Paranoia is that strange thing: something which we can never really be sure if we have. Why is this?
What is Paranoia?
Paranoia is when we think people are talking about us, or when we think people are watching us, or listening to us unawares.
Yet people talk about other people all the time, and often in earshot. “People watching” is a modern pastime. Eavesdropping has been going on for aeons. So, are we really being paranoid to think people are doing this to us?
In addition, in this modern age of mass surveillance we are constantly being recorded and bugged; on CCTV, by mobile phones; by numerous other devices dotted about the home and street. Police routinely use such techniques as covert surveillance, covert photography and listening, and “buzzing” which is when there is insufficient evidence to arrest someone yet the police want to “send a signal” so will make a special excursion on a patrol to deliberately cause a person to see them and get slightly paranoid.
So can anyone truly be unreasonably paranoid?
The Distress Paranoia Causes
Of course, paranoia causes distress. Even mild sensations of people listening can cause an uncomfortableness and when extremities are reached severe distress can be experienced. This can often act like a snowball effect; a slight twinge of thinking someone is talking about you can lead one to get carried away and then, suddenly it seems, the whole world is whispering behind your back! This can then cause serious distress which is often mistreated with dangerous chemical drugs when a change of thinking is all that is required.
How to Deal with Paranoia
I have tried a number of methods of dealing with paranoia:
- Listening intently – the worst of the methods. It can be very tempting when slightly overhearing something which may be about you is to try and listen more keenly to be sure whether to dismiss it or not. Yet you hear what you hear. You cannot “rehear” something you did not and you cannot increase your hearing of a past event. Such increase in intensity of attention can actually heighten the paranoia rather than diminish it.
- Dismiss every overheard word – this can work, sometimes. Saying to yourself “they have more important things to talk about than me” has helped me enormously in the past. The danger comes when you overhear people actually talking about you. This can cause the house of cards built through denial to come tumbling down around your ears and cause you to question every past dismissal. Thus the distress can end up only being delayed.
- The Scriptural approach – King Solomon, the wisest man to have ever lived, said in Eccesiastes:
“For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.Also take no heed unto all words that are spoken; lest thou hear thy servant curse thee:For oftentimes also thine own heart knoweth that thou thyself likewise hast cursed others.”– Eccesiastes 7:20-22 (KJV, Emphasis mine.)
This advice acknowledges that people do curse us. And yet it does not say “close your ears” but rather “take no heed to all words that are spoken.” (Heed means to “take to heart.”) In other words, avoid their words, don’t listen more intently, and accept that “talkers will talk, haters will hate.” Really, if another wants to spread rumours or otherwise spite us they will, and we can’t stop it. Just let them get on with it and sometime God will bring justice to us if we wait for Him patiently.