Fantasy vs. Reality

24 02 2010

I had a dream on Monday night that felt so incredibly real. The emotions and sequence of events that I experienced during the dream stayed with me throughout the day, to the point where they almost felt like they happened in real life. The way that the brain works is still such a mystery and I began to think about two things:

1) Neuropsychiatric disorders like schizophrenia must be extremely frightening. I imagine that not being able to differentiate reality from dream and delusion on a daily basis would be bizarre and confusing.

2) Lucid dreaming is an intriguing concept that I intend to explore in the coming year.

On a lighter note, we’ve been drawing in large crowds for our yoga and astronomy classes and the resort surprised us today with two complimentary scuba diving lessons. We took an introductory lesson in the pool today (Jay is a total natural) and we’ll hit the ocean tomorrow morning for the real deal. Staying underwater for almost an hour without resurfacing is definitely going to be a new experience that goes against everything that I am used to. I’m the tiniest bit scared, but the best way to grow and to challenge yourself is by tackling the things that scare you, so I’m in.

posted by amybetho

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5 responses

24 02 2010
Freely Living Life

I have always been fascinated and intrigued with the human mind and how it operates. So much that I got into the medical field with focusing on mental health. Dealing with people that suffer from neuropsychiatric disorders was a very spiritual awakening experience for me . The more I was exposed to it the more I wanted to learn. It eventually held such a special place in my heart that I didn’t want to go back into the “basics” of nursing I wanted to explore mental health in more depth. Most professionals in the field tend to shy away from “the mental” illness side of things out of fear. There is nothing to fear once you take the time to fully understand the different diseases of the mind. It just makes you appreciate your everyday health that much more when you see first hand what life could be like.

Lucid dreaming, and dreaming in general, highly intrigues me as well. I have kept a dream journal for most of my adult life and I try and “read into” my dreams as much as I’m capable of doing. I think if a lot more people lived a healthier and more fulfilling lifestyle that they would be able to have deeper and clearer meanings to their dreams. Which in turn would lead them on their true calling in life.

How wonderful that you are able to explore scuba diving! This is something that I have not tried yet. I too have a bit of fear of being under water for extended periods of time. I am very excited to hear about your experience!

Good things are happening to you because you are on the right path in your lives. Isn’t is a GREAT feeling?!! 🙂

25 02 2010
Michael in the Great Plains

@Amy: ‘Good point in seeing similarities between dreams and hallucinations. The mind is well capable of creating fantasy and making it seem (to the person with that mind) to be reality. Those with psychosis find their minds doing this to them not only during sleep, but even while awake. It’s a “normal” process that functions outside its normal role and boundaries.

Many other diseases and disorders are normal processes functioning a little out of constructive place or time or context. Here are two different kinds of examples: The first is gastric-reflux disease (which can get very serious, and lead to life-changing, even life-threatening consequences) involves normal gastric acid not being contained to the places of the digestive system where it belongs, but instead getting into places beyond its healthy boundaries: the esophagus, voice box, throat, lungs, etc. The second example is cancer. Cells are supposed to reproduce–but at a certain rate, and in harmony with the overall body and its other cells and needs. When cells overstep that normal rate of replication, and their normal spatial boundaries, and invade other bodily systems, it sets the stage for suffering and/or tragedy.

Coming back to dreams and psychosis: There is a function of the brain that’s supposed to keep “dreams/hallucinations” in the realm of sleep. When that function doesn’t do its job well, and such “fantasies seen as reality” leak into waking consciousness, it sets the stage for suffering and/or tragedy.

@Freely Living Life: You sound like a person with a generous spirit and open heart. If you do go into mental health and work with the seriously mentally ill, I’m sure they would benefit greatly from your warmth and positive attitude.

To be fair to many in the mental health field who do not work primarily with the severely mentally ill, though, I would say that for many, perhaps most, it isn’t fear that leads them to that decision, as much as preference. Just as elementary school teachers are not necessarily afraid of high school or college students, but may feel that their gift or preference is working with children (or high school or college teachers are not necessarily afraid of children, but may feel more called to teach more developed minds), so too do many mental health professionals feel that their gift and best contribution is to work with other populations. I know that was the case for me. I worked for a couple of years with the severely mentally ill–those with psychotic disorders, bipolar, etc.–but for the great majority of my career I’ve chosen to work with those who have a better sense of reality, who are more stable, and who aren’t heavily medicated. I feel that I can make a bigger difference in the lives of those who are highly functioning, but need to overcome the more common challenges of life: anxiety, depression, grief, relationship difficulties, transitions, and the like.

But, again, you sound like you have much positive energy and generosity of spirit. And if you feel the calling or inclination to work with the seriously mentally ill (psychotic, etc.) I’m sure they will benefit greatly from your help.

26 02 2010
amybetho

@Freely: I would love to hear more about your experience working with individuals with said mental disorders. If you have written a post on the subject, could you direct me to the appropriate link?

@Michael: Your examples of normal processes functioning out of place or time are very interesting. It amazes me how delicate and intricate our bodies are – so many processes, reactions and movements happening each millisecond that most of us are entirely and often blissfully unaware of until one of them falls out of line. It really makes you appreciate the wonder that is the human body. And even without religion, you can still appreciate the miracle that is life and the human body, right Michael? 🙂

27 02 2010
Michael in the Great Plains

@Amy: Absolutely I can appreciate the wonder and complexity of various aspects of the animate and inanimate world…even without believing that religions are accurate in their claims of knowledge on the supernatural.

Indeed, to me it seems that those who confidently wave off mystery and insist that there is no wonder as to how all this came about, are generally not thinking or seeing for themselves, but rather parroting either religious or scientific dogma (“The God of my religion made it,” or “Science knows it was the Big Bang and evolution”).

(As to the word “miracle” used in your formulation, I could go with that if it is meant in the sense of astonishing or wondrous, but I would have to withhold judgment if it was meant in the sense of supernatural.)

Yet even if it were agreed that life, or the universe, held many mysteries, the emotion of wonder or awe requires something more— emotional vulnerability at first encounter, and emotional investment thereafter. Those who are incapable of being moved, or unwilling, will not be. And even the rest of us are hard pressed to maintain a sense of wonder for that to which we have become habituated. As Ralph Waldo Emerson is often quoted, “If the stars should appear but one night every thousand years, how man would marvel and adore.”

And it’s that way not only with stars, but with food and cars and houses and historic landmarks—sadly, even with love. So remaining excited and inspired by life and its many manifestations and encounters ultimately requires a vulnerability and an investment, both of which are more natural for some than others.

In fact, awe, love, wonder, fascination, and other intense emotions, are not without their drawbacks. One may well do one’s most inspired thinking while in such elevated states, but one does not do one’s most balanced, and certainly not one’s most critical, thinking in such states. Nor is one likely to be capable at such times of best vigilance.

But that’s commentary on commentary, so I’ll leave it at that. 🙂

7 03 2010
amybetho

@Michael: I know that you posted this a week or so ago, but your comments are so rich and filled with interesting ideas that sometimes I like to read them a couple of times and let them percolate before responding.

First, I hear your (and Emerson’s :-)) statement about the relationship between wonder and rarity. So true.

I love your comment that “the emotion of wonder or awe requires something more— emotional vulnerability at first encounter, and emotional investment thereafter”. I’ve never quite thought of it that way, but you really can’t be blase or jaded if you’re going to experience wonder.

Lastly, I’m down with the ‘astonishing’ definition of miracle. When we interact with the world, we are seeking to understand our surroundings. The answers of how they came about are less important to me than the process of marveling. Enjoy! 🙂

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