Phantom Selves and the Simulations You Stuck Them In

Until a few weeks ago, a part of me was still dying. The power of the past to live on in my imagination was never so apparent. You may have one or many simulations running on an endless loop in the back of your mind. In these you have trapped a phantom self, a portion of your whole self where you face dangers or losses that once came your way and have since vanished.

Beyond the Event Horizon of Despair

You know when you’ve passed the point of no return, and anguish takes over, but all is not lost. The event horizon of a black hole is a boundary which, once crossed, makes a fall toward its center inevitable. Even light is bound, giving the black hole its morbid moniker. This offers a good metaphor for experiences of anguish.

Rubble in the Pipes

Why do we feel bad on good days? Listen to your intuition. Valid causes of emotion are not always simple and clear. Even when emotional pain is recognized as a legitimate signal that something personally significant is happening in the outside world, intense or lasting pain is often considered a faulty signal, like a broken smoke alarm going off in the absence of smoke. We have a tendency to categorize emotions as either justified or faulty–a sign that some life event is affecting us, or a sign that we’re in error. The latter, taken to its extreme, may prompt the perception that our thoughts and feelings are somehow defective. All of this hinges upon the ability to notice how the world evokes our emotions. A common illustration to explain faulty emotions is the rope that evokes fear because it looks like a snake. A person experiences instinctive fear even though … Read more

Before You Take Another Pill, Get Mad

Those who understand the dynamics of psychological abuse know first-hand that the most effective abusers make you blind to the abuse. They teach you to reinterpret your surroundings, ignore your intuitions, and walk willingly, enthusiastically, into your own powerlessness.

When you’re hurting, do you ask, “What’s wrong with me?”

I’d like to suggest a different question. We have emojis to express feeling happy, sad, angry, afraid, surprised, and more of what we might call everyday emotions. As far as I know, other than a few suggestive images (like the face with a bandage) there are no emojis for depression, panic attacks, profound grief, dissociation, post-traumatic stress, or a dreaded existential crisis. What would they even look like? People sometimes use smiley faces when chatting about negative topics as a way of masking pain or depression, according to a recent study published in Frontiers in Psychology. The study confirmed what other researchers have found. When we have any emotion, especially emotional pain, that experience is couched in a world of social norms and cultural meaning. Perhaps the biggest social norm concerning emotion is that the level of pain you experience or express should never be so great that it cannot … Read more

What happens to our empathy when we visualize boundaries?

From protective bubbles to black smoke, it’s hard to find a metaphor for both sanctuary and connection. I will start by admitting that I never liked the popular meditation in which you visualize yourself in a protective bubble. The idea is to imagine a barrier, however lovely and light, that keeps negative or harmful forces at arm’s length. The image is the most basic of all boundaries, an enclosed sphere surrounding oneself like the membrane of a cell. Only good vibes may enter. Visualizations can alter how we feel, particularly in our interactions with others. Mental imagery has enormous power to change our emotional state and transform our relationships. Whenever I’ve tried the bubble visualization, however, something felt off. During meditation, you can loose the sense of being an individual self, seeing the emptiness of identity and illusion of separation, which melts into a felt sense of oneness with all … Read more