Fears about reality being unreal - Social Anxiety Forum
 
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post #1 of 16 (permalink) Old 03-24-2018, 06:31 AM Thread Starter
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Fears about reality being unreal


I've had anxiety related to this on-and-off for years now. It used to be more general like "how do I know other people are real" or "maybe this is all just a dream", but I remember being 14 and stumbling across thought experiments like Descartes' evil demon or the brain-in-a-vat hypothesis (way before I got into philosophy, I think having some background knowledge would've prepared me mentally for those things). Those two are similar to the idea of living in the Matrix but the big difference being that you're alone in a simulation/false reality, and at the whim of some presumably malicious power.

Sometimes I have paranoid thoughts about there being proof of this, i.e. maybe the powers-that-be are sending me hints that they're in control of my reality. I've listened closely to songs or audio tracks with muffled voices trying to debunk the thought that they contain messages for me.

I'm doing fine now (and taking Geodon) but this brings me the worst anxiety I've ever had, I plan on talking to my therapist more about this next week or so, I feel like my psychiatrist only has a vague understanding. It makes me feel like I'm not a sane person.
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post #2 of 16 (permalink) Old 03-24-2018, 07:06 AM
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Interesting. I wonder how a psychologist would go about treating a patient (such as yourself) experiencing this...? Would they treat it as a purely anxiety / psychosis related issue, or would they incorporate philosophical teachings to change your epistemological and metaphysical views to those that are perhaps more 'healthy'? I guess dealing with the psychosis is the essential first step.

I'm guessing you have a diagnosis related to schizophrenia if you're taking Ziprasidone. Is that right, @Barakiel ?
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post #3 of 16 (permalink) Old 03-24-2018, 07:26 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by ShatteredGlass View Post
Interesting. I wonder how a psychologist would go about treating a patient (such as yourself) experiencing this...? Would they treat it as a purely anxiety / psychosis related issue, or would they incorporate philosophical teachings to change your epistemological and metaphysical views to those that are perhaps more 'healthy'? I guess dealing with the psychosis is the essential first step.
I talk about philosophy with my therapist but it’s mostly unrelated to this. He’s interested in what I’m reading and letting me practice putting my thoughts into words, so I haven’t gotten any specifically philosophical counseling for this, that would be interesting though.

Also the mere fact that “you can’t prove you’re not living in a simulation” doesn’t really bother me anymore, I feel like pragmatism and phenomenology give good responses to that. It’s more the idea that there really is positive evidence for living in a false reality that fuels my paranoia.

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I'm guessing you have a diagnosis related to schizophrenia if you're taking Ziprasidone. Is that right, @Barakiel ?
My therapist said I might have a “mild thought disorder”, and we told my psychiatrist about how I’ve listened to voices in media for messages directed to me but that’s about it.

Also I was taking Abilify for a few months but my parents were so concerned about it causing weight gain so I ended up with the new meds just a few days ago.
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post #4 of 16 (permalink) Old 05-14-2018, 05:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Barakiel View Post
Sometimes I have paranoid thoughts about there being proof of this, i.e. maybe the powers-that-be are sending me hints that they're in control of my reality. I've listened closely to songs or audio tracks with muffled voices trying to debunk the thought that they contain messages for me.
This sounds decidedly schizophrenic/psychotic to me at least.

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post #5 of 16 (permalink) Old 05-14-2018, 10:46 PM
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What you described in the first paragraph sounds mostly like you're just overthinking philosophical stuff in an anxious way, but the second paragraph sounds more like a schizo-spectrum thing. Or more specifically:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ideas_...s_of_reference

Not sure if you're still experiencing that at the moment. This part might be useful to you as well:

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'Ideas of reference must be distinguished from delusions of reference, which may be similar in content but are held with greater conviction'.[13] With the former, but not the latter, the person holding them may have 'the feeling that strangers are talking about him/her, but if challenged, acknowledges that the people may be talking about something else'.[14]

From the psychoanalytic view, there may be at the same time 'transitions...to delusions' from ideas of reference: whereas 'abortive ideas of reference, in the beginning of their development or, in schizotypal personalities, continuously, may remain subject to the patient's criticism...under adverse circumstances, by minimal economic shifts, however, reality testing may be lost and daydreams of this kind turn into delusions'.[15]

It has been noted that the character 'rigidly controlled by his superego...readily forms sensitive ideas of reference. A key experience may occur in his life circumstances and quite suddenly these ideas become structured as delusions of reference'.[16] Within the 'focus of paranoia...that man crossing his legs, that woman wearing that blouse—it can't just be accidental. It has a particular meaning, is intended to convey something'.[17]

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post #6 of 16 (permalink) Old 05-18-2018, 07:53 PM
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The listening to songs thing is treading close to psychosis. I can assure you we're all just as real as you. So long as you have insight you're fine.

One time I did some weed laced with LSD and I was tripping similarly but much worse. I imagined that people in videos were speaking directly and personally to me. That everything they said had some kind of double meaning meant for what I was thinking at that moment. Most terrifying experience of my life, but its fun to look back on it, seeing just how precarious the mind is, and how easily it can start going wrong.

Just stay away from alcohol and other non prescription drugs and keep talking to people you love as honestly as you can manage, and you'll stay grounded. You're a smart guy, and like to read about all sorts of interesting and abstract theories about the world, but it can draw you out of your ape perspective too much, so balance that interest out with fun, pleasurable activities as well, maybe a sport or gaming or something. Better yet, if you feel yourself slipping more than usual, just don't read about any of that stuff at all.
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post #7 of 16 (permalink) Old 05-23-2018, 04:37 AM
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I can assure you we're all just as real as you. So long as you have insight you're fine.

One time I did some weed laced with LSD and I was tripping similarly but much worse ... Most terrifying experience of my life, but its fun to look back on it, seeing just how precarious the mind is, and how easily it can start going wrong.

Just stay away from alcohol and other non prescription drugs and keep talking to people you love as honestly as you can manage, and you'll stay grounded. You're a smart guy, and like to read about all sorts of interesting and abstract theories about the world, but it can draw you out of your ape perspective too much, so balance that interest out with fun, pleasurable activities as well, maybe a sport or gaming or something. Better yet, if you feel yourself slipping more than usual, just don't read about any of that stuff at all.
I wish somebody had given me this advice when I was younger. I had a similar experience while tripping out and suffered from existential panic for years afterwards (I didn't know they were panic attacks at the time, I thought the fabric of reality was crumbling away and so on...). The solution for me was to step back from everything that was triggering these thoughts, get some new hobbies and fresh perspectives.

Best wishes to the OP. I really hope things improve for you. Going through this kind of anxiety was definitely the scariest period of my life, but the brain is very flexible and humans can un-learn undesired patterns of thought with practice and time.
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post #8 of 16 (permalink) Old 05-29-2018, 09:41 PM
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It's funny to me that you fear this. I've had this thought many times before and I went into it pretty deeply thinking about all the possibilities. I actually find it comforting and exciting to think that. Because if this is not "real", then my interactions with people don't really hold as much magnitude and it makes the idea of SA seem less important.
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post #9 of 16 (permalink) Old 05-31-2018, 12:46 PM Thread Starter
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I actually find it comforting and exciting to think that. Because if this is not "real", then my interactions with people don't really hold as much magnitude and it makes the idea of SA seem less important.
In a way I can understand, existential anxiety makes my SA seem very insignificant and I can recover from awkward social interactions better than I can from anxiety attacks over things like I detailed in OP. Ultimately I would rather other people be real though, and I don't take any comfort in the thought of them not being so.
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post #10 of 16 (permalink) Old 05-31-2018, 02:21 PM
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I personally doubt this problem is of a philosophical / existential nature.

For me, it's kinda like, if I pick up a pen, is that real? Well, the sensations are real, but the sensations are contingent on my brain, and my brain could quite easily be "not real", in that it could be a simulation on a computer somewhere, but then so is the pen, so that simulation simply becomes "reality", i.e. there isn't anything other than that reality, so it's real.

Or, to put it more succinctly, so long as the mind is of the same substance as the universe it inhabits, its as real as anything can be real. This is the only definition of real that means a damn thing. What else could real be? (because you could have a never ending series of nested realities, and would have to arbitrarily decide one was the "real" one, even though that would exist nested in another).

I am pretty certain that so long as the mind is of the same substance as the universe it inhabits, its real. (So don't go in for dualism Barakiel lol).

As to why I don't think your problem is philosophical, I personally find this totally acceptable and relieving of any possible anxiety. I am sure you will understand what I mean here, and yet I suspect this kind of explanation might only serve to worsen your anxiety (sorry, was necessary to try to shed some light on the true source of your problem). This makes it highly likely to me it is illness related, rather than a philosophical problem that if you could just crack it would go away.

Unless my understanding is wrong, and you know more than me (which you might, since I have done 0 reading on this subject lol).
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post #11 of 16 (permalink) Old 05-31-2018, 02:23 PM
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Maybe this becomes fear inducing if you aren't a materialist in the philosophical sense? For me personally the substance the brain is made out of is inconsequential and has no bearing on its realness if its the same as the universe it inhabits (dunno if any of this makes sense).
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post #12 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-02-2018, 10:00 PM
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its depersonalization/derealization
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post #13 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-07-2018, 03:49 AM
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It doesn't seem likely that we could survive in an empty world unless we were hallucinating. Could we be hallucinating our lives at this moment? Think about how it is when we dream, we're just using our imagination and memories and we hallucinate with almost all our senses because it feels real. Who knows, life is indeed confusing. The imaginary world seems to be interrupted by puberty when we go through a metamorphosis. Then we have to choose between the imaginary or reality. What is reality anyway and why does it have to be the ideal state of mind? You can experience both of them at the same time. I guess you will spend more time in a place where you feel most comfortable. Others who feel comfortable in reality will shame and bully those who feel comfortable in the imaginary. Why not believe in something if it makes you feel good? Let them stigmatize you, who cares, it feels ****ing good baby, this is your world!

They'll call you crazy to make everyone choose reality as the ideal state of mind. They'll stigmatize you like people with mental disorders or non/religious folk or any other difference. Call me crazy but I choose the imaginary/life is a dreamy haze/the matrix/real but unreal like a dream/hallucination. Maybe even reality is actually just a hallucination/a dreamy haze/the matrix/real but unreal like a dream. You can't blame me! I always think my dreams are real when I am in them! And then most of the time reality feels like a dream and other times like a dream come true. Who doesn't love to get high and hallucinate, to feel so comfortable they can lucid dream this reality away? Why do you think so many people love having sex in virtual reality? Because that reality feels like a lucid dream come true!

I have this book called Toltec Prophecies of Don Miguel Ruiz and on page 12 it talks about the dreaming mind. I used to get high reading this and thought I was going insane especially when someone was writing exactly what I believed in. See how cool it is to write books? It will attract whoever you want by saying whatever you please. It doesn't matter what you say, people will believe it if it is something they already believe.
"The function of our mind is to dream twenty-four hours a day. Awake or asleep, we dream with our mind, not with our brain. Yet, the brain knows that the mind is dreaming. The waking dream has a material structure. In sleep, the dream also seems to have a structure. While awake, our mind is affected by cycles of energy through the day as the light changes, and this rhythm gives the mind a notion of time and space. During sleep, we do not perceive energy from outside ourselves, but the mind dreams images including an image of our own body. We can talk, see and even fly in a dream. We do not notice that we are asleep when we are dreaming. Something makes the connection between the inner dream and the outer dream. That something is reason. Reason is the part of the mind that tries to qualify and understand everything. Reason wants to say, this is real and this is unreal. Reason gives us the illusion that the dream is real as long as the dream has the material framework we perceive as reality. We do not notice that we are interpreting reality according to the dream we are in at the moment."

Around early to mid/late 20s you will have to decide to stand for something because it will be a waste of life if you decide to fall for the peer pressure of group-think/society's ideal state of mind. Maybe it's time you set things straight with folks and peer pressure them into your ideal state of mind. See how they like it, see how they'll react. See how uncomfortable they feel and how hard it comes to them. Well it's obvious that what you focus most on becomes your world. Since they always pushed out the possibility of life being a dream because of group-think/society's ideal state of mind, they can't see it. Their world is not your world, even better you can be in two places at once because you're more open to many more possibilities of life.

Just because the group-think/society's ideal state of mind is reality doesn't mean they are right. The freedom to believe in whatever you want and not be shamed for it is right. You think you're crazy because you are made to feel different by others. You try to fit in reality because you want to feel the same and be accepted. You try to avoid going into your imaginary, you agree that it's wrong, crazy, childish and immature as they all say. You push it away and you focus yourself entirely on reality. For a while during intense school years it works well but you still feel lonely and awkward in reality. You really miss your own world. So you go back to it when you sleep and you wake up realizing that even those who believe in reality sleep and dream. Then it feels like they took something important from you. Why would you fall to their peer pressure to try to please and conform to their level of comfortable and miss out on what makes you feel like life is worth living? Who cares what others think. Be uncomfortable, be scary, be crazy, be you and the right people will be attracted to you.

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post #14 of 16 (permalink) Old 11-29-2018, 09:55 AM
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Are you sure it's not just neurosis?

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post #15 of 16 (permalink) Old 12-02-2018, 02:48 AM
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Originally Posted by Barakiel View Post
I was going through jazz videos on Youtube and came across a song called “Gonna Tan Your Hide”. I had a thought that this phrase was actually a threat or taunt directed towards me
My sister has this. I recognized it immediately. Ideas/delusions of reference with paranoia/persecutory delusions. I talk her through stuff like this almost every day on the phone. She's been diagnosed with PTSD, but I think it's common to several types of illness.

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I've had anxiety related to this on-and-off for years now. It used to be more general like "how do I know other people are real" or "maybe this is all just a dream"
This sounds like derealization.

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post #16 of 16 (permalink) Old 12-02-2018, 02:53 AM
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I can honestly say that I have never had a single fear about reality not being real. All my fears are based around the fact that reality is all too real.

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