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  • Print publication year: 2003
  • Online publication date: December 2009

14 - The paranoid self

from Part III - Disturbances of the self: the case of schizophrenia



he idea that delusions often reflect an abnormal attitude towards the self has a long history. Consistent with this idea, the most common delusional themes-2013; persecution and grandiosity – seem to reflect individuals' preoccupations about their position in the social universe. Psycho-analysts have interpreted persecutory delusions as the consequence of defensive strategies that serve the function of protecting the individual from negative perceptions of the self, and the well-replicated finding of an abnormal stye of explaining negative events in paranoid patients seems consistent with this idea. However, attempts to test the hypothesis of a paranoid defence by measuring self-esteem in deluded patients has led to inconsistent and even contradictory results.T

These findings may reflect false assumptions about the unity and stability of selfrepresentations. The self consists of a cluster of fluidly related constructs, for example the self as it actually is, the ideal self and the self as it ought to be. Furthermore, evaluations of the self can change dramatically from day to day, and some people consistently make less stable self-evaluations than others. These observations point to the need for a dynamic account of the relationship between self-representations, other cognitive structures and environmental influences.

In this chapter a model is presented of the dynamic interactions between causal explanations (attributions) and self-representations. It will be shown that this kind of model can accommodate the apparently inconsistent findings obtained when self-esteem has been measured in paranoid patients, and leads to novel predictions that can be experimentally tested.

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