Please welcome my guest blogger, PonderingSpawned! Go ahead, tell her how your mind works, how imagination interacts in your life, and what makes you tick. While you’re at it, send a little rawr-love her way! http://ponderingspawned.com
Being a writer and a hypochondriac is a hard thing to deal with sometimes. You see, writers have this thing called a vivid imagination. The two do not mix well as the moment someone with a vivid imagination hears of a medical problem, they begin to imagine that they have it—and to make it even worse than is actually possible.
For example, once a coworker of mine explained to me that sinus infections (which I’m prone to) can become so bad that the bacteria will hollow out little spaces in the facial bones comprising sinus cavities and live in them. I didn’t sleep well for two nights, kept awake by envisioning those microscopic little buggers creating homes for themselves in my face. This soon gave way to thoughts of facial bones so riddled with holes they would eventually begin to crumble, essentially causing one’s face to cave in at the slightest touch.
Like I said, hypochondria and a vivid imagination do not mix well.
The one thing an imaginative hypochondriac should never do is read the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders). I had a wide circle of friends in College which included a couple of Psychiatry majors, so I made the terrible mistake of doing just that. Within an hour I had “diagnosed” myself with all sorts of things, ranging from Narcissistic Personality Disorder to Antisocial Personality Disorder. Thank God I had friends to talk me down, friends with classroom experience. They were quick to explain that the first thing their professors had warned them of was that reading through the DSM would often cause a person to think they had many, if not all, of the disorders.
The interesting thing about this is that people who actually suffer from disorders of this type would not recognize themselves upon reading the symptoms. To have such a disorder almost always coincides with a complete lack of self-awareness, which is interesting as these people are also extraordinarily self-involved (how’s that for paradox?). The lack of self-awareness is due to an inflated sense of self, one that grows so large it obscures their actual state of being. Sometimes I wonder if this is also a defensive mechanism. I’ve always thought that insecurity is the root of ego.
Anyway, even after the “talking down” it took years for me to accept that I wasn’t crazy. A lot of this is related to my history. Having grown up in the shadow of a major sociopath, I often questioned a lot of my behavior and the reasoning behind it (though for a while I simply blundered into terrible situations). I don’t think people who suffer from NPD/APD spend any time questioning themselves. I’ve even read that they don’t, however this didn’t stop me from worrying that I had it (stupid imagination!).
One day I hit upon another interesting bit of information. Sociopathic personality types are often unable to grasp literary devices such as metaphor and simile as they are unable to connect abstract feelings with something concrete. This got me to thinking about the nature of conscience and imagination. In my mind, empathy is born of the ability to thoroughly imagine yourself in another person’s shoes until you are able to feel every emotion that person feels. While I believe sociopaths have an imagination, I also believe that—much like their way of loving—it works differently than the average bear’s (or person’s for that matter).
I once made the statement to my fiancee, as he was attempting to explain Starcraft 2, that my mind works more in plots than in maneuvers. I think this statement represents the major difference in imagination between someone who suffers from APD and everyone else. Not that everyone’s mind works in plots, but that some people’s minds work almost solely in maneuvers (not my Fiancee, there’s a huge difference between employing this type of thinking in your life and being ruled by it). Instead of imagining how someone might feel in a situation, someone who is ruled by this would imagine situations in which they can obtain their own desires and, if they so desire, hurt others in the process.
A perfect example of this is the character Danglars in The Count of Monte Cristo. He supposedly loves Mercedes, yet feels no remorse over having the one she loves wrongfully imprisoned just so he can have her. There is no thought to how she or the one she loves might feel, or the others he involves in his scheme for that matter. His only thought is of how he might obtain her. His imagination is limited by his own selfishness, as is his ability to see himself clearly.
So, while there may be days I find myself cursing the fanciful and extraordinary whims of my imagination, I will never lament having such a developed sense of dreaming. Though some nights I’m kept awake by Stephen King, or the words of a coworker, there are also nights I’m kept awake by caring too much: I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Now that you love PonderingSpawned as much as I do, check out her blog for philosophy, poetry, and artisty. If I were you, I’d start here: