Do you ever feel disconnected from reality? As if life is passing you by and you are just an observer. Like most of your living takes place in your head, not in the real world. You struggle to connect with people and enjoy life’s pleasures. All this just feels not good enough. In psychology, this is called dissociation.
Why do some people experience dissociation?
Dissociative states are common in individuals with various mental disorders from anxiety to schizophrenia. However, today, we won’t focus on mental illness and will talk about healthy people who experience the feeling of being disconnected from reality.
What types of people are more likely to feel disconnected from reality?
Anyone who is an abstract thinker and has a highly creative and imaginative mind can have these feelings from time to time. Dissociation can also be a coping mechanism, so it is common among those who have gone through some intense stress, trauma or loss. Sometimes, it is also a sign that you are stuck in life and have lost touch with your purpose.
But here are a few types of people who tend to experience dissociative states a little more often than others:
According to Myers-Briggs personality classification, personality types can be either sensing or intuitive and either extroverted or introverted. Someone who is a sensing type relies on their physical senses and solid facts while a person with intuitive thinking goes beyond that.
These are people with highly developed abstract thinking, which means that they are more focused on and interested in abstract concepts than tangible things.
Thus, they can be somehow disconnected from the practical reality of life. Intuitive introverts are inventive and imaginative and often find the world of fantasy more appealing than the real one.
One of the major struggles of being a deep thinker is the difficulty to switch between the realm of one’s thoughts and real life.
When you think deeply about everything, you are often so absorbed in your inner world that sometimes, it can be difficult to leave it. A good book, a thought-provoking movie or even a dream you had this night – anything can put you into the state of dissociation.
The real struggle is when you have to leave your thoughts behind and focus on your daily routine or some mundane task. Everything feels pointless, dull and boring and you understand how detached from reality you actually are.
People with schizoid personality traits
Here, I’m talking about people with schizoid tendencies, not those diagnosed with a schizoid personality disorder. These are people who have a strong preference for solitary activities and are continually immersed in introspection and imagination. We could compare them to extreme introverts who have little or no interest in social interaction and collective activities.
People with schizoid tendencies feel disconnected from reality and those around them most of the time. They, in fact, intentionally escape it with reading, daydreaming and reflection. Real life just doesn’t feel that interesting and fascinating to them as the obscure world of fantasies and thoughts.
People who have experienced spiritual awakening or altered states of consciousness
Spiritual awakening is a painful process. And it often involves feelings of detachment – from reality, one’s own life and self. This is because of the process known as ego dissolution or ego death. It is when self-transcendence takes place and a person loses any self-centeredness and attachment to being a separate self.
In other words, it is when someone gains an ultimate understanding that everything is interconnected. But until the person reaches certain level of spiritual awakening, they may, paradoxically, feel disconnected from everything and everyone. It’s just an uncomfortable but necessary part of the process.
Something similar also happens during psychedelic experiences and other types of altered states of consciousness. Practicing these things on a regular basis can result in a permanent change in perception. So the person can start to feel the disconnect from reality in their normal state too.
What happens when you feel disconnected from reality?
What exactly accompanies the feelings of being disconnected when we are not talking about pathological states associated with mental illness?
Do you ever experience anything from the below?
Vivid fantasy and intense reflection
Sometimes you literally get absorbed in fantasy or inner conversation. When some thought or situation is strong enough to affect you emotionally, you can’t focus on any real task at hand. You keep imagining and thinking about it, and this experience feels more real and important than reality itself. This can be both a negative and positive experience.
For example, a situation in your relationship can put you in this state when you overanalyze it. You can be so immersed in thinking about it that you forget to actually deal with the situation in real life!
It feels like reality is not good enough
When you have no choice but to face reality, you experience intense frustration. Returning to your routine, work and responsibilities can be painful.
You feel like something important is missing, like real life is far too boring and dull to be present in it. It is as if anything you do is pointless, nothing is exciting enough and the true meaning of life is somewhere else, not where you are.
This is when you feel like an alien to your own life who doesn’t belong here and whose place is in some distant elusive homeland. Maybe sometimes you even wish you were born in a different country or historical era.
You feel a stronger attachment to your fantasies and fictional characters than to real people
When you are disconnected from reality, you inevitably get detached from the people around you. You start feeling alone and misunderstood, like you can’t connect with anyone truly and deeply, even to your dearest ones. Dissociative states can be deceptive. They make you notice the differences between you and them and forget about the things that unite you.
At the same time, you may feel a stronger connection to the things that don’t exist. A good example would be a so-called book hangover. While reading a truly great book, you form such a strong attachment to its characters that you can’t stop thinking about them. You literally experience anything that happens to them and may even cry and grieve if some character dies.
These feelings are so real and intense that you actually forget that it’s just fiction. It’s as if you keep living on the book’s pages even when you have finished reading it.
Feeling like life is passing you by
It may feel like you are missing out on life with all its pleasures and experiences everyone else seems to enjoy. You are just an observer. You just watch other people living their life, moving forward and enjoying themselves, but for some reason, you stay out.
Like you are invited to a party where everyone else but you is having fun and knows what’s going on.
How to stop dissociation and reconnect with reality?
Now, this is the most important question for today. Below are a few things that can help you find your way out of a dissociative state and reconnect with reality:
Practice grounding and mindfulness
Grounding and mindfulness allow us to be present and aware of ourselves and our surroundings. This is exactly what a person who feels disconnected from reality needs. Practice grounding techniques like walking barefoot and forest bathing and you will feel the connection with nature. This will help you reconnect with reality.
Mindfulness meditation usually involves focusing on one’s surroundings and physical sensations. For this reason, it can also be a helpful tool when dealing with dissociation.
Engage in activities that help you see the beauty of the surrounding environment, tap into your physical senses and be present
Again, nature can be a savior when it comes to a detachment from reality. Take a walk, observe the surroundings, and indulge in the atmosphere of the season. Every time of the year has something unique to offer to those who pay attention.
For example, now, in the fall, you can take a walk on a rainy day and watch the yellow leaves fall with a melancholic grace. Be present and notice every small detail: every movement of the leaves, every sound of raindrops, and every touch of the wind on your face.
Focus on the beauty around you and you will realize how fascinating our world is. If it’s possible, you can also travel to a distant location or take a road trip to see new amazing places.
Find practical activities and hobbies that you will enjoy
Even the most abstract thinker and the most imaginative dreamer in the world can find some practical hobby they will enjoy. This can be anything from gardening and knitting to walking and dancing.
There are many solitary activities that are creative and practical at the same time. Creating something with your hands will allow you to use your imagination and creative thinking but will also keep you tuned to reality.
Final words on dissociation and being disconnected from reality
If you are prone to dissociation, sometimes, you just need to give yourself some time. When you disconnect from reality and nothing seems to help you reconnect, maybe you should just wait.
Or maybe this state is pointing out something important in your life that you keep ignoring. Are you walking the wrong path in life? Does your life lack a purpose? This is just some food for thought. After all, it’s a topic for a different article.
P.S. If you are prone to feeling disconnected from reality and other people, check out my new book The Power of Misfits: How to Find Your Place in a World You Don’t Fit In, which is available on Amazon.
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