Definitions of Delusion

Definitions of Delusion

The dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE) mentions the term delusion as a synonym of illusion: an image or an idea that a person builds in his mind, without correspondence with reality.

For example: “The businessman’s political project is based on a delusion”, “Many people live with a delusion of security”, “When you make decisions on impulse, it is usual that you later face a delusion”.

The etymological origin of delusion is found in the English language. Although the notion is usually understood as illusion, it specifically refers to what is delusional or illusory. Delusion, in this sense, implies a deformation of the real from an erroneous perception.

Following this line of thought, a delusion can be a perceptual mistake, but also a conceptual one. Suppose a boy is alone in her room on a stormy night. Frightened, he thinks the shadows on the furniture are ghosts and the noises of the wind blowing are screams. The little boy, therefore, has a delusion: he distorts reality based on the beliefs that he forges during the night.

Another way of understanding delusion is as an idea that, despite the fact that objective data demonstrates its falsity, offers resistance to change. Therefore it remains anchored in the subject.

It is important to note that the notion of delusion has similarities to concepts such as delirium and hallucination. Numerous psychologists have reflected on these terms and made theoretical contributions of great conceptual complexity.

To be able to affirm that delusion is a distorted perception of reality, we must be facing a distortion by the senses. There are numerous drawings used by psychologists and psychiatrists to assess the perception of their patients, where ambiguous figures are presented, such as a painting in which there may be both a rabbit and a duck, or another in which there seems to be a vase or two human faces facing each other.

Delirium is closely linked to delusion when the individual narrates his reality in a fantastic way, starting from a clear distortion of what he perceives around him. Unlike a mere sensory illusion, which can last for a short time, this phenomenon is characterized by the presence of sophisticated elements that are amalgamated in a more complex construction.

To differentiate illusion from hallucination, we can say that in the latter there is no physical support that can be perceived, while in the former a deformation is generated that makes perception ambiguous (if we think of the aforementioned images, the same subject could see both figures alternately, without constancy). Here the idea of ​​threatening shadows also comes into play when we feel fear.

The philosopher and psychologist Elías Manuel Capriles Arias, born in Venezuela in 1948, relies on the Sanskrit term avidya, used in Buddhism, to deepen the definition of delusion. A fairly rough translation of it would be ” ignorance, unawareness”, two words that are opposed to “wisdom, knowledge”. In this specific case, we can think of a lack of knowledge of the world around us, but also of our interior.

Delusion, therefore, can be understood as a ” confusion “, as a “perceptual, cognitive or conceptual error”. A good example of the way in which the delusive manifests itself in front of us as something corporeal is the phenomenon known as autoscopy, which occurs when the subject sees his own body from the outside while sleeping, believing he is awake. It is associated with a state of extreme tiredness, lack of sleep, fear or also the consumption of certain narcotics.


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