Ever get the feeling you are watching yourself as if in a movie? Or, as if you are living in a dream?
Depersonalization-derealization occurs when you persistently or repeatedly have the feeling that you’re observing yourself from outside your body or that you have a sense that things around you aren’t real, or both. Many people have a passing experience of depersonalization or derealization at some point. But when feelings of depersonalization keep occurring or never completely go away, it is classified in the DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) as a psychological disorder.
Depersonalization-derealization is the third most common psychological symptom, after feelings of anxiety and feelings of depression. Depersonalization is a symptom of anxiety disorders, such as panic disorder. It can also accompany sleep deprivation (often occurring when suffering from jet lag), migraine, epilepsy, obsessive-compulsive disorder, stress, and anxiety1. Persons who are at greatest risk of chronic depersonalization-derealization are those who experience one or more of the following risk factors: tendency to deny difficult situations, have trauma or abuse, are a teen or early adult, have depression or anxiety, use hallucinogens or smoke pot.
Living The Dream
My Hindu-Yoga meditation teacher exhorted his students to realize this world and everything in it is a dream of Maya. “For how long will you pass through these changes called life and death? Until you realize fully the dream nature of creation, and awaken in God from its nightmares” pleaded Yogananda to his students2. Buddhist teachers also train students to see this world as an illusion of Maya. “The real sky is (knowing) that samsara and nirvana are merely an illusory display”, says Mipham Rinpoche in Quintessential Instructions of Mind3. The metaphor of awakening from a dream of ignorance is poetic and powerful imagery. But, prolonged states of depersonalization, in rare cases, may be psychologically debilitating.
Sundays we’d sit in silent meditation for six hours in the Monks’ Chapel. My meditation practices led to many insights into the nature of my mind, feelings, and body. (Not always wonderful). During and after meditation, I often felt as if I was detached from my body or I was living in a dream. My dream-like transcendent experiences were accompanied often by peace, ecstasy, or love. When my spiritual “highs” dissipated — whether it took minutes, hours, or days to wear off after my meditation — coming down from “intoxicating” psychological states was mildly depressing.
See my accompanying post Enlightenment’s Evil Twin
Questions for readers: How about you? Ever “live” as if in a dream or movie? How did you feel?
- Paramahansa Yogananda, The Divine Romance, ch 2 ‘A New Look at the Origin of Cosmic Creation’, Collected Talks and Essays (Book 2), Self-Realization Fellowship 1986
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maya_(illusion), Mipham Rinpoche, Quintessential Instructions of Mind, p. 117 Chögyal Namkhai Norbu Dream Yoga and the Practice of Natural Light. Edited and introduced by Michael Katz, Snow Lion Publications, Ithaca, NY, pp. 117