16 May 2009


I've mentioned before that I occasionally get a sensation like there's a threatening presence nearby. While I have an image of that presence (usually a large, monstrous humanoid), I do not see it, or hear it, or have any other physical sense experience of it. It is purely in my mind. The first time I took Zyrtec, the Zyrtec brought it on. "Paranoia" is described as one of its possible side effects, and I guess my form of paranoia involves this particular delusion.

The most interesting thing, though, is that I discovered in meditation that I could deliberately evoke the delusion, and that I could make it go away again.
I was hoping that this would allow me to quiet it if it arose on its own. It didn't, at least not during the one chance I've had to try it. Thankfully the delusion doesn't come on very often, though if it did I might stand a better chance of working out how to make it go away.

The only way to describe how I brought it on deliberately is from a phenomenological standpoint; then I'll speculate as to what might be going on physically. One of the meditations I use is to visualize bringing energy up the spine and out through the top of the head. One day, and I no longer remember why, I was playing with bringing the energy up through different parts of the head. In one particular "location", I felt the paranoia and sense of presence begin to emerge. I withdrew the "energy" and the paranoia went away. I tried various places in the head, most with no noticeable effect, but that one place, at the back left of the head, always brought on the delusion.

My best guess is that my energy-imagery is, in fact, activating different areas of the brain in different ways, and by focusing on that particular location, I activated the area of the brain responsible for the delusion. I don't know if the area is actually in the back left of the brain, or if there's something about imaging that area that activates the problem-zone. I was mildly disturbed when I discovered this, but also curious to know whether I could use it to make the delusion go away once it had already begun. All I can say is, not in the once chance I've had to try it.

That chance was last week, after I watched the Lost season 1 premiere. It was late at night and I was tired, and the combination of adrenaline and worry about the "monster in the woods" was enough to activate the delusion. I tried to visualize withdrawing the energy from that area of the head, and moving it to a different location. No go. Whatever I tried, the delusion remained active. I can only speculate as to why: (1) I was too tired; (2) The activation process was not similar enough; (3) Too much adrenaline in the system to calm down; (4) ?????.

I was disappointed. So I did what I usually do when the delusion comes on: leave more lights on than usual and open doors with extreme caution. The problem is that even though I know full well that the sensation is not real, it still feels real, and the simplest way to maintain control is to give in just enough to the paranoia to keep it from exploding. So I spend a little more on electricity, and peer cautiously through doorways before entering, and otherwise function normally. Still, I'm just as glad that this only comes on maybe once or twice a year. It would be exhausting, otherwise.

I should note that technically this is classified as a hallucination, not a delusion. I use the label delusion because there is no involvement with my physical senses. I do not have a sense of "seeing" someone in the room with me. I "feel" a presence in my mind, and that presence has a visual appearance associated with it, and a spatial location, but there is no genuine physical sensation: only mental impressions. I suppose if telepathy worked, it could be described as a "telepathic hallucination", but that seems a bit of a stretch to me.

One more item that might be of interest: when I have genuinely tried to activate belief in deities (including, for instance, the Christian deities), I have generally given up because that also activates the delusion. I'll leave readers to draw their own conclusions from that.

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