Dealing With Hallucinations – Is Telling Better Than Doing?

Hallucinations are what result from the compounding of delusions upon delusions. A variety of psychotherapeutic techniques are used with psychotic individuals that are aimed at dealing with hallucinations and delusions.

Some common group therapies are as follows:

  1. Thought-stopping, or imagining a large stop sign in one’s mind when hallucinatory or delusional material enters one’s consciousness.
  2. Demonstration and practice of social skills that will allow the psychotic individual to behave in a more appropriate way to help eliminate stigma.
  3. Requiring clients to create narratives or stories — any stories other than the ones to which they adhere, to explain their symptoms. This may alleviate to an extent the entrenched qualities of their delusional systems.
  4. Record-keeping of delusional material that could be later reviewed, perhaps on a weekly basis, for the clients’ personal assessment of its validity. Given the changes in delusional material that the psychotic individual experiences, this material may be more or less evaluated by that individual as believable or as not believable, with respect to his perhaps rapid changes in delusional beliefs.
  5. Relative to the technique expressed above, Socratic questioning, or engaging in dialogue with therapists or clients that allows the psychotic individual to question her beliefs.
  6. Engaging an individual in disclosure of paranoid beliefs in group therapy, and then allowing the therapist to question another group member as to how he thinks that those beliefs are subjectively experienced by the disclosing individual.
  7. Psycho-education: For example, education about biochemical mechanisms regarding how medication works or conveyance of ideas related to how delusional beliefs are reinforced in one’s environment, perhaps by chance alone.

Some approaches are thought to be more effective in psychotic individuals who are concrete thinkers (thinking characterized by objects and events) and others are thought to be effective with abstract thinkers (thinking about concepts, removed from fact).

All of these are good ways of confronting and deconstructing delusional material. However overall, it may be easier for an abstract thinker to dismiss his or her hallucinations as false. Therefore, perhaps cognitive ability can be aligned with mental health.

Can valid delusional systems emerge from the mind of a schizophrenic? There is very little basis for valid, emergent belief systems in this regard. Nevertheless, the idea that biochemistry causes symptoms of hallucinations, may be inadequate in the mind of a schizophrenic, whether that schizophrenia is an abstract or concrete thinker. Hallucinations are visceral experiences and the schizophrenic individual may not be able to adequately renounce his delusions. In fact, the desire to be sane may cause the schizophrenic to rationalize his delusional beliefs.

It’s certainly true that in addition to biochemistry, he mentally ill individual becomes increasingly psychotic by means of psychological and emotional involvement within her mental realm. As the psychotic individual becomes emotionally involved with her hallucinations, she may bond with her hallucinations in a relational way — a form of emotional anarchy.

Hallucinations are not empathic or dependable, and they are not predicable other than the fact that they provide a basis for delusions constituting general habits of thought in the mind of the individual. The psychotic person to some extent creates patterns or habits of mind that may amount to following a train of thought that moves forward as one creates it.

One can tell a mentally ill person that his hallucinations do not exist. But what is really needed instead of “telling” an individual about the nature of his hallucinations is “doing’ something about them. Psychiatric medication represents “doing” as opposed to “telling”. It is essential that administering medications is the presumed “cure”, even if the individual does not notice that his psychopathology is diminishing.

The ideas for enriching group psychotherapy as described above point toward another idea: Intellectualization, while clearly an aspect of “telling”, may also contain a quality of “doing”. The act of thinking logically and analytically about hallucinations and delusional material allows the psychotic individual a sense of detachment from his hallucinations and delusions. If individuals understand the process involved, it may allow for greater detachment, objectivity, and diminished emotionality regarding psychotic experience.

Image via wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock.

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  • Well I would like to say I have verified my ESP and precognitive dreams, fact checked, and documented it. I do not deny there is something going on, that I may have schizophrenia.

    But I am not delusion-oriented, meaning I do not have what someone may think is a delusion for fun or entertainment, or even a replacement for socializing. This could be a misconception of some.

    When I was truly delusional, I believed my delusions as well. Some of them grounded in loosely associated observations that distressed me, and caused me to obsess about them in a fearful way.

    For instance, I found a magazine about the future of surveillance systems in U.S. hospitals where people would have electronic tags etc. and I jumped immediately to 3 possible future scenerios of this system, and I became entangled in this obsessive worry.

    The problem with paranoia, and many Americans experience it, is that for instance in a conspiracy theory there is no way to validate your fear or paranoia, which causes you to ruminate on possibility without grounding in practical steps for concrete ways to deal with either your concerns or distress.

    I had a fear of brainwashing. I was told I had a psychotic episode when I asked to leave the hospital and pushed the doors. The medic refused to put me under due to the miscommunication I believe. There was some disagreement, I was called into a meeting with 9 doctors who all explained how I had a psychotic episode. The IRONY WAS THAT NONE OF THEM WITNESSED THE EVENT. It was a disgruntled nurse who possibly made that up. Or was it a conspiracy?

    I was then led to the hallway where I complained that I had not had a psychotic episode, I had merely stood up, said “I’m fine I want to go home” and then I sat back down when a man entered with a stretcher, took a look around, and then left.

    She told me that I had false memories and that Geodon would correct it. Geodon brought out the first experience of auditory hallucinations, This is NO EFFING LIE. I heard a voice within 40 minutes of taking 180 mgs of Geodon, FORCED by threat of injection, and hallucinated and grew paranoid, aggitated, sluggish, started dancing around in group and NO ONE DID ANYTHING. Even when I complained that I was afraid Geodon might harm me, I had a “gut feeling about it” and was ignored, and then forced it, and relapsed within 2 days of being let out of the hospital.

    So fuck you if you think you know what a delusion is. Submit and surrender your mind to the war machines you stupid cogs.

    My mom was also a peace activist, protested was confined, interrogated by the FBI and went up against some nasty mercenary organizations in her 20’s before she was successfully eliminated through mind control, and let’s just say she was for a significant reason.

    has it been done before? MKultra? LSD experiments and remote viewing? CIA spying, anyone remember the cold war? Are we anywhere more progressive NOW? HAH! I don’t think so!!! It would only make sense if this was continuing to happen. Esp with how severely persecuted whistleblowers are now, and how secretive our gov. has become. The possibilities for corruption are endless, and mind control IS a factor.

Ann Reitan, PsyD

Ann Reitan, PsyD, is a clinical psychologist and well published essayist of fiction and creative nonfiction. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from University of Washington, Master of Arts in Psychology from Pepperdine University, and Doctorate of Clinical Psychology from Alliant International University. Her post-doctoral research at Washington University in St. Louis, MO, involved personality theory, idiodynamics and creativity in literature. She recently published Illuminating Schizophrenia: Insights into the Uncommon Mind.

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