Dissociation Through Gaming

Dissociation Through Gaming

The upsides and downsides of gaming.

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Obsessive gaming and dissociation from reality is a SYMPTOM, not the disease. Thanks You for answering this letter Dr. Kline. I liked how you took the time to tell the sending he was worth the effort to change.

PS: what the Mayans invented was a combination of soccer(football) and basketball played with solid rubber balls. Very bad-ass especially since the captain of the losing team got beheaded.

This is a really cool article, especially because I pretty much have this same problem.

Oddly enough, I find it easier to "think" about deep stuff WHILE gaming, for the most part. MMOs like WoW, or games like Dark Cloud where little thought is really needed for operation generally assist in my thoughts. Dark Cloud is actually a good one because it assisted me in working through a rather serious depression I had a few years ago, without any outside help or medication.:D

Mark J Kline:
Dissociation Through Gaming

The upsides and downsides of gaming.

Read Full Article

Really one of your absolute best articles (and great to see you back)!

I've found myself occasionally in a similar place in my life, in which more and more of life feels more like a "thought experiment" than an actual event. I'm beginning to see that it's not necessarily a bad or destructive behavior (you know, unless that kind of detachment develops into a pronounced sociopathy).

The big question to ask yourself is whether or not this detachment is removing your capacity for empathy. If you're no longer really caring how what you do impacts others, there is the root of a very big problem (which, in this person's case, doesn't seem to be so -- his concern is evident). If the feelings of others are a complete mystery to you (eg, you stomp on someone's foot and are shocked when they're upset), same deal. That stuff is like losing your anchor to your humanity, and that of others.

But as far as not necessarily feeling every emotion as strongly as you think you ought to... I don't know that itself is the problem. And note the use of "ought" rather than "want." If you genuinely want to feel things more deeply, it's a valid concern. But if it's a function of feeling you ought to, what you really "want" is to avoid seeming abnormal (to yourself or others).

(I could liken it to the difference between someone who loses weight because they want to be healthier -- increased energy and stamina, lower cholesterol and risk of heart disease, etc. -- and someone who loses weight because they want to "not be considered/called/thought of as fat." Neither is an invalid reason, but they are quite different, and the second can lead to and reinforce unhealthy behaviors and thought processes.)

But really, my thoughts are that a lot of this does have to do with gaming. Just not the sort that one might think.

If you were to play Tetris a lot, and I mean a lot, you might start to view the world with "Tetris vision." A part of your brain is always toying with how this object could stack with that object, or how these things might fit together... and you might be bugged a little if objects on a shelf aren't arranged in neat horizontal rows. That's because the game is "exercising" those spatial skills, improving them, getting them pumped up and excited about doing their job, so they're getting used to a constant state of being Ready.

The "game" a lot of folks "play" when dealing with trauma is just the Game of Metacognition (a game you might not even realize you're playing right now). You're thinking a lot about how you think (and feel). Circumstances get painful sometimes, and some of us sort of step back and consider the circumstances before deciding whether or not we want to feel them. If we decide it's not worth it, we kind of acknowledge the emotion and set that emotion aside (which is different from suppressing it, which is also a possibility in this kind of process).

And because we can, due to life circumstances, end up playing this "game" very, very often. And sometimes we end up playing it with others, "Hmm, I wonder what that person is thinking, and what they'll think of such-and-such happens," and we look for patterns and make predictions. It's kind of a fun and very engrossing mental "game." Well, it's like Tetris. After awhile, we kind of tend to see the world through the filter of the game, even if just in a subconscious way.

There can be excesses, to be sure. When it causes you to shrug off actual interaction with other people, or when you start to look down on them as something less than individuals, or if you (as mentioned before) start to lose your capacity for empathy... those are some of the things that can make this unhealthy.

But don't assume that "not feeling enough" is the problem, necessarily. Talk with someone about it -- they'll play the Game with you, in a way -- and be sure not to "throw the baby out with the bathwater." You're obviously not unfeeling, you're possibly just more conservative about which feelings you act upon and how. The opposite of that, being Impulsive, isn't a preferable state. In fact, I'd argue that someone who internalizes emotion a bit too much has a harder time making an adjustment than someone who is more conservative emotionally.

Some of what you have going for you are strengths -- the ability to "step outside" your own thoughts and feelings to consider them, for instance. The opposite, a person who is entirely absorbed in their own emotions, may seem the carefree warrior-poet to the outside observer, and we may envy that person's perceived "freedom"... but in another sense, they're only "free" in the sense that they're not taking responsibility for themselves and are letting their emotions (which are heavily influenced by the outside world) lead them around.

(The dog on a leash is jealous of the power of the person holding the other end, and sometimes the person at the other end is jealous that the leashed dog seems to have no responsibilities. Grass is greener, all that jazz.)

You have worries and concerns, and that's actually a very good sign that what you're concerned about may not be as awful as you think. Your concern for others may feel a bit more intellectual than emotional, but it's still present, so don't ignore that. Emotions have a different place in each person's life and mind, and there's not just one "right" way to Think or Feel.

Also, it's clear you very much want to talk about your experiences and how you feel about them. That is both a Very Good Sign, and your best course of action -- it'll help you reconnect with some of the emotions you've compartmentalized, but in a safe and helpful environment.

I'm going through a similar ordeal, though trough very different circumstances.

I've just past the sixth month since I failed the one college course I desired, for the 2nd time, potentially damning my future career plans, knocking my already feeble self-esteem down a fair few notches and notably losing confidence from family and friends.

Due to many reasons beyond my control I've also been forced back into living with my parents with no visible, practical means to regain independence in sight, and it hasn't been pleasant. What's more, I seem to have come home just as my Parents strained relationship had reached it's boiling point and overflowed and I feel it was no small part due to my return with many of my own burdens. Currently they are going through separation (started just prior to the Christmas season) and it hasn't been particularly civil.

Despite claims as to otherwise, I've been blatantly pulled at from both parties, both emotionally and physically (monetary support/threats) and the amount of dirt been flung around is leading to an irreparable rift in my, and my sisters, relationship with our parents.

I was also fired from a job I liked just a week before christmas (for reasons in which my employer never disclosed).

How does this relates to a gaming related question? Identically to the subject in this article as it happens.

I have always been a big gamer and it has always been an area of conflict between me and my parents. When I returned from college, with dirty clothes and broken dreams, I was met with hostility and finger pointing (much money was wasted on me). My one and only solace at this time was virtual (old friends have moved on and I have a weak social inclination so finding more friends is seemingly impossible) and it too was a part of the many arguments used against me. If it wasn't sheer laziness, inconsideration for my family or a desire to waste my life, it was gaming that caused my failures in college according to either parent. This pushed me further into isolation and deeper into my virtual solace, which viciously whipped around and renewed each successive argument against me, generating a spiral affect where I withdrew more and more.

When my dad eventually left (which was a 5-6 months after I came home, and less then a month since he wanted a separation), I didn't react at all as to how I expected it, and this frightened me. I was saddened for sure, but it left me feeling hollow... my mum even started thinking (aloud) I wanted the break up due to my lacklustre reaction to his sudden departure.

Just over a month later and I feel... nothing. Christmas was a sorrowful and melancholic one and new year was greeted with my mums pained sobs and I just felt like a stone among the grieved. Even my cousins, aunts and friends had a stronger reaction then me.

This is not typical of me either. I've always been an emotionally driven person, ranging from bursts of hardy laughter, to tears, to volcanic anger at times. What I feel now is like a tension has settled on me and it's holding back everything, like a dam. I have no control over it either. This also scares me.

I don't spend as much time gaming now as I did prior to dad leaving, but I feel like I left something there in my virtual escape. I got lost in it during what is likely my lowest point in my life and I have returned as a shell of what I was. I have been going to a therapist for a while now (prior to the separation even) but I don't think she can help me with this, despite her efforts.

As an almost sadistic twist on things, the most anticipated game for me last year was Skyrim, which was released on the 11/11/11. The same day my dad left. Fantastic.

Great to see another article from you, Dr Mark. These were the highlight of the content here on the Escapist, and this is yet another good example of why.

I have had friends that, due to extenuating circumstances, saw gaming as their way to turn off, to an extreme degree. Looking back, I wish they cared enough to ask the questions the sender did here. For some people, it's just too hard to face their demons, no matter the cost.

It's funny that this article showed up. I'm having a kid this year and when people ask me if I'm super excited, I just reply "Eh... I pretty sure I'm broken. I'm not dreading it or excited... it's just happened and I've accept it as reality and moved on. I have no strong feelings one way or the other."

My wife is the same way. Though she's not a gamer, and her family background isn't as screwed up as mine... so there really is no common ground for this near apathetic tendency.

I too come from childhood abuse and I also get hopelessly lost in video games. I feel a general detachment from the people around me to the point of apathy that sometimes disturbs even myself. When I hear "Your (insert relative) just (insert tragedy) let's all be sad now." I go. "Oh. That's a shame. What's the weather going to be like tomorrow?"

I wouldn't have it any other way. I LOVE my ability to go on with my day while everyone else is all shaken up and sad. I learned long ago to push away feelings I don't want to feel so, most of the time, I only feel what I want to feel.

So, who's up for some Skyrim?

Ragsnstitches:
SNIP

Just some quick notes; you can choose to do with it however you wish.

Please seek out psychiatry/psychotherapy; it's going to take a lot of work and it feels hopeless, but i wish you all the best. If it helps, I once was in a similar place, but with meds and a good p-doc, I'm much better today.

Couple of things:

1. It's your parents' fault, not yours. It's hard, but try not to let them manipulate you. A thing I do that helps is to realize parents are also human. They are just older versions of ourselves, so they make mistakes, like any other human being (and are imperfect).

2. Don't be afraid to doctor shop. It took me 4-5 tries to find my current doc, and he's great. Don't expect miracles though, it will take work and perseverance. Try to find a doctor that has a minimum of 4-5 years of experience (the more the better). Also, they have to connect well with you. Don't settle on just anyone.

gl

What a load of crap.

So you don't react in a way that would be considered 'normal' within societies exceedingly narrow definition of said term? So what? Don't let the media, "psychologists", or anyone else tell you what the so-called "right" way to feel about something is.

Certainly don't listen to psychoanalysts or anyone in the medical profession, all they want to do is medicalize the "problem" so they can sell you a solution that makes you dependent on them. Trite and cliched as this is going to sound, you should own who you are and get on with your life rather than become a revenue stream for some doctor so they can buy a new merc every year.

I found i had this problem for a long time in my teens, my sense of time in a gaming session would be non existant. I could play something for hours without realiseation of the passage of time. It was more than just being absorbed in the game; i felt absent from my own body sometimes and fequently had trouble being present and in the moment in daily life. I have underlying issues for wich i have had... sporadic counciling (I won't bore you with the details of my violent drunken father and my insane mother) and i was told, exactly like you said, that escapism was a way of coping. I used to do it by being obsessive with phases like colecting things or watching things as a child more so than my peers.

But recently I leanred to turn this more to my advantage. What worked was Music. or more specifically trying to learn to play... pretty much every stlye of guitar. I found that losing myself in an activity that required extream mental focus beyond that of concious thought allowed me to both usefully be absored im something and think on a deeper level. I can come out of a long play session either working on peices, improvising over themes or more rigid writing and have come to be more at peice with things. Its hard to explain but i have become a lot more in touch with myself since i began playing.

Having to play something with a complex right and left hand pattern or improvise can't be done though mechanical thought, you must bypass that and simply channel yourself into what your hands are doing. Its a feendishly hard thing to learn to do as an adult but ultimately rewarding. Losing yourself is the only way to really get good at playing an instrument and my other obligations in life like my degree help keep my mind feeling in a better, sharper and more connected.

People don't seem to stigmatise obsessive musicians as much as obsessive gamers.

-|-:
What a load of crap.

So you don't react in a way that would be considered 'normal' within societies exceedingly narrow definition of said term? So what? Don't let the media, "psychologists", or anyone else tell you what the so-called "right" way to feel about something is.

Certainly don't listen to psychoanalysts or anyone in the medical profession, all they want to do is medicalize the "problem" so they can sell you a solution that makes you dependent on them. Trite and cliched as this is going to sound, you should own who you are and get on with your life rather than become a revenue stream for some doctor so they can buy a new merc every year.

I don't think this is a "who am I" or "being normal" situation. It's more about being uncomfortable with a particular outlook. While someone medical might not be what you jump to right away, it never hurts to get some help from someone who you can relate to or has helped others previously.

A change of perspective isn't always a bad thing.

I enjoyed this article a lot. I should probably look at how I treat gaming as a way of escape from my own stresses again...

-|-:
What a load of crap.

So you don't react in a way that would be considered 'normal' within societies exceedingly narrow definition of said term? So what? Don't let the media, "psychologists", or anyone else tell you what the so-called "right" way to feel about something is.

Certainly don't listen to psychoanalysts or anyone in the medical profession, all they want to do is medicalize the "problem" so they can sell you a solution that makes you dependent on them. Trite and cliched as this is going to sound, you should own who you are and get on with your life rather than become a revenue stream for some doctor so they can buy a new merc every year.

Youknow. . . Unless they dont get paid per patient or for medication sold. Unless they just want to help. But I guess you're just cynical because you live in a system where you have become completely convinced that nobody is good and nobody wants to help anyone. And people who become doctors instead of engineers clearly do so because of the salary.

Great article! Good to see you back again, especially since the escapist has lost its other interesting albeit less well qualified counselor Laura Crigger.

The problem of dissociation is one I've experienced though not for any tangible reason. Very much first world problems but nonetheless disconcerting. I guess mine's more of a general apathy. I know what I'm meant to do but I can't bring myself to do it. I know what I'm meant to feel but it's not really there and if it is I'm not sure if I'm deluding myself.

Anyway I'm going to stop procrastinating now. Reading the article and comments and seeing all these people who've experienced abusive or toxic relationships in their lives kinda puts my issues in perspective.

-|-:
What a load of crap.

So you don't react in a way that would be considered 'normal' within societies exceedingly narrow definition of said term? So what? Don't let the media, "psychologists", or anyone else tell you what the so-called "right" way to feel about something is.

Certainly don't listen to psychoanalysts or anyone in the medical profession, all they want to do is medicalize the "problem" so they can sell you a solution that makes you dependent on them. Trite and cliched as this is going to sound, you should own who you are and get on with your life rather than become a revenue stream for some doctor so they can buy a new merc every year.

As blunt as this is I actually agree almost 100%. Although this might sound silly to quote a T.V show I saw in Scrubs Dr.Cox says something along the lines of "You can't tell people how to feel, some choose to cry and that's fine, others choose to laugh and that's fine too." Just because people don't wear their emotions on their sleeves doesn't mean they don't care. I know how it feels to lose people, and I hate it when it doesn't hit you as hard as those around you, and because of that you feel like a bad person for not being as sad as others. But really that is absolute bullshit there should be no expected way to mourn or to deal with big issues. As it is just non sensical.

That being said I think it is unfair to group all doctors together just because of the actions of a few. I have great respect for doctors as I know people currently studying law and I understand, as much as someone who isn't studying in the field can, how dificult it is and how much dedication it requires. The job of a doctor is possibly one of the highest emotionally demanding jobs in the world and they shouldn't be degraded like that.

there is no "normal" for humans. "normal" is a setting on washing machine. each of us have different feelings. there is no such thing as "my feelings are normal". from what you wrote id rather go towards Asperger's syndrome than disassociation. But hey whos the specialist here.

-|-:
What a load of crap.

So you don't react in a way that would be considered 'normal' within societies exceedingly narrow definition of said term? So what? Don't let the media, "psychologists", or anyone else tell you what the so-called "right" way to feel about something is.

Certainly don't listen to psychoanalysts or anyone in the medical profession, all they want to do is medicalize the "problem" so they can sell you a solution that makes you dependent on them. Trite and cliched as this is going to sound, you should own who you are and get on with your life rather than become a revenue stream for some doctor so they can buy a new merc every year.

I have to agree. Altrough some of your expressions do go over the top, the general idea is correct.

Nikolaz72:

Youknow. . . Unless they dont get paid per patient or for medication sold. Unless they just want to help. But I guess you're just cynical because you live in a system where you have become completely convinced that nobody is good and nobody wants to help anyone. And people who become doctors instead of engineers clearly do so because of the salary.

except that the fact that everyone wants to profit for themselves is the dominant one. people become doctors because of salary. and since its not so great - ergo the extreme shortage of doctors worldwide. there is very few doctors that want to actually help, and eve fewer that know how to.

Strazdas:
there is no "normal" for humans. "normal" is a setting on washing machine. each of us have different feelings. there is no such thing as "my feelings are normal". from what you wrote id rather go towards Asperger's syndrome than disassociation. But hey whos the specialist here.

-|-:
What a load of crap.

So you don't react in a way that would be considered 'normal' within societies exceedingly narrow definition of said term? So what? Don't let the media, "psychologists", or anyone else tell you what the so-called "right" way to feel about something is.

Certainly don't listen to psychoanalysts or anyone in the medical profession, all they want to do is medicalize the "problem" so they can sell you a solution that makes you dependent on them. Trite and cliched as this is going to sound, you should own who you are and get on with your life rather than become a revenue stream for some doctor so they can buy a new merc every year.

I have to agree. Altrough some of your expressions do go over the top, the general idea is correct.

Nikolaz72:

Youknow. . . Unless they dont get paid per patient or for medication sold. Unless they just want to help. But I guess you're just cynical because you live in a system where you have become completely convinced that nobody is good and nobody wants to help anyone. And people who become doctors instead of engineers clearly do so because of the salary.

except that the fact that everyone wants to profit for themselves is the dominant one. people become doctors because of salary. and since its not so great - ergo the extreme shortage of doctors worldwide. there is very few doctors that want to actually help, and eve fewer that know how to.

You forget to take into account different cultures and soceities, what is impossible where you live might be the daily grind somewhere else. Stating otherwise is ignorant.

One more with this kind of problem here. Except it is with the internet and not gaming.

Many times I caught myself watching repetitive and bland shit in the net and being uncaring for others and myself. To make it worse it is rather repetitive and shallow things like I am running away from the deep stuff.

Thanks Dr. Mark and whoever wrote.

Grahav:
One more with this kind of problem here. Except it is with the internet and not gaming.

Many times I caught myself watching repetitive and bland shit in the net and being uncaring for others and myself. To make it worse it is rather repetitive and shallow things like I am running away from the deep stuff.

Thanks Dr. Mark and whomever wrote.

 

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