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ZaylZayl Veteran
edited August 2013 in Buddhism Basics
Ugh, I don't even like to think about it.

Buddhist seem to have (excuse my language) a hard-on for Ego death and somesuch. But how do y'all handle straight up depersonalization? I've had long, frequent bouts of it before. I no longer conceive of myself as myself. My body seems to go on autopilot, and it feels like I am watching my body in the third person entirely. My sight seems "foggy" and I feel like I am asleep, dreaming, watching myself perform various actions without any thought. And I do mean without any thought. I do not think or even send the impulse to my muscles to "pick up that object" instead, I'll just be floating along, watching myself, saying "it's so funny... where am I?" as my body goes through these motions. I begin to doubt my own existence *in its entirety* and my vision begins to fade and go black, my thoughts slow down even more and just become a dull hum, yet here I am having conversations and doing work, or even riding my scooter around, etc. Eventually I get lost in what I can only describe as a "swirl" of thought. Where the basic theme is (and I'd like to point out during these episodes, I think in concepts, not words.) but the translation would be "Where I am? who am I? what is 'I'? There is no I, no me, there never was, and never will be."

Then one morning I'll wake up in bed and be back to normal. And, I'd like to point out, this all happens without ANY influence from drugs. I drink on occasion and smoke tobacco, maybe the occasional bit of Cannabis, but there is no way that those can be responsible for what I can only describe as the death of my self. I have scattered memories of these episodes, as well. And during these, I also feel no emotion. There is no fear, no joy, no contentment, nothing. Just pure conceptual thought.

Go ahead and try to describe something in your head not using words or any of your other senses. Describe a sunset without speaking or picturing a sunset. And then have no emotional attachment in those thoughts. That is essentially what my thoughts are like during these periods. All the while my body goes throughout the day just fine, and only my closest of friends have ever even noticed something was wrong.

So, is depersonalization on this scale the same as ego death? or whatever? what do y'all think?

EDIT - Almost forgot, already had my head checked out. I don't have any psychological diseases or anything, or anything wrong with my brain. Apparently I just begin to think and think and think and question my own reality until my perception of it literally dies.


  • That sounds like a long extended ketamine trip!

    But in all seriousness I do not think it is death of your ego, in your first sentence you state that you don't even want to think about it which may suggest you are pushing things away from your conscious mind for whatever reason.

    If you had penetrated beyond having an ego why would you still drink, smoke cigarettes and smoke weed from time to time? There would be no 'I' there to desire such things would there? Yes there is a fine line between wanting something and needing it, but the ignorant being with an ego wants and the knowing being that knows merely needs.

    Maybe you have hit some tough sot in your life or are simply in a state of apathy, I don't know, but personally I would write off ego death from what you have said above.
  • ZaylZayl Veteran
    Well Tom I'm not like this all the time. I'll be going on normal enough, then get to thinking. Then that thinking begins a downward spiral where I begin to doubt I even exist, and it goes from there. It happens rarely, but it does happen. I don't know for sure if I continue to drink and smoke when I'm not in my head. Like I said my memories are intensely scattered. Sometimes I have no recollection of the week or two I spent gone from myself, other times I may recall nearly the entire thing.
  • ToshTosh Veteran
    In the Sutras, the Buddha seems to have a very well defined personality.

    I think the two truths are applicable. Conventionally, we all have an ego - a personality - we need one to function in the World. Ultimately, when you go looking for it, you can't find where it is because it's empty of inherent existence.

    From my limited understanding, I don't think Buddhism is about death of the ego. It's kinda like using it like a tool, but having a deep realisation that that's all it is.
  • CittaCitta Veteran
    edited August 2013
    Buddhadharma is nothing at all to do with the ' death of the ego '.
    The 'ego' is a construct from western culture which has no equivalent in Buddhist psychology..
    Now, @Zayl, you were saying ?

    ( my first teacher used to say that very often the best answer to someone's question is to get them to rephrase it in a way that is more coherent )
  • ToshTosh Veteran
    Zayl said:

    My body seems to go on autopilot, and it feels like I am watching my body in the third person entirely. My sight seems "foggy" and I feel like I am asleep, dreaming, watching myself perform various actions without any thought.

    I actually try to practise this when I'm doing my long runs. At mile fifteen, when I'm tired and hurting, I try to just watch and not think. It doesn't really work though 'cos everything's tired and hurting and I become more and more self centred.

    I read recently that Scott Jurek, a well known ultra marathon runner, says that when he's tired and hurting, the best way he finds to 'get out of self' is to think about other people. I think there's something quite 'Buddhist' in that.

    Anyway, sorry to derail the post; I just wanted to make an observation.
  • howhow Veteran
    edited August 2013

    Next time this depersonalization begins ....try placing your primary focus on your breathing.
    If the focusing on your breath, stops your mind from spiraling into a dissociative state, then this depersonalizing experience is probably a self induced trance which has nothing to with meditation.
    A self induced trance occurs from a specific or inadvertent concentration on some form of your own mentality where as meditation is just the observation of all phenomena.

    Trance forms of concentration are not something to play with beyond the confines of a student/teacher relationship.
  • I'd imagine you know that it sounds like you are having some sorts of episodic Dissociative Fugue state but in relation to buddhism....idk...

    It would be curious to know if you have the capacity for high hypnotic susceptibility and it kind of sounds you might be inadvertently self-inducing yourself in to a hypnotic state..."Apparently I just begin to think and think and think and question my own reality until my perception of it literally dies."

    It kind of sounds like you are getting to a detached witness but lacking the clear mindfulness of a meditation state.

    But the brain/mind is a curious and wonderful thing...that imho we don't know a whole lot about.
  • CittaCitta Veteran
    Get thee to a ( flesh and blood ) teacher.

  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran
    There are so many things in meditation that are kool or weird or unusual or off-the-wall or exciting or blissful or horrifying or confusing or ... pick your poison. I'm not trying to belittle such things ... just sayin'.

    As far as I can figure out, all of them are nothing more than a reminder to get back to practice since none of them can hold a candle to the peace or equanimity or understanding anyone might rightfully be seeking.
  • Thanks @Zayl for sharing, that's really interesting.

    I have had an experience of depersonalization a long time ago that scared the hell out of me. Has it ever scared you when this happened? I imagine that the first time you feel that there is no longer a "me", then "me" might start fighting for survival (this happened to me). Did you get used to it or was it never scary in the first place?

    Another thing I was thinking is that it might be too simple to only talk about one axis going from "personalization" to "depersonalization". If we include an axis of awareness, you were probably at the point of high depersonalization and low awareness. Meditation practice might lead (and i'm just speculating here, not advocating anything) to high depersonalization and high awareness.

  • GlowGlow Veteran
    The cult of ego-death (annihilationism) is one reason the Buddha was so careful never to state there was no self. When we have the thought that: "There is no I, no me, there never was, and never will be" <-- What does that turn into? Just another conceptualized self. "There is no self in here" is just as much a mind-construction as "There is a self in here." Only the content, the details, the associated ideas (e.g., whatever your idea of "nothingness" is) have changed. Whether we think there is a self or there is no self, there is no way to win this game, especially not with more thinking. The purpose of the teaching of anatta is simply to ease up on whatever "selfing" we do that causes us to create suffering.

    Depersonalization/derealization is best worked through with a professional. However, it may help to realize that there is enough of a "you" there to at least have noticed you are experiencing depersonalization. Underneath all the content and circumstances that have come together and dissolved throughout your whole entire life, there is a common denominator. That is still there. Are you the same "self" you were 10 years ago? Yes and no.
  • The airplane of the mindstate changes. Just pilot whatever craft you find yourself in towards waking up and renunciation. My medicines altered my state of mind and now I am used to it. It sounds like you have some intuition about your state at those times. Relax, have no fear. Not too loose and not too tight. Turn towards your awareness and let it be as it is. Seeing a Buddhist teacher would be ideal. A psychologist (of your choice) can help you make friends with this state of feelings. I bet there are some strong feelings damned up behind the emotional block, because you say it is a dissociation. Just guessing.
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