June 4, 2014

That might not even be a word, but it definitely shouldn’t be confused with Sega Genesis, a game console.

The world as we know it originates and lives solely in the mind. Whether or not the present itself is solely a construct of the mind and doesn’t actually exist externally, like the past and future, is still up to debate, but for the sake of this, I’ll assume it does. Your senses serve to give your mind input as to how it should construct the world, but even then, senses are fallible and the world is much more understandable if the mind censors some of what its senses report. This is also why, I believe, people only see what they expect; perhaps ironically, though, if someone believes something about the world, good or bad, they will easily find evidence in the world to justify and reinforce those beliefs.

When you’re dealing with something so personally experienced and rather unreachable to others as the mind, things become less exact. Raw thoughts and feelings are experienced individually and must be translated and communicated to others through a common language. What makes sense to you, however, still might not make any sense to anyone else.

The term ‘psychosomatic’ is fairly well known. It means that something, such as pain, is enhanced or exacerbated by the mind. Less well known, I believe, is the term ‘psychogenic,’ which means that something, such as pain, exists solely in the mind and is not represented elsewhere on the body or perceived by senses. I view psychosomatic pain as a subset of psychogenic pain, but I’m just a layperson and not a doctor in this field.

When I was younger, I would play a game with myself where I focus so intently on a sense that I could experience pain from it. All other senses would dissolve away, leaving me with a single sense to experience — I was particularly good at doing this with things I could hear. Then, if I wanted to, I would imagine the intensity and resonance of that sound increasing or decreasing, experiencing that imagined change as a result. One thing I particularly remember having fun with was making myself perceive various types of echoes, including ones that would echo louder and louder to the point that all I could hear was a constant, painful vibration. I would then stop focusing on that single sense and return to experiencing the world through all of my senses, the pain subsiding in that same instant, or I would continue to play with the singled-out sense in other ways.

I believe what I was experiencing there was a psychogenic pain. It’s psychosomatic in that it originated from something that another sense first perceived, but once I left the real world and went internal, the unrealness of what I could make myself experience was beyond anything that I would call ‘psychosomatic’ — a chirping bird transitioning into a cacophony of roaring jet engines. I could also perceive one sense as another if I focused more intently, the roaring engines displaying themselves as multicolored phosphenes under closed eyes. I could very well be wrong in my definition, though, and perhaps that’s why people just use psychosomatic — it’s easier to use.