...One group of the mentally ill suffers from observation-delusions...
What if this kind of observing and punishing entity were
present in all of us? If it had just separated itself sharply from
the ego and had been mistakenly displaced into external reality in
the case of the insane?...
Sigmund Freud, An Outline of Psychoanalysis
I am not sure that 'insane' is the right description for me, but
leaving that aside, Freud said that an observation-delusion
represents a kind of persecution to the individual:
...it presupposes that someone mistrusts them, that someone
expects to catch them doing something forbidden and for which they
should be punished...
Sigmund Freud, An Outline of Psychoanalysis
When young, I had superstitious childish fears about dead people, or
ghosts, watching me, but it might have mainly been related to
religious ideas I had grown up with, about a God (or even a Santa
Claus) who could see my every action.
Part of the observation-delusion phenomenon might go back to the
issue of love rewards and punishments. In my life, I have not managed
to 'earn' love. Consciously, my perception is that I am not really
wanted in the world, that my qualities are not valued.
...It was not a surprise, because it was a materialization of a
feeling she had known for many years: that of an Eye watching and
following her throughout her life...
Anaïs Nin, A Spy in the House of Love
I have spoken in the past about my Imaginary Friend/Enemy, and I
realize that it might not be all that clear to people reading what
all that is about.
My assessment is that it is a kind of combined observation-delusion
and communication-delusion. It is a non-bizarre delusion, because it
is based upon the perception of occurrences which might not be
impossible in modern society, or when it comes to my own personal
situation and contacts. See also: atypical depression with psychotic
For several years, I had the impression that I was being stalked. At
a certain point I began to have the impression that a two-way
communication was occurring between me and my stalker, a private
communication that took place when I used my computer, often through
mp3 conversations. Specifically, while on random play, through Winamp
my 'stalker' would somehow be able to choose a song as a message for
me, and then I would override the random play to make my response to
that message, and the conversation would sometimes continue for many
hours back and forth. I sometimes thought that emails I received were
too strange not to be a coded message, also from this
The non-bizarre aspects of this are that hacking and cyberstalking
are actual activities that take place in today's increasingly
internet-centred lifestyle. People who are drawn to these activities
lack 'normal' social skills, or have psychological needs
not easily met in the non-cyber world. I have a public website,
express controversial subject matter, appear troubled and may be
someone that another troubled person might be drawn to.
Also, since most of my fixations or obsessions in the last 14 years
have involved highly intelligent persons, many with advanced computer
skills and knowledge, it seemed at least possible that one of them
could theoretically figure out how to stalk me. Also, GK has told me
that he thinks Winamp itself is hackable.
The facts are that I have received some unusual emails and snailmail
packages over the years. While some of these were legitimate emails
(which I responded erratically to), and others may have represented
harmless fun for someone, they may have triggered a paranoid response
in me, exaggerating my tendency to link information in new ways in
order to try to see new patterns. In addition, one person I had
exchanged email with in the past admitted to trying to communicate
with me by repeatedly viewing particular pages on my website - in
order to avoid these messages, I made the decision to stop looking at
my site statistics altogether. (I stopped in 2005, and still do not
look at site statistics or logs. The drawback is that I do not know
views when they visit my site.)
I felt that I was constantly being watched every time I went on the
computer - what this means is that my 'stalker' would have had to
have been constantly ready at a moment's notice to observe and
communicate with me, which in itself seems highly improbable. It's
important to note that I did not ever have the impression that this
stalker was communicating with me when I was not on the computer -
except when it came to a few unusual snailmail packages. When I gave
up the computer for close to a year, the delusion did not transfer
to other areas of my life.
Throughout my life I have experienced a kind of low-level paranoia
which I could hide from others, and which did not appear to affect my
outward life. For example, I have often thought that cameras were
hidden in places where I lived, even before the modern system of
security camera filming in public became ubiquitous. I did not draw
attention to this idea. I suspect that this idea originates with a
basic mistrust of those with authority or power. People renting out
buildings or flats might get their kicks out of filming not just me,
but all of their residents in the hopes of seeing something
unexpected. They may have a voyeuristic need to view titillating
material, or material what might be embarrassing or very private for
those viewed. I would perhaps at times deal with it (mild paranoia)
by behaving in more reserved ways in the places that I feared were
monitored, but at times I made an effort to face the fear and allow
myself to act as naturally as possible.
A related paranoia, one that developed from the time I was very young
may also have been the major contributing factor to me throwing away
all writing and creations. I didn't want to leave the evidence of how
untalented I was lying around.
I think it is worth it to try to understand where this paranoia
might have come from, or how it might have developed.
In writing/creating and destroying throughout my history, I may have
been trying to control parts of my personality I felt guilt about for
various reasons. When I wrote as a child, I was always under the
impression that what I wrote was not very good. This may have been
influenced by the reading I myself had done - I could recognize that
my writing did not compare well with the books I had read.
But it could also have been influenced by my mother wanting to know
what my thoughts were regarding the divorce, her, and other related
issues, and I may have picked up that she would have felt betrayed by
some of my thoughts. I think it's likely that while I was at school,
she frequently went through my things and my siblings' things looking
for information like this. This is an example of poor communication
in the family, which is one of the major themes of my life. I have
tried over the years to push for more direct and more elaborate
communication in all my relationships.
Throughout my life, I have also struggled to bring what I say into
line with what I think and feel. When younger, I had a tendency to
exaggerate, stretch the truth, and ultimately felt a lot of guilt
about it. I may actually have picked up this behaviour from my
parents, and maybe even the guilt about it. I keep trying for
greater accuracy, perhaps as a result. But while I think I am open to
being questioned so that I can give a more accurate picture of the
whole, it seems like people are reluctant to question me directly. At
times it may be that I think I deserve sarcastic communication
because I haven't tried harder to be accurate.
Did I create an imaginary friend/enemy who would judge my every move
on the computer? Since I was very young, I have been self-conscious
about leaving anything private in writing. Was I originally judged
by someone other than myself? Superego, conscience determined by
parents? But I even had trouble doing schoolwork at school while
From the start, I had been nervous about people knowing what I was
doing on the computer (1996). When I first posted to a suicide
discussion group (1998), I thought that I was finally admitting to
myself that I would never be a writer, I would never have a job, and
I would never again be able to fit into normal society even by
pretending. I was self-conscious about everything I typed.
It took enormous courage to write publicly back then, but now I take
it for granted. I desensitized myself. What happened was that I found
out that there were no consequences. Whatever mistakes I made,
whomever I had been unwittingly unfair to - I either addressed those
things through conversation with others, or I was never called on
those things at all.
Maybe it was only a matter of time before I would need to punish
myself for allowing myself to air my laundry publicly. The best way
to do that? To have my intelligence and perception questioned, to
have me dismissed as someone who was out of touch with reality, such
that I have no support, no sympathy, and that there is nothing
anyone can say because they do not identify with me, but are afraid
to judge me openly, ostensibly for liability issues (she may kill
I have now exposed my thoughts publicly for over a decade, first on a
newsgroup, and then through my own website. It is difficult to delete
anything permanently from the web, but aside from that, at a certain
point I made a choice to stop deleting, and in a sense to stop
hiding. I would face the consequences because it didn't really matter
now: I was not a 'success' in life and was not going to become
one. I wanted to find people who could relate to my actual
existence, not an overly positive or misleading deflection.
It could be that having a public website eventually caught up with
me: the reasons that made me destroy things in the past (that they
weren't good, that I didn't know how to edit or was too overwhelmed
to try, that I was unfair to people, that it felt chaotic and I
needed to escape from it, there was anxiety about keeping it in
existence) were still relevant to what I had put online. I had so far
faced no consequences, but had to be punished for sharing my ugly
thoughts. I had to be punished for putting unfinished, unresearched,
messy and repetitive thoughts out there, as well as shoddy attempts
at creative self-expression.
Also, it could be that unconsciously I felt that I had betrayed my
family by speaking out. I was an ugly person.
At the same time, I longed for a friend who would understand what I
had been trying to say, in spite of my inability to express things
I ended up creating a friend/enemy that would satisfy both
components, the need for punishment, and the need for encouraging
feedback, and constructive criticism. They were so intertwined that
eventually neither message could be believed - except that the
negative seemed more likely. The criticism that was unconstructive
seemed like the overall point.
My own need to project things in a more personal way, to see in the
communication a sexual and romantic component, added extra
complication. I often thought it seemed like my 'stalker' was
playing along with this fantasy, only to later mock me regarding it.
I tried to figure out what I had done to deserve this, but it wasn't
actually difficult to imagine reasons - it was difficult to know for
sure where the focus should be.
My understanding of erotomania is that the person suffering from it
believes that a person of higher standing is in love with her/him,
and that the perceived communication between them is about this love.
My impression was never simple or sure, and I also doubted that I was
even communicating with 'someone'. I doubted that it was possible. It
seemed to me that the most likely
explanation was that I had
had a need to create an imaginary relationship that was complicated,
because even in imagination I felt I did not deserve a non-ambivalent
love. However, even though it seemed likely to me that I had created
this relationship in my head, it did seem very real to me, and I
connected it with an actual person I had had a friendship with in the
past. What this told me was that I may have something to resolve with
this person. It may have been solved very quickly, but as I had no
way of contacting him, it dragged on for years, and perhaps became
When it comes to erotomania, the 'instinct' of the sufferer is in a
way correct: if the erotomaniac had a real relationship with a person
of higher standing, in a genetic sense they would have improved their
own situation. It probably depends on a lot of other factors as to
what extent a person is likely to actually believe
they are in
erotic communication with a person who is either not aware of their
existence, or who does not see them as a potential partner.
In my own personal situation, the difference was that I saw
'messages' as pointers to my next path in life. I was aware that I
was more tuned in to 'coincidences' than the average person, and I
chose to see it as a way to be tapped in to what still remains
mysterious in life.
The 'messages' I spoke of in my early 20s actually did lead me to a
relationship - one that lasted 7 years, and when this relationship
was securely formed, I stopped being as tuned in to coincidences. My
explanation goes something like this: In my early 20s, after not
leaving the house much in several years, not attending school or
having a job, I was in serious trouble. I read all the books that
were available to me in the house, including dictionaries, which led
me to link words and ideas in new ways, and to perceive more
'coincidences' in communication - for example in books and
music/lyrics. What I did with this information was to apply it to
stored unconscious information.
When I left home and lived on my own for 6 months at age 21, it was a
major effort for me. I had no support and no friends to turn to, I
had only a vague idea that I needed to get out into the world to try
to find people more like me. While living on my own, I developed a
crush on the person I later lived with for 7 years, but at age 21, I
didn't think he was interested in me, although he did not himself
have a girlfriend in the time I knew him.
I moved away from Northern Ontario, and it was 4 years later before
the 'coincidences' resulted in a 'eureka' moment: I had desperately
wanted to change my look, and from the moment I dyed my hair black I
could not stop thinking of this person again. In less than half a
year, we were a couple.
Years later, it was a 'coincidence' in one of GK's posts that led me
to finally post, not lurk on ash, when I had consciously decided that
there was no sense in ever posting - that it was better to
concentrate all my energy on killing myself.
Basically, what can sound psychotic to doctors was really a somewhat
helpful adaptation based on my own unique ways of processing
information. I was not actually out of touch with reality - I was
open to helpful hints from my subconscious.
As for the most recent observation-communication delusion, I guess
that one crossed the line into losing touch with reality. It makes
sense that over time it would be difficult for me to continue to face
my life and ongoing severe depression. In 2008, I recognized that a
knee injury had likely developed through years of overuse. Similarly,
continued isolation and depression took their toll on my
Still, there was something to learn from my particular delusion,
related to realities of life and aging. Also, that the more you
outwardly question any part of the status quo, the more pressure you
will have to face. In an individual sense, I learned how difficult it
is to get people to really listen to what I say, and that not only
psychiatrists and psychologists fear liability issues - if you are
perceived as unstable and out of touch with reality, if you are not
respected, others will think it's in your best interest not to give
you the information you say you want. You have to learn to deal with
this, accept that it is part of life, and try again to find others
who are willing to take risks in their communication with
Interestingly, although I did not have an email address or any way of
getting in touch with him, and hadn't spoken to him ('for real') for
6 years, the person I imagined was 'stalking' me actually emailed me
out of the blue while I was travelling around the world (and was not
far from where he lived.) This coincidental occurrence unfortunately
fueled the fixation.
The personality I had perceived in my delusional state was the
personality of the actual person involved. My unconscious had
remembered better than my conscious. While in this case the
coincidences did not lead to a new relationship, they may have
pointed out something I needed to resolve in order to move forward.
I was lucky enough that the person in question was willing to offer
enough information/feedback that this was possible.
A common theme in my life is that I have the impression that people
withhold important, and sometimes essential, information from me. In
the case of my observation-communication delusion, I think it's
possible that 'kind lies' told to me in the past, possibly to
'protect' me from a harsh reality, actually fueled or at least
contributed to the delusion. There was a discrepancy between my
perception and what I had been told - either something was incorrect,
or some information had been left out - and this itself might have
resulted in my need to clear up illusions through creating a scenario
in which there was a driving need to have enough contact, such that
it was possible to clear up the illusions.
I took a lot of steps to cure myself of my delusion. Some were very
practical: I asked a few people who were knowledgeable about
computers as to what was actually possible regarding cyberstalking
and hacking. My computer was thoroughly checked over, and major
virus protection installed, including a hardware firewall.
The practical steps did not produce a cure, and I realized that I
might have to take symbolic action, so I took an axe to my computer.
It sounds psychotic, but it was in a way fun. My computer caught fire
and there was an explosion. I was breaking up with a boyfriend who
would not get the message! I was making a clear statement of intent.
The delusional relationship had served a purpose, but I now wanted to
After that, I structured my life less around the computer. It was
necessary to me to try to see life differently. I had been using the
computer or leaning on it in such a way that it might have had some
bearing on why I developed delusions.
It was at around this time, when I was learning to become more
independent, that I was lucky enough to have contact with the
actual person who I had associated with the stalking.
Not long after I began to resolve it with him, I heard from members
of my family, originally out of legal obligation, but eventually it
became more of a catching up.
The timing was very interesting. It helped me to tie together the
past and the present.
I could not maintain either the family contact or the renewed
correspondence with an old friend.
I realized that I could not see life or relationships as they did
(although my family's attitudes are considerably different to those
of my former correspondent). I had to take a personal stand. Instead
of seeing myself as someone who might be seen as negative or
dysfunctional according to their values, I saw myself as someone who
had a right to her own perceptions and ideas, as well as standards.
That is not to say that I don't see the ways in which I don't live up
to society's standards, or even to the standards of those somewhat
outside the boundaries, and it's not to say that I don't experience a
feeling of dissatisfaction with my life, but that I question the
whole system, and can't judge myself in the ways that others
I respect the individuality of these others, but also have to
respect my own, and try to find circumstances in which my point of
view is relevant.
After coming to these conclusions, I was ready to take an extended
leave from the computer. No longer having one of my own, it was less
comfortable anyway to be on one for long. I managed to spend a year
only going on once or twice per month briefly, to do only what I was
required to do with regards to bills and maintenance.
During that year I did a lot of reading, and wrote in notepads. I
found I didn't really need the computer. If I had to go without it,
I could. The delusions did not transfer to anything outside of the
computer. Once I stopped going on the computer, the delusions
Did I completely cure myself of my delusion? Unfortunately, no. When
I go on a computer, I still can't shake the idea that I am being
watched. However, I am not tempted to try to communicate with the
'watcher'. I also don't want to be inhibited from engaging in
activities I want to engage in on the computer on account of an
imaginary threatening presence. I realize that I have to make a
conscious decision to believe that what I thought had been happening
hadn't actually happened, that it just wasn't technologically
possible, not to mention that there is no one I know who could have a
motivation to do it if it were possible.
I still have some things to express that are pushing at me, and that
need to communicate seems to trump the discomfort of using a computer
for now. I am not sure I will ever be able to completely get rid of
the delusion that I am being observed. Anyway, I can't see myself
destroying another laptop - it doesn't make sense to me. What I have
to do is continue to make a conscious choice. I realize that the
feelings of judgment I perceive originate within myself. I have to
decide that I don't agree with the internal judgments, and that I
must continue to challenge them.
On the one hand, I am somewhat impressed by my imagination or
creativity in coming up with such a detailed and persistent delusion.
I seem less boring. On the other hand, I feel a kind of hatred
toward this part of myself that has been so influenced by ideas I
find simplistic or don't accept, and which adopts a style of
communication that seems more interested in my destruction than in
constructive criticism, and gets to remain more or less anonymous.
I don't think I like or respect some of my ancestors who contributed
to the formation of my superego. However, if I can't completely get
rid of the idea that I am being constantly monitored and judged, what
I have to do is consciously assert my own identity, my own values
and my own ideas in all situations when I perceive an overly harsh
and punitive presence. It's good to question myself and just how my
own values or ideas were formed. It doesn't help to whine that it's
unfair that I am constantly monitored with no chance for privacy. I
can accept that it's unpleasant, and that it is probably necessary to
continually fight that unpleasantness in the struggle to do and
express what it is important for me to do and express.