What is Real? -or- Derealization and Depersonalization

Psychological Boundaries of the Inner and Outer World -or- Cognitive Dissonance 

What is real, what is reality? Every night when we dream, our dream work tries to answer this question. Dreams provide "reality testing" of both our inner psychological world, and the outer social and natural world. We are always re-working the boundaries between inside and outside by the psychological mechanisms of introjection and projection. As such, we are always defining and redefining our inner and outer reality, it is an ongoing process until the day we die. This psychological process of dream work can go awry. Fictions while not considered real, in our dreams fictions can be made to feel virtually as-if they were real. It happens every night...it will happen tonight for billions on the planet.

A problem develops in our dreams, when people choose to resolve the cognitive dissonance between reality and fantasy, in favor of fantasy. Dreams received by the International Institute for Dream Research speak about the psychological problem, Julia in "The Postmodern Condition -or- Queen of my Postmodern Domain" understands that "reality" is the psychological trump card.

She also understands that dreams provide interesting stories, in which she feels pride about her "vast internal world". Yet, this world means nothing if you don't do something with your life in reality. On the other side of the dream, reality and psychotic coin, we find Jared Loughner's story which underscores the problem, read IIDR interpretation "Waking Life of Jared Loughner". The loss of contact with reality is a prevalent problem in the population, many walk around hiding behind "masks of sanity" hiding their thought disorders and delusions.

Others, feel derealization and depersonalization. Where derealization constitutes a break from the reality of the outside world, depersonalization is the feeling of "unrealness" of the sense of self and the inner world. Psychiatric statistics suggest that close to 75% of the population will experience derealization in their lifetime. Statistics also suggest that up to 65% will experience this immediately after a traumatic episode. I believe that these statistics are most likely low, after 9/11 over 90% of the American population had nightmares. Working out of medical centres the last 22 years, I also know that a minimum of 25% of the cases seen today by family physicians are problems not due physical illness, instead they are psychosomatic problems that are stress induced.

The three dreams below illustrate some of the psychological problems with reality.

Evan, 21

Me and cousin in a bar on narrow street looked like back home. Lots of people running. My cousin got hurt i tried for what seemed hours trying to remember grandmothers number. Finally i got ahold of her it felt unreal because her grandmother is dead. I was in a school gym with thousands of crying people i felt scared. Ended up over cousins mothers house where there was a dance floor and bar in her living room the dining room floor had lumps in it a lot. All my cousins were little again but i was grown. There was a big very tall man that keep holding me.

Mr Hagen's Reply; Repression -or- Psychological Baggage

Evan's dream suggests that he resorts to the psychological defense of repression when dealing with emotionally painful problems and memories. The lumps under the rugs, point to a cultural idiom (metaphor) of "sweeping things under the carpet." Hiding problems and keeping them secret only adds to the psychological and emotional baggage that you carry around.

Elisabeth, 22

I was riding a horse through residential streets, many people would stare in disbelief and all of a sudden my hands would be ablaze as if I had powers, then god spoke to me to smite a list of people that I know, then I asked if it was someone on the list I couldn't smite and then someone that I love was finally listed last on this list. What could this dream possible mean?

Mr Hagen's Reply; Splitting -or- BPT

If the mantra of social psychology is the "belief creates reality", then Elisabeth's dream is one where her hate is evolving into delusional murderous hatred, with God telling her to Biblically "smite" her enemies. Such love and hatreds are the stuff that borderline personality disorders are made. The defense mechanism involved in such dreams is splitting. The reasons why Elisabeth's dreams have grown and evolved in this way, can be more fully assessed if we had access to her previous dream series.

Ely, 24

I have had a dream with my deceased grandmother. In the dream, I was visiting her, but she was already dead. I felt shock and disbelief. I was happy to see her again. I was awed that I was seeing, and talking to her but she has been deceased for a year this past Jan. appeared to be alive. She invited me into her house and she was complaining about this stark white shirt she was wearing as being to big.  I told her it would be ok, because the shirt would probably shrink in the dryer.  She agreed with me and then wandered over to her kitchen table and sat down. She did not say anything else for the rest of this dream.  It seemed so real.

Mr Hagen's Reply; Denial -or- Death, Loss and Grief

Denial is a defense mechanism that says in effect that the reality of a situation is not true, despite overwhelming evidence that it is true. In this case it involves the denial of death, loss and grief.

All material Copyright 2006 International Institute for Dream Research. All rights reserved.