Did Kafka experience something like this before writing The Metamorphosis?
April 11, 2006 12:30 PM   Subscribe

What was I experiencing this morning? If I was awake, then I would be sort of concerned about my mental health. If I was asleep, then I would just regard it as regular bizarre dream stuff. However, I think I was somewhere in between the two.

I scampered back to my bed this morning at 5 am after peeing.
I was still half-encapsulated in a dream in which I had communicated with someone or something by making a terradactyl scream / wild boar squeal.
In the dream, I knew what the squeal meant -- something to the effect of "You can seek shelter with me" -- and it was scary because had erupted out of me involuntarily.
I thought that I may have actually done it because my throat and lungs hurt.
I felt at the time that I had fully escaped the dream, but my identity hadn't appeared yet.
There was no language and no memory.
I felt very creaturely.
I perceived myself as a long hairless ape.
I pictured an ape opening its eyes.
I delayed opening mine, not knowing what environment I would find myself in, wanting to draw out the suspense.
For a few seconds, I was able to see the contents of my room and outside of my window without it being warped by my identity.
I suppose you could say I was alienated from my self and my environment
A voice in my head said, "The present is not meant to be seen in context," but I felt like I had the option of doing so if I chose to.
I was scared that if I chose to see it in context, and go further than I had gone, that it would drive me crazy, make me unable to function in society.
I considered what other people might do in this situation: a lot of adventurers (Keanu Reeves) would take the risk of being able to see reality even if it meant they'd be isolated from society from then on; I was on the fence but because of fear I leaned toward the comfort of identity and illusion.
I was sort of terrified.
But simultaneously I felt amazing.
I went back to sleep and I've had a normal day since then.
posted by eighth_excerpt to Society & Culture (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
hypnagogic consciousness is fun. what are you trying to ask exactly? yes, it's normal. up to you what it meant.
posted by mdn at 12:34 PM on April 11, 2006

Night terrors. Not saying this is going to reoccur but it sounds like you had an episode similar to what happens in this disorder. Probably just a passing thing, but if it starts happening more...
posted by Pollomacho at 12:36 PM on April 11, 2006

Not a night terror; a hypnopompic hallucination. Previously discussed, here and here. Night terrors occur out of slow wave sleep and are formless.
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:42 PM on April 11, 2006

People are overly blase and cynical about dreams, yet any one of us can be moved to tears, screams, even orgasm by them, and when we're in the middle of having such a dream, then all of our rationalizations and opinions about dreams are pretty useless, aren't they?

If the experience was something that felt powerful and you'd like to understand it better, art is a good place to begin. Whether or not you feel you have any talent, writing or drawing the contents of dreams is a great way to retrace your steps and contemplate them at length. Many people find accounts of other peoples' dreams to be boring, so be prepared to simply enjoy this on your own.
posted by hermitosis at 1:05 PM on April 11, 2006

Thanks for the answers. Those terms you gave me are the sort of things I was looking for. I wondered if there was a name for that sort of thing and also if it perhaps matched up with some symptoms of any psychiatric syndrom related to alienation from self but it seems like that is not the case, which is nice to hear.
posted by eighth_excerpt at 1:06 PM on April 11, 2006

Altered States anyone?
posted by fidgets at 1:23 PM on April 11, 2006

Perhaps you are otherkin.
posted by Falconetti at 4:47 PM on April 11, 2006

I used to enjoy this in-between state quite frequently, when regularly sleep deprived. I think of it as like a day dream, only more so. I believe these states are not only normal and healthy, but also can provide great insight into the self, even if it is non-verbal and inexplicable.

If you have enjoyed the experience, you may well find it recurs naturally, in which case enjoy! If you wish to explore these states further, the easiest way is to practise waking up more gently, and to pay more attention as you fall asleep (though both are far easier said than done). You may force this state simply by staying awake a very long time, or sleeping very little. More healthy options are; exercise vigorously, then have a lie down; practice a creative hobby you can immerse yourself in; seek out films and music that relax and consume your consciousness, give them your full attention.

Personal opinion/rant: I'm don't think referring to this type of state as a hallucination is entirely accurate (in a conversational, not medical sense). The word 'hallucination' suggests limited sensory disruption and retention of approximately normal self-image, which in my opinion does not go nearly far enough to describe the dream-like structure & depth, and the transformed perception of self that may be experienced. The term 'in-between state' sums it up quite appropriately for me.
posted by MetaMonkey at 4:47 PM on April 11, 2006

Read Jung's Memories, Dreams, and Reflections to read about the world you entered. Something to be cherished ,not pathologized, I think.
posted by madstop1 at 4:50 PM on April 11, 2006

mdn: hypnagogic consciousness is fun

Hypnogic refers to falling asleep, similar perceptions upon waking up are called hypnopompic.
posted by StickyCarpet at 4:50 PM on April 11, 2006

Also, as fidgets suggests, your experience has similarities to the film altered states, which happens to be all about this very subject. Its quite trashy and distinctly over the top, but nevertheless much fun and worth watching for the ideas.
posted by MetaMonkey at 5:06 PM on April 11, 2006

MetaMonkey: 'hallucination' is the right term, as it involved the perception of an illusory voice as though real, and it was affect-laden. Not every hallucination is the depersonalization of the LSD experience. (Although, who knows what people speak about 'conversationally').
posted by ikkyu2 at 5:41 PM on April 11, 2006

ikkyu2: Allow me to clarify, hopefully without muddying this thread too much with my semantic quibbles. I acknowledge 'hallucination' is an accepted scientific term for the experience described, but to most people (i.e. in an average conversation) the term signifies unusual/acausal sensory perception, within the framework of waking consciousness. Hypnagogic/hypnopompic states, meanwhile (at least in my experience and research) are more dream-like, and more fundamentally removed from waking consciousness (regardless of 'depersonalization').

I haven't taken LSD, but have experienced hallucinations - the experience, to me at least, is quite distinct from hypnagogia. In practice, the state corresponding to stage 1 (and possibly 2) sleep is often experienced as cyclic or wave-like wash of dream-reality and waking-reality, which the term hallucination utterly fails to convey, and moreover, can obscure. The description offered by the questioner, as a whole, sums up rather well the tension and drift between dream-state and waking-state. Which is why I prefer to call it the in-between state.

'hallucination' is the right term, as it involved the perception of an illusory voice as though real, and it was affect-laden.

These select moments could just as well occur in a dream as in a hallucination, so I don't think they refute my protestations. Ultimately the distinction between dream and hallucination is minor, and probably detracts from appreciating what is largely a non-verbal experience.
posted by MetaMonkey at 6:37 PM on April 11, 2006

I get this sort of thing all the time. It's just what happens to me when I'm in that half-awake/half-asleep mode. Nothing to be concerned about at all. In fact, it's fun.

Also, it isn't night terrors. Night terrors are horrific, and they typically result in an extremely panicked state - screaming out loud, inability to pull out of panic for a long while after awakening, and so on. What you describe isn't that. I know, I've had night terrors too.
posted by Decani at 6:55 PM on April 11, 2006

This resonated strongly with a dream I had maybe 10 years ago, in which I was a pre-human creature without language as we know it. I won't go into the details here, but I feel like I was left with some genuine insight into what it's like to inhabit a pre-linguistic consciousness. Genetic memory? Memory of what it was like before I learned language? Imagination? Who knows . . . but that insight has driven (and still drives) quite a lot of fruitful thinking and artistic/intellectual exploration. I guess I'm just saying I've come to consider myself incredibly lucky to have had that dream . . . your experience is clearly complicated by the fact that it continued into waking consciousness, but I agree with the comments that suggest looking at this a gift.
posted by treepour at 10:42 PM on April 11, 2006

So if I may briefly hijack the topic, is it normal that I wake myself up, yelling out, lately? I keep dreaming someone is chasing me and I try to yell but am unable, and then I try again and *can* yell, and actually wake myself up because I'm yelling out loud. (My parents have rushed into my room a couple of times recently because of it!) I've also had several "dreams" where I tried to move and couldn't - I'm usually thinking I *need* to get up urgently and just can't wake up.
posted by IndigoRain at 10:56 PM on April 11, 2006

Sounds to me like you either had an out-of-body experience (astral projection) or you might have been lucid dreaming or somewhere in between. Sometimes when astral projecting you'll appear or be in a familiar place (bed room or bathroom) and experience dream-like phenomena while experiencing conscious thought. Very cool stuff.
posted by deeman at 6:41 AM on April 12, 2006

IndigoRain, you may be having episodes of Sleep Paralysis, another sleep disorder. I used to get that, which was apparently triggered by my sleep apnea. Once my apnea was being properly treated, the waking paralysis went away.

While what you describe is not identical to the experience of the poster in the thread I linked, two key factors strike me as similar: The feeling that something is menacing you and yelling yourself awake - I had to do that fairly often. I live in a duplex and it pissed my neighbors off to no end.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 7:14 AM on April 12, 2006

Perhaps you were dreaming of a past life experience, and it woke you up.
posted by cass at 9:23 AM on April 12, 2006

Perhaps you were dreaming of a past life experience, and it woke you up.

Yuh! Mebbe that time when Elvis flew in on a silver flying saucer and gave him an anal probe whilst singing "Love Me Tender"!

Christ. In this day and age. We are so fucked.
posted by Decani at 5:14 PM on May 10, 2006

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