Ultimately, it does not matter what we believe is real. The only thing that does matter, is what is real. 2+2 = 4, not just for some people but for all people. It does not matter if one sincerely believes that 2+2 = 5. No matter how deeply one believes that 2+2 = 5, that same one is wrong and will be punished for being wrong. We are not entitled to believe in something that is not true. Believing that 2+2 = 5, means that you will be punished when you do your taxes, balance your checkbook, pay a bill, punished in math class and in life in general. Coming to believe that 2+2 = 4, will end that punishment.
It is critically important to correctly identify reality. Either your neighbors are bugging your house, organizing patrols, conspiring against you or they are not. Are they or aren’t they? Logic tells us that it is impossible to prove a negative. In other words, it is impossible to prove that invisible, naked, angels are not dancing on your ceiling at night. If you make the claim that they are, it is up to you to provide evidence to prove your claim. It is not up to the dissenter, to prove that invisible, naked, angels are “not” dancing on your ceiling at night.
You have to remember that it is quite possible for a person, to see, to hear, to smell, to feel something that does not exist in reality. Am I saying that it is possible to see, to hear things that are not real? Yes, I am. There is no doubt that people hallucinate. It is also possible to believe in highly organized thoughts that are not real. They are called delusions. Is it possible to believe in things that are not real? Yes and it happens all the time. Ask any mental health professional.
The idea of the spying neighbors is your wife’s. She believes that the neighbors are spying on her. Where is her evidence? How did she come to this conclusion? All of the spying activities, alleged by your wife, are illegal. If she went to the police with her belief in neighborhood spying, what evidence would she have to convince the police?
In reality, she likely has her strong beliefs but has no evidence at all. Can she convince the police? Can she convince a jury? Most importantly, can she convince you with the evidence that she has? And, concerning the question at hand, on what evidence has your wife come to the conclusion that your neighbors are spying on her? With the evidence that she has, should she have come to the conclusion that the neighbors are spying? If she has sufficient evidence then there is no problem but lacking sufficient evidence there is a problem in her thought process.
I have worked with many individuals who were sure that their homes were bugged, yet they had no evidence. They had found no bugs. I have worked with people who were afraid to take a shower because they were sure that their next-door neighbor was inserting a fiber-optic camera through the keyhole of their bathroom door. They never found the camera. They could not explain how he was gaining access to their home. They never caught him in the act. They could not explain why he was always available when they were taking a shower. They could not explain how he was aware of their varying shower times. They would try to fool him by jumping out of bed at random times during the early morning hours and then shower but he was always there with his fiber optic camera. They couldn’t see him but they knew he was there.They could not explain how this man needed no sleep and was able to monitor their activities 24 hours a day.
To solve the problem of the spying neighbor and the fiber-optic camera, one of my clients began to shower with all of her clothing on. She would reach underneath her clothing and soap up. Eventually, she was able to explain how he knew when she was showering. She found out that her thought waves were so strong that she was broadcasting them all over the neighborhood.
And what proof did she have? None. Believing something without sufficient evidence is a sign of mental illness.
Carl Sagan said “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”
Thomas Jefferson said “Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion.”
There are two concerning things about your wife’s situation. First, is her believing in something without sufficient evidence to justify her beliefs. The second concerning thing, is her very strong emotional reaction to her beliefs. You say that her beliefs are destroying her. You say that it’s all that she can talk about, all day, every day.
I can say this. I have worked with many people with similar beliefs and all of them received confirmed diagnoses of either paranoia or paranoid schizophrenia.
If your neighbors really are spying on you and have bugged your house, there is nothing at all wrong with your wife, though I would recommend counseling to help her deal with the stress of being spied upon. However, if your wife is wrong and the neighbors are not spying on her, she would be exhibiting symptoms of paranoia and would require help.
I hope the future finds you both well.
Dr. Kristina Randle