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Delusions are usually defined in psychiatry as firmly held, incorrigible false beliefs, inconsistent with the information available with the beliefs of the subject's social group. Delusions are the central clinical feature of paranoia, and can range from single ideas to complex networks of beliefs.
In Lacanian terms, the paranoiac lacks the Name-of-the-Father, and the delusion is the paranoiac's attempt to fill the hole left in his symbolic universe by the absence of this primordial signifier. Thus the delusion is not the "illness" of paranoia itself, but rather, the paranoiac's attempt to heal himself, to pull himself out of the breakdown of the symbolic universe by means of a substitute formation.
"What we take to be the pathological production, the delusional formation, is in reality the attempt at recovery, the reconstruction."
Lacan insists on the significance of the delusion and stresses the importance of attending closely to the psychotic patient's own account of his delusion. The delusion is a form of discourse, and must therefore be understood as "a field of signification that has organised a certain signifier." For this reason all delusional phenomena are "clarified in reference to the functions and structure of speech."
Other of the Other
The paranoid delusional construction may take many forms. One common form, the "delusion of persecution," revolves around the Other of the Other, a hidden subject who pulls the strings of the big Other (the symbolic order), and who controls our thoughts, conspires against us, watches us, etc.
- Freud, Sigmund. "Psycho-Analytic Notes on an Autobiographical Account of a Case of Paranoia (Dementia Paranoides)," 1911c: SE XII, 71
- Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book III. The Psychoses, 1955-56. Trans. Russell Grigg. London: Routledge, 1993. p. 121
- Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book III. The Psychoses, 1955-56. Trans. Russell Grigg. London: Routledge, 1993. p. 310