Talking with my new therapist today, I learned the terms depersonalization and derealization – and wondered why and when I’d quit reading self-help books and never followed through with more of it – maybe for the same reason I refused to read books on spirituality for so much of my life: I didn’t want others’ ideas to influence my perception of reality.
But I guess I became open to others’ opinions again recently, and so I’m seeing someone about my dissociation, and today began learning more of what the professionals think about it. Funny, because last time I read the professional literature, I found myself critiquing many authors’ methodologies and presumptions, mainly the presumption that there are no forces outside our five senses or that can’t be discovered by inductive reasoning beginning with the limiting “laws” of physics, or rather a reduced, highly conservative version of the laws, excluding quantum physics for no rational, but purely political reasons – discrediting a larger sector of the population. I had the same experience today – of critiquing professionals’ work – when I briefly read my first two web pages on depersonalization.
Depersonalization is defined by one author as “one of the many symptoms of a panic attack. …a combination of physical sensations, emotions, and thoughts which lead you to feel so disengaged from your surroundings that you wonder whether or not you’re actually in your body. People experiencing this symptom may fear that they’re actually someplace else, watching their body sleepwalk through life while they float around in some kind of spirit world.”
I relate to all of that, though I have fewer episodes of it today and have never experienced it for longer than a minute at a time. I disagree with the author’s assumption, though, that this is not real; I believe our consciousness can really disengage from our bodies, so this is no delusion.
The author later writes, “However weird it feels, it has nothing to do with “losing control.”
I disagree again. When, as a young radio journalist, I interviewed a state politician shortly after entering the field, my consciousness went floating up above me in my chair and said things like, “Wow, you’re interviewing [whomever]. I wonder if he can tell how totally flipping out of your gourd you are? What did I ask? What is he saying? How can I ask a follow-up question when I can’t hear what he’s saying, though I see his mouth moving? When he finishes, I won’t have the faintest idea what to say next. Can he see my eyes wandering around the room? Oh, God I can hardly breathe…,” and then I forced myself back into my body to try to finish the interview. I think he saw something was wrong and carried the ball from there. Believe me, when your consciousness chooses to leave your body, you do lose control. Fortunately, I seem to have learned how to keep myself from entering that state in social situations.
The author concluded with decent advice:
“1. Acknowledge and accept the symptom. Remind yourself that it is a source of discomfort, but not danger.
2. Return your attention to the immediate environment, rather than your thoughts of other times and places. Don’t argue with your thoughts, just refocus your attention.
3. Become more actively engaged with the people, activities, and objects immediately around you. Get back into the conversation and activities that the others are involved in. I think you’ll find that the odd feelings lessen as you get more involved in your present surroundings.”
I’d only add a step 3 alternative: If you don’t want to actively engage with other people right then, don’t. Leave. Say polite good-byes if you want, or just duck out, or something in between. Respect yourself and your immediate needs. When in a safe place, check in and ask what the panic was about; it’s possible there was a person there whom it would be better for you to avoid, or any other number of reasons, electromagnetic, or anything. Honor and follow your instincts. It may be an important part of your healing. In fact, those who follow the shamanic way depend on sending their consciousness away – to learn things beyond this dimension.
It might not be such a bad thing, maybe our other-worldly wisdom calling us to turn our attention somewhere else.