and anxious from anticipation of being degraded by other people. He closely scrutinizes other people?s behaviors and if they seem to be demeaning, humiliating, insulting, belittling, in a word, not recognizing his ideal self concept, ideal self image, high and mighty personality, he feels angry at them. His anger is an attempt to get people to see him as he wants to be seen: a very important, exalted and dignified self.
The paranoid person is generally very stiff, inflexible and humorless, all in an effort to seem very respectful and dignified. Important people, he thinks, do not crack jokes and do not laugh; only unimportant fools and clowns do so, so he is almost always serious and proper in demeanor.
ETIOLOGY OF PARANOIA
Paranoia is caused by a confluence of biological and social factors. Paranoids invariably inherited biological constitutions that make them feel weak and inadequate to the challenges of existence in our impersonal world.
As Alfred Adler (1911) pointed out, up to a point, all human beings feel inadequate. Paranoid persons tend to feel more inadequate than the average person. Obviously, biological factors contribute to the genesis of paranoia.
Sociological factors also play a role in the causation of paranoia. Consider Igbo society. Igbo society is very competitive. (See Victor Uchendu, the Igbos of South
Igbo society must be among the most competitive societies in the world. It is an achievement oriented society. Nothing is given to the individual by ascription; he has to earn whatever is socially valued. Achieve and you are a somebody, fail and you are a nobody.
Carl Rogers (1951) would say that this society is a neurotic society and that it is bound to produce many neurotic children. As Rogers sees it, children who are raised by conditionally accepting parents and society tend to become neurotic, that is, they tend to posit ideal selves that they think that society would approve and strive to become them and reject their real selves ala Karen Horney. (Horney, 1999)
On the other hand,
We do not need to quibble about facts. Igbo society is pathological. It accepts children conditionally. It, therefore, disposes those children who are less able to compete to fear failing. Some of such children, therefore, posit ideal selves that would like to become very important persons, indeed, superior persons, and present such false selves to other people to relate to.
In Igbo society, many adults behave as if they are the imaginary important, superior selves that they would like to be but that they are not, in fact. They spend an awful amount of mental energy defending the false, imaginary ideal and all powerful self that they imagine themselves to be that they are not. This social pretense is carried over to all aspects of their behaviors.
One such Igbo chap on Naija politics strives to seem the most intelligent person on the forum. He writes in convoluted, hiflutin and pedantic language that is calculated to make him seem like he is a genius. If his overly rational but superficial analysis is applauded by others, he feels fine, but if you dared point out that he is an emperor without clothes, he flies off the handle. He is almost always responding with anger and rage at those who dared point out that he is talking rubbish. Moreover, he seems to take particular joy in putting other people down, finding fault with them showing them as not perfect. This man spends his time and energy looking into other people?s backgrounds, with the intention of finding something negative in their history that he could use to show them up as not perfect human beings. He investigates where people went to school or not, what kind of education they have or do not have, all with the intention of making them seem unimportant. He is the only one that is entitled to be important, his paranoid thinking believes. Apparently, he satisfies his desire to seem superior to other people by making other people seem inferior to him. This is a cardinal trait of suspicious paranoid characters. Simply stated, this man is trying to become his imaginary ideal, superior self. He has paranoid personality disorder.
I believe that competitive Igbo society exacerbates whatever biological variable this paranoid Igbo man inherited that disposed him to paranoid thinking and behavior. Biosocial factors play roles in the etiology of paranoia.
(This paper is written for the average reader; therefore, it does not overly employ technical terms. If the reader wants technical understanding of paranoia, I refer him to David Swanson et al, The Paranoid; William Meissner, The Paranoid Process, and Psychotherapy for the Paranoid process; David Shapiro, Autonomy and the Rigid Character; and, of course, the purely descriptive DSM IV.)
LEVELS OF PARANOIA
There are many levels of paranoia: Schizophrenia, Paranoid Type; Delusion Disorder; and Paranoid Personality Disorder.
Briefly, in schizophrenia, the individual is psychotic; that is, he has delusions (believes in what is not true as true) and hallucinations (in any of the five senses? auditory, visual, olfactory, tactile and touch). Schizophrenia is every person?s idea of mental illness. It occurs in less than one percent of the human population. Within this small fraction of people, there are many subtypes of schizophrenia: paranoid, organic, disorganized, catatonic, simple, undifferentiated, residual etc. They are within the purview of psychiatrists, for they are generally managed with neuroleptic medications (such as Zyprexa, Risperdal, Seraquel, Geodon, and some of the older psychotropic medications like Thorazine, Prolixine, Navane, Millaril etc.) These people hear voices and see what is not seen by other people and generally have bizarre delusions, such as see themselves as god etc. For all practical purposes, they cannot operate in normal society. They are either at psychiatric hospitals or walk the streets as the insane persons folks see eating out of garbage cans. No one has figured out a way to heal them yet.
Delusion disorder means that the person believes what is not true as true. In delusion disorder there is no hallucination, just systematized delusions. (I call this disorder half psychosis, half insanity, for in complete insanity there is both delusion and hallucination, as in schizophrenia and in some severe Bipolar Affective Disorder.)
Generally, the deluded person has systematized delusions in some areas of his intellectual functioning but not in other areas. For example, he may believe that his wife wants to poison him with her food and not eat it, and still function appropriately in other areas of his social life. Genuine delusion disorder is very rare. I have seen less than ten patients with delusion disorder in twenty two years of working in the mental health field.
There are five types of delusion disorder: grandiose, persecutory, erotomanic, jealous, and somatic. Briefly, in grandiose type, the person believes that what is not true is true, for example, that he is the richest man in his world, or that he is the most intelligent man in the world, when he is not. In persecutory type, the person believes that someone or some people are out to kill him and hides from them, when those people do not have such intentions. In erotomanic type, usually more common in women, a woman believes that a famous man is in love with her and sometimes stalks him. She may believe that she is married to Jesus or any other socially important person. (Apparently, such beliefs make an inferior feeling person feel vicariously important). In jealous type, the person feels that his spouse or girl friend is cheating on him and follows her around, trying to catch her cheating on him; he generally misinterprets her behaviors and physically and or verbally abuses her. Many of the men involved in domestic violence actually have delusional jealousy. In somatic type, the person believes that she has a sickness that the medical profession is unable to figure out yet, and goes from doctor to doctor seeking treatment. (Apparently, this belief is a rationalization for her failure when she expects to be a success but fails.)
Paranoid personality disorder is characterized by desire to seem very important and superior to other people, accompanied with inner sense of inferiority and inadequacy. The paranoid personality feels inordinately inferior to other people and restitutes with desire for superiority. He posits a mask of superiority and acts as if he is that superior persona. The Igbo chap on naija politics obviously feels inferior and acts as if he is superior to other people. Although he is above average in intelligence, he is not gifted. But he presents himself as a superior intellect. He is not aware that a superior mind is not just claimed but seen by other people. In the political forum we read what each other write and most folks can easily make out those with superior minds. This Igbo brother is certainly not seen as particularly bright, pretended brilliance. He feels an inner compulsion to seem a gifted mind.
The paranoid personality wants to seem superior and for other people to see him as superior. Because of his desire for superiority, he fears been seen as inferior. Thus, he is very sensitive to being demeaned, belittled, humiliated, disgraced, degraded, criticized etc. Behavior by other people that give him the impression that he is treated in an undignified manner makes his false pride feel attacked and he reacts with anger.
He is always accusing other people of treating him, as if he is a nobody. Since other people did not treat him as such, they resent him accusing them of doing what they did not do and become angry at him. Thus, he stimulates attack on him by his accusatory behaviors. The subsequent attack from other people reinforces his hitherto belief that other people are hostile towards him. (He is hostile towards other people and projects his hostility out and sees a hostile world.)This phenomenon is called paranoid self fulfilling prophesy, he believes that people are hostile towards him, attacks them and they react in a hostile manner to him, making his belief seem true. What he does not realize is the role he plays in getting people to react negatively towards him.
The paranoid personality?s intellect is otherwise in tact. He may be a medical doctor, engineer, physicist or president of his country. Whereas his intellect seems in tact, his disordered personality disturbs his interpersonal relationships but does not affect his intellectual functioning.
He tends to over employ certain ego defense mechanisms, such as denial, projection, rationalization, intellectualization and dissociation. In the process, he comes across as rational The said Igbo chap on naija-politics appears intellectual, except that his intellect is really shallow; he is unable to nuance thinking and behaviors, he appreciates only the superficial, the seeming rational.
As Psychoanalysts tell us, behind rationality is irrationality. The paranoid personality is not a genuine intellectual, he is a wannbe intellectual.
For some reasons, there seems a higher incidence of paranoid personality among Igbos. I have pondered this issue and came to the conclusion that biosocial factors play a role in its genesis. I speculated that inherited biological constitution and Igbo competitive society play roles in producing Igbo paranoid personalities.
In most human populations, generally, less than one percent has paranoid personality, but in Igbo society that percentage is more like five. (The number of Igbo Schizophrenics appears to be the same as elsewhere in the world; the number of Igbo delusion disordered persons appear slightly higher than in other populations. It would be fascinating to perform a thorough epidemiological study to verify what my anecdotal observation suggests.)
THINKING AND BEHAVIOR IN PARANOIA
Paranoid thinking is probably the easiest thing in the world to understand. Unfortunately, the paranoid does not want to understand and or change his thinking and behaving patterns. He derives secondary gains from his thinking and behavior; he feels godlike from imagining himself superior to other people.
It is very difficult to heal paranoia. In fact, many psychotherapists don?t even bother taking paranoids as patients/clients. They see them as not likely to benefit from talk therapy and do not want to waste their time on those who do not want to change.
If a paranoid client walks into a therapist?s office and he administers psychological tests (MMPI, WAIS etc) and does verbal mental status examination, he easily diagnose him. That is the easy part. The difficult part is how to help him change.
The chances are that the paranoid client is more likely to have contempt for the therapist, and see him as naï¶¥. He sees himself as superior to other people and sees the therapist as inferior to him, so how can the inferior therapist help him?
Factor in the paranoid?s lack of trust in other people?s good intentions and his belief that the therapist is not his friend and is not out to help him, you see an interesting dynamics developing. He is skeptical of the therapist?s good intentions and, in fact, doubts his knowledge. (The paranoid Igbo chap on naija politics doubted my knowledge and went as far as checking my credentials to see if I even went to school. His goal was to undermine my credibility so that he did not have to listen to me. That way, he retained his obvious mental disorder. Just about every person in the forum knows that he is a sick man. He is the only person who does not know that he is sick. Paranoids generally do not have insight into their problems.)
Whereas, therapists tend to give up on paranoid persons, they nevertheless understand their thinking and behaving patterns. Let us, therefore, explore paranoid thinking and behaving patterns and see whether they can be changed.
The paranoid person thinks that he is inferior. Talk to a paranoid person for an hour and you sense his deep rooted sense of inferiority and inadequacy. He generally tries, albeit futilely to deny his self assessment and tries to seem superior; indeed, he tends to project out what he sees in himself to others; thus, he sees others who seem inferior etc.
It is correct that all human beings, in degrees, feel inferior. The relevant point is the paranoid?s excessively sense of inferiority. He needs to stop worrying about other people?s inferiority and first accept his own sense of inferiority and address it squarely. He needs to understand why he feels inferior and compensates with superiority. He is the subject to be analyzed and healed. He should not divert attention from himself by focusing on other people?s minor sense of inferiority.
So why does the paranoid person feel inferior? There are combinations of causal factors in his feeling: biological and sociological.
Each individual is unique and, as such, inherited a unique biological constitution. We therefore need to explore whatever medical disorders the paranoid person inherited that exacerbated his or her sense of inferiority. Any number of medical disorders could make the individual feel unable to meet the challenges of his society hence increase his sense of inferiority.
Inferiority feeling does not have to lead to paranoia, if it is accepted and not denied. If a child feels inferior and his parents love him, in an unconditional positive manner, he is not going to develop paranoia. For example, I was born with spondylolysis and Mitral Valve Prolapse. Both medical disorders made me feel inferior. But my mother loved me in an unconditionally positive manner. My mother is a saint among women. Her love for her children was total. Surrendered by love, I trusted the people around me despite feeling inferior. Now, suppose that I was not loved in an unconditional manner, I can see myself feeling as paranoid as the said Igbo chap.
The paranoid person must explore why he feels inordinately inferior. In my experience, biological and sociological factors are implicated in the etiology of most mental disorders.
Different biological disorders can dispose different children to feel inferior Vis a
FROM IDEALISTIC TO REALISTIC THINKING AND BEHAVIOR
The paranoid person tends to think idealistically. He rejected his real self and real every thing and posited an ideal self and ideal every thing and wants to become these ideal fictions. He posited a perfect ideal self and wants to become that perfect person. He wants other people to become perfect selves he made for them. Indeed, he wants the world to change and become the perfect ideal he wants it to become. All these are fantasies and are not going to happen. Fantasies or not, pursuing them makes him feel like he is powerful, like he created himself and created the world he wants to change and fit his self image.
Having explored the biosocial factors playing a role in his paranoia, he has to resolve to think realistically, not idealistically.
Generally, the individual does to other people what he does to himself? The paranoid person hates and rejects his body and self. He generalizes and hates and rejects other people?s real bodies and self. He wants to change himself; so he wants to change other people; he wants to become perfect, so he wants to make other people perfect; he wants ideal social institutions, so he wants society to have ideal social institutions; he wants an ideal world.
GIVING UP PARANOID JUDMENT AND CRITICISMS
The paranoid person posits an ideal self and uses that ideal fictional self and its ideal standards to judge real human beings. He uses the ideal standards of his false self to judge his real self, other people?s real selves and reality in general.
Since he is judging the real with an imaginary ideal standard, it is inevitable that he finds nobody good enough. He is always criticizing other people, pointing out their faults. The said Igbo chap is always pointing out other people?s faults. Nothing other people do or do not do is ever good enough for him. This is because he is looking at them from the perspective of an ideal standard.
(If a normal person reads this paper, for example, he would appreciate my effort to help; but the paranoid brother would be more invested in showing to the world that I do not know what I am talking about; his whole reason for being seems to be to show that people are imperfect, hence inferior to him. Of course, people are imperfect, I do not know much.)
Having appreciated paranoid thinking processes, we then show to the paranoid person how to stop wanting to seem ideal, superior and perfect.
The crux of his problem is his desire to seem better than other people. He must be taught to accept our human sameness and equality and give up the neurotic/psychotic desire to seem better than other people.
In eternity as in time, in heaven and on earth, all human beings are the same and equal. Let me repeat the obvious: we, man, woman and child are the same and coequal. No one is superior to other people. No amount of effort on any ones part can make him or her superior to other people.
Racist whites (usually paranoid personalities) tried very hard to seem superior to other races. The fact is that white folks are exactly the same as black and brown folks.
The paranoid person wants to seem superior to other people. He cannot gratify that wish in the world of reality, for the impossible cannot be gratified. In fact, if he believes that he is superior to other people and no longer merely wishes it, he has gone from neurosis, paranoid personality, to psychosis: delusion and or schizophrenia.
If he is fairly intelligent, the paranoid person is tempted to see himself as mentally superior to other people. He is not so. Although different people test out with different IQ levels, yet they are all the same and equal. The mentally retarded person with IQ lower than 70 is the same as the gifted person with IQ over 132.
(The said Igbo chap fancies himself mentally superior to others in the forum. His IQ is probably no more than 120, that is, he is above average but not in the superior range (over 132). How do I know this fact? He does not exhibit that subtle understanding of phenomenon found in the truly intelligent; he tends to be rationalistic and not understanding of true phenomenon. For example, recently, he has taken to saying that his fellow forumites feel inferior and act like they are superior. His observation is, of course, true. But what a truly bright person would do is try to understand why the people do so and try to help them out rather than seize it as an opportunity to desecrate them. The truly intelligent person wants to help suffering humanity, as Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, Ramakrishna, Bahaullah and other religious geniuses did. The superficially intelligent use their shabby perception of phenomenon to destroy, rather than help.)
The paranoid person posits a self concept, and its pictorial form, the self image, and a personality that wants to seem superior to other people. He struggles mightily to become that seeming superior self.
It is the pursuit of the fictional superior self that produces his paranoia. He must, therefore, desist from seeking to become that false superior self and accept our sameness and equality.
This is obvious enough to normal persons. But the paranoid person does not want to give up his desired superior self. Indeed, if he gave it up, he might find his life suddenly meaningless and purposeless, for it is pursuit of the chimera of superior self and superior world that gave his life direction, movement and pseudo purpose. If he gave up seeking to be better than other people, he might experience the underlying depression that paranoid grandiosity is masking.
(Meissner, in The Paranoid Process, contends that paranoid persons are depressed persons, that they have low self esteem and use their grandiose self concept to mask their underlying depressed self view. In Psychotherapy and the Paranoid Process, Meissner argues that the paranoid?s grandiose self image must be given up and for him to accept his underlying depressed self opinion, and eventually work through his existential depression and come to accept the human reality of powerlessness. Meissner recommends that this process be aided by a competent therapist, for if the paranoid?s ego compensations are attacked and decompensated when he is not ready to recompensate at a normal level, he might experience transient psychosis where he goes from merely wishing to be godlike to believing that he is actually god, from garden variety neurosis to psychosis.)
The paranoid child is very perceptive and accurately appreciated the human condition as filled with pain and suffering. He hated and rejected that pain and suffering filled life. Instead of accepting that reality and making the most of it, he rejected it and used his imagination to invent an alternative reality, an ideal reality and wants to become it.
In therapy the paranoid must be helped to let go his ideal reality and embrace empirical reality. The truth is that all of us are imperfect and that we must still be loved and respected despite our imperfection. We must have the courage to accept and love our imperfect real selves. It is actually cowardly to reject the real, just because it is imperfect and seek to become the imaginary ideal.
The self rejecting paranoid person is a cowardly person; the truly courageous person accepts imperfect human beings, as they are. He loves people as they are, imperfect.
Mental health lies in ability to look ones self in the mirror, see ones imperfect self, ones weak body and still accept it as it is, not as it could become, perfect.
The paranoid rejected his real body and real self and wants to become an idealized body and self. That is not going to happen. He is wasting his time and giving himself unnecessary anxiety (from not attaining his ideal self).
He must let go of the desire to be an ideal self and accept who he is, in fact, an imperfect, ordinary human being.
Alas, he does not want to be an imperfect, ordinary human being. In fact, his delusions are efforts to convince him that he is a perfect, superior self.
Let us revisit the symptoms of paranoia and see how they exhibit his desire for superiority. Grandiosity: it is an effort to seem superior; persecution, it is an effort to seem superior, for one must be very important for others to exist to persecute one, one must be the numero uno for the entire police force of the land to have nothing better to do than try to kill one; one must be very important for ones wife to want to poison one, simply stated, persecution complex is an attempt to seem a special self; jealously, here the person wants to control the spouse. Control is power; so jealously really is paranoid desire for superiority. Erotomania, here a woman thinks that important persons are in love with her when they are not or that she is married to important person when that is not the case. What is going on here is that she feels inferior and attaching herself to seeming important persons makes her seem important; if she did not want to be superior, she would not struggle to seem married to god. Somatic type, here the person claims to have mysterious illness and uses it as an excuse to go from doctor to doctor; what she is doing is deriving a sense of superiority through illness and having doctors pay attention to her. I must say, however, that where there is hypochondrias there is always some unknown biological disorder.
Paranoid personality lacks trust in other people, is suspicious and fears being belittled. He does not trust on a higher power to protect him, he is the higher power who ought to protect him. In the real world, he is not that powerful, for he is not God. What is going on here is fear of being inferior, which really is desire for superiority. Simply stated, it is desire for superiority that is at the root of paranoia.
Every thing that the paranoid personality does is motivated by his fear of inferiority and desire for superiority. He is afraid of sameness and equality and wants to seem special. He must learn to accept our sameness and equality. He must give up his neurotic/psychotic wish for the impossible, superiority, to become possible.
The creations of God are inherently equal and there is nothing any human being can do to make any person superior to other people. The head of state is the same as the garbage collector. In fact, the garbage collector may even be more crucial for our survival than the idle politician. Consider, if the garbage collector did not collect our wastes, we would die from it. Politicians, particularly the African brand who do nothing for their people, are in the language of paranoia, inferior to garbage collectors. (In the language of mental health, every person is the same, there is no inferior or superior person; inferiority and superiority are delusions, false beliefs.)
Lest I appear overly optimistic and naï¶¥, let me stress that it is very difficult to get the paranoid person to give up his desire for superiority and fear of inferiority. As far as I know, very few therapists (?) have ever succeeded in persuading paranoid persons to give up their delusions of superiority.
The mad man, apparently, prefers to walk the streets isolated from other human beings, rather than accept relating to other people. This is because he is unwilling to do what relationship requires: see all persons as the same and coequal with him. In his psychotic delusions, he imagines himself superior to other people. Since he is not so, other people leave him to live in his fantasy world. Thus, he pays the price of desiring specialness by being alone in the world.
To avoid being lonely, he must give up his desired special self and accept our equal self.
Paranoia is a result of certain thinking and behaving patterns: the desire for a special self. To heal paranoia, the paranoid person must learn to think and behave differently; to see him self as the same and equal to all people and to behave accordingly. He must resist the temptation to seem better than other people.
Any moment a human being yields to the temptation, which is always there, to think and behave as if he is superior to other people, he has disconnected himself to other people, in religious language, he has sinned.
In my experience, no one can heal paranoia unless we factor in the spiritual element. In fact, I think that the reason secular therapists have no track record of healing paranoia is that they took God out of the equation.
I think that paranoia arose from the individual?s efforts to take God out of his life, his rejection that God created him and that he did not create himself. His delusional efforts to seem special are really childish efforts to seem self created, beginning with his invention of the ideal self concept and its self image.
To heal paranoia, I believe that we need spirituality. I think that combined secular and spiritual psychology can heal paranoia and other mental illnesses.
Therefore, I will share with you my metaphysics. Do with it what you lay. It is not the only approach to God there is; there are infinite approaches to God, but this is the approach that makes sense to me.
Ultimately, my goal is not to get lost in theological disputations, but to enable the paranoid person to accept that he is not the author of reality, that God is. He must bow to his creator, God. He did not create himself, other people and the world, as his ego would like to believe. He must relinquish the wish to create himself and the world and accept the reality that a higher power created him and the world.
Whereas mental health professionals do treat schizophrenia, paranoid type with the various neuroleptic medications and those medications appear to reduce hallucinations but not eliminate them (these medications, apparently, reduce the levels of the neurotransmitter, dopamine, in the central nervous system and somehow that reduces hallucinations), persons with paranoid personality disorder are generally not treated with medications.
Personality, normal and abnormal, is a systemic response to the environment; it is how the individual, his body included, responds to his world. It is, therefore, not just a product of biological disorders, although medical disorders contribute to it in as much as they play a role in the individual feeling inferior relative to our tough physical environment. Paranoid personality disorder, as well as other personality disorders are not medical issues and are not treated with medication.
However, every now and then, the paranoid person does feel anxious. His anxiety is probably psychological in nature, not medical. He posits and pursues a grandiose goal that he is never going to achieve. In the meantime, he struggles mightily to attain his goals and fears not attaining them. The fear of not becoming his ideal perfect self and not attaining whatever other big goals he set for himself produces anxiety for him.
Because he feels anxious, some medical doctors are tempted to give him some of the anti anxiety medications (such as valium, Librium, Xanax, Ativan etc). These may temporarily reduce his anxiety. But these medications have adverse side effects and are very physiologically and psychologically addictive; folks go through severe withdrawal symptoms trying to quit them, including experiencing visual and tactile hallucination and heart palpitations. It is, therefore, not a good idea to give paranoid personalities medications.
What is therapeutic for paranoid personalities, as well as other disordered personalities, is for them to change the pattern of their thinking and behavior; to cognitive restructure their mind through cognitive behavior therapy. The paranoid personality needs to give up his desire to be superior and stop acting as if he is superior to any one else. He needs to accept our sameness, equality and unified nature and work for our common interest. In Adlerian fashion, these persons need to dedicate themselves to serving social interest?Adler believed that serving social interest is the best therapy for neurosis, and, by generalization psychosis.
The paranoid Igbo brother in naijapolitics does not need medications; he just needs to change his pattern of thinking and behaving; he needs to accept all people as like him and work to uplift all people rather than try to destroy them through his tendency of trying to humiliate people, so as to feel superior to them?psychoanalytically, he feels humiliated by life and, therefore, wants to do unto other people what was done to him, to humiliate others; he feels belittled by life and wants to belittle other people etc. Now he must work to make life joyous for all people, if he is to heal his apparent paranoid personality disorder; if he heals his disorder, his obvious bright mind could be put to productive use for all Nigerians.
(The goal of this paper, inter alia, is to help heal the brother; I enjoy the flashes of brilliance that his writing exhibits but do not like his underlying paranoia. That underlying disorder makes him quarrel with just about everybody, to the point where he hides from people, thinking that they are out to kill him. One hears that he sought police protection, a doing that would play into his paranoid grandiosity: for one must be important for the police to be protecting one individually. Nobody wants to harm him. He ought to join all people and work for their mutual good, rather than always trying to pull them down; he must give up his perverse paranoid interest in pulling people down and develop the healthy trait of accentuating only the good in people.)
A STORY OF CREATION/METHOLOGY
I believe that every human being must have a story of creation, albeit a mythology. We do ask questions such as: how did we come into being? In as much as we ask such questions, an answer must be attempted.
Science provides an answer in the area of energy and matter. I am talking about the Big Bang hypothesis that claims that fifteen billion years ago, all matter was in a ball the size of an atom, called state of Presingularity and that this ball shattered and threw its contents out and in nanoseconds space and time were invented and subsequently particles came into being, out of nowhere, and that these particles, in time, combined to form atoms and in time atoms differentiated into the 104 elements we have on the current Chemical table and that the elements formed molecules that in time produced the stars and planets and eventually biological life forms and ultimately human beings. The Big Bang story is a fascinating imaginative fairy tale. We work with it in the area of physical science but we do not have any illusions that it is the truth. It is simply a mythology that seems to answer our question of how matter came into being.
We also need a story on how we, as human beings, came into being. We have Charles Darwin?s views on how animals evolved. Interesting hypothesis, that. However, it does not explain how the sense of I, the self came into being.
No one knows how the self came into being. Neuroscientists claim that the self is epiphenomenal, that is, a product of the configuration of atoms in our brains, the result of the dance of electrical ions in our nervous system. Oh, really? Let us amuse ourselves differently.
There are millions of stories on how people came into being. Indeed, every human group had its own story, and every individual has his own twist on his group?s story of creation, all of them false. These stories, false as they are, respond to our need to understand our origin.
As the world moves towards one universal culture, clearly, all the particularistic stories of creation will die and a universal story of creation will replace them. (See Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth.)
The story of creation in the Christian bible, the story of Adam and Eve is obviously not true and, as far as, such stories go is not particularly interesting, certainly not as interesting as the Igbo story of creation.
In as much as we need a story of creation and past ones seem not to satisfy us, consider this story of creation; it is not the truth, but it approximates the truth. I will merely summarize it here for I have elaborated on it elsewhere.
There is God. God is one. God is everything and everything is God. God is everywhere and everywhere is in God.
God extended his one self into other selves. He gave all of his self to each of his extended selves. All of God is in each of his extension; aka the son of God. The Son of God is in God and in other extensions of God, other children of God.
God is in us and we are in God and in each other. There is no space or gap between us and God and each of us and the rest of us. Where God ends and his son begin is nowhere. We are all joined as one self, the one self of God. We all share the one self of God; we all share the one mind of God.
God is creative and created us; he gave us, his creations, his creative ability and we do create, like God. We create with the creative power of God in us, not with our own powers. As it were, we co-create with God.
God and his children are infinite in numbers.
God has always existed. God has no beginning and no end. There was never a time when there was no God.
Since each Son of God is an extension of God, therefore, each Son of God has existed for as long as God has existed.
Yet God created his children; they did not create God and themselves. Though all creation is changeless, permanent and eternal yet God created them all.
The difference between the Son of God and God is that God created him and he did not create God.
The Son of God resented the fact that God created him, pretty much as adolescents on earth resent being the children of their parents and want to reverse the process and be their parents? parents. We wanted to create God, create ourselves and create each other.
In other words, we wanted to kill God and become God, chase God out of his creatorship throne and usurp it and sit there. (All these are metaphors, so do not get carried away and think that we are talking literal truth here; enjoy the metaphor, they actually approximate the truth but are not the truth.)
We cannot create God and ourselves. But the wish to do so was so strong that we cast a magical spell, what Hinduism calls Maya, on ourselves, and seems to have gone to sleep. In our sleep, we dream that we are the author of reality, that we created God, each other and ourselves. We invented our separated self-concepts, our egos, our self-images, and our personalities. Our personalities are replacement selves; we use them to substitute the selves God created us as. God created us as unified with him, a unified self; we seem to have destroyed that holy self and invented separated selves housed in bodies for us. On earth, in the dream of specialness and separation, we see ourselves as in bodies and separated from each other.
Our world is the opposite of heaven: separation is the opposite of union, time is the opposite of eternity, change is the opposite of changelessness; mortality is the opposite of immortality, hate is the opposite of love etc.
We are on earth to oppose heaven?s will. God wills union and we wish separation; God wills sameness and equality and we wish differences and inequality. What we wish we saw in dreams. (See Helen Schucman, A Course in Miracles. Also see M. The Gospel of Ramakrishna.)
(The paranoid person wishes that he were superior to other persons, acts as such, and seems so in his dream world, hence the paranoid personalities called Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Idi Amin seemed like superior persons, when, in fact, they felt inferior; in truth they are the same and equal with all people).
Each of us wishes to seem superior to other persons and invents situations that would make him seem so. The paranoid personality invented an inferior body for himself, feels inferior and compensates with a superior feeling self-concept. We have seen how he goes about feeling superior to other people when, in fact, he is not superior to any one. Hitler and the Nazis felt superior to other people, when, in fact, they were not. They felt superior to Jews, and killed Jews. They felt superior to Slavic people and killed them. People do act on their insane ideas.
The paranoid Igbo brother in naija-politics feels superior to other persons and acts as such. He sets himself up as god and from that imaginary standpoint criticizes every person. He satisfies his desire for superiority by making other people?s lives very miserable. Of course, he is not superior to any one; he is merely dreaming superiority.
But make no mistake about it: people act on their wishes. Thus, the brother acts on his delusion of superiority and does not want to see himself as the same and equal with other members of the forum. He is capable of doing harm to other people. In pursuit of his fictional superiority, he can hurt, even kill people. One must, therefore, keep studied eyes on him. Paranoid persons do kill people, so he must be watched and if he acts out arrest and place him in a psychiatric hospital.
In my experience, Igbos tend to fancy themselves smarter than other Nigerian groups. They behave as such. But in truth, they are just like other Nigerian groups. The Igbo sense of superiority is delusional sense of superiority. No ethnic group is superior to others, just as no race is superior to others. But like deluded paranoid persons, Igbos tend to think that just because they want to seem superior to others, that other Nigerian groups should accept their delusion and see them as their superiors.
In terms of material culture, most other Nigerian groups are, in fact, more developed than Igbos. The Hausa, Fulani, Yoruba and
The relevant point here is that Igbos tend to deceive themselves into believing that they are superior to other Nigerian groups when, in fact, they are not so.
What the individual and group needs to do is relinquish his/their sense of superiority and come to see himself/themselves as the same and equal with all people.
To the extent that a human being accepts his sameness and equality with all people, and behaves as such, he unifies with all people.
In union with all people, the individual attains inner peace and joy.
I must confess, however, that the temptation to seem superior to other people is not easily relinquished, even by those of us who know the truth of human equality. I still find myself wishing to seem superior to other people, if not in my conscious life, but in my dreams at night. Consider the following dream that I had two days ago.
DREAM AND DREAM INTERPRETATION
Sigmund Freud attempted to understand people?s dreams. As he saw it, in their daily lives, people seem to behave in a very rational manner, but that they are not really rational. He believes that people?s dreams give us an opportunity to really understand what is in their minds. (He also employed other means to get to understand the real person; he believed that we tend to repress our true wishes into the unconscious mind and that if only we can reach that level of our mind that we would get to see what is hidden there; thus, in therapy sessions, he had his clients lay on a couch and speak without checking to make sense of what they said; they were to say whatever comes to their mind, uncensored; they were not to block their thinking, free associate, to not try to make them rational and just to let them come out, flow; the idea was for them to bring what was repressed into their unconscious to the conscious mind; to dreg it out, catharsis, and Freud would then analyze it. Freud believed that people wished to have sex with both men and women and are polymorphous sexual perverse and hid this socially unacceptable idea in their unconscious; that, in fact, they want to have sex with their parents but hid such wishes in their unconscious mind; this is the so-called oedipal complex. See Freud, Dream Interpretation.)
Freud believed that in dreams we gratify what we wish that we could not gratify in conscious living; society prevents us from doing many things, we internalized social norms as our superego and that checks our Id wishes and the ego balances the two wishes. In dreams, we gratify our day time wishes that we could not gratify lest society punish us. To Freud, dreams are the royal road to the unconscious.
Other psychoanalysts also employed Dream analysis to understand the true individual. Adler, Jung and others explored dreams.
I believe that dreams are useful for the individual to understand his real wishes and real self. However, I do not believe that other people can accurately interpret the individual?s dreams, for dreams are highly specific and particular to the individual; there are no universally accepted dream interpretations.
My wife?s alarm clock went off at 7AM and woke us up. I went back to sleep. I dreamed. In this dream, I and other members of my family were walking along our suburban street. I looked back and saw what, as kids at
The shit carriers wore rags over their face, perhaps to cover their noses and breathe less of the feces they were carrying and to disguise their identity, so that no one knew who they were. Their covered feces and the shit they were carrying made them look scary to little boys and we fled from them. (We used to think that they could kidnap and put us in the tin of shit on their heads and go throw us away.)
Shit-carriers were low in the social pecking order and were dreaded by us kids. No one wanted to be an agwuepo. That is to say that folks wanted to be superior to them.
Now back to my dream. I was walking on an American middle class suburban street and looked behind me and saw the shit carrier coming towards us. I ran to the bank of the street to avoid contact with him. The other members of my family did not make much ado about him, they just stepped aside, as he walked pass them, indeed, my wife even said hi to him. (The dream has relevance for me, not other people.) We continued on our walk. Then I looked behind me, again. I saw another shit carrier coming towards us. Again, I jumped to the side of the street. The shit career followed me to where I jumped to. Somehow I got home and was lying on a humongous bed, a bed that could contain the entire family of five (husband, wife and three children). We were all lying comfortable on the bed when I noticed that the shit carrier was lying with us, right in our middle. I freaked out and jumped up, wondering what in the world the man was doing on my bed?
He got up with me and went to the refrigerator and came up with fruit cocktails in small plastic cuts and began handing them out to the members of the family. I was aghast; thinking that the man must have contaminated our refrigerator by touching it and certainly the fruit cocktails was filled germs? I was not going to eat what the man touched. In the meantime, other members of the family accepted the cocktails from him and ate them and thanked him graciously for preparing such a delicious meal for them.
My face was all contorted as the man handed me a cup filled with cocktail of grapes and other fruit goodies. I was thinking of a polite way to refuse it, and not to eat it. At that point, I woke up, aware of the cocktail in my hand. I looked at the clock and it was exactly 7:15 AM. That is, the sleep and dream took place within an interval of fifteen minutes.
The dream was very vivid in my mind, so I went to a room we converted into our office and sat in front of a computer and typed it.
After typing it verbatim, I began to wonder what it meant. Here is the thought that came to my mind. The shit career represents lower class persons, that is, inferior persons. I was running from the low class shit carrier. I did not want to have anything to-do with him. I wanted to be superior to him. I had no respect for him.
The significance of this dream is that despite my conscious acceptance of my sameness and equality with all people that at the unconscious level that I feel superior to some people, the shit carrier of this world. Shit carriers symbolize poor people. I wanted to seem superior to poor people.
I kept reflecting on the import of the dream and the obvious hit me. I talk about equality but, in truth, avoid the poor. Generally, if a person is not well read, I tended to avoid him.
What is the point? The point is that at the unconscious level, I still had the wish to be superior to other people. Consciously, I do not want to be superior to other people, but unconsciously the wish is still there.
In my dream, my wish was satisfied for me, for dreams provide us opportunity to satisfy our wishes that we cannot gratify in wake life.
The salience of the dream is that I still had work to do; I still must work to see every person as the same and equal with me.
The dream teaches me that we are all a family, that shit carrier are part of my family?he was laying in the same bed with my family and eating with us, so he is symbolically my family member and I must treat him as such, for all people are children of one family, God?s unified family.
On a different note, the dream means that it is very difficult for people to accept their sameness and equality. I found it difficult to accept the shit carrier as my equal and family member.
The paranoid personality finds it almost impossible to see himself as the same and equal with all people. Can you imagine our Internet paranoid Igbo character accepting that he is the same as other people? The man has the illusion that he is better than other people.
A few minutes again, I minimized my typing and read his posting on the forum and, as usual, he sounded pedantic, convoluted and superior, all in a childish effort to seem erudite and superior to other people.
This man admires the achievers of this world and has contempt for the losers of this world. His talk is replete with admiration for the powerful men and women of the world and disrespect for poor people. No, this man would rather die than accept his equality with poor folks. (See Adorno et al, The Authoritarian Personality.)
The point is that it is difficult to give up the wish for superiority. Even when one has consciously done so, as I have done, unconsciously, one still wants to be superior to other people.
The mentally ill wants to seem superior to other people; paranoid persons, in particular, want to seem superior to other people.
Mental illness lies in the wish to seem superior to other people, to disobey God?s will that we are the same and equal and remake us in such a manner that one is now superior to other people.
If you can get the paranoid person and other mentally ill persons to give up their not so secret wish for superiority and accept sameness and equality, you are on the way to healing them.
If a person sees all people as the same as him, loves and forgives all and serves all in some form, he is as mentally healthy as is possible in this world.
Nobody here on earth, the world of forms, can be totally mentally healthy, for to be in body is to have interfered with reality.
Our reality is spirit, not body. Body is means of seeming different and separated from other people. That is to say that to be in body at all is to be insane. The most that one can do is using ones body to love other people in bodies. When one uses ones body to love other people in bodies one approximates normalcy, normal insanity, and not mental health. One attains what Bahaullah called the lesser peace, what Ramakrishna called ego love and what our poetess, Helen Schucman calls happy dream, gate of heaven and real world.
COGNITIVE BEHAVIOR THERAPY
I believe that it is possible to understand how people think and where there is thinking disorders change them. Thinking tends to be reflected in behavior. Where there are thinking disorders there are behavior disorders. Therefore, we must correct our thinking disorders and behavior disorders.
Cognitive behavior therapists like Albert Ellis and Aaron Beck attempt to teach their clients how to reconstruct and reorient their problematic thinking and behavior. Ellis, for example, tells his clients that it is not what happens in the world that makes them depressed, anxious or angry (or any other emotional upset) but how they interpret it. As he sees it, one can choose to interpret the same event in such a manner that it depresses one or makes one happy.
Let say that a white man called a black man nigger. The black man may feel offended by it and feel angry. He may then fight the white man. On the other hand, he may choose to see the name caller as not worth responding to. Indeed, he may even pity him, from the understanding that mature persons do not put people down, but find ways to elevate them.
The point is that whether one feels anxious, angry or sad is up to one. One can respond to the same situation differently. Therefore, one is responsible for how one feels and acts.
Ellis built his therapy on Epictetus? philosophy. Epectatus was a Roman stoic thinker, a slave who found a way to be happy despite being a slave. He did not feel diminished by his low social status. Obviously, any human being could rationalize whatever he wants to rationalize. If a woman is a prostitute, she can tell herself that she is making a living out of it and not feel degraded by her profession. Be that as it may, it is probably better not to be a prostitute, since as a prostitute, one is likely to be infected by diseases and die from them. Ellis is therefore not a very profound philosopher for his ideas could lead to tolerating abuses by other people. If you slap someone, you inflicted pain on him and ought to not do so. Because you did so, that person may choose to forgive you. I will forgive you but insist that you do not repeat the offensive action again. If you do, I want you arrested and jailed and while in jail re-socialized, so that you learn to help and love rather than inflict pain on other people.
My approach to cognitive behavior therapy is different from what Western therapists like Ellis and Beck do.
I teach people to think and behave differently. In this paper, I have pointed out how paranoid persons think and behave. I have pointed out how they need to think and behave differently. They think in terms of inferiority and superiority; they can learn to think in terms of sameness, equality, love and forgiveness.
This type of change in thinking and behaving tends to lead to healing mental disorders. Try it and find out whether it is therapeutic or not. See all people as the same and equal with you, forgive and love all people and find a way to work for our common good and see whether you would not feel peaceful and happy. We do not need to argue, for the taste of the pudding lays in the tasting, try it and find out for you.
SHRINKING THE EGO THROUGH PRAYER AND MEDITATION
Many therapists do not want to work with paranoid persons; they throw their hands up and think it hopeless trying to help paranoid persons. The reason for this is that of all the people who come to therapy, paranoids are the most difficult to help. They are difficult to help because they desire to retain their separated ego selves. Paranoids desire to seem important persons and do not want to let go of their big selves. On the other hand, the business of psychotherapy is to shrink the big ego self to normal size. That is why they call therapists shrinks: they really aim at shrinking people?s swollen egos down to manageable size.
The person who does not want his ego shrunk to rational size obviously is not going to come to shrinks?paranoids seldom come to therapists, unless forced? and are not going to benefit from therapy. Indeed, paranoids come to therapy hoping to strengthen their big egos and when they learn that the therapist aims otherwise, they get scared and quit coming. They leave and go retain their big ego selves. Unbeknown to them, as long as they maintain their big ego selves, they will live in pain and suffer.
The problem of man is that he believes that he has a separated special self. I will put it bluntly to you. Man does not have a separated special self. The separated special, that is, superior self, is an illusion; it is a self that exists as in a dream but, in fact, does not exist. What exists in truth is the unified self.
There is one God, if you do not like the word God, then say one life, for God is life.
That one God, one life, extended himself to each of us and we are united with him and with each other. Our true state is formless spirit; we are unified spirit. This is a fact, not conjecture.
We desired to seem separated from our real self and went into a dream where we dream as separated selves housed in bodies and each seeming separated self seeks specialness and importance.
The paranoid person seeks specialness and separated from God and other people to go seem special and superior. On earth, in the dream, he strives to seem self created and creator of God and all people; he struggles to be important. All these strivings are part of his delusion, and that is why they call it delusional disorder, he wants to believe in what is not true as true. He is unified with all and he wants to seem separated from all; he is the same and equal with all and he wants to seem different and superior to all; he is created by God and he wants to seem self created; in a word, he is deluded, insane. It is because he is insane that he needs healing, although he does not know it.
Healing for the paranoid, as it is for all human beings, is to relinquish the paranoid?s outward movement, ego, and return to the inward process and rediscover his true self, unified same and equal self.
Meditation is the best way to reconnect to ones real self. I practice Buddhist meditation, every day, for one hour, at least. I recommend it for you. However, you can practice any kind of meditation, Hindu, Zen etc that you like. The name does not matter, what matters is that you know what meditation is trying to accomplish and do it consciously.
Meditation is aimed at eliminating your separated special self. That is correct, meditation aims at destroying what you currently call your self concept, self image and personality and replacing them with your real self.
Twenty five hundred years ago, Gautama Buddha recognized that what human beings call their self concepts, self images and personalities seem to exist but, in fact, do not exist. This is literal not figurative. What we call our selves are dream figures, not real selves. The human personality is a pipe dream, a smoke that does not exist and only seems to exist in a dream setting, Maya. It seems to exist for those who want it to exist and defend it (with what psychoanalysts call ego defense mechanisms, such as, repression, suppression, denial, dissociation, projection, displacement, rationalization, intellectualization, sublimation, reaction formation, avoidance, fantasy, minimizing, acting out, fear, anger, pride, shame, paranoia, depression, hallucination etc). People have non-existent selves that are housed in bodies and defend them and their defense makes them seem real. Withdraw the defense and those selves are non-existent.
Do you want to find out that your so-called ego self is not real? Then try meditation. In meditation, you consciously deny the existence of your ego. You tell yourself that the self you know is not real, is a fiction. You tell yourself that what the self you know thinks is not true, is as false as itself. Thus, you negate all your conceptual thinking. You say, in Hindu terms, neti, neti, not this, not this. You deny the truth of whatever the empirical self tells you. You deny the empirical self itself. You deny knowing anything. You firmly tell yourself that you do not know anything. You then ask to be told who you are, who other people are and what things mean. Your superficial ego rushes in and tries to tell you who you are and what things are. Neuroscience, the latest ego noise, tells you that you are a product of the dance of atoms. But firmly reject whatever the empirical self tells you are the truth and try to be quiet.
In effect, you destroy your empirical self and its world. You, in Buddhist terms, aim at having no separated self. If you can truly aim at this and keep denying the reality of your ego self, you will get to a point where you attain inner silence, peace, bliss (for peace is synonymous with joy).
You feel like you do not exist. You are not any particular thing; you are NOTHING. Nothing is everything! You are part of everything.
If you continue with self negation, you literally rise above our empirical world and enter a world where all are the same and equal, where there is no you and I, no seer and seen, no subject and object. In Buddhist term, this is called Nirvana (Zen calls it Satori and Hinduism calls it Samadhi). It is a world of one unified light, a continuous light that begins nowhere and ends nowhere. All beings are part of that eternal light. It is formless, it is spirit, and it is permanent and changeless. What am I talking about? It can not be described in human terms, it is ineffable.
But to attain knowledge of our real self, unified self, one must give up the false ego self one made to replace it with. One must give up identification with the separated, special ego self. One must give up the human personality. One must give up ones self concept and self image. One must give up the substitute self one identifies with and come to ones God as he created one, unified and holy.
Our true identity is a holy self, that is, a unified self, what Christians call the Christ and Hindus call Atman and Buddhists call Buddha self. Call it what you like, it has no name, it just is.
To attain awareness of the real self, one must overcome the false ego self one currently identifies with. Additionally, as Buddha taught, one must have compassion for all sentient beings and as Brother Jesus the Christ taught, one must forgive and love all human beings and as the last of the prophets, Mohammed taught, one must submit to God; one must have no other God but Allah.
Forgive, love all and then come to our God in meditation and behold that God is real. God is the only reality that exists, all else is noise.
What is salient is that the individual, and for our present purposes, the paranoid person must give up his cherished special separated self and its facial intellect.
The Igbo chap that makes a whole lot of noise at naijapolitics forum must seek his true self. If I were him, I would do so under some religious forum. It really does not matter what religion one accepts; all religions are paths to God: Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, New Age Christianity such as propagated by Unity Church and A Course in Miracles, they are all useful in enabling the individual to shrink his swollen ego and return to the awareness of his real self, unified spirit self.
But the brother is lost in ego superficial reasoning and embraces the flippant ideas propagated by childish scientists that there is no God. He quickly tells you that there is no God and that he does not accept any religion. Indeed, he has a condescending attitude towards religionists; it is as if they are not rational enough and cannot cope with the exigencies of life without seeking protection from an illusion called God.
We have heard that one before. The character called Sigmund Freud wrote a book called the Future of an Illusion in which he claimed that religionists are like children seeking a powerful father figure to protect them in our precarious world. To him, God is a fiction and belief in him is neurotic (in as much as neurosis is belief in what is not true as true). Poor Freud, he knew so much that he was addicted to a mood altering drug, cocaine, and could not overcome his anxiety and his numerous phobias. The man talked shop about anxiety neurosis and yet could not overcome his various fears and actually had to be blind folded to be dragged out of
The paranoid person is totally identified with his spurious ego and its intellect and finds it difficult to relinquish it and explore other ways of knowing. But to heal his paranoia, he must give up his ego; he must voluntarily not identify with the ego; he must stop trusting the separated special self and trust in God, (God as God, the transcendent God is not in this world, but an aspect of God, the immanent God, the Holy Spirit is in this world) his unified real self.
Meditation is the quickest way of attaining awareness of the real self, the unified self (hence Hinduism called Raja Yoga, the royal yoga?the other Yogas: Jnana, the path of the intellect; Bhakti Yoga, the path of worship; Karma yoga, the path of public service; Tantra yoga, the path of sensual pleasure etc ultimately lead to real self realization but take longer to do so; meditation, raja yoga is the quickest path to real self realization, to awareness of the reality of God).
Prayer and meditation are indispensable in any effort to know the truth of who we are. One must constantly pray to God to guide one, to lead one on the path of righteousness (forgiveness, love, social service etc what Buddha called the eight noble paths?recall that Buddha talked about how all life is suffering, how suffering is caused by our desire to live ego separated life, how suffering is overcome when we stop desiring ego separated self, when we give up attachment to the ego and are detached to the egos world and its ephemeral things; how we must live a moral life, always speaking the truth, not harming other people, not stealing, and having compassion for all people).
Yes, one must pray for the Holy Spirit?s guidance and relinquish the counsel of the ego self.
Prayer is talking to God. Meditation is listing to God. One must talk and listen to God hence both prayer and meditation is crucial in all efforts to know who we truly are.
Western psychotherapy generally does not include prayer and other religious practices. However, it is gradually coming around to embracing meditation. In time, it would overcome its present adolescent stage of evolution and become adult. As an adult profession, it would encourage a return to religion, and return to prayer and meditation as a means of knowing who we truly are.
In the meantime, the paranoid personality is full of him self; his ego is swollen up and he finds it difficult to pray to God. He sees himself as in competition with God. God, he thinks, is his rival for power. He wants to eliminate God and replace him and become the creator of himself, creator of other people and creator of the world. The paranoid is on a power trip. That is why he is deluded.
His delusion disorder is healed when he stops the childishness of trying to replace his father, God, and accept him as his creator.
One must accept God as ones creator and pray to him and ask him for guidance in everything one does. Before one makes any decision, one must pause and go inwards, pray and ask God?s Holy Spirit to guide one. Invariably, God asks one to act out of forgiveness, love and public service. Whatever one does out of love cannot be totally wrong.
The paranoid probably will not give up his egotism in this life time. But if he learns that the ego is his problem and makes some effort to be egoless, he will benefit.
To the extent that the individual thinks and behaves egolessly, he feels peaceful and happy.
Peace and joy are the gifts of God, are reward for being ones real self, while still in the world of forms, bodies, space and time.
Our paranoid friends must learn to start working on their swollen egos and start giving their false selves up; they must give up their self concepts, self images and personalities; they must give up the masks of specialness that they wear, so as to see their true self, a unified spirit self, a loving and forgiving, hence peaceful and happy self.
In the meantime, paranoids live a tumultuous existence, almost always alienating those around them and experiencing social conflicts everywhere they go. Sadly, they do not recognize that it is they themselves that generate their conflicts by attaching to the ego self.
To be identified with the ego self is to live in hell, a hell of ones making. To be released from the ego jail house, one must jettison the ego and embrace ones real self, the unified self, the holy self, the Christ self, the Atman self, the Buddha self, the Chi self. In the Chi self lay peace, happiness and material abundance.
My experience as a human being and from working in the mental health field leads me to conclude that people, by and large, think and behave in a manner that is not always conducive to mental health. Biological and social factors contribute to the manner people think. We need to address those. However, we also need to teach these people how to think and behave in such a manner that they are at peace with their world.
People need to see all people as the same and equal; they need to love and forgive all people; they need to find out what they like doing and good at doing and do it for all of society.
Do all these and I am convinced that you would be peaceful and happy. Peace and happiness are the indices of mental health.
I have elaborated the ideas summarized in this paper in my book, Real Self Psychology. If you are interested in this manner of thinking and behaving, you may want to take look at that book.
*This has been a year during which I introduced myself to folks. Next year, I will focus on politics; each week I will do a write up on the political economy of an African country.
Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year by Thinking and Behaving Differently: from Ego to Christ Thinking and Behaving patterns.
December 20, 2005
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