I recently read about Cotard’s Delusion, also called Walking Corpse Syndrome, or Cotard’s Syndrome, wich is when a person holds the delusional belief that they are dead.
On a side note, it instantly reminded me of zombies for some reason, although these are not similar in the least. I have mixed feelings about zombies, these gross misunderstood creatures, always hungry for human brains. Ultimately, it’s not like they willingly become walking corpses – nobody wants to end up as an undead. Their only problematic defect is that they like to eat brains and, in order to do so, they need to kill poor defenseless humans. Fortunately, these are fictional characters. There are many other implications about these entities, but I’m not going to get into detail about that. My friend Martin Pribble recently published a splendid analogy on his post Man vs Zombies.
These people are severely depressed, Cotard’s Delusion usually occurs when patients have psychoses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and is associated with depression and derealization. They think they are missing organs, that they don’t exist, some of them try to commit suicide to make sure they are dead. Apparently the best way to treat this disorder is with electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).
It also got me thinking, how a person who can feel their heart beating in their chest, believe that they are dead?
This reminded me of this character, described in the book The Journey Beyond Enlightenment by Stuart Wilde, who believed he was dead. Albeit the author does not make any reference to the aforementioned illness, or not that I can recall, I think this person fits this description perfectly.
The story goes that his family, puzzled by his refusal to do anything that dead people couldn’t do, take him to the psychoanalyst:
They told the psychoanalyst the whole story: “This man is in a poor state.”
The psychologist said, “Don’t be worried, I will fix him.”
He took a needle and asked this madman: “What do you think about the proverb that ‘Dead people don’t bleed’?”
He said, “It is absolutely right. I heard it when I was alive: ‘Dead people don’t bleed.’”
The psychologist was very happy. The family was very happy also, listening, thinking that the psychologist is really great; he is catching him on the first point.
The psychologist pushed the needle into the dead man’s hand and blood came out. He looked at the dead man and said, “What do you say now?”
The man said, “That means that proverb is wrong – dead people do bleed. I had only heard it; now it is my own experience.”
When a person is severely deluded, no reason or evidence will make them change their mind. Then it dawned on me – these people have the same process of reasoning as religious people.
The human brain is wired to believe in something, and even presented with evidence to the contrary, they somehow find a way to justify their belief, no matter how wildly irrational it may be.
In some sense, the religious type live their lives waiting for a better life in heaven – they might as well be dead already, delightedly contemplating their deity of choice whilst playing the celestial harp.
Okay, maybe that is going too far. I just have a really hard time trying to grasp the way some people think – and I am not talking about the mental ones here. Sometimes it is incredibly hard to walk in other people’s shoes.
This only proves that deluded minds only believe what they experience, and their experiences can be exceedingly twisted and bizarre.