Rationally dealing with insanity

Rationally dealing with insanity
The Intelligent Contradiction
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Posted Feb 8, 2010 - 1:57 AM:
Subject: Rationally dealing with insanity
I've been asked plenty of times over the cause of my life, "whats your greatest fear?" and I usually answered "torture" which seemed fair enough. Recently I've come to realize that pure insanity could be far worse than torture. If your mind conjured up a demon that could not only hurt you (stimulate your pain receptors) but would also promise you again and again that you would spend an eternity in hell being tortured like this, would you not agree that this is worse torture than torture that any human could inflict?

Anyway to my point, I've wondered how would i rationally deal with reality suddenly falling apart, and so I've come up with this scenario which I'd like all of you to read and tell me how you would respond.

(NOTE The the "you" in the scenario has never suffered from insanity previously). You're walking down the street to go to the local milk bar. You've just come back from an intense medical exam and your perfectly healthy, mentally and physically. You've also been eating at high end restaurants for the past week and have been feeling great. As you walk the ground suddenly begins to melt away and everything seems to become distorted. Pebbles on the ground begin to float up into the air. Before you can even comprehend what happened all the pebbles fall back to the ground and reality turns to normal again.

How would you cope with what just happened? You would have to immediately question everything you believe, whats real, whats possible and whether you are insane. Diagnosing insanity for others seems easy, but when you remember that the only thing you know that truly exists in life is yourself and everything else cannot truly be proven as "real", how could you truly know that what happened wasn't actually real?

Tell me how you would cope, what conclusion you would draw and why?
Mariner
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Posted Feb 8, 2010 - 2:15 AM:

Floating pebbles wouldn't be much of an impact in my worldview. It would give some scientific strength to the world of "Avatar", with floating mountains grin. It would require an extensive reappraisal of physics, but physics is not everything (or even the most important part).

The torturing demon, of course, would be another matter. Assuming I was not still too far gone off the deep end to still think rationally once in a while, "what I would do" is probably pray and seek help (not necessarily "professional" help, family and friends first).

And considering the general question, "how do we know what is real and what isn't?", reality is much more consistent than any dreams we can imagine (down to the laws of physics). And sane people have a "sense of reality", working all the time, based on this consistency. The fact that we wake up at the same spot in which we went to sleep, that it is the following day, that our body is still the same, that our acquaintances are merely one day older, etc. etc., is the backbone of our sense of reality. A very complex network of relationships which is utterly consistent.
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Posted Feb 8, 2010 - 3:53 AM:

Mariner has got the ticket word 'consistent' that would have to be reinforced again and again in your recovery/reclaiming back your reality, which will never be the same again. The word 'consistent' or 'consistency' in everything you once knew to be real and everything that will come your way for a long time to come is the only thing that will reconnect you with your new reality. The only way you can prove to everyone around you including and most importantly yourself is 'consistency of character over time'. To have a mental breakdown or 'go insane' causes you to loose all touch with what is real, there is a disconnected feeling as you suggest in your OP.

One of the strongest skills you can learn to cope with that disconnect is to employ the idea of trusting those around you but verify what you accept as your own. Those experiences that made you feel like you were going insane like the pebbles floating upward is your experience and that is/was your reality, no more no less. Just because it did not match up with what others were seeing/experiencing/functioning 'properly' does not make your experience any less real. The thing about time is that no matter what state your mind might be in, the experience you go through is yours to keep, there are no go-backs or do overs. That same theory applies when you have a breakdown, your nervous system, your para sympathetic nervous system, your soul all experience your perception of reality, your reality, no one elses. So the idea of you knowing that your breaking down, is rarely understood in the moment but rather through reflection and processing once the state of breakdown has happened. It is on that climb back from a breakdown that perspective is brought back in a little at a time, proven to you as being consistent in character over time. You are then able to repeat to others, for the 1000th time, what made you question your reality.

When you realize the thoughts that broke down, that the new reality you have now become reacquainted with is more imbalance than the thoughts that broke you, you realize that which has happened. No matter how 'out of it' the ideas may appear now in hindsight, at the time that they happened they were as true to you as any other experience. It is easier for the healthy mind to recognize the unbalanced thoughts than to try and fight the idea that what your reality at the time was not really happening.
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Posted Feb 8, 2010 - 5:32 AM:

Personally I think it is pretty crazy to speculate about how you would feel in different situations you know nothing about. Amnesty International, for example, started out merely dedicating themselves to rehabilitating victims of political torture. Such work normally requires hundreds of thousands of dollars, years of both physical and emotional rehabilitation, and the individual is never the same afterwards.

http://www.amnesty.org/

Chronic pain of any sort sucks and knowing the source of your pain doesn't necessarilly help. Like anything else exactly what kind of "proof" we might require as to the source of our pain is an individual decision and can change over time.
The Intelligent Contradiction
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Posted Feb 8, 2010 - 8:43 PM:

Would any of you ever feel the same about reality after you saw the laws of physics break for those few seconds? The concept of a god would become so much more plausible because it seems only Gods can break the fundamental laws of the universe. Also would your perception on this scenario change if the experience described happened to you on an infrequent basis (4 times a year for the rest of your life)?
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Posted Feb 8, 2010 - 9:56 PM:

I had something close to what the original poster described happen to me. It was a breakdown of sorts. I had been bitten by a dog in India and once I returned back home I began experiencing symptoms associated with rabies.

I've always been a pretty rational person and the farthest thing from a hypochondriac. I hardly ever go to the doctor. So I was convinced that what I was experiencing was really occurring. Furthermore, I had the symptoms before I even knew what rabies really was, let alone what symptoms were associated with it. It was only when I started investigating why I felt the way I did that I made the link with the dog bite.

Needless to say once that link was made it was impossible to get out of my head. It became my reality. The pain and tingling I felt around the bite intensified with every day, I began to feel aches and pains in my abdomen, I was salivating at an increased rate, and I began experiencing flu like symptoms. I was convinced that I had contracted the disease and would be dead within a couple of weeks at best. I made preparations. Wrote letters, sorted out my financial affairs, and made an effort to visit the people who meant the most to me.

It was only after the two weeks passed and I was still alive that I began questioning what was going on. It was suggested to me that it may have been anxiety related, and once I started looking at that, and BELEIVING it as a possibility, the symptoms began to disappear. It's been 6 months now, and they haven't gone entirely, but by recognising and consciously conditioning thought patterns I'm slowly readjusting my reality again. I refuse to take medication to do that.

I've always been aware of how powerful the human mind was, I used to be into lucid dreaming and other constructed reality experiments, but I was always in full control. I considered people who claimed to suffer from anxiety as hysterical and irrational. I think I swayed on the edge of sanity for a brief period in time, and it gave me an insight into the fickle nature of my own reality.

My experience isn't so different from seeing the laws of physics violated. The sensations I felt were real, for all intents and purposes. Vision is simply another sensory perception. It's entirely subjective.

I'm not sure I've ever believed there is an objective reality, but even if there is it's impossible for us to know. The really interesting question is whether or not my brief experience with insanity could potentially have been powerful enough for my mind to not only manifest the symptoms, but eventually kill me too. Surely if you believe you're dead, you're dead?
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Posted Feb 9, 2010 - 3:56 AM:

The Intelligent Contradiction wrote: Would any of you ever feel the same about reality after you saw the laws of physics break for those few seconds?

No reality is never the same after you have a mental breakdown. You will forever question your perceptions and for quite a while after that breakdown happens you will question what triggered it, how not to trigger it again and the all important question; will you know when it is happening, that it is happening again. The only way to deal with those questions is to begin to be able to trust yourself again and only time will prove that to you, through consistency in traits and character.
The Intelligent Contradiction wrote: The concept of a god would become so much more plausible because it seems only Gods can break the fundamental laws of the universe.

I would like to agree with you but Science has been able to prove too much to hang it all up on a higher power. Just like your computer can 'hiccup' needing to be 'restarted" so can the mind short circuit for reasons both possible as well as probable.
The Intelligent Contradiction wrote: Also would your perception on this scenario change if the experience described happened to you on an infrequent basis (4 times a year for the rest of your life)?

Yes, my perception on the scenario would change if it happened to me 4 times a year, which to me is not infrequent. I would begin to wonder during my times of clarity just how qualified my Doctors were that were treating me.
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Posted Feb 9, 2010 - 4:05 AM:

01 wrote: The really interesting question is whether or not my brief experience with insanity could potentially have been powerful enough for my mind to not only manifest the symptoms, but eventually kill me too.


I think you raise an interesting question 01. My guess is that yes you could allow that break with sanity to be powerful enough for your mind to finally just give into the idea of being dead and eventually with no medical intervention you could wither away. That is where the mind is amazing to me because once you reached a point of 'giving in', the 'fight/flight' response usually takes over and would drive you to survive. Then again I am a survivor by nature so I can really only speak from that which I know about me.

01 wrote: Surely if you believe you're dead, you're dead?


Nah, I have believed in something to the depths of my soul and was still able to be shown that I was carelessly wrong.
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Posted Feb 9, 2010 - 5:28 AM:

The insane don't know that they are insane. I think a few people are perceiving how they would react when the only thing that wasn't functioning correctly is there ability to construct a reality congruent to the external world. However a break from reality is usually a total one which includes our reasoning capabilities such as pattern recognition. Usually it's the break from rational thinking that is a precursor for the hallucinations in the first place so I think that most of time people have no way in which to judge.

I suppose it would be like taking an hallucinogen. Some people that take LSD, even while hallucinating remain quite lucid and enjoy the experience. Others can't differentiate between what they see now from what they could see before and enter a form of psychosis (even if only temporarily). Same with dreams. If you are like me you don't really react to dreams/nightmares because you kind of know that you are dreaming. I can't control my 'dream world' like some claim but I'm not really immersed in what I see and often wake-up when something absurd happens.

What you're suggesting could be similar to a dream you can't wake-up from I suppose, or a nightmare even.

However I imagine that a rational mind trapped in an irrational world (even one created by the mind) wouldn't be able to deal with constantly trying to predict/explain inconsitent events and would eventually become inconsistent itself. But by the same token of logic an irrational person may start to perceive inconsistent external events (ie. pebbles floating) to match their inconsistent rationale and stop them from going crazy from a rational world.
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Posted Feb 9, 2010 - 5:36 AM:

Norm101 wrote: Usually it's the break from rational thinking that is a precursor for the hallucinations in the first place so I think that most of time people have no way in which to judge.

I am not sure that there is a "usual" form of a mental breakdown other than common traits. As each person lives from their perspectives, only having their individual experiences to draw from, each persons breakdown would follow its own path. The thing about hallucinations being interpreted, you cannot do that rationally until you are well on your way back up from the down in your emotional 'breakdown'.

I also think that having an emotional breakdown is far different from someone being labeled insane.
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