When I worked as a private investigator, two clients suffering from paranoid delusions asked for my firm’s services. Not that their mental state was obvious at first—both (one male, one female) were presentable, middle-class, middle-aged, intelligent, and articulate.
The man wanted us to investigate his bowling league, for he believed ugly rumors were being spread about him.
The woman wanted us to investigate her psychiatrist, with whom she claimed to have had an affair and who now was trying to ruin her reputation.
To be brief, none of their fears bore up under scrutiny. When we tried to report those results, however, which we considered positive and reassuring, we were repulsed out of hand. Rather, both clients believed that we had been co-opted by their enemies. We were clearly now “one of them.”
My boss had a friend who was a brilliant psychiatrist (and crackerjack blues harp player, thus his nickname, Dr. Blues), who informed us that paranoia (unlike paranoid schizophrenia) is virtually untreatable, because the problem is a deep underlying anxiety that the paranoid delusion actually resolves.
The delusion is the cure, so to speak. Its onset is typified by a sudden, urgent, seemingly irrefutable revelation that the problem lies with certain others who are plotting against them. By offering facts and logic in response, we threatened to take away the one thing giving them peace of mind: their belief that nefarious others were plotting against them.
We stopped taking such clients at that point, and tried instead to get them to consider therapy (which usually only made them angry).
We also began using the phrase, “It’s like talking to a paranoid,” to describe any conversation with someone who stubbornly, rigidly “stuck to their guns,” no matter what facts or logic you availed. Their minds were made up. And your contrary beliefs only made you suspect.
This memory has been coming to mind quite a bit lately. If the reason isn’t already self-evident, allow me to explain.