What I am wondering is what is the difference between delusions and beliefs? Beliefs are very powerful, and most people do not like when their beliefs are challenged or threatened. However, what makes a belief a truth? It can’t just be because we want it to be so. That is the definition of a self fulfilling prophesy. It is probably not a good idea to just decide something is true because we want it to be true. However, even though we do not think so, I ‘m sure we have all tried to do that.
For example I came across a case study in one of my core classes for my Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling, that described a young man who chose not to study for his PSAT, because he believed that he would do well with the knowledge he had “as is”. Convenient, however, he did not do well on the test. Now is he deluded because he wanted something to be true, and then decided it was in fact true when it was not true? This makes me wonder what part, if any, does Ego play in this phenomenon?
Many religious beliefs are upheld as true no matter how much science, experience, or contradictory concepts indicate that another truth could possibly be present. This does not alarm me because I have observed that adherence to beliefs is linked to survival, and this is why people often go into an uproar when their beliefs are challenged. It isn’t the beliefs themselves, that cause the uproar. When survival is perceived to be at stake, it is ‘natural’ for an individual to defend and fight back to the end. People tend to agree subconsciously that their beliefs give their lives meaning, purpose and even survival.
It seems to be a natural tendency to think that we are our thoughts and beliefs, and to attach ourselves to these fleeting notions. Thoughts and beliefs change over time. Thoughts and beliefs change, while we, or “I”, the observer remains constant. I have learned to ask myself : “who am I without my stuff, who am I without my house and car; who am I without my job, my friends, and the biggie, my children?”
Who really knows what is the truth and what is a delusion? Maybe it is just that when our delusions do not match-up with the mainstream’s, then we are considered delusional. Delusions that are considered bizarre could be difficult to weigh-out or judge especially since for every culture there exists different beliefs.
That being said, I do realize that delusions are the hallmark to the mental illness Schizophrenia, and I believe that treatment and education are a must. Individuals who suffer from this disease in its more serious forms, who have disorganized thoughts, and behaviors, hallucinations and dysfunctions, do suffer greatly.
Many moons ago, when I was an undergraduate at McGill University in Montreal, I was fortunate to have been given the opportunity to assist in a study which was at the time attempting to differentiate between all the different types of schizophrenia. I remember being handed dozens of pages containing many proposed differentiated forms of schizophrenia. At the time the researcher was attempting to figure out whether these were all aspects of one disease or whether they are all different and unrelated –even though they shared many symptoms.
I graduated before the study was concluded but I remember that at the time we were beginning to suspect that they shared the same root but mutated enough, that the forms were actually different disorders. Human history is filled with delusional figures, religious and otherwise, revered and feared. It goes back a long way and I believe we all have the potential to be delusional.
Perhaps the ability to experience delusions is linked with the survival mechanism. It could be a way of psychically protecting the experiential world of the individual from perceived threat. This would actually be a compelling argument for an actual connection between emotions and biology. The body’s, indeed Life’s “fight” to survive, is the primary emotion from which all others stem. Primary Emotion married Physical and gave birth to Love and Fear, followed by Separation and Unity. The expression of pure being(non physical) is perpetuated by the continuation of consciousness (physical).
Also I have noticed it seems as long as the delusion is collectively believed, then deluded or not it becomes what we refer to as normal.
The French term, folie a deux, translates something like: two, sharing a madness, and was coined in the 19th century in France. I may be going out on a limb here, but I am beginning to see some interesting relationships. I believe it was Carl Jung who theorized about a concept he called the collective unconscious, and Toltec philosophies theorize that we are all (people/consciousness) dreaming a dream, that life is but a dream. Further, in everyday circumstances collectivism is expressed in many forms. Republicans, and Dems; Christian and Jew, and on and on. The more people who join in a belief, whether delusional or not, the more powerfully it expresses itself.
Beliefs are as powerful, in my opinion as drives so the formation of delusions seems almost like a malfunctioning in belief formation. Think of cults. Also, the power of suggestion is incredibly mighty. When you consider these kinds of things, and the pull towards collectivism in general, this disorder seems conceptually to make a little more sense to me.
In a way, we are all buying into each others’ illusions and delusions but again the measurement that tips the scale is the bizarreness and length of time of the shared delusion.
Brief psychotic disorder comes on suddenly, as opposed to its cousin, shared psychotic disorder. Shared Psychotic Disorder seems to be more gradual in development and is related to being exposed to the other’s delusion over time.
Because of the suddenness of Brief Psychotic disorder I suspect that a chemical change, beyond regular metabolic changes and exchanges is the cause. This could be the consequence to experiencing extreme and unusual stress. Stress causes the brain to secrete powerful hormones and toxins and a sudden flood of these will no doubt be disorienting at best. Ruling out medical prescriptions, and illegal drugs, or head trauma, what else could be the cause?
Cognitive theories focus on the delusional beliefs which have a biological cause. Behavioral theory is also needed for Schizophrenia because another hallmark, aside from disorganized thought and speech, individuals display no regard for social skills or acceptable responses.