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Sunday, June 5, 2011

Picturing Depersonalisation - Cloven Consiousness

The Compassion of the Birds - by Stephanie Tihanyi
(all copyrights held by the artist)

Dual-consciousness, double-consciousness, cloven-consciousness, various names for a particular type of human psychological phenomena. Basically its the experience of having two consciousness's operating at the same time. Its not a common experience and far as I can learn, is a dissociative disorder. Its an form of depersonalisation.
My personal experience is that experiencing yourself as two separate people is a very disturbing sensation. Sometimes when I am doing something, working, socialising, relaxing, I get the sense of another other self watching within or even having thoughts or experiencing emotions that I do not have, that are certainly not anything to do with my current external situation or even my present thoughts at the time and that don't even seem to belong to me. But clearly they come from my own self, not one that I recognise.

Sometimes these feelings and sounds can be very inappropriate to the current moment. For instance hearing a woeful sobbing coming from inside when at dinner or greeting clients of friends. Hearing angry or aggressive remarks when talking with someone you like or who you know likes you. Usually but not all, these are appearances of unwanted, repressed and socially jeopardising emotions that threaten my social interaction. Sometimes I have been alone and also experienced this. These are called 'made thoughts and feelings', also a dissociative symptom.

There is another side to this depersonalisation experience. That is, being on the other shoe, as they say.
This side is more unsettling because in the first example at least you are the one in control, in the drivers seat. In this one you're in the back seat and whats more the driver don't even know you exist!. Its like you just a passenger in someone else's life.
For example: I can be having a stressful day, thoughts on my mind and a lot of anxiety, intense negative feelings of sadness. I am absorbed and experiencing overwhelming feelings from thoughts of traumatic memories and then Bam!, I am challenged to respond to the present moment, to a friend, spouse or neighbour, who interacts with me and I experience an intense moment of panic. I must respond, but not as I am, they cannot see me as I am. Suddenly I am feeling I have receded. I hear these words come out of my mouth in the present and its not my words. I didn't put them together. I sort of sit here in the back hearing (my) witty remarks and complex responses and feeling chuckles vertebrate in my chest and all the while I am not aware of any of these thought processes or memories that created them, all I have is these other intense emotions. its so weird, its like someone else is running the show. I couldn't consciously act this well even if I tried. Sitting here in the back of my head, I am thinking, 'how the hell does she do that?', how the hell does that happen?'. I feel anxiety and dismay at the same time. How can this fake bitch carry on chatting with light and ease when I am here in the background with these horrible feelings?. Its like a betrayal. This goes beyond covering up ones feelings. I have tried to act not scared or hurt or sad when I am not but never managed the effortless ease my other self has achieved it, with such autonomy in these experiences. I suspect this self cannot even be aware I exist.

Luckily this experience although can be frequent during stress times only last about 20 minuets or so. Recently I have become aware that this "fake bitch" as I call this other self is not acting, is not actually aware of me and the feelings but is trapped on the other side of the defensive wall of dissociation I created. This is the flip side, the other side of the coin, the other experience I was talking about above. I was experiencing life as the suppressed thought/feeling self. Its all me, but experienced at times as separate. It is my hope that I can learn better self communication that will help minimise this chronic depersonalization. By exploring it in my personal art therapy, as all my art is actually, I hope to depict both experiences in painting, and try to foster a more global awareness in my self.

Feb 2013: Since this old post I have learnt much and add these links that help explain the experiences in my article

Depersonalization (or depersonalisation) is a malfunction or anomaly of the mechanism by which an individual has self-awareness. It is a feeling of watching oneself act, while having no control over a situation. Depersonalization, de-realization is the single most important symptom in the spectrum of dissociative disorders .
Individuals who experience depersonalization feel divorced from their own personal physicality by sensing their body sensations, feelings, emotions and behaviors as not belonging to the same person or identity. Often a person who has experienced depersonalization claims that things seem unreal or hazy. Also, a recognition of self breaks down (hence the name). Depersonalization can result in very high anxiety levels, which further increase these perceptions.
- Wikipedia.

Dr Cheryl Arutt on Creativity and Trauma :