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Excerpts from Henri-Frédéric Amiel's Journal

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#1 Riah


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Posted 05 March 2014 - 11:24 PM

Hey everyone, the following paragraphs are exerpts I like from Henri-Frédéric Amiel's journal. He was a Swiss philosopher in the 19th century and appears to have suffered from Depersonalization. Reading them makes me feel a little less alone so I thought I'd share them with you guys.


July 8, 1880

Is the life of mind something like that of great trees of immemorial growth? Is the living layer of consciousness super-imposed upon hundreds of dead layers? Dead? No doubt this is too much to say, but still, when memory is slack the past becomes almost as though it had never been. To remember that we did know once is not a sign of possession but a sign of loss; it is like the number of an engraving which is no longer on its nail, the title of a volume no longer to be found on its shelf. My mind is the empty frame of a thousand vanished images. Sharpened by incessant training, it is all culture, but it has retained hardly anything in its meshes. It is without matter, and is only form. It no longer has knowledge; it has become method. It is etherealized, algebraicized. Life has treated it as death treats other minds; it has already prepared it for a further metamorphosis. Since the age of sixteen onward I have been able to look at things with the eyes of a blind man recently operated upon—that is to say, I have been able to suppress in myself the results of the long education of sight, and to abolish distances; and now I find myself regarding existence as though from beyond the tomb, from another world; all is strange to me; I am, as it were, outside my own body and individuality; I am depersonalized, detached, cut adrift. Is this madness? No. Madness means the impossibility of recovering one's normal balance after the mind has thus played truant among alien forms of being, and followed Dante to invisible worlds. Madness means incapacity for self-judgment and self-control. Whereas it seems to me that my mental transformations are but philosophical experiences. I am tied to none. I am but making psychological investigations. At the same time I do not hide from myself that such experiences weaken the hold of common sense, because they act as solvents of all personal interests and prejudices. I can only defend myself against them by returning to the common life of men, and by bracing and fortifying the will.


February 18, 1881.

Although just now the sense of ghostly remoteness from life which I so often have is absent, I feel myself a prisoner for good, a hopeless invalid. This vague intermediate state, which is neither death nor life, has its sweetness, because if it implies renunciation, still it allows of thought. One is not sure whether one still exists, still belongs to earth. It is like the shadows, flitting through the twilight. Existence has become fluid. From the standpoint of complete personal renunciation I watch the passage of my impressions, my dreams, thoughts, and memories.... It is a mood of fixed contemplation akin to that which we attribute to the seraphim. It takes no interest in the individual self, but only in the sample of the general history of mind. Everything is in everything, and the consciousness examines what it has before it. Nothing is either great or small. The mind adopts all modes, and everything is acceptable to it. In this state its relations with the body, with the outer world, and with other individuals, fade out of sight. 


March 21, 1881.— For five or six weeks now I have done nothing else but wait, nurse myself, and amuse myself, and how weary one gets of it! What I want is work. It is work which gives flavor to life. Mere existence without object and without effort is a poor thing. Idleness leads to languor, and languor to disgust. Besides, here is the spring again, the season of vague desires, of dull discomforts, of dim aspirations, of sighs without a cause. We dream wide-awake. We search darkly for we know not what; invoking the while something which has no name, unless it be happiness or death.


March 28, 1881.—I cannot work; I find it difficult to exist. One may be glad to let one's friends spoil one for a few months; it is an experience which is good for us all; but afterward? How much better to make room for the living, the active, the productive. 

Is it that I care so much to go on living? I think not. It is health that I long for—freedom from suffering.



#2 Riah


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Posted 06 March 2014 - 03:16 PM

I know, he details his experience so intricately and precisely, and so poetic. Reading how eloquently he describes depersonalization makes me understand mine a bit better, and feel less alone.


Does it say whether he recovered? Would be pretty neat.


He may not have had time to become fully recovered, his journal ends with 


April 19, 1881.—A terrible sense of oppression. My flesh and my heart fail me.

#3 TDX


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Posted 16 June 2016 - 11:42 AM

In fact he is the inventor of the term depersonalization.

#4 dissoziation


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Posted 16 June 2016 - 01:20 PM

Thought I'd ressurect an old thread. I like the quote; "...now I find myself regarding existence as though from beyond the tomb, from another world; all is strange to me; I am, as it were, outside my own body and individuality; I am depersonalized, detached, cut adrift. Is this madness?" First read that in the book Feeling Unreal.


I saw this quote a couple of days ago when I was on the page for depersonalization on Wikipedia. I thought that this was so cool when I saw this quote, and I'm glad that the other excerpts from his journal are on here.

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