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The dark side of ego loss – what it’s like to disappear into depersonalisation

Warning: this film features rapidly flashing images that can be distressing to photosensitive viewers.

Ego loss is often characterised as an enlightened and contented state – the purview of such soul-searchers as deep meditators, psychonauts and ardent Buddhists. But as some people who struggle with anxiety understand all too well, the perpetual feeling of self-dissolution known as depersonalisation can be one of the nastiest manifestations of their disorder. The condition involves a harrowing feeling of detachment from oneself that can arise in an instant, sometimes last for years, and is often accompanied by a derealisation, in which the world appears strange and surreal.

In this short film, the French-Canadian filmmaker and set designer Jean-François Boisvenue explores how a lifetime of precarious mental health culminated in an excruciating period of depersonalisation in his early 20s. Using animated light displays projected onto his body to convey his sense of discord, Boisvenue recalls how depersonalisation swept over him, upending his sense of self and reality for months before he was able to heal.

Director: Jean-François Boisvenue

Website: La Distributrice

2 February 2021

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