Since 1913, when K. Jaspers published his “Allgemeine Psychopatologie”, psychiatry has faced an apparent paradox: if the definition of hallucination implies that there is no external stimulus (no sensations and, consequently, no perceptions) related to a specific object, how to classify them among sensory perception disorders? We will try to demonstrate that this “paradox” arises out of some sort of a “trap” in the German language.
The German word for perception (“Wahrnehmung”), is composed by the substantive “Wahr” (true) and the verb “nehmen” (to take for). Therefore, according to such definition, for German native speakers, everything one believes to be true is considered a perception, even when there is no object. This is the “paradox”: very German…very idealistic, and the belief in the presence of a being independent of the world (“Heiddeger Existencialism” and its “sein und dasein”). The linguistic power is so great that they probably would not agree even after an explanation.
This is a problem to the Germans, but not to us. The Latin term “percipere” (to take and keep something) provides us with everything we need in order to very well define such phenomenon. Effectively, when one perceives something, that something “belongs” to him, as one starts to have some power over it.
We owe a great deal to the Germans. However, this does not mean that we should fall into the same “cage” that their language has set for them. It is time to put an end to the dependence we developed to the Germans’ very rich philosophy and phenomenology.
Their criterion is similar to the one Herodoto found among an oriental people for which a son never kills his father. When this happens, it is a proof that the killer was not really son of this one who was murdered. The artificial fixing of some criteria is not very scientific, of course. If we determine, for example, that every schizophrenic patient presents deterioration of his will, we will always obtain the same result.
Taking into consideration that the images we form in our minds can have only two origins (although they can be mixed): 1-from outside (SENSORY PERCEPTION) or; 2- inside (REPRESENTATIONS), hallucinations are necessarily a REPRESENTATION with all the characteristics of a normal perception, including the power to convince one of the presence of object. By definition, the Germans do not worry about this criterion.
The paradox demystified herein had, and still have, another bad consequence: the depreciation of the human capacity for representations. Working with these new criterion we can show that:
1- Illusions are mixed phenomena: to a not very clear PERCEPTION, we associate one REPRESENTATION, dependent to our state of mind and sufficient to trigger a mistake.
2- Pareidolies are also mixed phenomena, but they depend on our will and we do not commit any mistake related to them.
3-“Functional Hallucinations” are also dependent on an association between one PERCEPTION and one REPRESENTATION, but they course in parallel, not mixing one with the other.
4-Pseudo-hallucinations are also a very special kind of representation (often related to the use of certain substances). Germans gave much value to their occurrence in a certain “internal space” (as any typical representation) to differentiate them from true hallucinations. To us: its stability, independence of will and the fact that those who suffer it keep a critical judgment about it, seem much more important, specially to diferenciate them of other representations.
5- The “Déjà vu” is related to a kind of false representation.