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Waelder, R. (1951). The Structure of Paranoid Ideas—A Critical Survey of Various Theories. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 32:167-177.

(1951). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 32:167-177

The Structure of Paranoid Ideas—A Critical Survey of Various Theories Language Translation

Robert Waelder


1. Various attempts at explaining psycho-analytically the formation of paranoid ideas are reviewed. With one exception they do not seem to explain satisfactorily the distinctive characteristic of paranoid ideas, viz. their inaccessibility to influence. The exception is provided by Freud's late hypothesis that the adherence to a delusional idea is due to its intrinsic, though distorted, content of truth.

2. There are three possible solutions to the conflicts between individual instinctual equipment and reality: an equilibrium can be established by changing reality (alloplasticism) or by changing the instinct (autoplasticism) or by changing neither but denying one or the other. These methods lead, wherever successful, to various types of normality, i.e. a dominating type, a submissive type, and a type with a rich phantasy life. When unsuccessful, they provide the breeding ground for psychopathy, psychoneurosis, and paranoia respectively.

3. Furthermore, it is suggested that if warded-off instinctual drives make their come-back, the return has the same form as the defence mechanism had; they return, as it were, through the same door through which they were ousted (isomorphism). If the defence mechanism had the form of denial, the return must have the form of an assertion. One type of paranoid ideas at least, the delusion of persecution, may be the result of an (incomplete) return of a denied instinct.

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