Opinions on defilements / psychological health

Opinions on defilements / psychological health End in Sight 11/30/11 12:54 PM
RE: Opinions on defilements / psychological health josh r s 11/30/11 1:16 PM
RE: Opinions on defilements / psychological health End in Sight 11/30/11 1:28 PM
RE: Opinions on defilements / psychological health josh r s 11/30/11 1:24 PM
RE: Opinions on defilements / psychological health End in Sight 11/30/11 1:35 PM
RE: Opinions on defilements / psychological health josh r s 11/30/11 1:42 PM
RE: Opinions on defilements / psychological health Steph . 11/30/11 1:40 PM
RE: Opinions on defilements / psychological health Steph . 11/30/11 2:06 PM
RE: Opinions on defilements / psychological health Jon T 11/30/11 5:33 PM
RE: Opinions on defilements / psychological health Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem 11/30/11 5:39 PM
RE: Opinions on defilements / psychological health Steph . 11/30/11 7:08 PM
RE: Opinions on defilements / psychological health End in Sight 11/30/11 7:29 PM
RE: Opinions on defilements / psychological health Jon T 11/30/11 9:57 PM
RE: Opinions on defilements / psychological health Bruno Loff 12/1/11 3:33 AM
RE: Opinions on defilements / psychological health bill of the wandering mind 12/1/11 7:47 AM
RE: Opinions on defilements / psychological health End in Sight 12/1/11 8:12 AM
RE: Opinions on defilements / psychological health Bruno Loff 12/1/11 12:13 PM
RE: Opinions on defilements / psychological health End in Sight 12/1/11 3:13 PM
RE: Opinions on defilements / psychological health Jackson Wilshire 11/30/11 1:26 PM
RE: Opinions on defilements / psychological health End in Sight 11/30/11 1:27 PM
RE: Opinions on defilements / psychological health Ex Nihilo 11/30/11 6:19 PM
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 11/30/11 12:54 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 11/30/11 12:54 PM

Opinions on defilements / psychological health

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AEN:
You also cannot eliminate defilements without 'knowledge and vision of things' (aka insight), which is what leads to disenchantment and dispassion which brings about release.

Imagine a holder of Self-view, trying to eliminate craving. What will he do? Surely, he will dissociate himself from the craving, but by doing so simply strengthens his hold onto 'self'. Without insight that his view is false, no matter how he tries to let go, he is in fact increasing his holding in disguise.

When insight arises however, no such contrived effort (which never leads to resolution) is necessary at all. With the seeing of the nature of dharma - being anicca, dukkha, anatta, there is no way one can fasten in a sense of self.

Without seeing through the false view of self by insight, one can never release the false of view of self, in the same way as a child who doesn't realize santa claus as false will never end craving for santa claus. Even if he is convinced not to crave santa claus in a gross way, that very belief in santa claus leads to clinging. And the way to end the belief of santa claus is not to beat the hell out of the child, to take the child's gift away, etc etc... it's just to tell him that there's no santa claus.


Sabbasava sutta:
And what are the fermentations to be abandoned by destroying? There is the case where a monk, reflecting appropriately, does not tolerate an arisen thought of sensuality. He abandons it, destroys it, dispels it, & wipes it out of existence.

Reflecting appropriately, he does not tolerate an arisen thought of ill will...

Reflecting appropriately, he does not tolerate an arisen thought of cruelty...

Reflecting appropriately, he does not tolerate arisen evil, unskillful mental qualities. He abandons them, destroys them, dispels them, & wipes them out of existence. The fermentations, vexation, or fever that would arise if he were not to destroy these things do not arise for him when he destroys them. These are called the fermentations to be abandoned by destroying.


The suttas' advice seems to be at odds with both AEN's view as well as common sense with respect to psychological health. (There are other suttas that give similar advice to this one; it is not unique.)

Is "destroying" defilements by rejecting (or suppressing) them psychologically healthy? Is it not? Is there a healthy way to go about it and an unhealthy way to go about it?

Food for thought. I have my opinion (and it does not need to be stated) but would like to hear other people's opinions, and especially other people's experiences.

One thing I like to keep in mind is that there are different traditions and approaches because (among other things) not everyone's mind works in the same way, and so what benefits one person might harm another.
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josh r s, modified 10 Years ago at 11/30/11 1:16 PM
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RE: Opinions on defilements / psychological health

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er, isn't AEN talking about eliminating permanently defilement and that sutta talking about abandoning temporarily arisen fermentation? (so a monk can get back to clear knowing and dispassion?)

i dont think it would be possible to gain that clear knowing without dropping/suppressing the hindrances.
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 11/30/11 1:28 PM
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RE: Opinions on defilements / psychological health

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I was just using AEN's comment as a way to segue into this discussion (that's how I thought of the issue in the first place). I am confident that AEN believes in permanently doing away with defilements. The question concerns defilements that arise in the course of practice, before one has severed the fetters that generate them.

Another way of thinking of this is: some defilement (say, sexual lust) arises. What do you do? Allow it to remain while observing it? Find some way to remove it? Something else? Do any of these choices have the possibility of causing unintended psychological consequences, if pursued in certain ways?

This is a common issue that arises in various styles of vipassana, so what one does in such a case is worth talking about.

EDIT: I see I was in error to say that "the suttas' advice seems to be at odds with...AEN's view...". My mistake.
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josh r s, modified 10 Years ago at 11/30/11 1:24 PM
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RE: Opinions on defilements / psychological health

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well, i think in the context of the rest of the pali canon, the suppression method is best. but if there is no jhana to replace the "food" which you are keeping yourself from "feeding" on, there could be some issues. that's pretty much thanissaro bhikku's analysis, and it seems to make sense to me.
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Jackson Wilshire, modified 10 Years ago at 11/30/11 1:26 PM
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RE: Opinions on defilements / psychological health

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End in Sight:
The suttas' advice seems to be at odds with both AEN's view as well as common sense with respect to psychological health.


Common sense psychological health according to whom? There is certainly no consesus on this issue in the psychological/psychiatric community. The best available and most current research seems to show that thought-suppression is ultimately counter-productive, resulting in the more frequent recurrence of the target thoughts, as well as reducing one's tolerance for the target thoughts - thereby increasing one's distress upon their arrival. That said, thought suppression is still included in many of the Gold Standard treatments for disorders such as OCD and PTSD (although I have yet to meet an expert in the field who encourages their clients to actively suppress their thoughts in most circumstances).

And yes, it depends on the person, the problem, the situation/context, etc. Sometimes it's more skillful to stuff something down and ignore until you can move into an appropriate time and place for another practice. This is often a way of preventing further harm to self or other, which lays a better foundation for further work at a later time.

It's unfortunate to phrase these kinds of questions into "Either/Or, " as in, "Either the suttas are correct, or AEN is correct. What do you think?"

I find it much more helpful to ask, "When might it be helpful to suppress? When might it be harmful to suppress?" Etc.
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 11/30/11 1:27 PM
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RE: Opinions on defilements / psychological health

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Jackson Wilshire:
End in Sight:
The suttas' advice seems to be at odds with both AEN's view as well as common sense with respect to psychological health.


Common sense psychological health according to whom?


Received wisdom, I suppose.

Received wisdom might not match up with current views in the field of mental health.

It's unfortunate to phrase these kinds of questions into "Either/Or." I find it much more helpful to ask, "When might it be helpful to suppress? When might it be harmful to suppress?" Etc.


Do you have any insight or experience with this subject to share, either as a meditator or as someone involved professionally in the mental health field?
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 11/30/11 1:35 PM
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RE: Opinions on defilements / psychological health

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josh r s:
well, i think in the context of the rest of the pali canon, the suppression method is best. but if there is no jhana to replace the "food" which you are keeping yourself from "feeding" on, there could be some issues. that's pretty much thanissaro bhikku's analysis, and it seems to make sense to me.


What about in the context of your experience (if you have any specific experience with this either way)?
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Steph , modified 10 Years ago at 11/30/11 1:40 PM
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RE: Opinions on defilements / psychological health

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End in Sight:

Another way of thinking of this is: some defilement (say, sexual lust) arises. What do you do? Allow it to remain while observing it? Find some way to remove it? Something else? Do any of these choices have the possibility of causing unintended psychological consequences, if pursued in certain ways?


Jackson Wilshire:

The best available and most current research seems to show that thought-suppression is ultimately counter-productive, resulting in the more frequent recurrence of the target thoughts, as well as reducing one's tolerance for the target thoughts - thereby increasing one's distress upon their arrival.


Thoughts occur after the initial defilement arises. So perhaps the reason thought suppression does not work is because it is an attempt to squash the defilement at the wrong stage. Tracing it back before the thought even occurs would ensure that thought doesn't even *need* to be suppressed because the initial disturbance giving rise to the thought would have been dealt with. In other words, noticing the defilement as it arises, and dealing with it at that point, would mean the tape-loop thoughts would not occur.
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josh r s, modified 10 Years ago at 11/30/11 1:42 PM
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RE: Opinions on defilements / psychological health

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i meant in the context of using other practices from the pali canon, and having done both dry vipassana and jhana, i think there is definitely problems when doing dry vipassana and trying to suppress things, but less so with jhana. i have had some serious trouble with compulsively playing video games. during my time doing dry vipassana, i would repeatedly promise myself i would never play again and then play again, often in the same day. during my time practicing with jhana i have been able to stop without much difficulty. when i was trying to stop (during dry vipassana period), and then through whatever twisted logic breaking promises to myself, i would get guilty, angry, and depressed.
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Steph , modified 10 Years ago at 11/30/11 2:06 PM
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I'm continuing my reply here, rather than editing my above reply, to share my experience with this. I had a couple exchanges about this very thing within the past day.

What has worked for me in terms of cutting defilements off so they don't further proliferate is looking at the defilement (ternsions & feeling tones of the defilement, more specifically) with sincerity. Taking any tension as it arises and looking at its properties from an angle of curiosity rather than judgement does wonders for developing dispassion towards the tension. Instead of automatically jumping to thinking a tension sucks or feels like crap, you really examine exactly what it feels like, how it morphs, & how it disappears like a naive little kid looking at something they have never seen before. As far as I can tell from my experience, Jackson is exactly right that the qualification/distress regarding thoughts (or even before that, tensions) is precisely the thing that causes the spiral of guilt and shame about those thoughts (or tensions).
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Jon T, modified 10 Years ago at 11/30/11 5:33 PM
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RE: Opinions on defilements / psychological health

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Taking any tension as it arises and looking at its properties from an angle of curiosity rather than judgement does wonders for developing dispassion towards the tension.


And with this necessary and wonderful dispassion, one can rationally examine the history of the tension, the needs/wants that sustain it and the tensions' underlying assumption --- thereby making edits to the default mode while (if done attentively) strengthening the attentive mode. This is to "abandon it, destroy it, dispel it, & wipe it out of existence."

Without dispassion, one can still rationally examine the tension (social deconstruction) but it's more superficial. Great truths about oneself and the human condition can be revealed but without equanimity, they are prevented from sinking in deeply enough to uncoil the whole persona. It is the case of the genius poet who consistently make an absolute mess of his own personal life or the case of the thrice divorced yet highly recommended psychotherapist. What about dispassion/equanimity allows these truths to really sink in? I'm not sure. I can't easily put it into words.
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Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem, modified 10 Years ago at 11/30/11 5:39 PM
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RE: Opinions on defilements / psychological health

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Jon T:
Without dispassion, one can still rationally examine the tension (social deconstruction) but it's more superficial. Great truths about oneself and the human condition can be revealed but without equanimity, they are prevented from sinking in deeply enough to uncoil the whole persona. It is the case of the genius poet who consistently make an absolute mess of his own personal life or the case of the thrice divorced yet highly recommended psychotherapist. What about dispassion/equanimity allows these truths to really sink in? I'm not sure. I can't easily put it into words.


Hmm, well without dispassion, 'you' are clinging to that part of 'you'. Some part of 'you' doesn't want it to go away, regardless of how painful it is recognized to be. A lack of sincerity, in actualist terms.

What has helped me this past day-and-a-half is to recognize that 'I' am an illusion, that 'I' don't exist, actually[1]:

tarin:
i spent months trying to catch the attention wave form out of a pce and i only ever kept getting closer and closer... i never got all the way, and here's why: the closer i looked clearly, wherever i looked, the less it was there. what i eventually learnt: the subtle urge to catch the attention wave as it forms is a way of avoiding seeing what's actually here (either by feeling it as a compulsion to protect oneself from devolving into distortion, or by masquerading it as the oh-so-innocent intention to merely be thorough for the sake of knowledge). it is an illusion, the attention wave is entirely an illusion, and all this madness and mayhem in the world and in people's hearts comes out of what is entirely an illusion.. it would be the funniest thing in the world if it weren't for the reasons people find to keep playing along with it being even funnier.
[link]

[1] 'attention wave' is a particularly subtle/elemental form of 'me', which tarin also called 'passions' in another thread:
tarin:
what i mean by 'passions' are subtle feelings, which, in action, daniel ingram calls, understandably, 'the attention wave'
Ex Nihilo, modified 10 Years ago at 11/30/11 6:19 PM
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RE: Opinions on defilements / psychological health

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End in Sight:

Is "destroying" defilements by rejecting (or suppressing) them psychologically healthy? Is it not? Is there a healthy way to go about it and an unhealthy way to go about it?


Great topic!

For me, identifying and seeing through suffering-inducing misperceptions works better than rejecting or suppressing. Rejecting or suppressing is sometimes better than nothing, but it's already too late, like trying to clean up a river downstream from the real source of the pollution.

Neil
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Steph , modified 10 Years ago at 11/30/11 7:08 PM
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RE: Opinions on defilements / psychological health

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from claudiu's re-posting of this above:

tarin:
the subtle urge to catch the attention wave as it forms is a way of avoiding seeing what's actually here (either by feeling it as a compulsion to protect oneself from devolving into distortion, or by masquerading it as the oh-so-innocent intention to merely be thorough for the sake of knowledge).


cat chasing its own tail. inadvertently the attention wave tries to catch the attention wave.
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 11/30/11 7:29 PM
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RE: Opinions on defilements / psychological health

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tarin:
the subtle urge to catch the attention wave as it forms is a way of avoiding seeing what's actually here (either by feeling it as a compulsion to protect oneself from devolving into distortion,


This is an astute observation.

EDIT: As a clarification of something I have been talking about recently...this compulsion also stands in the way of jhana / concentration. (The compulsion to protect oneself from falling into heedlessness or wandering mind ramps up the attention wave and weakens concentration.)
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Jon T, modified 10 Years ago at 11/30/11 9:57 PM
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all this madness and mayhem in the world and in people's hearts comes out of what is entirely an illusion.. it would be the funniest thing in the world if it weren't for the reasons people find to keep playing along with it being even funnier.



...probably the best quote in human history. Except I don't entirely understand the passion to be an illusion. No. I don't understand that part of it all. But the madness that is humanity is hilarious. My default mode of seeing is alternately sadness or anger. But more and more I find myself smiling and laughing.


The compulsion to protect oneself from falling into heedlessness or wandering mind ramps up the attention wave and weakens concentration.


yes. lovely.


I want to add to my previous post. Choosing happiness is probably paramount. And I found that it can be learned at anytime. It can be the first thing learnt. Unfortunately for me, I learned it months ago but then forgot it. Then I relearned it. Then i reforgot it. There seems to be something that says 'this happiness is fake. It's a trap.' I seem to need to keep learning that it's not a trap. In fact, it's a necessary prerogative.
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Bruno Loff, modified 10 Years ago at 12/1/11 3:33 AM
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RE: Opinions on defilements / psychological health

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Jon T:
...probably the best quote in human history. Except I don't entirely understand the passion to be an illusion. No. I don't understand that part of it all.


The attention wave is like a dream. If you learn to single out and recognize the characteristic feature of dream experience (e.g. by learning to lucid dream), you might one day suddenly notice that all "being" works just the same way (though constricted, when awake, to mold around perceived sensory forms). Then you might have the odd sensation of being lucid dreaming while awake, and realize that you spend most of the time dreaming while awake (but not lucid). Being a dream, it is arbitrary, fake, an imitation, a delirium, not happening in actuality.

I've had that experience, so that is what I take "passion is an illusion" to mean.
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bill of the wandering mind, modified 10 Years ago at 12/1/11 7:47 AM
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"i meant in the context of using other practices from the pali canon, and having done both dry vipassana and jhana, i think there is definitely problems when doing dry vipassana and trying to suppress things, but less so with jhana. i have had some serious trouble with compulsively playing video games. during my time doing dry vipassana, i would repeatedly promise myself i would never play again and then play again, often in the same day. during my time practicing with jhana i have been able to stop without much difficulty. when i was trying to stop (during dry vipassana period), and then through whatever twisted logic breaking promises to myself, i would get guilty, angry, and depressed."

This is interesting - I have a similar experience, getting hooked on some games a few months back when I was doing 2 hrs of insight every day, trying to steer myself away from it was difficult. I switched to pure samatha practice and although I cannot get into jhana yet it was very easy to just not get hooked, every time the mind went there I brought it back to the breath without judgement and now I cannot imagine wanting to play those things. Could it really just be a matter of starving the habit and replacing it with something more wholesome? Just a thought...
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 12/1/11 8:12 AM
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RE: Opinions on defilements / psychological health

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Bruno Loff:
Jon T:
...probably the best quote in human history. Except I don't entirely understand the passion to be an illusion. No. I don't understand that part of it all.


The attention wave is like a dream. If you learn to single out and recognize the characteristic feature of dream experience (e.g. by learning to lucid dream), you might one day suddenly notice that all "being" works just the same way (though constricted, when awake, to mold around perceived sensory forms). Then you might have the odd sensation of being lucid dreaming while awake, and realize that you spend most of the time dreaming while awake (but not lucid). Being a dream, it is arbitrary, fake, an imitation, a delirium, not happening in actuality.

I've had that experience, so that is what I take "passion is an illusion" to mean.


For the sake of clarity, could you say what precisely about dreams is similar to the attention wave?

When I have had lucid dreams, I have been surprised at how similar the sensory experience in the dream is to that in waking life. (But, of course, that is not all there is to dreams.)

We are on the same page about this (I think), but your explanation may be better.
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Bruno Loff, modified 10 Years ago at 12/1/11 12:13 PM
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End in Sight:
For the sake of clarity, could you say what precisely about dreams is similar to the attention wave?


There is passion and intention manipulating an unstable, vibrating, shifting mass (of what could be called "energy" or "affect" or "being").

It is the way that it shifts and vibrates and mutates, in particular the way that intention is able to manipulate it. This is similar when dreaming and when awake:

If I decide to fly in a lucid dream, it will feel like flying; if I do the same mental gesture while awake, there will be a (less pronounced) shift in the "energy body". The clear and clean underlying layer of perception (what I take to be "apperception") remains untouched (or seems to), but the translucid/transparent-yet-still-there overlay is affected by volition and passion.

---

Conversely: I've never had lucid dreams that are even close in detail to the actual world. When dreaming, if I look for the detailed textures and visual processing, for instance, that I can find during EEs, I might "fool myself" to think I see it (by imitating the affective response I have towards an EE), but it actually isn't there: not in sufficient detail, not in a complete and sustainable and repeatable and always-the-same-when-I-look-again way.

Of course, maybe this is possible if the feeling process is sufficiently powerful and stable, I dunno. I would guess the shifting aspect would still be there.
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 12/1/11 3:13 PM
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RE: Opinions on defilements / psychological health

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Bruno Loff:
Conversely: I've never had lucid dreams that are even close in detail to the actual world. When dreaming, if I look for the detailed textures and visual processing, for instance, that I can find during EEs, I might "fool myself" to think I see it (by imitating the affective response I have towards an EE), but it actually isn't there: not in sufficient detail, not in a complete and sustainable and repeatable and always-the-same-when-I-look-again way.


Perhaps I have different sorts of dreams than you do. Mine (at least the ones that have been lucid or near-lucid) have a great deal of extremely realistic visual imagery, indistinguishable-to-me from waking life.

As for detail...it is not detail that determines whether an experience is actual or affective. There may be physiological reasons that dream images lack detail (though I have not confirmed the observation that they do). If you have bad eyesight and take off your glasses, your waking experience will lack detail too.

(Maybe a survey about this would be interesting.)

The closest resemblance I see between dreaming and the imaginary quality of passion is that the entire plot of the dream is imaginary; the imagery is just imagery, but the bizarre things one thinks about it determine how the plotless-in-itself imagery shifts, and the bizarre things one thinks are also the things that are especially captivating about dreams, rather than the sensory experience.

Waking life passions also control how imagery shifts; a desire causes you to do one thing, another desire causes you to do another, the body moves around in space, visual experience shifts...

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