Living in Our Heads

Life Doesn’t Feel Real?

So, life doesn’t feel real to you? I felt the same way for a long time…

This post is all about where we are spending most of our time, though it might not be where you think. It’s not our phones, our beds or Facebook; it’s actually our heads. Officially and I suppose, scientifically, this state is called depersonalization, a condition that makes life feel fake and sureal. Though is this so complicated as to be a mental diagnosed condition? Or are we all just living in the wrong place?

These days, most of us are not living in the world around us, we are living exclusively in our heads, caught up and trapped in a cage of thoughts. It’s often not that extreme or dramatic as a ‘cage of thoughts’ but it happens nonetheless. Ask yourself, do you ever feel like life isn’t real? Like you could be dreaming or in some kind of matrix? Do you feel as if you go through life in a daze, or do you often find you can’t remember how you got somewhere or what you’ve done that day? I did. For many, many years I lived my life in a daze. This strange place where nothing quite felt real to me, a place where I often couldn’t remember how I got from A to B. Life all around me felt numbed, and I couldn’t figure out what it was, why I felt that way. I wondered if others felt the same way and though I didn’t know why it was happening, I knew it was holding me back. Restricting me from that thing called life and the experience of it. I was trapped. What I didn’t realise at the time was where exactly I was trapped.

I was imprisoned in my mind. A metaphorical steel cage keeping me in there, an angry guard to rough me up and seemingly no way out. A darkened room, filled with steel bars. Occasionally I would get to go out into the yard for some fresh air, some sun on my face, some contact with the other prisoners, these were the moments that I lived for. That warmth on my skin, fresh air in my lungs and a sense of something real. Things were crisp and clear out there, as opposed to the blur I lived in the cell. But before I knew it I would be returning to my cage, walking straight back through that door into the darkness. The funny thing was, no one made me go back there. The guard was never around when I was in the yard. Each time I walked right back to my cage, by myself, closed the door and sat myself down. In fact, almost all of us in the prison did the same and we didn’t think anything of it. I could have stayed in the yard a bit longer, or even better I could have escaped altogether, but I didn’t. I didn’t realise there was a way out, there were no big green signs saying ‘EXIT’, I could see no logical way out at all and I wasn’t looking for one, I didn’t know that I was imprisoned, this life was all I’d known for as long as I could remember.

I felt alone in this place of solitude, as soon as I went back inside, I was cut off from everyone, bar the guard, who seemed to come and go as he pleased. Even in the yard, I felt alone, the short amount of time I spent there, holding me back from connecting with the other prisoners. I enjoyed that time, I wished I could spend all my time there. Occasionally I would find things in the yard, a book, a film, a game. I gave them small amounts of attention, for I only had a small amount of time. Sometimes I would take one of the films or games back to my cage, but all they did was pass the time, time that seemed endless. Nothing changed until the day I picked up a particular book that appeared in the yard, a book that spoke of the mind and the mastery of it. A book that drew me in from the moment I caught sight of it, I chose to read the first chapter, I stayed in the yard a little longer that day.

life doesn't feel real
We can breathe fresh air by getting out of our heads.

Each day from then on I would read a chapter of this book, then I would stay in the yard a little longer and longer each day before going back inside, I would spend time just being there. The book was bigger than I’d ever seen, it had many chapters and it seemed like a year could have passed by the time I got to the halfway mark. By this time I was spending almost half my day in the yard, I was much happier there. Things felt good, the feeling of the sun on my face gave me joy. Contact and interaction felt great, things felt real. It was on a beautiful summer’s evening that I finally noticed where I was. As the sun faded over the prison walls, I was walking myself back to my cell, the guard was waiting for me at my door, welcoming me back to the cage. I sat on the hard stone floor but this time I did something different, I looked up. I was always looking down at the floor in the cage, trying to ignore my surroundings, make myself feel safe, comfortable. Not this time. I looked up, it was something I had read in the book, to take in my surroundings, to embrace them. I looked straight at the guard staring down at me and it all clicked into place, it all made sense, I was neither shocked or surprised. This guard that I had walked past almost every day for past who knows how long, wore my face, he looked exactly like me. He was me.

The realisation hit me like a wave and my perception of where I was, began to clear. I was imprisoned in my own head, my own mind. I was the guard, I was the prison bars, I was the dark room. The yard was the snippet of real life I allowed myself to experience. I was keeping myself here, I was beating myself up, I was the architect of this entire place. Suddenly I urged for the sun on my face, for that real feeling, I stood and ran to bars, to the door. It was locked. The guard smirked at me and began to shout. ‘You can’t even get out of your own prison!’ It didn’t bother me, he had said what I needed to hear. ‘My own prison’. Numerous ways out came to me in an instant, I could do whatever I wanted, I had the key in my pocket, I could walk right through the bars, I could make a door in the wall, a hole in the floor or even fly out the roof. In the end, I simply choose to snap my fingers and watch it all vanish before me. The prison walls crumbled, the bars melted away, the guard waved me goodbye and the whole place disappeared before my eyes. I woke up. I heard birds singing, felt a warmth on my face and a breeze between my fingers. I could smell the scent of flowers and I could see the world unfold in front of me. I was home, I was here, in the now.

Hopefully, that little tale describes well the process of living in our heads, the way we trap ourselves in there, without being aware of it. That it is this process that means life doesn’t feel real to us and that it is simply realisation and a choice, that begins to get us out of our heads and back to a sense of something real. That is what we must bring about in ourselves, a realisation of reality, an awareness of self. That is the first step towards a change of mind. So think about it, consciously. Does life feel real to you? Do you go from A to B without remembering the journey? Do you feel you are in a daze far too often? Can you remember what you did yesterday with any clarity? The answers to these questions will tell you a lot, about where you are spending your time and where you are living your life.

If you feel this post can help anyone you know, then please share it with them and why not check out part 2 of this post in which I try to answer the question, where does mental illness come from? 

Thank you

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