The Rational Basis® of Happiness Podcast

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Evil Spirits

My fun boyfriend has a big problem - he thinks he is controlled by evil energy ghosts.

(this is raw unedited text transcribed directly from the audio)


Dr. Kenner: If you’re in a bad relationship and you want to get out, but you’re mixed because you kind of like the guy too, what do you do? That’s a question from Anita. “Dear Dr. Kenner. Bertram, my 32-year-old boyfriend, and I have dated for a year. He has psychological problems, but he refuses to seek treatment. I’m worried because I’ve got a small child and I’m concerned about her safety before I take the next step with him. To meet Bertram, you wouldn’t see anything abnormal. He’s funny, sensitive and warm. He’s intelligent and there is no “abnormality” in his usual way of communicating. But privately, he has some depressed moments, which I’ve accepted as just part of him. When I suggested he see a therapist, he then confided things that he has only shared with his family. He believes an evil energy is controlling his emotions and his life. He says although it’s not voices, it’s like they control him and he says he can feel pins and needles in his body, mainly in his brain. He also says it’s like a sexual harassment where he can feel something touch him, etc. He strongly believes it’s an evil spirit or ghost or energy. He says they sometimes force him to act in harmful ways, but he ignores their messages and tries to live life in a calm way. This is what worries me most because of my child. He said he once saw a psychologist for an assessment when he was 18. The doctor gave him a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Bertram didn’t believe it and never went there again. What is his diagnosis and is he dangerous? Please help me! Anita.”


Anita, the question is not so much what is his diagnosis, but given your serious concerns, the please help me, and given what he’s confided in you, the most important personal question for you is do I want to get engaged or marry him, given what I now know? Do I want to expose my young daughter to someone who is at war with himself, who has very irrational thinking, and potentially dangerous behavior? You already thought his depressive moods were strong enough to recommend he see a therapist. Now you’re discovering his inner world. And I know you’re alarmed because you took the time to ask the question.


If Bertram believes he’s controlled by evil spirits and has to fight the urges to act in sexually harmful ways, how will you ever feel comfortable when he’s alone with your daughter? Or with you? And he had a diagnosis by a professional 14 years ago. With his strong, ongoing delusions, and his refusal to seek help, you have a right to be alarmed. I would be too. He’s had 14 more years to build on his delusions. Now in terms of a specific diagnosis, he would need to see a medical professional privately, and I hope he does. I hope he gets some help, because if he’s got a very nice side of him, it would be a shame for him to live this double life. Could be medical causes. He might have a brain tumor or maybe a history of drug abuse. Maybe not. But a medical doctor or a psychologist/psychiatrist would need to rule out medical causes of what he’s experiencing and they could also explore the causes of his paranoid, delusional system. Any abuse in his past? Maybe too many slasher or horror movies or some odd religious beliefs? They could definitely offer him some help. Cognitive therapy or possible medication, or maybe a different kind of therapy. 


But getting back to you, Anita, I’m glad you got to know him beyond what he presents to the outside world. Had you married him early on in the heat of attract, you may never have learned about that inner world. Now you have that relevant information and you have no moral obligation to stay with him. If your evaluation of him has changed with his divulging this potentially threatening information, you have every right to value your own happiness and that of your young daughter and you can end the relationship if you want. It’s not always easy to break off a year-long relationship, especially with someone who could be unstable or dangerous, so assuming you choose to do this, you could benefit from some personal counseling, some guidance. You want to give yourself the opportunity to explore your own thoughts and feelings and to figure out a safe way to leave the relationship. I of course, as I mentioned, I recommend a good cognitive therapist and you can go to my website,, and check out a therapist. 


Also, you can get my book. If you want to choose a partner in the future, in part three of a book that Dr. Ed Locke and I wrote, we have a section “finding your soul mate” and we talk about how to achieve the harmony between reason and emotion. We talk about how to connect on all different dimensions, habits, attitudes toward money, feeling visible with one another. And that book you can check out on Amazon. The title is The Selfish Path to Romance, and that means self-valuing, how to bring passion and reason together.


Let’s say you’re at a family gathering and your dad says something irrational, totally off the wall. It irks you. And you want to speak your mind, but in that spilt second, you feel trapped. You’re fearful and you hear yourself muttering, “Oh, what’s the use?” And you keep quiet, but one change happens. That fire in your mind that wanted to fight back, that wanted to speak up to your father, has turned into a thick smokescreen and you end up feeling what? You feel beaten. You feel depressed. But you do want to stop and ask the question, “Oh, what’s the use?” but not that way. You want to ask the question, “What is the use of speaking up, for myself?” Whether it’s with your dad or a wife or husband or with your kids, or with politicians with whom you disagree, what difference would it make in your life if you gave yourself a voice. I don’t mean an aggressive voice, but an assertive voice. A powerful voice. What will it give you? If you speak up for rational principles, you are going to earn a tremendous psychological benefit, one that no one else can give you. You’re not going to feel powerless. You’re not going to feel worthless. You are going to build on your confidence and you will discover others who feel as you do. That’s always a lot of fun. So the question to ask yourself is, do you have the courage to fight for your own integrity?