Paranormality or Psychotic Manifestations?
Jorge Martins de Oliveira and Júlio Rocha do Amaral
This is a bizarre story involving an intriguing personality. GUV - that is how we shall call him from now on, to preserve his real identity - is a twenty years old young man, who, a few months ago, on January 1998, to be precise, came, for the first time, to our office, accompanied by his parents, reporting the occurrence of very unusual events :
At the age of twelve Guv discovered that he was capable to see the “auras” of people around him and, approximately at the same time, he started hearing strange voices and seeing strange things like, for instance, mobile objects in the form of spirals, which threatened to capture him. Soon the spirals disappeared and Guv started feeling that he was being persecuted by some vague “presence” that, at the beginning, could not be identified. However, later on, he felt that the “persecutor” was some kind of spiritual entity, an intruder, as he calls it, who, up to the present, constantly tries to penetrate into his mind, in order to control his life. This has lead to an almost everyday fight between Guv’s self and the entity. Sometimes the intruder attacks with full strength, dominating the young man’s will. Other times the entity seems weaker and Guv manages to get rid of it, after a few moments of mental struggle. But it is always a tiresome battle that leaves our patient physically and mentally exhausted. When the intruder attacks, Guv experiences a peculiar kind of seizure, his body’s contortions resembling the oscillating movements of a snake, while his facial expression is that of a person who is doing a tremendous mental effort to get rid of an invisible menace. In several occasions, we had the opportunity to watch these events.
According to Guv, the entity generally tells him to follow it, but never specifies where to. For some time, seven years ago or so, the intruder kept suggesting that Guv committed suicide, so that, after death, they could be united forever. And, on several occasions, Guv came close to kill himself, but the instinct of survival prevailed and the entity finally gave up. However, the invitation to follow it persists even now.
Guv not only “hears” but also “sees” the intruder, as some thing very real, capable of showing up at any place, at any time. Once, he gave us an example of how things occurs : He is in a room and, suddenly, he feels that the intruder is outside nearby; actually, he can detect the entity’s presence by its “aura”, sneaking through the door. Seconds later, the intruder crosses the wall or the closed door and is right there, next to him.
According to our patient, the entity has the shape of a female human, with a face that can not be precisely described. It is more like a foggy image without definite contours. However, with time, Guv discovered, - so he states - that the human shape was hiding the real image of the entity : that of a wolf.
Guv is well developed physically, although slender built, and has an almost beardless face. His eyes display a mixture of attentiveness and anxiety. He is very intelligent and his thoughts arguments are very logical, even when he is defending or justifying his delusions. He is also quite affective toward his relatives and does not seem to have paranoid suspicions against people in general, although resenting the fact that no one understands his exceptional mental powers and many persons treat him as if he was crazy. Guv is definitely convinced that he is a paranormal and, by being so, he is prone to communicate with spirits and entities. Therefore, he “knows”, for instance, with absolute certainty, that the “wolf” is the devil.
Among the several episodes of hallucinations and delusions Guv has experienced through the years, one is particularly remarkable : A few months ago, while he was laying down on his bed, but definitely awake (he is absolutely sure about that), an angel suddenly materialized, held him by the hand, detached him from his material body ( that he could clearly see, while ascending) and took him up to a place, far above the Earth. The place looked like a giant temple. There, between two rows of angels, Guv found himself face to face with Jesus Christ, who, according to Guv’s description, is a very good looking man, with extremely kind and penetrating eyes. At the time, Jesus told Guv that he (Guv) had been chosen by Him (Jesus) to carry on an important mission, just before the time that He (Jesus) was scheduled to return to our planet. The nature of such mission was not mentioned. According to Guv, to the right of Jesus, there was a kind of open window, through which, not so far away, an enormous galaxy, with an extremely bright light in the middle, could be seen. Guv had (and still has) the feeling that the galaxy was God.
By digging into his past history, we uncovered two facts that, in our opinion, played a significant role in the genesis of his mental disturbance :
The first fact was, for sure, an extremely harmful experience to the patient’s psychological structure. Since Guv’s childhood, one of his aunts used to take him to attend spiritual séances, where the boy watched the manifestation of benign and malign entities through trance-mediums. Thus, his highly suggestible mind absorbed the idea of the existence of good and bad supernatural forces, which hold the power to interfere with his life. One of the consequences was that Guv adopted, as a kind of protector guide, the spirit of a black old man ( a figure considered as a benign entity in several Afro-Brazilian cults), that our patient “incorporates” during some of his delusion manifestations. This guide, so Guv believes, is, sometimes, but not always, capable of protecting him against the “wolf” and other malign entities which try to torment his mind. Later on, during the period he was under treatment and under our frequent supervision, we had several opportunities to watch Guv incorporate his guide. During these events, he adopted the typical posture of an old man, reproducing, exactly, what one observes when similar episodes, involving identical entities, occur at places where spiritual séances are carried out. Obviously, Guv is reproducing events he watched in the past and that remained engraved in his mind. Thus, the first psychological damage was established. The second important fact occurred when he was seven years old and his parents sent him to a school directed by followers of a strictly evangelic order. Paradoxically, albeit his proneness to suggestion, Guv can be, at times, very stubborn in defending some particular viewpoints. So, he systematically refused to accept what he considered the fanatical indoctrination they tried to impose on him. Because of this, one of the religious female teachers used to punish the boy by confining him, for long periods of time, inside a very dark room, saying that he would stay there, in the company of Satan, as a punishment for refusing to became a “real Christian”.
This lasted for a whole year but Guv kept it from his parents for fear, since the teacher threatened him with further demoniac persecutions, should he tell anyone about the punishments he was receiving. When, finally, Guv’s parents found out what was happening, they took him out of the school. But the second psychological damage had already been established.
Guv has been treated by psychologists and psychiatrists but, according to himself and to his parents, the results were never satisfactory. Only once, for a very short time, while he was taking pimozide, some improvement was obtained. However, the medication was dropped because, after a few weeks, so stated his mother - the drug made Guv become even more irritable and agitated.
Note : By improvement we mean less episodes of any kind of visual or auditory hallucinations and delusions.
In spite of his misfortune, Guv managed to finish high school, but gave up, for the time being, the idea to start university, because, as he says, whenever an attack occurred during class, the fact originated distressing reactions from his schoolmates who accused him to be either “nuts” or epileptic. For the same reason, Guv has been avoiding any kind of social life. Thus, he became more and more recluse. Actually, he never had a date or went out with other young fellows. On the rare occasions that he dares to go somewhere, like a movie, for instance, he is accompanied either by his parents or by his brother (a nineteen years old healthy youngster). Most of the time, he stays home, reading or playing video-games, for hours and hours.
On march 28, 1998, we carried on a first mapping of his brain electrical activity.
The most striking feature of this mapping was the frequency and high amplitude of delta and theta waves with a predominant theta pattern, which, in an adult wide awake, is a definitely abnormal finding. In our opinion, on this particular case, such a finding characterizes an immature brain. No signals of focal or generalized epilepsy were detected. (Fig 1 )
Fig.1 Click on the picture to see enlarger
We have developed, during mapping, a procedure, by which the patient is subjected to ocular (intermittent photic) stimulation , by means of a brain waves synchronizer, the POLYSYNC PRO+, designed and manufactured by Microfirm Inc., Cerritos, CA.
We used, as a routine procedure, four main types of stimuli : beta (15 hertz frequency), alpha (9 hertz frequency), theta (6 hertz frequency) and delta (2 hertz frequency). During beta and alpha stimulation, the patient was very restless, murmuring that the “wolf” was gaining control of his mind. During theta stimulation, he started to quiet down, but still felt the presence of the intruder. However, after two minutes exposure to delta stimulation, Guv became progressively relaxed, declared that the wolf figure was receding and that he, Guv, was now assuming his mind control.
Therefore, we decided to submit him to six sessions of delta stimulation ( using a 2,0 hertz frequency) of 45 minutes duration, twice a week. Throughout this experimental stage, his psychological evolution was monitored by detailed interrogation before and after each session. He also continued to make use of the medication he had been receiving : carbamazepine and clonazepam. We must add that, up to now, we have no knowledge that photic stimulation has ever been used as a therapeutical procedure in cases of delusional/hallucinatory manifestations.
The results were remarkable. According to his own statement, Guv became more and more mentally stronger, so that, gradually, the “wolf” started to go away. At the end of the treatment, the entity no more represented a threat, since Guv was now able to keep it at bay whenever it tried to approach him.
By the end of the second week, when the wolf was already defeated, the spirals returned, but only for two or three days. His parents informed that Guv was now quieter and much less irritable and only twice, during this period, did he show signs of impending crises which, however, were entirely kept under control, a feat that Guv was never capable of achieving in the past.
When our patient returned for his second brain mapping, on April 25th, the only delusion he still retained was that of the old black man - his personal guide - which he (Guv) voluntarily “incorporated”, whenever he felt the need of an extra protection. Two weeks later, this entity was also gone. The fear of being attacked by malignant entities had completely disappeared and Guv was feeling confident enough to try, this coming July, to start a course on genetic biology.
His second brain mapping showed, during resting stage, with closed eyes, a remarkable change. Although theta waves were still diffusely present, delta definitely became the predominant pattern (Fig 2).
Fig.2. Click on the picture to see enlarged
According to Chatrian and collaborators, when the brain is submitted to the stimulation by a certain wave, it tends to adopt that wave as its predominant pattern, as long as the stimulation lasts. This well known physiologic response to inttermitent photic stimulation is called photic driving. However, in Guv’s case, a delta pattern of activity was present days after the interruption of the photic stimulus.
We really don’t have a definite diagnosis for Guv. For sure he displays definite psychotic traits. However, we have no data to allow us to label him as a schizophrenic person, On the other hand, we have no concrete evidence to say that he is a paranormal, as he likes to call himself. Actually, our poor experience on this area does not allow us to formulate any decisive conclusion.
Our “feeling” is that we have been dealing with a case of psychotic and hallucinatory manifestations due to severe psychological trauma deeply affecting a highly suggestible immature brain.
For over a month, no delusive episodes have occurred and Guv is now practically carrying on a normal life. Although we fear that, sometime in the future, recurrences may occur, we hope this is not going to happen. So, as physicians we are very gratified by his improvement. But as neuroscientists we feel frustrated since we really do not exactly know why and how Guv’s delusions started and disappeared. We can only guess, but, for science, guessing is not enough.
Chatrian, GE et all. 1974. A glossary of terms most commonly used by clinical electroencephalographers. Electroencephalogr.Clin. Neurophysiol. 37 : 538-548
Maurer, H and Dierks, T. 1991. Atlas Of Brain Mapping. Springer Verlag. Berlin.
Tomb, DA. 1995, Psychiatry.
Williams and Wilkins. Baltimore.
Jorge Martins de Oliveira, MD, PhD
Full Professor and Master of UFRJ (Rio de Janeiro).
Associate Professor of UFF. Scientific Coordinator. Coordinador and Director of the Department of Neurosciences of the Institute of Human Being (RJ). Fellow in Research by Saint Vincent Charity Hospital, Cleveland, USA. Full Member of Brazilian Academy of Military Medicine. Member of the Brazilian Academy of Writers Physicians. Graduated by Superior School of War (ESG).
Júlio Rocha do Amaral, MD - Teacher of clinical pharmacology, anatomy and physiology.
Medical Manager of Merck S/A Indústrias Químicas (pharmaceutical and chemical industries). Redactor of didactic manuals on anatomy, physiology and pharmacology used by Merck S/A. Editing supervisor of the following scientific publications: Senecta, Galenus and Sinapse. Redactor of clinical trials and protocols since 1978. Assistant coordinator of courses on Oxydology sponsored by the Human Being Institute and UNIGRANRIO (University of Great Rio). Head of Psychiatric Service. Neurosciences Department. The Human Being Institute. Co-author of the book "Principles of Neurosciences". Email:email@example.com