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Have you ever gotten so lost in your thoughts that you lost touch with reality?
November 24, 2008 9:29 PM   Subscribe

Have you ever been so bored with reality that you became lost in your own fantasies more than usual?

I'm an artist and I have a creative mind. But lately I've become scared. Really frightened actually. I have increasingly become more lost in my own thoughts than normal. At work my mind wanders until I am no longer productive. In the car I slowly tune out NPR or whatever music is playing and start thinking of hypothetical situations, new ideas, what could be happening in my life other than what is happening here and now.

To give you perspective, I just graduated from college in May and I have a lot of free time. Despite the economy I have a job in my field but I am a lowly peon and my tasks are not challenging in the least bit. I've tried picking up some responsibilities that actually stimulate my brain, but I haven't had much success. I go to the gym and run it out for an hour. I picked up some freelance work and do that when I get home. But it isn't enough. I sit at my desk and start to dream. I will think about the conversation I forgot to have, the guy I really liked who I should have said something to, or the something-or-other I wish would happen but won't because it's all in my head. That conversation won't really happen because I am too busy at work. I won't see that guy I like because I only see him at some passing company party. That something-or-other is just not grounded in reality.

Has anybody ever had this problem of getting lost in your own thoughts? The reason why it has become such a problem is that I've become less connected with what is going on around me. I'm afraid I will lose it altogether and go crazy. Please help!
posted by pixelnark to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
Oh yes, I had this problem, and it was severe. It went to the point of depersonalization. And I still have this problem, without the whole "whoa, my body is totally not mine" part. I daydream immensely, I dream up extreme scenarios and should-have-done conversations, the whole shebang. I'm sleeping more than usual lately just to (day)dream more.

What keeps me temporarily sane is my friends. Well, okay, I'm still in college, and I have to work on a team project, but I got friends who don't mind hanging out. Do you have a good social network? Mine is pretty small, but talking to people, laughing with people will get you back into reality, even if it's only for a while. Human interaction is key. Friends is key. Social time is key.

Keep it together! You're not alone.
posted by curagea at 9:49 PM on November 24, 2008


Are you bored with reality or living in regret of not taking advantage of reality? The examples you give of your wandering mind are of the "missed opportunity" variety. This indicates your issue may lie with lack of motivation rather than unhinging from reality, so to speak.

Otherwise, with all these new ideas you're having it sounds like it's time to write a book . . .
posted by quadog at 9:54 PM on November 24, 2008


I went through this in high school when I was working on my own creative fiction... in fact most of my memories of that year are of being in la la land building up this fiction universe, accentuated by whatever music I listened to at the time (a lot of new wave and newer classic rock). It wasn't intense enough, though, to where there was any problem differentiating reality; it was more like a faint psychedelic glow or aura, as if I were processing threads from that creativity all the time. The "zone" went away towards that summer, but I came away with much sharper writing skills. I revisited that existence several years later in college, but BBSs, ancient online chat, and a small circle of friends kept it from ever getting into those same depths.

Interestingly when I switched to nonfiction, which is what I've been doing ever since, that "zone" never materialized; I think it's uniquely specific to mental tasks that exercise creativity. How it works, though, I have no idea. Just my own $0.02.
posted by crapmatic at 10:15 PM on November 24, 2008


Yep, I've had this for most of my life and am now only getting a handle on it. In fact I didn't realise I was doing it for a long long time. I thought that just how thinking works. I too am highly creative and an outside-the-box thinker.

However I've decided that these thoughts and thought habits are not useful and I'm wondering if I fall into that thought habit because I'd rather do that than think of the things I really should be spending thought energy on. So I'm now applying CBT techniques whenever I catch myself daydreaming. I notice that I'm daydreaming, I evaluate the usefulness of the thought content, and then I take it from there. I have discovered that in a short time I've stopped some of my daydreaming habits (the 'if only's... or the 'alternate scenario' ones) but I still let myself do the 'what if' daydreaming because that is often useful.
posted by Kerasia at 10:16 PM on November 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Perhaps it is both. Maybe I am bored with what I'm doing but also not taking advantage of what's going on around me. The problem is that what I'm dreaming is more of a fantasy than what would/could happen in real life. The conversation is not a real conversation I would have with a person. Rather it's on a subject I'm interested in personally and instead of having it with a real person I will play it out in my head. That guy who I saw at the party, I don't know who he is and I don't know his name. But I will create this elaborate fantasy that something does happen with him. I am just trying to pull myself away from this kind of thinking. I'm wondering if psychology has studied this phenomenon and individuals who succumb to this kind of thinking.
posted by pixelnark at 10:19 PM on November 24, 2008


Previously.
posted by anticlock at 10:39 PM on November 24, 2008


OMG YES. To the letter. Imaginary conversations (which will never happen), brilliant ideas (which I am too lazy to act out), all sorts of things. I've realised that it can be - if not already is - a problem, but I have no idea what to do about it. Thanks for asking this question.
posted by divabat at 4:11 AM on November 25, 2008


Pretty much most of my conscious life.

It actually kind of bothers me, how much I live in my head.

I think given that it seems to be troubling you pretty significantly might make it worth talking to a therapist about, though.

Also, if you're interested, insight meditation/Vipassana meditation addresses exactly this -- but like I said, the fact that you seem quite worried about it suggests to me that you should maybe run it by a doctor. It's normal for me, but it might not be normal for you.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:35 AM on November 25, 2008


Has anybody ever had this problem of getting lost in your own thoughts? The reason why it has become such a problem is that I've become less connected with what is going on around me. I'm afraid I will lose it altogether and go crazy. Please help!

Yes, all the time, only I've never thought of it as a problem. Then again, I'm a writer, and it's why I write. I'd suggest picking up some sort of creative outlet--writing or painting, for example, so you can feel like you're channeling that fantasy life into something productive instead of letting it terrify you.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:56 AM on November 25, 2008


Rather it's on a subject I'm interested in personally and instead of having it with a real person I will play it out in my head. That guy who I saw at the party, I don't know who he is and I don't know his name. But I will create this elaborate fantasy that something does happen with him. I am just trying to pull myself away from this kind of thinking.

Also, it could just be me, but this sounds perfectly mentally healthy to me. Our fantasies exist to give us outlets for feelings we can't or won't act on in real life. You might be, say, too shy to strike up that conversation with a real person, but "having it in your head" lets you explore your own ideas more deeply without having to. Ditto for (what I think sound like) sexual/romantic fantasies. You say you're bored at work--a rich fantasy life can help you to still feel stimulated. Really, I don't know why you're trying to stop this sort of thinking--so you can be grounded in a boring reality? Yuck.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:04 AM on November 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


I used to be much more lost in my own head and out of touch with the world around me when I was younger. I think for me the biggest factor in changing that was my long-time immersion in various mind-body disciplines (martial arts/yoga/massage/other bodywork) which required me to be in the here and now, paying attention to details of the physical world. That sort of practice isn't for everyone, but if it sounds interesting you might want to give it a try.

One thing I notice in your question is that you don't mention spending any of that copious free time with friends or family. Interacting with other people will force you to bring your focus out of your own head. If you're spending most of your time alone, that makes it much easier to slip into your own fantasy world. I'm not saying you should go out and become a social butterfly if you're naturally an introvert (I'm an introvert myself) , but even we introverts need some degree of regular social interaction to stay mentally healthy.
posted by tdismukes at 8:24 AM on November 25, 2008


I was (very briefly) in therapy a few years ago, for depression that turned out to be almost entirely situational. My therapist was very interested in my tendency to daydream and fantasize, to the extent that we talked about little else. I think this may be psychologically meaningful in some way, but it's hard for me to say how; I didn't get much out of the sessions.

(This is not a "you should go to therapy" answer, but more of a "therapists see this as significant for something, and maybe you can find out what" answer.)
posted by yomimono at 9:51 AM on November 25, 2008


If you think this is a phase, maybe you are giving yourself a break. (That's what I tell myself, anyway.)

Seriously, as long as you are doing what you are supposed to be doing and could jump in and do what was needed if your sister had an emergency and needed your help or three people up and quit and you had to take over their work, then there's no harm spending your spare time in your own head.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 1:32 PM on November 25, 2008


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