“This usually occurs at the moment when my head hits the pillow at night; my eyes close and … I see imagery. I do not mean pictures; more usually they are patterns or textures, such as repeated shapes, or shadows of shapes, or an item from an image, such as grass from a landscape or wood grain, wavelets or raindrops … transformed in the most extraordinary ways at a great speed. Shapes are replicated, multiplied, reversed in negative, etc. Color is added, tinted, subtracted. Textures are the most fascinating; grass becomes fur becomes hair follicles becomes waving, dancing lines of light, and a hundred other variations and all the subtle gradients between them that my words are too coarse to describe.”
― Oliver Sacks,
Hallucinations is by Oliver Sacks
Hallucinations are often seen as a sign of madness or mental disorders but, in fact, can occur for a variety of reasons. There are conditions where when one is going deaf they have auditory hallucinations. Similarly, when they are going blind, people can have visual hallucinations. In the twilight stages of before we fall asleep and just before we wake hallucinations are equally possible. I have, for example, heard my name called as I am falling asleep. And seen visual phenomena. Heard a conversation going on but couldn’t understand the words. He does discuss sleep paralysis as well, which I have experienced… the sensation someone is in the room, the feeling someone is grabbing me. Conditions such as migraines and epilepsy can cause varied hallucinations. I have had an auditory aura of hearing a music box playing as a migraine hallucination. Visual auras called scintillating scotomas, objects that appear to be moving or shifting when they are not, flashes of color, phosphenes and quite a few other visual phenomena. All of these and more are covered in the book making the topic of hallucinations less stigmatized.
Why did I pick it up: I picked this one up because of my insomnia, sleep paralysis and migraines I am very aware of how bizarre things can get and our brains can play tricks on us. I was curious about what he had to say on the matter.
What is good about the book:
It is fascinating. Absolutely fascinating. He gives personal examples and examples of patients to enhance the explanations of each condition. It makes it fluid and not a dry read. It is naturally in-depth on the topic but not bogged down with the science, just enough to be quite accessible to any reader. Frankly, the way he explores the topic really reduces the stigma on hallucinations since there is a broad spectrum of reasons one can have them from Phantom Limb, Parkinson’s treatment to sensory deprivation. Exploring the nuances between the variations makes for one hell of a read.
The topic fascinates me as I have had some weird migraine auditory hallucinations and sleep disturbances. I look forward to reading Migraine which goes into a lot more detail into the migraine phenomena. I highly recommend this read.