Exceptional Moods?

The other day I came across the following excerpt from The War Of The Worlds by H. G. Wells:

Perhaps I am a man of exceptional moods. I do not know how far my experience is common. At times I suffer from the strangest sense of detachment from myself and the world about me; I seem to watch it all from the outside, from somewhere inconceivably remote, out of time, out of space, out of the stress and tragedy of it all.

This passage struck me very forcefully because it captures what it feels like to experience depersonalisation disorder. I wrote about my own experiences of this about three years ago.

In my own case the depersonalisation was, I think, a side-effect of medication I took to deal with an anxiety condition that has plagued me off and on for many years.

In recent weeks I have often felt strangely detached in the same way as before, but I haven’t been on medication for nearly three years now so that’s not the cause this time.

Perhaps it is just the social distancing and the general stress caused by the Covid-19 outbreak that is causing it?

If so there is probably quite a number of people out there feeling the same way.do maybe these moods aren’t really exceptional?

6 Responses to “Exceptional Moods?”

  1. Clare O'Neill Says:

    Hi Peter, I think you’re right, many people will be experiencing the effects of stress and worry due to the pandemic and old anxiety patterns might make an appearance.

    I think It’s really important that we give the brain a complete rest each day to help reduce the effect that worry can trigger.
    The following is a body scan meditation that can be done as often as necessary. The idea is to keep your thoughts completely on Mark’s voice and when an intrusive thought enters, notice it and then focus back on the body scan. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CyKhfUdOEgs
    Most mediation focuses on breathing which doesn’t suit everyone, in this one, you can choose to breathe naturally throughout.

    As well as the daily practise, if you can also watch what thoughts are competing for your attention and ‘sense-making’ throughout the day, and also choose to just notice them rather than focussing on them every time they appear, you will be reducing the release of stress hormones that accompany such thoughts.

    At the moment we all want to gain clarity and make our own sense of the situation, if we ‘indulge’ in these pursuits for many small incidents throughout the day, we will be awash with adrenaline and cortisol which contribute to the flight and fight response being repeatably triggered. Would the depersonalisation be part of the brain’s response to have a rest from the searching for answers and the avoidance of danger? I’m not an expert on that bit but the mindfulness approach can definitely help reduce stress.

    The above meditation is by Prof Mark Williams of Bangor university and his book https://amzn.to/2KmyA4W I found very helpful when I had a period of anxiety several years ago. There is a newer edition but I prefer this one.

    Hope this information is a little bit useful and I look forward to seeing you in Cardiff at some point for chips and a pint.

  2. Phillip Helbig Says:

    Your blog lives up to its name. On several different browsers, the quote is black text on black background. (Selecting it can make it visible.)

  3. Phillip Helbig Says:

    I can’t say that I’ve experienced this, but have experienced two somewhat similar things.

    One happens when I don’t see any other people for a couple of days (apart from people I don’t interact with at all). This happens very rarely, such as once when, after having given a talk in Uppsala, I decided spontaneously, since it was almost midsummer, to drive to Jokkmokk, which is a couple of minutes of latitude north of the Arctic Circle (and a long way from Uppsala), in order to experience the midnight sun. I have a good sense of direction, so to start with driving north with the sun in front of me was rather strange. Although I was on the main road, sometimes I didn’t see another car for hours, but a large number of reindeer. The landscape there has something hauntingly beautiful about it. But after a couple of days, due to no interaction with anyone I know, that strange feeling of detachment sets in. Back then, I had no mobile internet; I don’t know if that would have changed things.

    The other is lucid dreaming, which has happened only when I have taken morphine for pain in hospital, but when I did it always occurred. My dreams were like essentially all of my dreams*, but I was aware that I was dreaming, almost like I was dreaming of myself in a cinema watching my dream. So, in this sense, it was almost like an out-of-body experience (which I’ve never had, though I’ve had full anesthesia several times), except that I knew that it wasn’t real—I was aware that I was in hospital in reality, but in the dream I could see myself watching my dream somewhere else (in which I also played a role).

    * My dreams are realistic in that they obey the laws of physics; I don’t dream of flying through the air or whatever. They are usually mashups of things I’ve been thinking about during the day, oddly juxtaposed. Occasionally, I’ve been woken by a noise, and the same noise occurred in the dream, it what seemed to be a completely logical manner. I don’t know if the entire dream was triggered by the noise, or whether some last-minute ret-con took place. The only thing which is unrealistic is that, rarely, people meet in the dream who couldn’t have met in my real life, i.e. two people I know meeting, one of whom had died before I had met the other one, and/or people meeting at ages in their lives which are not congruent (i.e. my 10-year-old self meeting someone who wasn’t even born when I was 10 but in the dream is older than I am). Apparently some people dream only in black and white and/or have no smells or tastes in their dreams, but neither is the case for me; they are very realistic, sometimes so much so that for a while I’m not sure that it didn’t really happen. This is sorted out by the fact that I forget almost all dreams shortly after waking up, no matter how realistic and intense they have been. If I wake up only briefly then go back to sleep, though, sometimes the dream continues, and sometimes I intentionally go back so sleep to see what will happen in the dream.

  4. […] enough practice at dealing with anxiety in the past (not always very satisfactorily)? Perhaps the sense of detachment I’ve experienced over the past few weeks is part of some sort of defence mechanism I’ve […]

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