I wanted to briefly revisit the topic of the Christian schizoid, as I hate when people present cavalier solutions to problems. I wanted to present a more practical approach.
In my first post, I primarily addressed the benefits of being a schizoid, particularly introversion and how it can be beneficial to one’s relationship to God. But I failed to address one of the primary aspects of schizoidism: the elaborate inner, fantasy life.
Think The Secret Life of Walter Mitty or The Seven Year Itch.
It is as if we have never outgrown the childhood tendency of having imaginary friends.
Schizoids actually craft entire worlds (complete with characters with rich personalities and back stories) in their heads. These fantasy worlds become so real that the schizoid sometimes reacts outwardly (audibly, verbally) to characters in these worlds. And these worlds become so exciting and the stories so epic that the schizoid actually begins to prefer the fantasy world to reality and often spends more time engaging with the characters in their heads than with real-life people.
One schizoid aptly describes it as such:
“Does anyone get lost in their own head to the point where they have trouble caring about reality?
“Let me explain the problem a bit. When it’s required, I can make myself work hard. I can study for weeks on end and pass all my college exams. However, once the exams are over and I don’t have to work hard anymore, I slip into a state where I just drift for weeks, doing nothing productive. I start reading books and fanfics and watching tv shows and I completely retreat into my own head. I still go about my days mechanically, leaving the house and attending lectures at school, but I spend all my time in my head, daydreaming. There I can live in various fictional worlds and imagine the adventures the characters from my books/shows have. I can spin a single story for days.
“My problem isn’t the blurring of reality and fantasy. I don’t have trouble distinguishing between those and I’m fully aware of what is real and what is not. My problem is that I willingly wade so deeply into my fantasy worlds that I start losing interest in the real world around me. My real life is terribly boring and I have trouble remembering why I should care about any of it when I can be slaying dragons in my head instead.”
Another schizoid describes it as such:
“We have a vivid fantasy life. Our fantasy relationships can have more vitality than our real relationships. Fantasy comes to take over from reality instead of enhancing it.”
Finally, another schizoid describes it as such (and her story very closely mirrors mine):
“I’ve been living in a fantasy world my entire life, and don’t know how to get out of it. It started when I was little. Actually, I don’t know when it started, as I’ve been doing this as long as I can remember. I’d stare out into space & create a fantasy world, full of characters that were very real to me. It started with fairies, princesses, and other fantastical things. Then, as I got older, it developed, into lifelike human beings, with histories and well-developed stories. I’d do this for hours every day…whenever I got a chance. It was an escape, which seemed harmless. The problem is I never grew out of it. Instead, it got worse and worse, and I’d develop the characters more and more.
“I had few friends & never spent much time with them or my family. I was so far into my own world that I never developed any empathy or connections with anyone. I never wished anyone any harm; I just didn’t know how to talk or feel anything for them. The only love & emotions I felt were for the people in my fantasy world.
“Now I’m 27, with still no friends, except for a few email friends. My relationships, friendships and romantic, have always been short-lived. I have no concept of fun, small talk, conversation, romance, or any emotions. I live my life largely alone. I smile at passersby & strangers think I’m shy and nice…but I’m boring as when you get to know me I just have nothing to say…and soon my distance becomes obvious & so people leave.
“I’m so old that I have no idea how to start learning basic communication skills or even if that’s possible. I see things in such a simple, cold, direct way. I find the shortest path to every place I go. I dream of love but have never felt it, not even for family or friends. Now, my boyfriend just left me again because he wants romance. I do, too…but it’s so far just a dream. With nothing else to do, I’m looking for a diagnosis. It would at least give me some peace of mind to know this isn’t my fault. How can a mistake I made when I was a child–dreaming too much–have made my life this way?”
Schizoidism becomes problematic for Christian schizoids as they may end up spending more time in their imaginary worlds, with their imaginary characters, than with God.
Now, do not get me wrong: An inner fantasy life has its benefits, especially for creative individuals. I am a published fiction writer and the larger-than-life characters in my head sometimes make their way into my stories. These characters have to be interesting, sweet, funny, passionate, vulnerable, broken, real. If these characters become so real that I truly care about them, care about what happens to them, then perhaps my readers will care about them as well.
The problem arises when the characters get stuck in my head!
Method actors experience a similar problem: They take on their characters (their emotions, their psyches) so intensely that they have a hard time extricating themselves from the character’s life and emotions even after filming ends. I have heard that Vivien Leigh suffered a mental decline after filming A Streetcar Named Desire, as she had difficulty extracting herself from the tormented character Blanche DuBois.
Method actors can lose themselves in the minds of their characters.
Schizoids can get lost in their own heads, in their fantasy worlds.
Sometimes when I am trying to pray or study the Bible, these characters and their worlds will keep popping into my head and sometimes it is hard to get them out. Focusing my mind on the Lord and on His Word can feel like trying to tame a bronco!
The Word of God gives us some guidance:
2 Corinthians 10
3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:
4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)
5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.
19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:
20 these are the things which defile a man…
The thought of foolishness is sin…
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
I do not believe, based on these scriptures, that the schizoid should just allow her/his thoughts to roam willy nilly. Clearly, the Lord expects us to spend the bulk of our time thinking on Him and on His Word, and He expects us to cast down ungodly thoughts and imaginations.
Now, this might not be an overnight success story. Most schizoids will tell you that they have had these fantasy worlds for as long as they can remember, since childhood.
My mind has been wandering into fantasy more than usual lately; this could be due to the isolated area in which I’m currently residing (I’m also teleworking, so my contact with the outside world has severely diminished).
But, it occurred to me today that, rather than bringing my schizoid problem to the feet of Jesus, I’ve just been sort of trying to manage it on my own. Jesus loves us and He already knows that this is an area with which we struggle. So, rather than just trying to make do, why not talk to Him about it? Why not pray about it?
As I stated in my previous post, immersing oneself in God’s Word and being ever filled with His Holy Spirit are essential. We need to cast down imaginations and replace those thoughts with scripture. We remain in perfect peace only if we continue to meditate upon Christ and scripture. Finally, can we truly find anything more true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and worthy of praise, upon which to think, than Christ and His Word?!
Let us not forget the Lord’s command:
Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
If I am spending more time with the fantasy characters in my head than with the Lord Jesus Christ, this is idolatry.
If I prefer the company of my imaginary friends to the companionship of the Lord Jesus Christ, this is idolatry.
Jesus is a jealous God!
For thou shalt worship no other god: for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God…
So, through prayer, the Word, and the ministration of the Holy Spirit, the Christian schizoid needs to begin pulling out of the fantasy world and into reality, real fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
This will not necessarily be an easy task as schizoidism can be so deeply ingrained in an individual for 20+ years. It is the only world we have ever known and the only world in which we have ever felt comfortable.
But Christ said, “With God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26).
As cool and awesome as the characters in our heads might be, Jesus is a trillion times cooler and more awesome!
He is jealous, He loves us, and He’s waiting to spend time with us. Jesus is not going to share us with anyone, including the people in our heads!
Song of Solomon 2:10
My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.
14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;
15 And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
16 For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.
17 Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.
18 For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.