I feel as though I have come a long way since my NaNoWriMo attempt 5 months ago, which is when I began formulating the idea that will become my novel. I still don’t have a completed first draft, but I have necessarily overcome some roadblocks and learned a whole lot about my preferred writing process, and I thought some of those experiences were worth sharing.
Books written by our favourite authors are like old friends, who have accompanied us through years of our lives and seen us at various stages of togetherness. They have occupied that intimate space between the inner workings of our minds that only we know, and the external world. They have fed into our moods, perceptions and understandings. They have comforted and inspired us.
The first book I read by Steve Erickson was The Sea Came in at Midnight, back in 1999. He had published 5 novels before this, but my particular introduction to his work was a short paragraph written about this one in The Times newspaper. I no longer remember the description, but it sounded like nothing I’d read before and I knew I had to get a copy. I wasn’t disappointed. I was thrilled in fact, and having felt much the same about all of his other novels since, he has become my favourite contemporary author.
As an advocate of Jungian psychology and dream analysis in general, I’m proud of my high rate of dream recall. I remember at least one dream per night, at least 5 nights a week, and keep a rigorous dream diary. I interpret dreams, and I paint them, in an attempt to better understand the nature of the unconscious and its symbol system. It was put to me today that it is perhaps not a healthy thing to remember so much, as it means I am not only having disturbed sleep but am also interfering with a process that is meant to stay unconscious. I thought about this for a while.
Dream Recall and Disturbed Sleep
The average healthy adult needs between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night, whereas I need as many as 10 if I am to wake up feeling fully rested. I am also easy to wake in response to external sounds as my family will attest. This suggests that I might indeed be having disturbed sleep and waking often, even if I don’t realise it at the time. Is this a problem?
This is what a typical night’s sleep looks like, for all of us:
We dream during REM, and have our most restorative sleep during Delta. We have longer periods of Delta sleep towards the beginning of the night, and more frequent bouts of REM as we get closer to natural waking time. There is no evidence to suggest that a lack of REM sleep is problematic for us, but a lack of Delta time means that we never feel fully rested. This quickly takes its toll on our cognitive functions, mood and energy levels. Continue reading “Is it Healthy to Remember our Dreams?”
One of the ideas that really stuck with me after reading Rebels and Devils recently, was Christopher Hyatt’s simple explanation of how we regulate our energy on a day to day basis, and how it affects our ability to live strong, productive and wilful lives.
‘There are four types of energy direction and two primary cycles. First, there is energised enthusiasm which in turn is usually balanced by deep relaxation – the second type of energy. This cycle is the fundamental healthy, creative, rebellious ebb and flow of life. Third, there is deep tension and, fourth, agitated tiredness. These last two are signs that the fundamental ebb and flow of life is disturbed.’
The third and fourth types of energy he describes are symptomatic of stress and an inability to cope, and they form the second cycle. He goes on to say that getting off this second cycle and switching back to the more healthy first cycle can be very unpleasant; most cannot do it and instead will seek a quick fix that has relieved their pain and discomfort in the past, even if it is only temporary. This often comes in the form of coffee, alcohol, prescription drugs such as painkillers and sleeping pills, illegal drugs or bouts of aggression. This cycle inevitably leads to addiction, depression or paralysing anxiety.
The reason I think the idea of the two cycles struck such a chord with me, is that it describes very well the method by which I once became trapped in a loop of depression and how I ultimately overcame it. I have since looked further into the mechanisms of what makes a healthy cycle, and would like to share some of my findings.
I left Facebook for a month and the world didn’t end. I had become frustrated by my own compulsion to connect electronically, and was convinced it was getting in the way of my productivity and personal goals. Being an introverted personality, I didn’t think I would miss the interaction so much and hoped I would become more focused and more emotionally available to experience the ‘real’ world, the here and the now. What actually happened surprised me. First of all very few people even noticed my absence, apart from Facebook itself which sent me 11 notifications in the first week prompting me to reconnect, which led me to question the authenticity of my friendships and of my contribution to the social group. Secondly, although I had more occasions on which I was available to write or paint instead of procrastinating and scrolling my newsfeed, a big source of inspiration was cut off. Convinced I was just adjusting, and unwilling to accept that social media was more important to me than I realised, I quickly became quite depressed.
Why this should be the case, from a psychological perspective, interested me greatly. Then when I logged back in, one of the first things I noticed was a quote from an unknown source:
‘If you want to know what someone fears losing, watch what they photograph’
Given that much of my newsfeed was filled with selfies, it prompted me to think: do people in the technological age fear losing themselves? And my enquiry naturally progressed to: How does social media contribute to our mental health and sense of identity? Continue reading “Identity and Social Media: A Psychological Perspective”