Can you prevent the personality familiar to you, your family and friends from swapping with an unpleasant alter ego?
May is Mental Health Awareness Month.
In the comfort of your bed, while drifting off to peaceful slumber, your sane mind is abducted. Sweet dreams allude you. In a vulnerable state, your mind floods with disturbing thoughts. The personality familiar to you, your family and friends swaps with an unpleasant alter ego, as vivid fantasies emerge.
The next morning, still troubled by the mental imagery, you tell yourself, “This could never happen in real life.” That evening, the same counter-personality returns. So you begin staying up later and later, hoping exhaustion will abate the nightly personality conflict. Sometimes this works. But more frequently than not, you find yourself in a recurring loop of violent, erotic or lawless fantasies conflicting with your normally peaceful demeanor.
Heart and Mind
Are you losing your mind? Are you developing multiple personalities? What causes vivid enactments of improper behavior? Hopefully, this is not a prelude to acting out violent activities where your interviewed family and friends get their 15 minutes of infamy saying, ‘There were never any indications of such tendencies’ or ‘She was such a nice girl.’ Will a mate suffer the heartbreak of a relationship-ending indiscretion? Is this a portent of self-destruction?
First consider whether your conscience is plaguing you because of past conduct. Others may have done something to you or visa versa. You may be reliving actions from which you long separated yourself. Conversely, it is possible that you are working hard to suppress unfulfilled desires. Fantasies are sometimes mental rehearsals of future actions.
As you progress through the day, it is normal for your mind to process tasks, errands, goals and responsibilities. Later, while drifting into sleep, poignant past experiences, on the conscious or subconscious level, are more likely to surface.
Your mind is vulnerable as it sifts through daily interactions, entertainment and emotions before the dream cycle begins. So choose entertainment and conversation carefully. The good news is that since the thoughts are troubling, you have high moral standards.
Some people rise up and indulge such fantasies online or engage in self-destructive behavior like cutting. The line between criminal thoughts and action is something the courts have pondered for decades. When attempted crimes first became criminalized in the early 1900s, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes urged caution, asserting that for the defendant to be convicted, “there must be dangerous proximity to success.” What has changed in recent years are the tools used to detect intent—namely, a person’s online activity. This motivated prosecution of the Cannibal Cop.
Recurring negative imagery or clandestine pseudo-behavior could indicate a need to improve your mental diet. It may also betray an underlying emotional conflict. An abusive past is manifest in many ways. Hormones also play a factor. Neurological chemical imbalance (remedied with proper prescription) can disrupt normal emotions. Night terrors may be symptomatic of a new medication or abrupt discontinuation of a longstanding prescription. A trusted counselor may provide the appropriate forum to express troubling tendencies before they manifest into life-altering realities.
Night terrors can also disturb what should be a restful time of the evening. Symptoms of this parasomnia include sudden awakening from sleep, persistent fear or terror that occurs at night, screaming, sweating, confusion, rapid heart rate, inability to explain what happened, usually no recall of “bad dreams” or nightmares, perhaps a vague sense of frightening images. Night terrors are often misdiagnosed as simpler nightmares or perhaps Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Sleep deprivation and diet can effect your restfulness. Some spices have psychoactive properties that may affect dreaming. For example, nutmeg has a chemical composition similar to the street drug called Ecstasy. Of course, you would need to eat massive quantities. (Please don’t.) One expert says pad thai might bring on nightmares. Others place the blame on nightshades—plants related to the potato, having black or red berries. But meal size may be most important.
The purpose of this article is not to diagnose or prescribe treatment. Rather, the goal is to stimulate you to action, resulting in feeling A Bit More Healthy. Discuss concerns with your personal physician. References below provide further insight.
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- A Dangerous Mind. nymag.com
- Anatomy of an Estranged Family. ClinicalPosters.com
- Røseth, I., Bongaardt, R., & Binder, P. E. (2011). A case study of a mother's intertwining experiences with incest and postpartum depression. International journal of qualitative studies on health and well-being, 6(3), 10.3402/qhw.v6i3.7244. https://doi.org/10.3402/qhw.v6i3.7244
- Kales A, Soldatos CR, Bixler EO, Ladda RL, Charney DS, Weber G, Schweitzer PK. Hereditary factors in sleepwalking and night terrors. Br J Psychiatry. 1980 Aug;137:111-8. doi: 10.1192/bjp.137.2.111. PMID: 7426840.
- Not Getting Enough Ruins Your Personality. ClinicalPosters.com
- Can Spicy Food Really Cause Weird Dreams? The Answer Is Complicated. thecut.com
- Do Spicy Foods Cause Weird Dreams? theepicentre.com
- The Hallucinogen in Your Kitchen – The Chemistry of Nutmeg. compoundchem.com
- Does Spicy Food Cause Bad Dreams? wsj.com
- These 5 Foods and Substances Can Cause Anxiety and Insomnia. psychologytoday.com
- 4 Myths About Nightshade Vegetables. besthealthmag.ca
Access more article features and references.