Delusions of Grandeur

To all whose websites I had linked to, I had to take them down because my email was hacked, but I will post them again soon. The email problem is completely resolved now.

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First I will paste in what I wrote back in 2006 about Delusions of Grandeur, henceforth  reduced to the easy-to-understand shorthand, DoG. (Sorry, all you dog-lovers out there!) Then I will elaborate and/or explain where I differ in my thinking now.

From July 2006, then (with a few edits for easier reading):

Delusions of Grandeur

Where do they come from? Mine were usually of a negative grandeur as you know. I was  the devil, the most evil person in the world, I needed to kill myself or burn myself to a crisp in order to save the world from my poison. I even went so far as to set my leg on fire, prelude to setting myself on fire in order to do this, and burned marks on my forehead to prove I was Cain, so people would be warned and stay away…as a result I have had ECT, been restrained, isolated, locked up for months and all the other humiliating things they do to people they think might seriously hurt themselves or others. And obviously I might have, and did. But whence came this sort of thought? And why do others believe they are God or Jesus Christ or as one person I met claimed, the song-writer who provided John Lennon with his music. Their delusions may seem more positive than mine, yet I know they suffered much as I did, probably because they too went unbelieved and scoffed-at. Where does this kind of false belief, clung to in the face of so much evidence to the contrary, come from?

I’m not completely sure but DoG seem, both in their positive and negative incarnations, to derive from a terrible feeling that you lack self-worth in the world, your secret knowledge — if you have SZ or another devastating mental illness, that it has robbed you of everything you were supposed to have, be and do, that you are entirely useless and empty and without value in life. The illness itself produces this feeling, and the feeling is secondarily strengthened as a result of having the illness. People who develop DoG respond to their feelings of worthlessness  with the conscious or unconscious fantasy of a powerful false-self to make up for the lack of real power — to do, to be, to create in life. Others, like me, accept our lack of value, only we exaggerate it until it becomes the dominant factor in our lives and colors everything, so that we cannot but refer everything to it and see all through its lens. We become convinced that if everything in our lives is contaminated by our worthlessness, maybe everything in the entire world is contaminated as well.

I don’t understand the transition from feelings of worthlessness to actual belief in false and grandiose facts, the transition to delusion. But I believe the connection is there, from lack of any sense of self-esteem transitioning somehow to delusions of grandeur. And that either positive or negative delusions all derive from a negative feeling, a lack of positive self-regard. I don’t think anyone who truly feels good about him or herself would ever suffer in such a way…

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I must have gotten tired near the end there, as it feels to me as if I simply gave up midway, and relinquished my train of thought, and my pen, so to speak, before I’d even tried to finish. Be that as it may, on rereading the piece, my first impression, the first thing that struck me and struck me with a punch was my use of the past tense when I was describing my own experiences with DoG. This seems to me, even now, as stranger than strange. Does it mean that there was actually a time, and relatively recent to boot, when I did not believe myself to be the devil, not feel that I was evil, did not secretly want, though in a controllable way (controllable in the sense that I will not do it, so fearful am I that it would eventuate in another terror-filled hospital stay…) to destroy myself via the flames? So it seems, but if so, I have as assuredly forgotten how that felt, how such thinking was as an experience, as I have the entire 6 weeks I spent in the hospital this past April and May. Which is to say, “utterly and completely.”

What I can say now, is that it is much harder to write about DoG at any distance, or with any real so-called insight into myself (despite reading my own words) because the feelings of evil and worthlessness I wrote about in the past tense then are so strong now, in the 2010 present. I won’t, at this time, ask (rhetorically) What happened? That is for another essay. But I will admit that for me to continue with this discussion I will have to refer to what I have observed about others and their DoG, rather than any I may or may not experience myself.

Zo! Here are basic definitions, lest you have forgotten them. For my nutshells, I quote the online Free Dictionary (thefreedictionary.com).

Delusion: an idiosyncratic false belief that is firmly maintained in spite of incontrovertible and obvious proof or evidence to the contrary.

Delusion of Grandeur or Grandiose delusion delusional conviction of one’s own importance, power, or knowledge or that one is, or has a special relationship with, a deity or a famous person.

delusion of persecution a delusion that one is being attacked, harassed, persecuted, cheated, or conspired against.
delusion of reference a delusional conviction that ordinary events, objects, or behaviors of others have particular and unusual meanings specifically for oneself.
Now, thinking about the problem I had when I first wrote about DoG, take that fellow I met, the putative song-writer of all John Lennon’s songs. He was not a happy guy. He gave not the slightest appearance of being thrilled that his songs were so popular and that Lennon had chosen them out of all the offerings he could have picked to sing and record. He claimed that he had given them freely, and wanted neither fame nor fortune, as I recall. But what troubled him, it seemed to me, what that “we,” the — I dunno what you would call “us” — ordinary people, not the rich and famous, not the celebrities with whom Lennon would have hobnobbed, but the (where did I get this word?) lumpen-prole. Actually, I think it was rather much smaller than that, even. I think what troubled him was that  other patients and staff members in the hospital (at that particular time) didn’t care, appreciate, value or even believe his great contribution to the musical world. Nevertheless, despite the use of very controversial ECT (shock treatments — which were rarely used in schizophrenia, and even today are not used often for SZ) his delusion persisted throughout his stay, and by the time I was ready for discharge after 2 months, he was being transferred to a longer stay facility.
Needless to say, whether a delusion of grandeur is “positive”, which is to say that the power one arrogates to oneself is “good” –one is God or Michelangelo or John Lennon’s songwriter, or whether it is “negative” in the sense that one believes one has the power of The Black Plague, the Great Influenza or Satan etc, there can on occasion be little else to distinguish them. Unbelieved, scoffed at, dismissed, ignored,  no one thrives. For some reason too, and again this is solely from the point of view of my experience, people with schizophrenia experience this dismissal, this isolation (from and by others) much more often than those with bipolar illness. This is not so incomprehensible either.
Someone who experiences mania may and often does espouse vastly grandiose delusions, but they can at first be so ebullient, so enormously cheerful and expansive (I think of poets such as Walt Whitman, whose Leaves of Grass, written and rewritten so many times, and so long and expansive itself it almost screams manic-depression — if you can forgive an exceedingly amateur diagnosis) that people are drawn to them, at least at first and for a time. In the grips of mania, a person can convince “anyone to do anything” they are that persuasive and indeed charming, in every sense of the word. But at a minimum, most do not drive everyone away from them, not at least in the beginning. So when a manic person says they wrote the songs that John Lennon sang, one is tempted to at least half believe them, and say, “Hey, you did? Cool! Tell me more.” But that fellow in the hospital, no one so much as listened to him, nor gave him the time of day when he went into his “thing” about Lennon’s songs, and so he was simply left alone to talk to himself.
Hmmm, have I wandered off the topic, or gone too far astray from where I was supposed to be heading? Well, if I have, forgive me. It’s the sort of thing I do all the time in my journal, and frankly it is far too late at night for me to remedy it, alas. So I will stop here, take a stab at proofreading, and hope I have written at least a few things for you to ponder.
As you know, I will be away from the 14th through the 21st, at the Writers’ Fellowship, so if I do not write before then, never fear. I shall write when I get home. (On the other hand, since a Silent Retreat will be going on at the same time, and since there is also Wi-Fi connectivity in the main social area or somewhere — and no one there to socialize with, who knows, I might even avail myself of the internet, and post something from there!)
Get to bed and sleep tight, all youse who are still up with me.
PS I do not know why the paragraphs in the last half keep running together but they simply will not separate no matter how many spaces I edit in between them…sorry!

One thought on “Delusions of Grandeur”

  1. Well said. In particular, I’m referencing the differences between a bipolar’s DoGs and those of a SZ patient. (it’s too early to be politically correct, so just pretend I was, k?)

    I have a numerous amount of family members with bipolar disorder and their DoGs when their on a high does not at all, to me, resemble the ones I’ve seen from SZ friends. They’re quite different: not only in source but also presentation and manifestation.

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