By George A. Boyd ©2023
Q: Are projections linked to paranoia?
A: In some people, it appears that their projections can become linked to paranoia. Projections appear to progress through seven steps when paranoia occurs:
- Someone reminds you of people in your life, and you react to this person in the same way as you did towards this other person from your earlier life. In psychotherapy, this is called transference.
- You attribute your own emotions or motivations to others. You might accuse others of doing or feeling what you are doing or feeling. This is classical projection.
- You act in a way to induce the emotions or behavior in someone else you suspect they have. For example, you might believe in error someone is angry with you; but then, you do something that makes him or her generally angry with you. This is called projective identification.
- You begin to suspect the motives of others and you find it hard to trust them, especially if they have traumatized you or betrayed you. You may generalize this to other people, who have never harmed you—you start to believe no one can be trusted. This initial motivational mistrust is the portal to genuine paranoia.
- You begin to believe that others are spying on you and are attempting to trap you and imprison you. You may begin to believe at this stage that others are persecuting you. This may be a realistic belief if you have broken the law and you are the subject of an investigation. But if it has no basis in reality, it becomes a persecutory delusion.
- You start to obtain weapons and adopt behavior that allows you to evade the detection of those whom you believe are persecuting you, spying upon you, and trying to harm you. This comprises paranoid defensive behavior.
- You believe you must destroy those who you think are attacking and persecuting you. You may resort to acting out or overt violence to stop them from tormenting you further. In some cases, you might engage in litigation to make them refrain carrying out the systematic program of attempting to harm you that you wrongly perceive. In other cases, you may attempt to kill them or destroy their lives in revenge for the harm you erroneously believe they have perpetrated upon you. At this level, your paranoia becomes violent and you become dangerous to others.
Most people entertain some projections at steps one and two: Someone reminds you of your uncle and you start to relate to that person in the same way as you did with your uncle. You misread someone’s emotion from his or her facial expressions, words, and body language, as something you are actually feeling.
You start to drift towards paranoia at steps three and four: You induce the feelings you have in other people through acting towards them in certain ways that makes them express that emotion—those who employ gaslighting utilize this tactic. You begin to mistrust others based on experiences you have had that traumatized you, shamed you, or harmed you.
You move into full-blown paranoia at steps five, six, and seven: your mistrust becomes delusional, and you may attempt to defend yourself, or actively attack those who you believe are harming you.
We point out that there are certain media influencers, politicians, and clergy, who evoke your outrage and fear in an attempt to manipulate and control you. They communicate to you misinformation and conspiracy theories—and if you do not have the discernment to detect this is happening to you and to realize that the information you are receiving from them is untrue—you can be unwittingly led along the primrose path to paranoia.
Many people who now are true believers in conspiracy theories and embrace every word that comes from the mouth of the their cult leader, demagogue, or dictator were seduced and deceived at some point to believe that the lies and deception this person promulgates was the truth—a truth that ostensibly was hidden from you by those who wanted to conceal this information—and you are urged to believe that only this person is revealing the truth to you.
You can be manipulated through fear, shame, guilt, and anger that others induce in you through their lies. To avoid going down the rabbit hole of paranoia, it is important that you verify the truth of each communication you receive from a source outside the group that is disseminating these spurious ideas—for, if you check the communication of one conspiracy theorist with someone who holds the same beliefs, you are not going to gain an objective view of this subject!
You may wish to monitor what emotions the words, writing, and media presentations of others evoke in you. You can explore why this information makes you react in this way. You will also benefit from seeing if you can verify what they are saying from a source independent from those who believe in this viewpoint and who are attempting to persuade you to adopt these same beliefs.
Given the right manipulation and setting, even highly educated people can be deceived by these false messages. You need to remain vigilant and use your discernment to detect these subtle attempts to get you to believe these untruths—misleading ideas that can move you down the track to full-blown paranoia.
Those of you who are interested in learning more about conspiracy theories may enjoy our new eBook on Amazon, Conspiracy Theories: How They Distort Your Perspective and How You Can Recover from Their Thrall