For those whove read my previous article, Panic Attacks and Anxiety: Derealization and Depersonalization – You Arent Going Crazy!, this is the perfect follow-up scoop. But if youve yet to read it, not to worry, theres still much to be learned here.
Now, in review, derealization and depersonalization all too often accompany panic attacks and anxiety. In general terms, derealization is a frightening feeling of detachment from ones external environment, and depersonalization is an equally as frightening sense of detachment from self. Both can be absolutely crippling and take you to the turnstiles of your perception of insanity.
I believe many researchers and theorists would concur that within the context of panic and anxiety, derealization and depersonalization may well be the minds self-protective reaction to the ultimate perceived state of overload. See, it goes like this – when the mind feels its mega-overwhelmed it flips the switch on a perceptual filter, believing even the slightest additional bit of in-coming stimuli may lead to various degrees of psychic meltdown. Within this theoretical framework, its all about the mind in a powerful state of defense, doing all it can to give itself a fighting chance to sort and process that with which its already wrestling. So it only makes sense that it tries to survive by inhibiting and prohibiting fresh sensory messages streaming in from ones immediate internal and external experience. And the resultant mind states are dominated by derealization and depersonalization.
Now, as we approach delivering a knockout punch to derealization and depersonalization its important to always keep in mind that, as I said in the previous paragraph, both of these sensations are born of the minds effort to protect itself. And the very cool thing about this notion is it leads us to the unique understanding that the mind has well – a personality of its own. Furthermore, this personality is all too often negatively impacted by the mind being overwhelmed and in great mental and emotional pain. To me, this brings to the fore a personality of mind, giving the hellish protection-generated sensations of derealization and depersonalization rather a bit of softness and gentleness, making them seem so much less treacherous. I mean, its like the mind is this living, feeling being that actively communicates with us, so often asking for help. And we, in turn, have the opportunity to provide compassion and relief.
Alrighty then – so lets move on to what one can do to make these horrifying, but now familiar and much less terrifying, phenomena go bye-bye. First of all, if one is willing to accept derealization and depersonalization as mind-protecting phenomena, it only stands to reason that their appearance – more importantly, disappearance – will be greatly influenced by our ability to maintain balanced and tolerable loads in our mental/emotional wheel barrel. And this is accomplished by stress management, which is so often driven by how we monitor and adjust our processes of thought. Now, of course, in many cases high levels of stress, and resultant anxiety, cant be avoided – thats just life. But we still hold the ability to manage their intensity and fallout by keeping tabs on how we think and subsequently react. Its a matter of maintaining enlightened perspective and calm as our reasoned powers of interpretation have time to take the stage after the panic alarms have sounded.
Allow me to reiterate, theres no doubt that the best first strategy to keep derealization and depersonalization at bay is to do all we can to maintain management over our stress and anxiety levels. Whether its through relaxation, visualization, diet, guided imagery, exercise, job or school change, relationship change, lifestyle change, therapy or my techniques of interpreaction, interpreversal, S.A.I.L., S.P.A., I.A.M. not F.E.A.R. – whatever – we must do what it takes to stay self-managed on a day-in and day-out basis. If we do this, not only will we be able to keep derealization and depersonalization at arm’s length, but should they strike and the alarms sound, well be able to cruise our way past any exaggerated and inappropriate reactions. See its our misinterpretations and overreactions that cause the problems, not derealization and depersonalization. How bout that thought?
And as were approaching all of this, lets not dismiss the concept of the mind having a personality and its expression of its need for “some love” through the frightening sensations of derealization and depersonalization. To me, as we accept this seemingly strange notion we apply a very soothing balm upon a potentially fevered mind. And this very much relates to the concept of mindfulness – a clear-minded, in-the-present-moment, self-observational technique that emphasizes viewing self as an outside observer – without criticism or judgment.
Okay – but lets say in spite of our self-management efforts, derealization or depersonalization make a surprise visit. Ya ready? First and foremost just stop whatever it is youre doing. If youre driving, pull over when you can. If youre in a meeting, take a break. Heck – take a walk, if youd like. Now, take a few full abdominal breaths, and as you take them immediately tell yourself that the one and only thing happening right now is your mind telling you its operating on overload and needs a little help. Its talking with you, and that’s pretty cool. Nothing dangerous, without a reason, or permanent is happening to you. And since you know whats going on, and why, take some time to communicate with your mind, letting it know youre there for it and will do whatever it takes to provide aid and comfort. Visualize your mind as if youre looking at it from outside of your physical self (a healthy “out-of-body” experience). And as you do, visualize your mind very nicely calming down. Simply open yourself to a spirit of insight and reason, as you employ relaxation techniques, guided imagery, visualization, the strategies I’ve mentioned before, or anything that’s worked for you in the past. And as youre keeping yourself together, know that as soon as you get your sea-legs back, moving on with your day is the next order of business. Its this thinking and believing that keeps the alarm from increasing in decibels, and keeps it from sounding in the future.
Yes – its this mindset, along with a few victories, that will enable you to function in the presence of derealization and depersonalization, allowing you to explore these uncomfortable states, accumulating insight along the way. And I’m betting you’ll find that this philosophy, as well as time-proven strategies and techniques, will keep these icky sensations at bay period. Its all about making peace with derealization and depersonalization – indeed, making the best of an initially perceived unpleasant situation. I mean, who knows what kind of inner secrets could be unveiled upon exploration of our altered states of perception and consciousness. And Ill tell you this establishing a level of insight and comfort with a nemesis is a great way to remove any potential threat. But, make sure you identify the true nemesis. In this case, its not derealization and depersonalization, rather our misinterpretation and overreaction to a foreign perceptual experience.
From tons of experience I can tell you that you must ride out episodes of derealization and depersonalization. As was said earlier, if and when they pop onto the scene, acknowledge theyre there and calmly tell yourself theyre not a permanent state of consciousness and will shortly pass that is if you stay cool. Remind yourself that your mind is overloaded and its talking with you, asking for a little help. And do a friend a favor. Just use any intervention strategy and technique youve come across, including those presented in my book, and go on about your business and your day, as no one will have a clue as to what youre going through. Ill go you one better. Im challenging you to welcome derealization and depersonalization as they arrive, and dive right in to some intrapersonal exploration in their presence. Wouldnt that be an interesting twist? And how disarming would it be to the all out dread and fear these sensations traditionally generate.
Ah the mysteries and miseries of derealization and depersonalization. Nothing with which we cant peacefully coexist. Go get ’em, tiger!