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Psychosis-like state when working?

  1. Apr 12, 2010 #1
    Hi there. Sorry if this sounds corny, but do you find that when you're doing especially abstract work, you enter a state where you lose contact with all reality and start to believe crazy things? Alternatively, do you find that you spend most for your time with your "head in the clouds", and while concrete, tangible tasks are boring and worthless to you (i.e., tiny details are not your specialty), anything requiring you to view things in the "big picture" is a cakewalk? Do you get most of your energy from being abstracted away from everything, working on a great idea, and only "coming down" when a natural urge forces you to?

    Sorry if this sounds like I'm nuts, but I'm coming to terms with the fact that this is actually how I have been most of my life. I love designing/implementing software and doing math, but abhor anything requiring lots of irrelevant details (which, I guess, makes programming seem a little inappropriate, but whatever). I'm just wondering if anyone else feels this way.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 12, 2010 #2


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    No, I'm a detail person. Thwe "big picture" is the conception of the idea, but if you can't work out the tiny details that actually make it work, you're in trouble. I think it takes both types of thinkers to acheive success.
  4. Apr 12, 2010 #3

    Oh, totally. I hope I didn't come off like I was shunning the myriad of details we need every day just to function, let alone achieve something! Obviously, if you have a pattern but no concrete parts to place into that pattern, what you've become is an "abstraction astronaut" who will never achieve anything worthwhile. Of course, everyone has to deal with both sides of the coin, but when it comes down to it, I much prefer abstract playthings to the real world. Maybe I'm wired weird, or maybe I'm just lazy. :smile:
  5. Apr 12, 2010 #4


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    I don't know if it's quite what you're describing, but when I do a lot of abstract thinking my verbal skills suffer.

    For example, at the end of a long study session, I can still be fairly sharp with math skills. But speaking can be difficult. Often, several times during a conversation, I have a hard time trying to find a specific word. I know this happens to everyone from time to time, but spending a lot of time doing math seems to trigger it, for me.
  6. Apr 12, 2010 #5
    This is somewhat similar to what I experience, but for me, most of my time is spent like this. I can breeze through abstract work in minutes, but you can ask me the day of the week and I'll be confused (this happened once, and it was quite embarrassing!). I do experience the difficulty with crafting words you mention, and what usually happens to me is I'll think of the concept/imagery of what I want to say fairly quickly, but I can't map them to words that make any sense in time.

    I think this whole discussion is fairly interesting. I do wonder what causes one person to have a predisposition towards details, and another to prefer the abstract.

    [As an aside, I just remembered that with forum software it's redundant to put the name of the person you're replying to in your reply. Doh!]
  7. Apr 12, 2010 #6


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    I hate details. I would write a test, check it over in a hurry, and then not worry about the many marks I lost for not showing my work, or thinking that 4*0=4, or something like that. I'd write a program, then fix whatever mistakes after finding out (inevitably) that it doesn't work.
  8. Apr 12, 2010 #7
    Sounds like me. (: Once I get the overall idea out of the way, the rest is easy. Although, in some ways, going back and filling in the details afterwards is rewarding (seeing your ideas with all the right pieces plugged in is better than just a skeleton).
  9. Apr 12, 2010 #8


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    Sounds like your left and right brains are not used to communicating. There are probably exercises you can do that will get them talking more.
  10. Apr 12, 2010 #9
    That freaks me out, just a little bit. :eek: What freaks me out more is that makes a lot of sense. Anything you would suggest?

    "Mom, guess what I learned today?"
    "What, dear?"
    "My brain is broken. It doesn't talk with itself. How do I make it nice again?"
  11. Apr 13, 2010 #10

    Depends what you define as reality. When you working towards something scientific you are hopefully going for more of truth then I don't understand how you will lose contact with reality when you are understanding it more.

    I don't get any weird thoughts but I tend to be very flexible with abstraction (to the point that I start finding those things beautiful) and at the same time putting that abstraction into application (Engineering).
  12. Apr 13, 2010 #11
    I was told once that if I understood quantum mechanics that I do not really grasp it.
    That is, that there is an inherent "non-intuitiveness" to it.
    For myself, I also experienced that phenomenon when getting too deep into "religious" inquiry.
  13. Apr 13, 2010 #12
    well, the brain, just like eyesight, can only focus on one thing at a time, and the more intense the concentration on an area, the more peripheral 'things' are, the less they will be included in thought (or vision).

    If you've ever stared at object, without glancing off of it, you'll notice that those things out of the 'area' that you're staring at will become more and more unfocused. The brain works about the same way.

    The ability to train the brain to 'switch' from being very focused on something to 'something' else, can be done through training.

    From what I've read, different substances are produced in the body that intensify that 'feeling' you're talking about----like chanting a mantra, or like in meditation.
  14. Apr 19, 2010 #13
    What would you say about the possibility that they think what you call the big picture/abstract is really to them just the details and what you think are details is what they think is creative/the big big picture?

    This is a thought experiment of why I entertain the possibility. When you look at an apple, most think the big picture is "apple". However, if there's a person who seems a little nerdy to the side saying, "It's red. It's round...." you'd probably think they're a details thinker? You're not going to think he's creative, especially if he goes off on a tangeant talking about the history of the color red and the exact years. Correct?

    Now let's say that person studies colors for a living? To him that apple is a boring here and now detail, while the color red is a much bigger universal big picture. It's much more abstract than that extremely boring apple detail which will be gone in 5 minutes. In 5 years from now the color red will still be around and those people who think "apple" are really just here and now details thinkers. The same if he studies shapes for a living, thinking "It's round". Could it be that those who aren't familar with nor care about physics and math think the same thing about physicists? If there's a high school basketball player playing a game, the big picture is the game. The economics behind it are details in the background, even if economics is much more universal. The same for the physics and mathematics that happen when the basketball player makes a jump shot. Those physics are boring uncreative details. It doesn't matter how much of a revolutionary idea someone comes up with in physics, he still thinks it's a nitty gritty detail in the background. As far as seeing the forest from the trees, if the high school basketball player thinks too much about physics, he won't see the forest from the trees and then loosethe game. However, from the physicist point of view the basketball game is a here and now detail while physics is a bigger picture. Economists think the same about what they study.

    When you look at your electric razor in the morning, most think that's the big picture. The engineering techniques used, although more universal in how they affect society, is just a detail in the background. The same for the electric laws of nature, and so on. However, the big picture versus details I would think is the reverse for those specialists, they think you're the here and now detail while they are the lucky ones to be "big picture people".
  15. Apr 19, 2010 #14
    Another way of looking at things, when you see your dad, do you think his name first? What if someone told you to first think "person" or "animal" since those are more universal broad concepts and that you want to be a big picture thinker? To you "person" and "animal" are details while your dad's name is the big picture. Then the reverse, you go into the ocean and see fish? "Fish" is the big picture while the species is the detail. Then the fish expert think it's the reverse.

    So who is the abstract big picture thinker, and who's the details thinker? That is thee question.
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