Monday, August 24, 2009

Dealing with feelings of "unreality," "alienation"

Everyone has that occasional moment of feeling somewhat unreal. To put it simply, it is normal because it is like a brain "hiccup." You usually are not aware of what brought that moment on, but usually there was some outside stimulus that is unconscious to you. Like the feeling of deja vu, it is a burp, just a bit of a disruption in how the brain perceives what is actually going on, and it just lasts for a minute.

Deja vu (the "I've been here before") feeling, by the way, is also easily explained. Let me address that because when it happens some people get all paranoid about its "meaning." Rather than a "burp" or a "hiccup" like unreal or alienated feelings, deja vu is a momentary case of misidentification by the brain. You know how you get a glimpse of someone in a crowd and think you know who it is, but then realize it is not he or she? Well, the reason humans have such superior intellect and brain capacity (compared to animals) is that human brains are built for speed, to do very rapid processing, and brains are wired to do very rapid "pattern matching." Thus one can see an automobile and not each and every time go, "Hmm, what is that object? It has wheels and an ignition and a passenger cab. Ah, it must be a car!" Imagine if you had to think all that through every time you saw an auto! Instead, your brain rapidly "pattern matches." Your brain has pictures stored within it of things you already know, and when you see something it quickly compares what you are seeing to what it has in storage. When it sees a match it assumes, but tells you with certainty, that it is what it is. Deja vu happens when something that you see, or are feeling, or experiencing matches very closely, but incorrectly, something in your brain's picture gallery and memory bank. So you have a "deja vu" feeling that you have been there before, but that is because your brain jumped to a conclusion of familiarity because it found a weak match with a portion of something you have already seen before, or felt, but would not at all think they are alike if someone asked you. Your brain-all brains-once in a while make mistakes. So that's the deja vu problem. Let's get back to the main topic of feelings of unreality or alienation.

Before I explain how the "burp" or "hiccup" occurs, let's start with a clean table of understanding how things work normally when one is a living being, in a state of being alive within a real world. As I've mentioned in my recent blog about addictions, you gain a lot of information and solid grounding in wisdom when you remember that humans and animals share common biology. Animals and humans both have to breathe, eat, ingest fluids, have bodies that are composed of hard and soft tissue, internal organs, a way to reproduce, a way to move and so forth. Humans are basically animals with really big brains and a body that promote agility. (By that I mean, imagine a really smart dinosaur; even if he was really smart, without clever little fingers etc I doubt he could ever build a computer microchip! :-)

So you have to observe animals to understand humans, yourself, since it is like looking in a mirror. Do animals ever doubt their reality? No, they do not; they never doubt their reality. Ha, I can hear you saying, "You can't prove that!" Yes I can. Time for that time honored but forgotten and abused talent called logic and reasoning.

If a living being doubts their reality, this causes confusion in their state of being, obviously, since the person, for that moment, is not even sure if he or she "is real" or is "really part of this world." When one has that "burp," one usually stops what one is doing and mulls it over. The normal response is to realize that while creepy and unpleasant, it is just a burp and move on. The goofy and all too common response is to get whack job cultish, and get together with other paranoid people and worry "what if we are all really movies being shown on a projector," or "what if I'm imagining this," or "I must be remembering a 'past life' or a 'spirit being'" blah blah blah. It's like if you burped or hiccup you run out to find other people to see if they ever burp or hiccup, and when you find out they do, you go "Ah ha! Gosh! I knew it meant something." Then instead of researching how the lungs work and why burps happen you assume that little invisible aliens must be squeezing you with their cute webbed hands, "trying to get your attention." Ah, if only I was really joking, but sadly I am not.

So if animals had feelings of unreality, how would they cope with the sudden and harsh reality of life in nature, which, as we know, "is red in tooth and claw?" OK, now you are watching a nature show, such as one that shows African wildlife. You know that a scene of a lion stalking prey, such as a small wildebeest, is de rigour for such shows. How many times do you see the following?

Scene one: Lion sneaks up on potential prey, a grazing wildebeest.
Scene two: Lion makes a noise and gives away its presence, or it makes its move and leaps and runs toward the wildebeest. Either way the wildebeest is now aware of the lion.
Scene three: The wildebeest has a moment of "alienation" and "unreality," and wonders if it is real and/or if the lion is real (even though it is smelling, hearing and seeing lion with big teeth and claws in a dead run at it).

You don't have to "know" what an animal is "really" "thinking," because with animals all you need to do is observe what they do. Modern humans (not even traditional humans) are the only ones who think the obvious over and wonder about it. Why is this? Because it is what we call a "survival trait" not to think things over, but to quickly act to preserve life, while it is an anti-survival trait to think about whether or not the lion is real that is bearing down upon you and about to rip you apart. What human stands in the middle of a road and wonders if the bus that is about to run him or her over is "real," or if he or she is "really there." The answer is usually, "No one except the mentally ill or someone ingesting or abusing a substance." Mental illness, substance abuse, and some of the effects of a highly unreal media diet are the primary reasons for chronic, over analyzed and misunderstood feelings of "alienation" or "being unreal."

There is no species of animal that would last for the hundreds of thousands (and often tens of millions) of years that they have lasted as a species if any or all of them had "feelings of alienation and unreality." Any species that had such feelings would quickly die out if they were at all prevalent. First of all, animals have nothing to compare reality to in the first place, since animals have no conception of unreality. Animals do not understand that something is "made up" and thus "not real." Animals are entirely rooted in reality. But just so you understand, let's suppose that one wildebeest with too big a brain or who watched too much TV did have a feeling of "unreality" or "alienation." So he wonders if that lion that is leaping upon him is "real," or if he is "real." Yeppers, you guessed it. That wildebeest would become lunch for the lion and would never pass his overly clever but stupid genes onto future wildebeests. Any anti-survival trait is stomped on by the reality of nature, whether individually or as a species. Once an animal does anything that is not one hundred percent in response to reality, it is a goner and so are its potential offspring. So we can see from thousands of years of intelligent observation of animals by humans that animals are entirely reality based. Thus the cure, the detox, for people who have persistent self induced feelings of unreality are to reconnect with reality and get over yourself.

Why do I say "get over yourself?" Because almost always, unless the person is truly mentally ill, they have a grandiose feeling of having stumbled onto some great hidden "truth" when they have these "mysterious" "feelings." The answer, of course, is to let the moment of the brain burp or hiccup pass and simply reconnect with reality. People do try to self heal, and so the instinct to reconnect with reality is there, even in the nuttiest of people who deliberately cultivate their moments like this (again, I'm not speaking of the genuinely mentally ill who need to be understood in their confusion and treated with great kindness and appropriate medicine).

So the correct thing to do is to reconnect with normal reality. The incorrect thing to do is connect with an overstimulated and equal artificial "reality."

Stupid approach: "I have these feelings of unreality! I think I was a space angel! Or maybe I am not really here! Or maybe you are not really here! So I guess if I jump off a cliff I will find out!" *Splat*

Correct approach: Do something that you know is when you are least likely to have these feelings. If you cannot do it at the moment, then recall it in your mind or with a friend in conversation. Here's a perfect example. People rarely have inflated feelings of "alienation" or "unreality" when they are waiting in a long, slow line for something they either really want (a new release of a video game, etc) or are really dreading (motor vehicle bureau, inland revenue office, etc.). Notice you and your pals do not feel "unreal" when you are eagerly waiting for something that is a real treat, like that new video game or concert tickets. Equally you do not feel "unreal" when you are dreading with each step what the auditor is going to say to you about your taxes when it is your turn at the head of the line.

See, humans, up until the last one hundred years, like animals, could not escape mundane reality and thus never doubted it. When you have to go and hoe the crops by hand every day or your family will starve to death (really), you are so "connected with the earth" and "reality" that people simply never had those weird burps or hiccups. Again, one does not feel "unreal" unless someone has something to compare it to. Before there were movies, TV, radio, books, the printing press, etc, people did not have an "unreal" to think that they may be part of in the first place! People (and their brains) were always totally in reality since that is all that was offered to them. Again, going back to animals. A giraffe does not have a moment when he imagines he is "not really there" or is "maybe a carp instead" because he does not have the experience of what being something else, or of something being "real" or "imaginary" is like! I mean, duh! It's only when humans started to 1) isolate themselves from reality, since they no longer had to toil each day, unless one is still in those "less developed" "regions," in reality, to prevent the very reality of one's family starving to death and 2) started being exposed, through books (such as fiction, which are lies in print, LOL) and later electronic media to things that are totally imaginary and unreal.

By the way, most of you probably know without realizing it that one of the first things one does to someone he or she is torturing is to disrupt their connection with reality.

So to reconnect with reality one should really study animals as they are, and observe how they are entirely real and of the real world. Then remember that humans are still biologically like animals and hence are very connected to reality too (I doubt many people thought that they were imagining being swept away in the Asian tsunami). The third thing to do, then, is to accept the occasional brain "burps," but don't over analyze it as if you are something special (the tsunami swept away "smart" and "dumb" people alike). That "I am special" is a real problem to good mental health and logical living. So the fourth thing is to work on one's humility. The fifth thing to do is not to ingest substance that inflates one's ego or further disrupts one's connection with reality. As I pointed out in the addictions post, you don't see animals seeking medications; they are one hundred percent reality based. Not only don't animals seek mind altering medications, but they do not seek out physical medications, such as when they are wounded. Why is that? Because animals are entirely reality based and so they learn reality coping mechanisms. For example, if afflicted by flies or other insect pests, animals might roll in the mud, in the sand or immerse in water. They respond reality-to-reality (pest reality-barrier to pest reality). They don't wait around to get bitten and then seek out a pain medication. Animals are evolved to endure the reality and to have coping and survival mechanisms.

So humans have to be very careful in modern times to not become so disconnected from reality, and then worse, be a paranoid carrier of inflated beliefs about "alienation" and "unreality" so that others self reinforce, because society and life choices are increasingly disconnected, yet reality never goes away. Reality is reality because it is real, LOL. I mean, duh. So you can imagine and feel all unreal and alienated until you do get caught in a tsunami, or the bills aren't paid so your satellite TV is disconnected and you can't imagine that the series "Stargate" "might be real," because now your real family and your real rear end is about to be kicked out of your real house because your real mortgage did not get paid to the real banker with the real outstretched hand because your real boss really did fire you from your real job!

I hope this helped. Really.