Over-attribution to self of external events

Regarding this article, please excercise personal discernment according to my disclaimer



The psychological disorder entitled self-attribution (Norwegian: “Selvhenføring”), is defined thus in [1]:

“Psychological pattern of response characterized by an increased tendency to think that causal events happening around Self is directly connected with Self.

(Norwegian: “Psykologisk reaksjonsmåte kjennetegnet ved en økt tendens til å mene at det som skjer rundt en, har forbindelse med en selv.”)


In effect, the Self will – whether imaginary or real – observe an apparent concurrency between external and causal events and the internal thoughts of the Self, synchronized in such a way that events and thoughts undoubtedly appears to be directly linked.

For example, a thought like “I wonder if I am beautiful”, is concurrently confirmed by a voice on TV: “Yes, beautiful”. And yet, there is no link between the two events. The only rational explanation at disposal would be to categorize the event as a coincidence.

When events of this type starts to recurr,  and the Self evidently has started to identify distinct patterns of synchronisity, it can be perfectly rational to conclude that, indeed; some sort of concurrent and thus mysterious relation exists between internal thoughts and external events. All seems to be one context of which one feels to be completely united, termed by Carl G. Jung as “Participation Mystique”.

In a non-psychological perspective, the question is mysterious: From where do thoughts arrive?

The diagnoses and interpretations

Here is an attempt to roughly categorize various types of interpretations, the purpose of which is to possibly identify mismatches to the actual realities of the “disorder”.

The psychologist

Within the line of clinical psychology, the diagnosis is probably the “over-attribution” disorder in most cases.

It is added here as a preliminary to conclusions, that if such synchronisitic episodes really take place in a recurring fashion, it would not be correct to categorize it as a disorder, because it by statistics calculations would have to be classified as mysterious and thus be non-explainable using rational terms.

The Self

The Self may conclude in various ways given by the personal belief systems and actual knowledge, ranging therefore from severe fear reactions to conclusions of a religious or even narcissistic flavor.

A very relevant option for the Self is simply to behave quite naturally, almost like if being “the center of the universe”. This is not meant in the sense of producing any explicit, grandiose interpretations thereof, but more like a type of naive behaviour resulting from being unconscious and acceptable about the cause and effect. It is to assume the adjustment of the terrain to the map (Self), so to speak.

Another option is the noble perception regarding the Self, of suprime intuition or even psychic abilities, in particular if there is an observable timedelay involved in the synchronization between the internal thought and the external event. The Self then becomes “the psycic forecaster”.

There is of course a myriad of other possible reaction patterns, but it is probably adequate to concentrate discussions around non-fear based types of reactions.


Layman will perhaps share the psychologists or the Self’s point of view, whatever the best match as filtered by personal belief systems.

The cause

What is the cause of over-attribution? The easy way, as always, would be to adjust the map to the terrain. This would imply to ensure that the thoughts of the Self are concurrently synchronized to external and causal events that are soon to be or are simultaneous, not the other way around like the naive Self explained above.

This would have to be done by what in the line of clinical psychology is defined as thought insertion. However, according to the psychologists, thought insertion by external power is not a reality, but a disorder; an imaginary effect produced by the Self. This conclusion would probably be confirmed by the scientist as well, and so we have reach a dead end, or what?

According to this article, however, thought insertion by external powers is indeed a reality, and it is in many cases – with a significant probability rate – the very cause of the so called over-attribution effects.

Imagine for a moment that thought insertion is a viable option: Most people would then agree that thought insertion (adjusting the map to the terrain) would be an easier solution than to change the circumstances, including but not limited to e.g. the altering of the content of an old movie running on the TV station. In fact, adjusting the terrain to the map is bordering on the impossible and can be excluded. It is not an executable action inside a timeline. This is in fact a point of consensus for all but the confused Self.

Thought insertion is much “easier”, it only requires some mystic entity able to do the thought insertion based on the mystic ability of foresight; actually to operate beyond time and space and to have and exploit a minimum of knowledge of past/present/future events, and this is valid regardless of whether the timeline delay can be counted in days or milliseconds, or is zero. If nothing else, it is at least looking like a relevant option from a religious perspective. Things are more than they seem, as they say.

Returning to the impressions of the professional observer, the psychologists, the only remaining option would be a categorization as a mental disorder, and it is then implicitly evident that the claimed thoughts are imaginary or simply an instant result of the external events, inter alias, that these thoughts are coming into existence as a synchronized response to external events. This is another and plausible way of adjusting the map to the terrain, but, it does not explain the fact that the Self often reports a timedelay the other way around, with thoughts arriving first.

In addition, the problem with this conclusion is that it implicitly excludes commonly accepted abilities, as intuition and foresight, psychic abilities and other ways of being able to “see” the future, here in the now-moment.

The validation

As planetary bodies traverse space, timelines are created. We live in a 3d rational and so-called natural world. Thought insertion, however, can probably only be explained by supernatural effects, which simply cannot be proven.

However, it can be discussed, please see the article regarding the nature of thought insertion.

Such validation-by-discussion should concentrate on thought patterns of a non-negative or neutral nature, as the example above. The response from external events may then be confirmative or negative to the thought.

Furthermore, it is well if the external response is arriving with a time-delay, inter alias in an action (thought) – reaction (external event) scenario.

Constraint of scope of this article

– There is a lot of relevant, but typically emotional reaction patterns of the Self that are not discussed in this article, for example the fact that personal anxiety may be the cause of suspicion that external events are related to internal thoughts, for example that people are talking behind your back. This type of over-attribution is perfectly explainable since it is indeed based on fear and anxiety. It is thus outside scope of this article.

– Whatever professional treatment of the Self subject to over-attribution, may well be beneficial to the Self for this or that reason, thus rendering the general cause irrelevant for the treatment.


[1]:  Store Norske Leksikon (a wikipedia type of website resource):

Note: It could be a consideration for whether the definition in [1] is a good one or is actually mixing several scenarios into one, namely:

  1. Thought insertions, whether imaginary or real.
  2. Emotional thoughts based on fear and anxiety, perhaps something of the most human there is?

The complete definition in Norwegian (to be replaced with English version)

psykologisk reaksjonsmåte kjennetegnet ved en økt tendens til å mene at det som skjer rundt en, har forbindelse med en selv. Lett grad av selvhenføring er vanlig. F.eks. vil mange som skal gå forbi en gruppe personer som snakker sammen og som plutselig begynner å le idet man er på siden av dem, kunne få tanker om at gruppen kanskje lo av noe som hadde med en selv å gjøre. Ved mer uttalt selvhenføring vil personen føle seg utrygg i en rekke dagligdagse situasjoner og (urimelig) lett forstå ting som skjer, eller ord som sies, som myntet på en selv.

Lav SELVFØLELSE henger sammen med tendens til selvhenføring. Lett grad av selvhenføring er vanlig ved akutt ANGST hvor man lettere enn ellers kan føle at man observeres av andre, eller at andre kanskje følger etter en. Denne reaksjonen kan forstås som en fylogenetisk (utviklingsmessig) sett naturlig forsvarsreaksjon. Når man er truet, vil det bli rettet mer oppmerksomhet mot omgivelsene med tanke på mulige farer. De fleste med angst vil likevel forstå at reaksjonsformen er innbilning.

Ved klart sykelig grad av selvhenføring mister man evnen til å se at ens økte varhet for omgivelsene og andres atferd, og tendens til å relatere dette til en selv, uttrykker egen angst og usikkerhet og dermed er innbilning. Dette øker angsten og opplevelsen av å føle seg truet. Man kan begynne å fortolke det som skjer, ut fra egen livssituasjon og egne konflikter og problemer. Selvhenføringen kan da utvikle seg til regelrett PARANOIA (vrangforestillinger).

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