Ozodi Thomas Osuji, PhD

July 7, 2012

This paper hypothesizes that the over one thousand years that slavery took place in Africa, the constant capturing and selling of Africans by their fellow Africans to Arabs and Europeans, engendered certain spillover effects on Africans, such as their current corrupt cultures where few persons seem to care for the public good and the psychological pathologies seen in many Africans, such as paranoia and post-traumatic stress disorder.


Ozodi Thomas Osuji, PhD

I read Joy Degruy Leary’s (2005) book, Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome. She pointed out that slavery and racism was traumatic experience for African-Americans and that the behaviors that we see in many of them that seem pathological may be the effect of their traumatic slave experience (passed from one generation to another). Trauma, she said, produces pathological behaviors, behaviors that are passed from one generation to another.
What we need to do, she said, is to understand the nature of trauma and the behaviors it induce and heal them so as to prevent those involved from passing it’s pathological behaviors to future generations. Denying what is does not make it go away; what helps is to understand it as it is and address it realistically (scientifically).
Dr. Leary’s thesis got me thinking about what possible effects were left on Africans in Africa itself by slavery?
In Africa slave catchers roamed around capturing people, even children and marching them to the sea coast and selling them to Europeans whose slave ships were parked at the coast (some were marched to the north across the Sahara desert and sold to Arabs in North Africa and Arabia).
Instead of being abstract let me give specific example of how it worked. In 1500 AD the Portuguese discovered Brazil. They tried using the local population of Indians to do their plantation and mining work and those either died or ran away. They came to West Africa and arranged with coastal people to go get Africans to be sold to them.
In my part of Africa, Alaigbo, the coastal people, Ijaws and EFik arranged with those Igbos close to them, Aro, to go get Igbos and sell them to them and they, in turn, sell them to the Portuguese. (See Uchendu, 1965)
The Aro hired a group of headhunters known as Abam, and those roamed around Igbo land capturing Igbos, some as young as ten years old (Olaudah Equiano, 1999). They would march these captives sometimes over two hundred miles to the sea coast (at Calaba and Bonny) and sell them to Efik and Ijaw who in turn sold them to the Portuguese.
This arrangement lasted from the 1500s to 1900. In effect, Igbos were captured for 400 years and sold into slavery. This is a known fact.
Before the transatlantic slave trade, slavers captured and marched Igbos and other West Africans up north and across the Sahara desert and sold them to Arabs. The Arab slave trade probably started around 700 AD and did not end until the 1900s. (See Davidson, 1961)
It is therefore safe to say that for over 1200 years Igbo slaves were captured and sold to either Arabs or Europeans. These Igbo slaves are now part of Arabia and the two Americas.
What took place in Alaigbo took place in other West African ethnic groups, from Senegal to Namibia. West Africans were terrorized by slave kidnappers.
In East Africa the same phenomenon also took place, except that this time the Africans were mostly marched to Arabia and sold to Arabs and Persians and only God knows who else bought them in the Middle East.

My goal in this paper is to focus on the possible effects of slavery on Africans in Africa. Kidnappers roaming around Africa capturing Africans and selling them into slavery must have affected those Africans who were not captured and sold into slavery (or before they were captured and sold into slavery…in which case they came to the Americas and Arabia with already existing effects of living in a precarious environment where life was not safe).
Imagine those living in Igbo villages and other West African villages constantly aware that any day could be their last day of being with their kinfolk as they are grabbed by slave catchers and marched south and sold.
A woman going to her farm could be captured and she is heard from no more (imagine the effect on her children now deprived of their mother); a child out playing with other children could be captured and is seen no more; a man out visiting kinfolk could be waylaid by a group of kidnapers and captured, bound with ropes and marched south and sold.
Sometimes Abam and Aro people stimulated inter village wars with the sole purpose of villagers capturing some of their people and selling them to Aro folk who subsequently sold them to Efik folk who sold them to white slavers at the coast.
At night some of the catchers could sneak into a compound and grab sleeping children, women and men, gag them and take them off to be sold.
Children could go to bed and wake up in the morning with their parents gone as those were taken by slave catchers and marched away. Now who would take care of those children? Relatives? Those may in turn be captured and sold; thus, many children were left uncared for and died.
African villages were literally depopulated by Arab and America slavery. African people were literally transferred to Arabia and the Americas. There were probably more Africans sold out of Africa than were left in Africa itself. Where are the majority of Africans? They are now in America and the Arab world!
In my area you find a village that is now composed of several hundred people that only a few years ago may be twenty people. It was not like in the past the people were not procreating, they were but their offspring were invariably captured and sold into slavery. With the stopping of slavery in 1902 by the British the people were no longer captured and sold into slavery (domestic and external slavery) and the population is now growing in leaps and bounds.
In 1901/1902 Frederick Lugard (Lugard, 1965; Perham, 1960), a Briton, with his West African Frontier Army, composed mostly of Hausa soldiers, used it to storm the Long Juju of Arochukwu. Apparently, the Aro were still selling Igbo slaves at that date. Having destroyed the Aro, Lugard and his army went all over Igbo land, and, as he said, pacifying the people; that is, preventing them from capturing and selling their people into slavery and, of course, making them amenable for British rule. In the wake of Lugard’s conquest of Alaigbo Christian missionaries from Europe descended and converted most Igbos to Christianity. The Christian missionaries set up shop in my area, Owerri in 1906 and today most Igbos from Owerri area are Christians.
If you extrapolate from the present rate of population increase and subtract those that would have died natural deaths and imagine that slavery did not exist some of these villages population probably would be in thousands today; many of them would have become urban areas, cities. Simply put, slavery decimated African peoples.
However, the primary focus of this paper is the psychological effects of living in villages where folks could be captured at any moment and sold into slavery and were seen no more by their relatives. What do you think would be the effect of this scenario on the people?
I think that the people must have lived in terrible insecurity. Their lives were not safe. They could be killed and or captured and marched off into slavery at any point in time.
One’s look at one’s children and or relatives in the morning when one went to the farm could be the last time one would see them again! Any day could be the last day one was with ones people and friends.
The people must have lived in what Thomas Hobbes (1651), in his book, Leviathan, described as what life was like in the state of nature: war of all with all and the result was that life was nasty, brutish and short.
Those who were not killed or kidnapped lived in constant fear for their lives. Their emotions swung from anxiousness/fear to depression at the loss of loved ones to paranoia; that is, fear that one could be captured at any time.
Since one never knows who is going to capture one or who is going to betray one to be captured one had to be afraid of one’s own neighbors, even of one’s family members (if family members have issues with one another some could arrange for slavers to come take their supposed enemies away and cart them off to slavery).
The people must have lived in a terrible state of paranoia (this probably accounts for the higher level of paranoia found in Igbos and other Africans).
Life must have been hellish in Igbo and other African villages for at least one thousand years. I can imagine many of them wishing to be dead (to join spouses killed during inter village wars to capture slaves or to join kidnaped relatives).
I can even imagine some people wishing to be captured with the fantastic hope that may be they could be sold to where their relatives were sold to so that they would see them and be with them.

Dante (1265-1321)described what he imagined are the various levels of hell; I can imagine that living in Igbo and African villages were worse than living in the highest section of hell that Dante imagined in his Inferno. Africans must have lived in literal, not figurative hell. This was a terrible way to live.
And the worst part of it all is that Africans did this to their fellow Africans. It was Igbos who roamed Igbo land capturing Igbos and selling them to Efik and Ijaw folk who then sold them to Europeans. It was Africans that captured their people and sold them to Arabs and Europeans.
It was Africans that inflicted this extreme physical and psychological suffering on their people. They did it for monetary gain. They sold their people to Arabs and white folks to make money.
And what did they do with that money?
I do not see mansions in Igbo land built with the wealth acquired from selling Igbo slaves. Europeans used African slave labor to accumulate wealth. The palatial buildings one see dotting the European landscape were built with money obtained from selling Africans to the Americans. Americans literally worked African slaves to death; throwing dead ones into holes in the ground dug for that specific purpose and their makeshift graves not marked.
Europeans used Africans to make money in America and repatriated such money to Europe and with it built mansions.
So, where is the money that Africans presumably made from selling their people? It is nowhere. Africans literally sold their people for bottles of rum and pieces of glass (beads) that they wore on their necks to make them seem very important persons.
For committing this terrible crime against their people, and if there is God, against God, Africans have nothing to show for it!
No wonder white men believe that Africans are unintelligent (Herrnstein and Murray, 1994). Africans must have been really unintelligent. They sold their people for rums (from the West Indies) and tobacco (from Virginia)? In my judgment, they were less than human; they were less than animals; they were garbage; they deserved not to be alive; they ought to be killed, as in capital punishment.
I have often wondered what was going on in the minds of Africans as they captured their people and sold them to Arabs and white men; I ask: what were they thinking?
Were they just thinking about the rum and tobacco? Many Africans were addicted to nicotine from tobacco smoking and to alcohol from rum. The clever and devious white man addicted them to alcohol and nicotine and for that they sold their people to him!
Didn’t African realize that what they were doing was wrong or were they hopelessly addicted to mood altering chemicals and could not think straight? Were their brains scrambled by drugs so that like drug addicts do in North America they sold their children for drugs?
And if they did not know that what they were doing was evil, were they human beings or the children of Satan?
Are Africans an evil people? How could they sell their people, get some sort of money and use it to live on? How could they tolerate their selves knowing that they sold their people?
What kind of ego rationalization enabled them to justify what they did and live with themselves instead of jumping into rivers and drowning themselves, as evil folks ought to do?
I ask this question for as we speak some Igbos are roaming Igbo land and kidnapping their fellow Igbos and holding them hostage until ransom money is paid to them before they release their victims. Often they kill their victims when ransom is not paid or not paid in time.
And supposing they were paid do they actually go home and spend that money on themselves, such as buy food with it and eat to stay alive, knowing that they are staying alive with money from others suffering? If so do they have conscience or are they born criminals?
Are Africans born as criminals with no sense of guilt and remorse? One would think that they should have preferred to kill themselves rather than sell their people into slavery.
What were they living for, to capture and sell their people into slavery, and that sort of life was worth living?
As we talk their leaders could care less for their people. Nigerian leaders specialize in looting the country’s treasury and with the money they stole living well and masquerading around as very important persons while their people are literally starving to death. Are those Nigerian leaders’ decent human beings or evil people?
In the past folks used to be judged morally and if their behaviors were deemed amoral they were called evil. Then came the age of social science, especially psychology. Now if people do what folks used to call evil we try to use the parameters of social science to explain away their behavior. Indeed, psychology and psychiatry try to reduce their behaviors to mental disorder and that way excuse them of responsibility for their apparent evil. Why did they sell their people? It was because they were mentally ill. So being mentally ill was used to explain away what folks used to call evil behavior. No one is responsible for his behavior anymore!
We have to answer this question, are Africans evil, for if Africans are evil people it is better we killed them off, and I mean this. If they have no sense of right and wrong and inflict pain on their people without thought I say let us use nuclear weapons and wipe them off from the surface of the earth. I do not see why they should be kept alive? What are they living for, to inflict more pain on their people?
(As an aside, who should wipe out Africans; who among us has not sinned that should cast the first stone at the sinner? White or Arab folks? Were Europeans and Arabs not the ones buying and abusing African slaves? No human being is innocent. As the philosopher of my teenage years, Arthur Schopenhauer, 1844, said, it seems that nature made a mistake in creating people; people ought to not have been created; their sins are too much for some of us to bear. Schopenhauer looked at Americans whites claiming to be Christians yet enslaving and abusing Africans and his sensitive nature could not tolerate that hypocrisy. Their very bible has injunctions for them to love one another, yet they oppressed Africans in every imaginable manner possible; they were really predatory savages and sadists who derived pleasure from inflicting pain on people. Schopenhauer ran away from people and closeted himself in a boarding room where he spent the balance of his life. People are too wicked for him to bother dealing with them. Stay away from actual people and read and write philosophy and that was what the man did. See his World as Will and Idea.)
Many Africans do not feel guilty from their ancestors selling their people. All they do is blaming those they sold their people to, white men (they do not even blame Arabs). I have not seen any African blaming his ancestors for slavery. Instead, the African blames Europeans for slavery.
If you remind them that contemporary Europeans were not engaged in slavery and since Africans believe contemporary Europeans should still pay reparation for what their ancestors’ did that by the same logic of holding white folks responsible for what their ancestors did that contemporary Africans should be held accountable for what their ancestors did, they do not get the logic.
If you are going to blame current Europeans for the sins of their fathers then why don’t you blame your ancestors for their greater sin of selling their people?
One would think that it was greater sin to sell your people. You know that they are related to you and you sold them.
White folks who bought African slaves did not know who they were and might have considered them animals and not feel guilty from using them as folks use mules to do work and not feel bad from doing so.
So, why don’t Africans feel guilty and remorseful for what their ancestors did? Are they born criminals with no sense of guilt?
And there are Africans who actually believe that the white man ought to pay them reparation for selling their people! They actually want those they sold their people to, Americans, to pay them reparations!
Can you image this level of total shamelessness? I can imagine black Americans asking for reparations from their slave masters and even from Africans who sold them but Africans also asking for payment? That got to be the height of amorality.
But, wait, before you condemn all Africans as immoral. I am from, Africa. I know my father’s people; I know my mother’s people. They are good people; they are the salt of the earth.
I know that they say that one is partial to one’s self and people and cannot judge them correctly. Okay. I am still going to ask you to take my word for it.
My mother’s people, in fact all her village members, could pass for saints. These people are gentle and humble and God fearing and would give you their last penny. My mother’s brother would gather his age mates and they would come to our village to do mother’s farm work for her, for free! They were as loving as any set of human beings I have seen anywhere in the world could be. I certainly have not seen white people as loving and caring as my mother’s Owerri folk were and still are.
My father’s people are like me, arrogant but good people. Grandfather was into egoism. He expressed his sense of importance and if you dared look down on him he would not mind doing something to get you in jail. But despite his arrogance he donated his lands for the village school to be built and did all other kinds of good work for the people. He was not an angel but he was not worse than the men of power I see around the world.
(Generally, I do not like denying responsibility for my actions: I take full responsibility for what I did, good or bad; I do not like to blame other people for my actions, good or bad; I know that if you point two accusing fingers at other people that three point right back at you demanding that you take responsibility for your share in our mutually determined world. Thus, I tend to resent Africans who deny their people’s role in slavery and instead only harp on white men’s role in buying them. Generally, I seize every opportunity to remind them of their ancestors’ role in selling their people and tell them to quit yapping about those they sold their people to. But as I look at the Africans near me, my Owerri folk, I can tell you with good conscience that they did not sell their people. If they did I would be the first to gather them in a gas chamber, spray gas on them and light it. No, these are good people. Aro, Abam, Abriba and Ngwa people, folks from different Igbo clans came to their world and kidnapped their people and sold them into slavery. As we speak, the same savages are roaming around Alaigbo and kidnapping Igbos and holding them hostage for ransom. I am saying that not all Africans were guilty for slavery. My folks did not participate in selling their people. I am not just being defensive. I urge you to go do a study and find out. Okay, we had domestic slaves called Osu; those were used to do the work of the high priests, so as to leave them free to do what they do best, intellectual work.)
My point is that the Africans I see in African villages are good people. Then I ask: but these were the people who only a hundred years ago were selling their people into slavery? Something does not compute here. They do not seem like evil people at all.
What then went wrong to make them do what they did? I do not know but looking at them today they do not seem capable of hurting a mosquito.
Slavery baffles me. Perhaps, Slavery was the will of what Gnostics call the Demiurge, the proud son of God that separated from his father God and invented and runs this world. Could it be that there is Satan at work in this world and he is responsible for the good people of Africa selling their people to Arabia and America in the manner they were?
Alternatively, does history have a will of its own that makes people do what they have to do to meet the needs of the time?
Clearly, labor hands were needed to develop America. However, I tend to think that white folks could have hired Africans as laborers and paid them for their services and allowed them to communicate with their people back in Africa. Arabs could have done the same thing. (This is my idealistic side speaking; let us move on for the world is a brutal place and does not operate according to my wishes. Let us, as they say, proceed with social and economic realism where the strong use the weak to make a living and live to die and become food for worms.)
May be there is no one to blame for slavery; my soul wants to blame Africans (and white folks) for this dastardly crime against humanity called slavery. May be it is one of those things that pure reason cannot explain? I do not know.
Talking to Nigerians, one on one, they seem to be moral although the majority of them cavalierly engage in crimes without forethought. They steal and do not think of the consequences of their stealing on their society.
They seem to have a sense of immediate gratification and don’t think about the long term effect of their anti-social behaviors.
Are Africans an inherently evil people? I want to have this question answered for me.
Whenever you bring up the question of how could Africans have went about capturing their people and selling them into slavery, and for that matter today kidnapping and holding their people for ransom some Africans remind you that Norsemen used to go about burning European villages and capturing the people and marching them to Arabia and selling them into slavery; they remind you that the word Slav came from Eastern Europeans been prey to being captured and sold into slavery.
In effect, they are telling you that white people also did what Africans did and therefore are not different from Africans.
They further remind you that to the present the white ruling class is essentially appropriating most of the wealth of the West for themselves. Some white folks have billions of dollars whereas the many are poor and homeless.
In effect, exploitation is an equal opportunity phenomenon. True, but they have not answered the question: why did Africans sell their brothers and sisters to Arabs and Europeans?
Just because white folks were capable of evil does not justify Africans been evil towards their own people.
Whenever I have taken what does not belong to me I felt terribly bad so I do not understand how a human being could capture another human being and sell him into slavery and live with himself.

I believe that Africans must pay a price for the evil of slavery before things would start working out well for them. The pain of making such payment would teach them to be less cavalier towards criminal activities.
I suggest that African nations devote five percent of their annual national budgets to reparations to black folks in the Americas and Arabia (to be used for their school fees).
Denying that they played a role in the evil of slavery simply will not do. If amends are not made for slavery I believe that future generations of Africans will develop depression from their ancestors’ evil and commit mass suicide.
Just thinking that my ancestors captured our people and sold them to Arabs and white men makes me shudder.
One is not excusing Europe and North America; they must pay reparation to African Americans. Failing to do so they will collapse. Look at them, what do you see? You see a dying civilization. It is only a matter of time before this moribund people collapse and is replaced by Asians. Asians, in turn would be replaced by a more vigorous new civilization, a civilization based on love, not human exploitation.
Rome enslaved people and collapsed. In modern times Britain and France were exploitative empires and are now gone. The Soviet Union enslaved its people and collapsed. Empires built on slavery do not last more than five hundred years.
The five hundred year mark of the USA and other American states built on slavery is coming up. They will be collapsing right and left, evil does not last forever. We are entering one of those periods in history when mighty empires decline and fall and are replaced by other people.


My view is that the over 1000 years history of selling their people to Arabs and Europeans, as well as their internal, domestic slavery, has impaired Africans capacity for moral thinking and behavior; their history of selling their people have transformed Africans into predatory animals lacking in moral behavior.
Although Africans talk morality, especially when they want to use morality to make the white man to feel guilty for buying slaves and for their underdevelopment and hope that in making him feel guilty he would pay them reparations and give them economic aid (which their leaders would squander on themselves but not on their people) they are not a moral people.
Africans as I know them to be, not as they tell the world that they are, are very amoral. If in doubt go start a business in Nigeria and the Nigerians would steal just about everything from it. The business would go bankrupt. In stealing from the business they are thinking of their immediate gain for themselves and for their families but they would not think about what would happen to their people’s employment status if there is no business to employ them. The only thing that seems to motivate Nigerians is getting money, steal it if necessary, to buy the paraphernalia to make them masquerade around as very important persons; but to do what serves their society is not part of their mental makeup. They actually sold their people to get the means to parade around as big men in the eyes of their people!
Try to start a business with Nigerians and instead of seeking ways to make the business grow they would be seeking ways to steal your portion of the start-up capital.
Place Nigerians in government positions and instead of working for the uplift of their people they would loot the government treasury.
These people are now like predatory beasts and there is no other way of putting it. Their morality is completely destroyed by their selling their people.
I believe that African cultures were made amoral by Africans amoral selling of their people. I believe that it would take a couple hundred years before Africans can be trained to become a moral people. Contrary to what their so-called educated persons say, Africans need the civilizing religion of Christianity to teach them to not steal too much, to respect other people’s properties.
Africans and their cultures are pathological and are in need of repair. I believe that the high level of corruption found all over Africa is largely due to their selling their people. You see, they do not care for their people. Those who care for their people do not sell them. Folks who sold their people in the past and in the present do not care for their people hence instead of working for them steal from them are not a moral people.
Nigerians amazing level of corruption shows that they are amoral and have no social feelings, no concern for their people.
I do not see them changing soon; it would probably take several hundred years of re-socializing Nigerians to get them to behave morally and give up corruption.


I hypothesize that the insecurity engendered by living in a world where one is likely to be captured at any moment and sold into slavery engendered high levels of paranoia and post-traumatic stress disorder in Africans? This is a hunch and not proven fact; it is heuristic and ought to be studied and verified as true or discarded as false.


My observation is that whereas paranoia is a human phenomenon that it tends to occur at a higher level in situations of high insecurity. Africans lived in a situation of high insecurity for over a thousand years. I believe that this generated high levels of paranoia in them. I will, therefore, explain what paranoia is. If the reader is interested in clinically detailed understanding of paranoia he can see the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual and the ICD for fuller description of the disorder. There are also many books on the phenomenon. I will provide a brief bibliography on the disorder.
The word paranoia (Meisner, 1978) comes from Greek. It denotes a kind of thought disorder in which the individual is emotionally and socially impaired but is still able to function well at the work place (albeit with frequent interpersonal problems).
Paranoia is characterized by high level of fearfulness and anxiety. The person’s thinking is filled with fear and anxiety. He anticipates danger befalling him. He interprets neutral stimuli as posing danger to him (Swanson, 1970).
Having judged neutral stimuli as threatening to him he does what all of us would do were we in actual threatening situations.
When human beings are in dangerous situations they tend to be defensive, guarded and scan their environment. A soldier at the battle front knows that the enemy could fire his gun at him and kill him at any time. Therefore, he is tense and guarded. He listens to every movement and sound around him. He is acutely aware of any movement, noise and wants to know if it is the enemy sneaking towards him to cut his throat. These guarded and scanning behaviors are normal within the context of the battle field.
On the other hand, if a person is in safe society and is always tense, anxious, guarded and suspicious, does not trust anyone, and thinks that people are out to get him, kill him there is something the matter with his judgment.
In effect, paranoid behavior is behavior that is appropriate in dangerous circumstances but is not appropriate in safe circumstances.
But who is to judge what is dangerous and what is safe? Only the individual can make that judgment call and take the consequences of his thinking and behavior. If you misjudge your neighbor’s intentions he could kill you! You never know what people around you could do to you.
Thus, they say that just because a person is paranoid does not mean that nobody is out to get him! Each of us probably has some people out to get him and he is distrustful of them and watches their behaviors closely.
Paranoid guardedness is sometimes realistic but at other times not called for. Who makes the judgment as to when paranoia is called for is the individual.
When Arab Muslim terrorists attacked Americans on September 11, 2001 many normal Americans exhibited high paranoia; many, in fact, were so suspicious that they jumped and ran away upon the mere sight of an Arab looking person. As it were, all Arabs were perceived as out to get them, to kill them.
Arabs, swarthy folks were associated with random killers, terrorists who kill strangers who did nothing to harm them hence people realistically feared them and ran from them (and the more aggressive Americans wanted to kill them…I was then living at Anchorage, Alaska; some Americans stormed Arab owned businesses and destroyed the “freaking Arabs businesses”; Arabs in the city went into hiding to protect their lives; it took a lot of city leaders efforts to persuade the Arabs to come out of hiding; that is, feel safe around Americans, black and white Americans…danger quickly united black and white Americans against a common external enemy).
Paranoia is intense fear; most of us know what fear is. The paranoid person, unlike the normal person, is in intense fear most of the time.
When human beings are in fear their brains elicit high levels of certain excitatory neurochemicals and those make them alert to what is going on in their environment and speculate on what caused any thing. If you are in fear and hear a branch on a tree break you immediately wonder whether someone is on the tree and broke the branch, someone out to harm you. But if you are not in intense fear you take the noise for granted and move on with your life.
In paranoia the individual feels his life threatened. He therefore desires power to enable him defend his life. Thus, the paranoid person invariably has grandiose self-concept. He fancies himself more powerful and important than he is in real life.
The paranoid person generally has grandiose self-concept. This is a delusional self-view, a false self-view for we all know that the deluded person who thinks that he is that powerful and invincible is not; all you have to do is put a bullet into his swollen head and you kill him.
A paranoid person boasts about his imaginary powers and how he and his people are better than other people. You know that you can put him out of his misery at any minute you want to.
Paranoia has different levels and kinds. There is paranoid personality; paranoia proper and schizophrenia, paranoid type (DSM IV, 2000).
Regardless of what type of paranoia the individual has he tends to be argumentative, always wanting to win arguments (to win is to be important and to lose is to seem unimportant and he fears being seen as unimportant).
The paranoid person generally accuses people of doing what they did not do, such as say that they belittled him. Because of his accusatory behavior and those accused not seeing themselves as doing what he said that they did they feel angry at him. They quarrel with in. In doing so they fulfill his deep held belief that the world is a hostile place and that people are out to get him and he withdraws from people and becomes even more defensive. This is called the vicious cycle in paranoia and the self-fulfilling prophecy in paranoia.
You believe that people are dangerous and untrustworthy and you provoke them to attack you and they attack you and thus fulfill your beliefs about people.
We are responsible for what other people do to us more than we like to believe; we generally stimulate how other people respond to us. If you want people to be friendly towards you then behave in a friendly manner towards them. If you are hostile towards people they will be hostile towards you.
In religious language, love begets love and hate begets hate.
The paranoid person feels his existential sense of nothingness more acutely than average persons. He is fully aware that as a human being he is nothing; he is an animal destined to die and his body rots and or is eaten by worms. He knows that we live meaningless and purposeless existence. He feels weak and vulnerable from the fact that several environmental factors could snuff out his existence.
At any time nature could destroy us through earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, droughts, volcanos, tornadoes, plagues of virus, bacteria, fungus etc. The paranoid person is extra sensitive to the human condition.
The difference between him and a philosopher is that a philosopher accepts human existential reality and thinks about them and makes the most of them without escaping to delusions of power he does not possess.
The paranoid person feels inadequate, as he should, but tries to deny it and posits fictional compensatory sense of adequacy. He posits imaginary sense of power and importance and pursues it.
In Alfred Adler’s (1964, 1979) terms, he feels inferior, as we all are, denies it, and posits imaginary sense of superiority. In pursuing superiority he is pursuing what does not exist, for neither he nor other human beings are superior to anything.
Adolf Hitler (1925) imagined himself superior and died and his body was burned and reduced to ashes that were dumped at a flower bed around his Fuhrer bunker; he became manure to feed rose plants. If he was so superior how come his body is now manure for plants?
We are nothing and must accept it instead of denying it and pretending to be important. The paranoid person is man writ large; he is doing what all people are doing but in an exaggerated manner. If he stops doing it he is at the gate of attaining real knowledge.
However, it is difficult to give up the illusion of importance for to do so is to accept that one is nothing. People would like to feel like they are important and special (a mask over their nothingness).
If a human being accepts his nothingness and is comfortable with it, he is transformed into a philosopher (and if he believes in God, a mystic).
In the meantime, the paranoid person fears being seen as unimportant and wants to be seen as special; he is stiff and serious in pursuit of existential importance; he has no relaxation, no sense of humor; he does not relax and laugh at the absurdity of our being.
We are animals with the capacity of understanding the universe we live in yet we are animals that die and rot like garbage. Our existence is a paradox, a contradiction.
David Shapiro (1984) captured the paranoid fear of unimportance in his book, Autonomy and the Rigid Character; William Meisner (1986) shed some psychoanalytic light on the thought processes of paranoid persons; David Swanson (1970) described the symptoms of paranoia accurately.
Although no one has established biological causation of paranoia, I tend to believe that it is an anxiety disorder.
Isaac Marks (2005) had demonstrated conclusively that anxiety is a biological phenomenon. Some people have predisposition to higher somatic arousal. The paranoid persons I have dealt with tended to have a higher somatic arousal to stress and fear eliciting stimuli; I tend to believe that they have a biological predisposition to paranoia. I do not have proof for my position but that is what over twenty years of clinical practice disposes me to believe.


Personality is the individual’s enduring and habitual pattern of responding to stimuli from his environment. Each of us has a personality; personality is generally formed in our childhood; by the time we attain adolescence, age 13, our personalities are set and are thereafter difficult to change.
Biological and sociological factors, as George Kelly (1955) pointed out, go into the formation of our personalities.
Most people have normal personalities but some have personality disorder; that is, they have conflict in their relationship with their environment, especially with other people (Millon, 1996).
There are ten types of personality disorders: paranoid, schizoid, schizotypal, and narcissistic, histrionic, borderline, anti-social, avoidant, dependent, obsessive-compulsive and passive aggressive. We are at the moment only interested in paranoid personality disorder.
Briefly, a paranoid personality is a normal person with high levels of fear and a tendency to anticipate danger and guard against it. He is suspicious and untrusting. He does not believe that other people’s professed desire to help him is genuine. He believes that the world is a dangerous place and that other people are out to take advantage of him so he might as well protect himself. He scans his world expecting danger and guarding against it. He fears being demeaned, belittled, criticized, humiliated and degraded. He wants other people to see him as a very important person and is on the lookout to see if they treated him disrespectfully and if he suspects that he is disrespected he feels angry and pounds on those he believes so treated him.
You can tell this type of person. For example, in the bus he is looking at people trying to ascertain whether they would harm him. He would move away from those he believes are dangerous.
Whereas this disorder is annoying yet it does not affect the individual’s intellectual functioning. There are professors, medical doctors, engineers, heads of states etc. that have paranoid personality disorder (Richard Nixon is a famous example; in the column also add Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Idi Amin).


There is paranoia proper, also called delusion disorder. Here, there is systematized belief in what is not true as true but beyond that the individual is okay. There are five types of delusion disorder (DSM IV TR).
Grandiose type: this person fancies himself better than other people. Persecutory type: this person believes that other people are out to kill him, poison him etc. and defends himself. Jealous type: this person thinks that his spouse, wife or girlfriend is cheating on him and follows her around trying to catch her in acts of infidelity and beats the shit out of her if his suspicions are confirmed(?). Somatic type: this person complains of having physical illnesses that medical science does not find as real, and Erotomanic type: this person thinks that a very important person is in love with her or is married to her (I had a woman tell me that Jesus Christ is her husband and believes it, and otherwise works as a nurse).
Delusions do not prevent the person from holding down a job or been married. There is no hallucinations involved; the person just believes what you and I know is not true.
When you see a person claiming to be as powerful and important as god you know that he is grandiosely deluded; ignore his delusion and pay attention to whatever he can do well, such as be a mechanic and do a wonderful job fixing your car (paranoid persons tend to be rationalistic and good at scientific and mechanical subjects but not good at interpersonal relationships).


This is the psychotic level of paranoia, such as Schizophrenia, paranoid type. Schizophrenia (Ariete, 1974) is the prototypal mental disorder. There is delusion and hallucination in schizophrenia. The schizophrenic invariably hears voices (auditory hallucination as well as has delusions, usually bizarre delusions, such as claim to be Jesus, Zeus, God). I have had clients who actually believe that they are god and feel offended that you do not see them as god.
If you are interested in why these people feel like they are god, consider that they feel inadequate, inferior and compensate with fictional, exaggerated sense of importance and God is the ultimate important person…see Adlerian psychology.
In schizophrenia the person is psychotic; that is, he has lost touch with reality; he has claims that even untrained persons know are not true so people tune them out and walk away from them; you do not argue with a lunatic. You cannot win such argument. The mad person actually believes his delusions as true.
If a paranoid schizophrenic believes that other people are out to kill him and stays away from them there is nothing you can tell him to make him believe that people are not out to kill him. You just give him medications to reduce the intensity of his fears and leave it at that.
Paranoia is found in a certain percentage of the general human population everywhere on planet earth. But it tends to be more in immigrants. Immigrants generally fear that police and immigration officers are out to capture and deport them, should they make minor mistakes; they also tend to lose prestige (a medical doctor in Nigeria is an important person but if he comes to America he would be lucky to obtain a job as a physician’s assistant in a hospital and even then in the larger white society he is just a nigger).
A black man is seen as garbage in America and all black men know it. This hits some black folk’s sense of prestige hard. Thus, some of them feel their self-esteem attacked and take recourse in exaggerated sense of importance, hence develop paranoid grandiosity. Such black persons present themselves as god like to their wives and children and if their wives do not treat them as the fictional gods they think that they are, they feel belittled and attack and even kill them…many Igbo paranoids in America kill their wives or beat the crap out of them for not respecting them.
My thesis is that because Africans lived in an insecure environment for over one thousand years they tend to be more fearful hence paranoid than other groups.
I want the reader to prove my thesis wrong. I want him to conduct studies that show that the rate of paranoia is the same in Africa as elsewhere.
In the USA we assume that a certain percent of the people have serious mental disorders. I think that the rate of those with serious mental disorders is higher in Africans. I am waiting for your study disproving my perception.


No one really has designed a successful psychotherapy to deal with paranoia. However, it seems that anti-anxiety medications do calm the paranoid person’s body down and make him more amenable to rational thinking.
Generally, therapists avoid paranoid persons for they waste therapists’ time trying to convince them that their grandiosity and fears are real (See Meisner, 1986).
Moreover, paranoid persons appear to like their grandiosity; it kind of makes them feel good to fancy themselves powerful and important. To let go of their grandiose self-concepts would lead to deflation of the self and acceptance of their weak and small selves, something, apparently, they do not want to accept. They would rather believe that they are very important selves.
The belief that other people are out to kill them, persecution complex, actually makes them feel important after all one must be very important for other people, police, and ancestors etc. to want to kill one.
Paranoia is part of human beings efforts to seem important in a world where they feel like they are not important; to give up their delusions of importance and superiority is very difficult for them to do.
Nevertheless, those who undertake to give up their grandiose thinking experience release from the tension generated by their perpetual efforts to seem very powerful and important and be taken seriously by other persons in their world (see Beck, 2003).
Peace and joy is experienced when one accepts ones real self, a small self, not the fictional big self-ones ego wants to seem like.


Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is an anxiety disorder (anxiety with depression and paranoia). It is usually shown in those who had past traumatic experiences where their lives were threatened, where they felt at the verge of being killed and they felt intense fear for their lives. In the past, the threat to their lives was real and the fear they felt was appropriate response but in the present when they are no longer threatened somehow their bodies on their own react as they did when they were under threat hence intense anxiety (Beck, 1975).
The immediate cause could be anticipatory thinking of danger or seeing what reminds them of the persons that threatened them or things that were there when they were threatened in the past (the color of a house where they were abused could trigger the fear response in the present).
The intense fear may come without any apparent cause and generates all the responses to fear: pounding heart, rapid breathing, tort muscles, powerful urge to run away or fight, avoidance of the perceived source of threat and so on.
If you understand the feeling you had when you were extremely fearful for your life, and anxiety disorder (there are many types of this disorder) you understand PTSD.
The trauma that precipitated PTSD could be physical or psychological. Whatever is its source, in PTSD the entire body reacts with intense fear and the individual experiences a powerful urge to run away or fight the source of danger except that now the individual does not see it?
It is clear that some people’s bodies tend to elicit more of the neurochemicals associated with fear than others hence there is probably a biological predisposition to PTSD. Some people are more prone to anxiety disorder due to biochemical issues.
Nevertheless, in the here and now there is always an identifiable cause for PTSD, a past traumatic experience.
Kidnapping and enslaving people generates intense fear in those kidnapped and those left behind. Thus, Africans who were not kidnapped and sold by their people suffered trauma and are still suffering from it in the form of PTSD.
PTSD is generally treated with anti-anxiety medications and the serotonin reuptake blockers, SSI (anti-depression) medications (such as Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft) and, of course, psychotherapy, especially cognitive behavior therapy (individual, group and family therapy).


Imagine a situation where a woman’s child goes out to play and he or she is kidnapped by slave catchers and sold into slavery, or her husband goes to farm and is captured and sold into slavery. The people important in her life could go missing at any point in time. What do you think her feeling would be?
Her feeling would go from fear to paranoia to depression. She would feel that life is not worth living, lose interests in the activities of daily living, such as going to work, socializing, taking care of her physical needs; she would wish that she were dead and be with her loved ones. I am saying that those who lived in conditions of slavery were depressed.
In contemporary Africans, on the other hand, one seldom sees depressed people. What one is likely to see are paranoid Africans?
As William Meisner pointed out in his Paranoid Process, paranoid persons are often depressed persons. Paranoid persons are depressed and are using their grandiose self-views to mask their underlying sense of unimportance, worthlessness and valuelessness.
The depressed person is aware of the futility and pointlessness of living; he is aware of the meaninglessness of our lives; we live to die.
This pessimistic view of life, depression, can be denied or masked by convincing one’s self that life is good.
The paranoid person is a depressed person trying very hard to convince himself that life is good by pursuing grandiose ego concept and efforts to change himself, other people and society and make them ideal.
I am saying that living in a world where folks were constantly captured and sold into slavery made Africans depressed and that they probably denied their depression by fleeing into the paranoia we see in them.
I tend to believe that, sooner or later, Africans would appreciate the enormity of their existential crime in selling their people to Arabs and Europeans and develop total contempt for themselves. They would become clinically depressed and contemplate suicide. Currently, they avert awareness of how despicable their actions were by denying responsibility for what they did and by blaming other people, whites, for their criminal behaviors.
Africans current facile happiness, I think, is a mask over their underlying self-contempt. In time their evilness will penetrate into their conscious minds and they would start killing their selves (in depression induced suicide).
For our present purposes, I think that many Africans have masked depression. They could benefit from the usual means we employ in treating depressed people: a combination of medications and cognitive behavior therapy (Becks, 1972, and Ellis 1977 cognitive behavior therapy works well for depressed people).


This paper hypothesizes that the over one thousand years that slavery took place in Africa, the constant capturing and selling of Africans by their fellow Africans to Arabs and Europeans, engendered certain spillover effects on Africans, such as their current corrupt cultures where few persons seem to care for the public good and the psychological pathologies seen in many Africans, such as paranoia and post-traumatic stress disorder.
In my view, we have to make consistent effort to teach the African to love himself for he must have had total self-hatred to go capturing his people and selling them to whoever wanted to buy them.
In Carl Roger’s (1951) terms we must re-socialize Africans to like themselves and stop hating themselves so much, and worse denying their self-hatred by calling other people self-hating (their current self-hatred is manifested in their inability to work for their peoples social good).
We must help Africans to go from living as pure egotists, animals, who care only for themselves to becoming real human beings: those who love themselves and one another and work for their collective good.
As a therapist I generally adopt Alfred Adler (1964) and Karen Horney (1950) approach to seeing persons with emotional disorders.
Karen Horney tells us that folks are placed in a situation where their significant others accept them mostly only when they seem ideal and thus they reject themselves and seek to become ideal persons; they hope that if they are ideal that they would be accepted by those that Harry Stack Sullivan (1953) called their significant others and by society in general. In pursuing the ideal self they ignore their real self. In pursuing the ideal self they fear not attaining it or else people reject them.
The pursuit of the ideal self generates anxiety in people. Now, they must be helped to stop seeking to become the chimera of the ideal self and accept their real selves; people must be helped to stop dividing their selves into several selves (see Laing, 1960).
But what is the human real self? That takes us to meta-psychological issues, such as Abraham Maslow (1968) intimated, to spiritual matters.
In the meantime, a healthy person, to me, is a person who accepts his authentic self and desists from seeking to become another person that he feels that if he becomes it other people would accept him. When a person lives from his real self he tends to be at peace with himself and with his neighbors. What else can we ask from people but for them to live in peace?
Give up the pursuit of what Adler called compensatory fictional superior self and live from your real self and peace becomes the gift you give to yourself and to those around you.
We must figure out a way to get Africans to stop trying to become as their European masters would accept in them and be their African selves.
But what is the African self? The African self is part of the human self, a loving self. Love you and love other people and you would be on your way to transforming human society to a peaceful place. We must figure out a way to stop people from exploiting people, such as using them as slaves or selling them as slaves and instead nurture them to become the best that they can be, live fully to their optimal potential.


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Ozodi Thomas Osuji, PhD
July 7, 2012
Dr. Osuji can be reached at (213-807-5944 or 562-612-0294).

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