[Stopping note 03.15]

The very first time I did something that was in the vicinity of psychotherapy, stuff just came pouring out. Partially because I have good access, mostly because I had things building up inside for very, very long.

When I started this blog I had the same experience – I was overwhelmed with the things that were screaming at me to be written -, which is why I put out 28 posts in 28 days.

I then kept, for the past 3 months, squeezing the very last drops. This total effort amounted to a novel-like length, maybe.

During the time from the beginning of the blog until now I followed the maxim of writing about what was exciting me the most at the moment, and that if something wouldn’t excite me I wouldn’t write about it. And right now nothing excites me enough to write about. I still have tons of stuff that I need to talk about, mind you, – 100 notes on evernote and counting, each being an essay at some level of development. But I need time. The current ideas are not mature enough, are not yet screaming at me to be written.

And so I’m stopping writing this blog for an indeterminate amount of time.  

What I *expect* to happen is to update it seldomly, and then come back – in 6 months or so -, disown a bunch of what I wrote before, develop what I don’t disown, and put out new stuff over a feverish month or two.

 

Until then, dear reader. I’ll miss this.

 

My experience with depersonalization/derealization

(This is a report, wrote today about what happened to me about 10 min. ago)

My sleep was terrible last night. I slept 3 hours then woke up and stayed up for 5:30 hours then got 3 more.

I then went out of the house.

I noticed that life felt way different: like everything had moved and I had stayed the same, like life was moving through me. Like the whole world went to bed and woke up and I’m just here having been awake all the time, there is no disconnection to yesterday. Everyday that I walk down the stairs of my building it feels different it feels like a new day but this felt the same. Like being on ground hog day.

Also I felt that I was gonna get found out. I could feel my facial expression. I was like an alien who had just took a body and was afraid of being found out. It’s not that my movement control was worse. Just that I was paranoid, afraid of being outed of *something*.

People were definitely picking up on this, staring a moment too long and turning their heads in a way they thought I didn’t notice in cafes.

Everyone felt like they were part of a movie, my movie. Sure they move and talk but they are just background figures to my movie, like trees, lifeless, except they aren’t still. Everything in my vision was just this huge mass. Not how I usually experience the world: I am a person in the world and these are other persons in the world. Now it was more like this is my life, and my life is a movie and you are all characters, no, props.

My speech was slurred as well. I knew what I wanted but I took a moment too long to say it, both because life felt so different and because I was trying to attend to the differences.

I have experienced this sense before, feeling not-like-myself, like this-isn’t-real-life. That is how it felt like. Like this is just a game and everything else is background and NPCs, like they aren’t real. Not that I am either, there is no *I* in the strong sense that there usually is always an  I. There is just stuff happening in my fields of vision mostly, and my field of awareness more broadly.

(Other phenomenological observations:

  • Usually it feels that decisions *happen* to me, but that I am the agent that is carrying them out. I feel responsible for the things I’m engaged in doing. Right now I feel like I make the decisions explicitly (which is strange, I usually get an urge to drink water I don’t feel like I *decide* to get a cup of water) but that them being carried out is done not by me but for me in an automatic-pilot sort of way.
  • My thinking feels different. Usually it is easy to be aware of what is happening. This is not the case now: I have to strain. Further (I usually think in words) for the most part I’m either getting fully-formed senses in my head or getting a sense that some thinking is being done in the background. Right now I am carving sentences and when I’m not doing that it feels like there is nothing happening, like there is only emptiness inside)

(This state is hella weird I attribute my ability to report it to having experienced one, in a much stronger way, and it going away just by sleeping)

(See this post by Mark for more on depersonalization/derealization and interventions surrounding it)

On Additive Meditation

In this essay I start by detailing my experience with additive meditation. I then connect it to a theory of emotionality that makes sense of my experience.

 

My Experience with Additive Meditation

About a month ago I unblocked the ability of playing around with meditation levers. For some reason – which I don’t fully grasp yet – I was blocked on even considering doing anything but mindfulness meditation. I am not anymore, and so it is time to push the new found levers.

I started with additive meditation last weekend. I sat and did my own thing: cleared up a space, and increased my feelings of warmth, of safety, of being held, of being loved, of being cared for over 10 minutes. As I did it I felt warmer and warmer and started to spontaneously smile.

My flatmate came in and we chatted for a bit. He was visibly enraged and I failed to get enraged. I wanted to, I wanted to sympathise, but I just couldn’t access that even though the situation described would usually make me enraged.

The next morning I talked to my flatmate again and had a very Focusing-like conversation. I felt brilliantly, acting as the resonator board my flatmate needed, and he at least made inner progress with the issues he was dealing with.

I went out of the house and went to the city center with a book. I read, and observed, and listened to street bands, and admired street dancers and interacted with people. People were notably more cheerful interacting with me. Reading was difficult because every single sentence would spring dozens of ideas. Observation was more acute: as if my field of vision was larger and more precise. I could take more pleasure out of listening and observing the street artists. This effect gradually disappeared as the day went by, having lasted for a (presumed) total of 36 hours.

It was extraordinary – one of the best days of my life in terms of how it was experience, despite their being no clear outer reason for that – , and thus I had to comprehend it.

Intellectual apprehending the experience

The Broaden-and-build theory of positive emotionality

The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotionality maintains that emotions trigger self-perpetuating cycles. For example, positive emotions lead to the building of resources, which leads to an increase in overall well-being, which leads to more positive emotions, which leads to higher resilience, which leads to increased well-being and so on. Thus, positive emotions lead to a broadening of outlook that leads to a building of resources.

In the same way you can get int downward spirals: spirals of negative emotionality which are pretty much the opposite of the one described above.

Says the author: “The varied good outcomes empirically linked with positive affect support the broaden-and-build theory, which asserts that positive emotions are evolved psychological adaptations that increased human ancestors’ odds of survival and reproduction (Fredrickson, 1998). The theory holds that unlike negative emotions, which narrow people’s behavioral urges toward specific actions that were life-preserving for human ancestors (e.g., fight, flight), positive emotions widen the array of thoughts and actions called forth (e.g., play, explore), facilitating generativity and behavioral flexibility. Laboratory experiments support these claims, showing that relative to neutral states, induced negative emotions narrow people’s momentary thought–action repertoires, whereas induced positive emotions broaden these same repertoires (Fredrickson & Branigan, 2005).”

The theory explains why I was more aware and precise, and why I had so many ideas: the broadened outlook that the positive emotionality gave me allowed me to shift attentions away from the here-and-now threats.

The theory also claims that you can have multiple spirals going on at the same time (that is multiple concurrent self-perpetuating systems acting in different directions) and that upward spirals counter downward spirals.

This general theory, of course, has added use in making sense of success spirals and the growth mindset as special cases of positive emotionality reinforcing itself.

(I am told that videogames have long discovered these spirals and call them “streak”s or “combo”s)

 

Conclusion

I am all for a varied emotional repertoire and adequate emotional responses. I hear the criticism of positive psychology for making one stuck in and fetishising a particular shade of emotionality. I am all for being fluid and recalibrating and dynamic equilibrium. And yet I think there is space, a lot of inner space, and if you can add positive emotionality there, all the better.

And if we take assume the broaden-and-build theory, then the use of additive meditation become clear. It works as a bootstrap into a positivity spiral, a reinforcer of ongoing positivity spirals – with all the benefits that brings: resources, wellbeing, resilience.

For some (like me?) who are by nature defaulting to the stress of the here-and-now focus additive meditation is very promising. Go try it.