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Imaginary friends for treating loneliness = Unhealthy?

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Imaginary friends for treating loneliness = Unhealthy?

Postby 131423 » Thu Mar 22, 2012 10:47 pm

Wasn't sure if I should post this in the schizotypal or schizoid forum, but since I'm usually skeptical and I don't experience magical thinking (wish I did though, sure would make things more interesting) I figured it might be better to ask here.

Anyway, first time posting here so I guess I should throw in a little background about myself before I get to the question. I tried to keep it brief, but I ended up rambling a bit more than I had hoped I would. Feel free to skip over it if you just want to get to the point of the thread. I'll throw it in quotes so it's not such an eyesore and hopefully my thread won't seem unreadably long.

I've spent the last five years staying inside nearly 24/7 and pretty much completely in self-imposed isolation. A few of those years were during homeschooling, but I still never went outside unless I was forced to. I'll admit that social anxiety is a bit of an issue for me. I've experimented with every medication from SSRIs to benzos though, even mixing them with mood enhancing stimulants like adderall, but even when I'm euphoric and have no anxiety at all I still dislike being around people and have no desire to go out. I actually like my life a lot, I have a near unlimited amount of time to spend on projects or self-education and I love having so much time to myself. I feel really fortunate that I've had the opportunity to live like this, in a lot of ways it has been a dream come true for me. There's nothing more calm and serene than going a whole day without speaking a single word to anyone.

Unfortunately though, there's still that annoying sense of loneliness that I can't seem to shake off. Some days it's hardly there at all and everything feels perfect, but other days it's unbearable. I guess it's only natural when you're alone so often, but I'm not sure how I should deal with it when the most obvious answer (going out and making friends/getting into a relationship) makes no sense because that's just unimaginably unpleasant and would require me to sacrifice the parts of my life that I love more than anything.



Wow. That was much longer than I was hoping and I haven't even gotten to the point of my post yet. Sorry about that.

Anyway, I'll try to hurry up and get to the point. I've tried everything from living vicariously inside of video games and novels to considering outlandish ideas like buying body pillows to hug (that was more than a little embarrassing to admit) or trying to force myself to fall in love with fictional characters. Some of it works better than others, especially the video games and novels, but they're temporary fixes at best.

Recently though, I've learned about a very interesting concept that I've never heard of before and it has given me a little glimmer of hope that I might be able to satisfy this irritating need for companionship without sacrificing any part of my lifestyle. Apparently there's something called a tulpa or a thought-form, it's basically a constructed personality inside of your mind that you can talk with and at some point even be able to visually see or hear through the form of a self-induced hallucination, at least according to some things that I've read about the topic. For example, Carl Jung tapped into this with his active imagination technique. The idea is based completely within reality though, nothing supernatural about it, depending on who you talk to it's either considered as a self-induced hallucination that acts as a companion or a way to glimpse into your subconscious, which is how Jung used it.

So anyway, would pursuing this be a terrible idea for a schizoid person? In theory it would solve all of my problems because you're basically creating a friend that exists on your terms and is essentially just a version of yourself that you can talk to. I've always thought that the only relationship I would want to be in would be a relationship with my clone and this is the closest thing I can think of to that, but is all of this intense self-delusion and fantasy just a slippery slope to triggering full blown schizophrenia?
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Re: Imaginary friends for treating loneliness = Unhealthy?

Postby TypicallyMindful » Thu Mar 22, 2012 11:22 pm

131423 wrote:Anyway, I'll try to hurry up and get to the point. I've tried everything from living vicariously inside of video games and novels to considering outlandish ideas like buying body pillows to hug (that was more than a little embarrassing to admit) or trying to force myself to fall in love with fictional characters. Some of it works better than others, especially the video games and novels, but they're temporary fixes at best.

Recently though, I've learned about a very interesting concept that I've never heard of before and it has given me a little glimmer of hope that I might be able to satisfy this irritating need for companionship without sacrificing any part of my lifestyle. Apparently there's something called a tulpa or a thought-form, it's basically a constructed personality inside of your mind that you can talk with and at some point even be able to visually see or hear through the form of a self-induced hallucination, at least according to some things that I've read about the topic. For example, Carl Jung tapped into this with his active imagination technique. The idea is based completely within reality though, nothing supernatural about it, depending on who you talk to it's either considered as a self-induced hallucination that acts as a companion or a way to glimpse into your subconscious, which is how Jung used it.

So anyway, would pursuing this be a terrible idea for a schizoid person? In theory it would solve all of my problems because you're basically creating a friend that exists on your terms and is essentially just a version of yourself that you can talk to. I've always thought that the only relationship I would want to be in would be a relationship with my clone and this is the closest thing I can think of to that, but is all of this intense self-delusion and fantasy just a slippery slope to triggering full blown schizophrenia?

Well, I think you win the "most interesting post" award, at least in my eyes. You seem to be in a very similar situation to the one I'm in: you find most human interaction fundamentally tedious and unrewarding, but are unable to shake the feeling of loneliness that so often comes with being completely isolated. What's so interesting though is that you've gone entirely in the opposite direction that I have. Anyway...

I think what it comes down to is this: you are not going to stop being lonely as long as you are using substitutes. Like you've said, they sometimes dull the pain, but it's not really effective in the long run. The question then becomes, how real is this imaginary friend to you (in short: are they real enough that it won't feel like a substitute)? If you could realize this person with the same level of complexity and genuineness that accompanies an actual human being, it would certainly solve your problem in the most ideal way possible. I don't think that trying this will inherently trigger schizophrenia, but I also don't think any construction of your mind is ever going to be real enough to not feel like a substitute unless you really push yourself into something that borders on schizophrenia (or at least total detachment from reality).
Last edited by TypicallyMindful on Thu Mar 22, 2012 11:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Imaginary friends for treating loneliness = Unhealthy?

Postby null » Thu Mar 22, 2012 11:35 pm

It's an interesting concept..If you feel daring enough to attempt it, please come back and report the results. I don't have any scientific evidence to support my claim, but I will say that it doesn't sound too wise to begin further isolation within the mind for someone already so isolated..
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Re: Imaginary friends for treating loneliness = Unhealthy?

Postby -username- » Fri Mar 23, 2012 5:40 am

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Last edited by -username- on Fri Mar 23, 2012 3:31 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Imaginary friends for treating loneliness = Unhealthy?

Postby AGirlNamedGoo » Fri Mar 23, 2012 6:23 am

While I'm not schizoid or schizotypal (I have actually been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, among other things such as GAD and OCD), I have had imaginary friends for nearly my entire life. While they don't completely eliminate loneliness from my life, at least they can never hurt me in any way like a real person could. Plus, imaginary relationships require no effort to maintain - no drama, no Facebook nonsense, no feeling like they're ever too busy for you, because they are with you always and they love you no matter what. I have found that my imaginary friends bring a level of peace and joy in my life that I have not found with real people. I think that if anyone wants to experience imaginary friends for themselves, that they should definitely give it a try and see if it makes them happy.
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Re: Imaginary friends for treating loneliness = Unhealthy?

Postby sunset_birth » Fri Mar 23, 2012 1:52 pm

Good question.

I don't think I would worry about it being some sort of slippery slope. Children do that a lot and it was never shown to be a problem. It could be argued that some religious-minded people also use this technique.

On the other hand, I think it will not solve your problem, and that is why you really hesitate. It might be better to figure out what you really want in relationships, and whether it is realistic or not. Once you are sure of that, then there should not be any reason to feel alone, because you know without a doubt that it is impossible. So either you wish for something else than a clone of yourself, or you somehow unrealistically hope to find your clone.

So find your true hope, or ditch a misplaced hope would be my advice, instead of creating an imaginary friend. But if that is really your solution, than you should do it.
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Re: Imaginary friends for treating loneliness = Unhealthy?

Postby Chan » Fri Mar 23, 2012 2:21 pm

What's this loneliness thing like, anyway?
Ellsworth Toohey: Mr. Roark, we're alone here. Why don't you tell me what you think of me in any words you wish.

Howard Roark: But I don't think of you.

From the 1949 movie version of Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead

SPiDers like being alone.

Loners are not lonely people. Lonely people are not loners.
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Re: Imaginary friends for treating loneliness = Unhealthy?

Postby Leam_Girl » Fri Mar 23, 2012 3:42 pm

I am not lonely but I have an imaginary friend.

Well, he's not a friend, he's evil, he wants to kill me, and he stands over me at night. But then I turn the lights on and he disappears.

At first I actually thought I had a ghost living in my bedroom but then I realised I was just crazy. I even found myself talking to him during the day and when I couldn't feel his presence anymore I got angry at him for not talking to me. Then I was convinced he had gone, tried sleeping with the lights off, and nope, he was there more than ever, I even swear I could see his dark figure moving towards me. Lights stay on for now, not trying that again...

Your imaginary friend who is actually yourself is an interesting idea. I might try it, but I think she'd be the opposite of me, like loud and outgoing, I think imagining the real me would be very boring. That's probably why no one hangs out with me.
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Re: Imaginary friends for treating loneliness = Unhealthy?

Postby TypicallyMindful » Fri Mar 23, 2012 5:08 pm

Leam_Girl wrote:Your imaginary friend who is actually yourself is an interesting idea. I might try it, but I think she'd be the opposite of me, like loud and outgoing, I think imagining the real me would be very boring. That's probably why no one hangs out with me.

You have written this with the implication that you have an imaginary friend who is not you, which is by definition impossible. Any imaginary friend is an extension of our conscious or subconscious mind, not drawn out of some kind of magical imaginary friend vault. If your imaginary friend is outgoing while you are not, it just means that you have constructed an imaginary friend based on your definitions of an outgoing person. They aren't actually someone else.

On a lighter note, I do agree that if you're going to hypothesize a "perfect person", it would be pretty boring for them to share a bunch of a personality traits with you.
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Re: Imaginary friends for treating loneliness = Unhealthy?

Postby AGirlNamedGoo » Fri Mar 23, 2012 10:15 pm

TypicallyMindful wrote:
Leam_Girl wrote:Your imaginary friend who is actually yourself is an interesting idea. I might try it, but I think she'd be the opposite of me, like loud and outgoing, I think imagining the real me would be very boring. That's probably why no one hangs out with me.

You have written this with the implication that you have an imaginary friend who is not you, which is by definition impossible. Any imaginary friend is an extension of our conscious or subconscious mind, not drawn out of some kind of magical imaginary friend vault. If your imaginary friend is outgoing while you are not, it just means that you have constructed an imaginary friend based on your definitions of an outgoing person. They aren't actually someone else.

On a lighter note, I do agree that if you're going to hypothesize a "perfect person", it would be pretty boring for them to share a bunch of a personality traits with you.

What about imaginary friends that you get from external sources, such as television shows or movies? 98% of all of my imaginary friends are characters who were borrowed from the fictional works I enjoy, since I have a lot of trouble coming up with my own characters. Could it be that I chose certain characters as imaginary friends because I see aspects of myself in them?
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