good friday: the lament of catholic guilt and hypnagogic hallucinations, part 1

I was baptized and raised in the Catholic church. If you, my dearest reader, can momentarily put aside your own thoughts on organized religion and its merits/detractions, then I hope you can at least recognize that reenactments of the crucifixion are graphic and potentially disturbing for a young child. I don’t even remember going a Good Friday event in the Philippines, but my family has photos to prove we attended at least one of them. I have never been able to shake the scene depicted on one of those photos: a man, shirtless and ragged, his face hooded and covered in muslin, carrying a large and heavy cross, doubled over, blood streaming from the growing welts on his back that were self-inflicted by flagellation.

In one way, I get the lasting power seeing these moments can have on one’s faith: the suffering you see in front of you is real, it’s apparent, and is meant to remind you of Christ’s suffering and sacrifice.


It’s also SCARY AS FUCK. It’s a visceral and highly graphic reminder of the effect that our sins have on the self and on others. And provided you have a conscience, the concept of sin is fully impressed upon you forever, regardless of your spiritual path. My deeply personal beliefs on spirituality have changed over the decades, but sin has always found a place to hide in the corner of my mind. Just out of reach, but close enough that it can intrude the fuzzy grey area between sleep and wakefulness. Enough to keep me fully aware of the possibility of dark and evil things I could not even begin to understand awake, let alone while dreaming.

Anyway, what does all this have to do with hypnagogic hallucinations or narcolepsy?

Hypnagogic hallucinations have a wonderful talent of rooting out your most deep-seated fears, mine usually involve a demon of sorts or the angry gaze from a Jesus statue (more on this in a future post). Not only are these fears put on full display for you without your consent, but you’re also likely to literally be paralyzed and unable to shake yourself into full wakefulness during the event.

So, it’s easy to say I’ve never not been terrified of demons or ghosts or evil entities. I am interested in what other PWN see when they have these episodes.



2 Replies to “good friday: the lament of catholic guilt and hypnagogic hallucinations, part 1”

  1. I’ve seen a demon.. this is actually when I realized oh my god something is wrong because I was also paralyzed (this was 2 years ago in undergrad). I had no idea what was going on, but to say I was scared was a major understatement- I
    thought I was being possessed because I felt like I was having a seizure as well. I knew this couldn’t be the case because I always go unconscious when having a full blown seizure so all I could think was to fight off the demon so that I wouldn’t be possessed. The next morning I warned my suitemates because I didn’t want them to have to experience it. I couldn’t think of a reason why it occurred though. All was good for a couple of months until I went to grad school and then literal hell way more frequently (the stress of grad school shouldn’t play a factor as it is way easier than undergrad I was doing 2 majors in undergrad). Anyway I was having hypnagonic hallucinations and another kind like I would hear things before going to bed- arguments screaming, but like not in my head as if it was in another room. Basically talking to this to multiple professionals neurologist, counselor, psychiatrist, and finally a sleep specialist they all believe narcolepsy is a possibly especially because I am tired all the time. I am having a sleep study done in December to find out for sure, but I’m nervous I guess.

    • Just before falling asleep, I sometimes hear someone saying something into my ear and it scares the crap out of me. The demons/scary stuff that I’ve experienced are more accurately hypnopomphic hallucinations – I wake up with this scary image/situation and I’m completely paralyzed. All i can do is keep my eyes closed and hope I fall asleep soon.

      When you learn more about narcolepsy, it’s fascinating how many sleep disturbances are linked: hallucinations, acting out dreams (I do this a LOT, it’s different from sleepwalking), extremely vivid dreams, microsleeps.

      best of luck in getting some answers! I have done a sleep study twice now and it’s definitely a strange experience, but being able to get definitive answers does feel good. even though i knew that i’d be diagnosed with narcolepsy (i dreamed during some of my MSLT naps), hearing it from the sleep doctor herself made me feel a little depressed and hopeless. using this blog and being able to share stuff with people like you has been super helpful, though! i will be following along on your journey.

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