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Aliens Have Arrived! Or Have They?

Psychological Perspectives


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Ken Silvestro, PhD.

What is paranoia and how can we recognize it? Let's begin with the emotional side of paranoia. In the last article, the emotion of fear was central to the topic of superstition. Again, fear is central to the topic of this article – paranoia.

Paranoia brings to mind many different descriptions. For example, you might enter an empty house at night and feel fear, which can then shift to a fantasy or belief that someone is hiding behind the chair or in the closet. Or, in an extreme example, you might believe that authority figures are planning to arrest you, or worst yet, destroy you for some reason. Again, we see that fear is present and that paranoia can affect us in simple and complex ways.

If fear is the basic emotion of paranoia, what are the other psychological elements making up paranoia? Well, as mentioned in the previous paragraph, fantasy is often part of paranoia, as are beliefs. Fantasies originate in our unconscious (hidden) psychologies and are developed from our psychological complexes (a combination of personal experiences and archetypes – common human experiences throughout time). The complexes combine to form fantasies, which are similar to movie scenes that only the person fantasizing can see.

If the movie has a strong impact or plays long enough in our psychologies, we begin to believe what we see and think about the fantasies. This is how belief becomes a part of paranoia. As the fantasy continues and beliefs become stronger, the underlying fear often shifts to anger. This happens when the fantasy, or belief, is now in a person's awareness; that is, it is conscious. This is when anger develops. For example, the belief that the government is trying to control how you live can lead to anger.

Of course, simply telling a person that he or she is paranoid does not change a person's beliefs or fantasy. Since the fantasy is now a strongly held value and belief, it can control a person. The primary way to shift the paranoia is to unravel the fantasy and the emotions and attempt to return to the origins of the fantasy and complexes – to the unconscious origins. This is a long and difficult process.

Paranoia, like any other psychological condition, can be mild, moderate or extreme. There are always many degrees to any psychological condition.

When paranoia is mild, it can be a one-time experience, such as: walking through the woods in the dark, sensing that an animal or someone is hiding behind the next tree and coming to realize that neither an animal nor a person is behind the tree. It seems we've all experienced mild paranoia at some time in our lives.


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