Can brains explode?

My brain feels full, like it is going to burst. It is like an overflowing bucket, under seige from hundreds of cackling goblins pouring more water into it – or a super volcano lurking ominously below the surface, threatening to burst at any moment.

So I found myself wondering if brains can actually explode. If you keep pouring stuff into your brain, can it really accommodate it or will it just pop? Well, realistically, what is most likely to happen when your head is full and showing signs of leakage is that you will get stressed out, anxious, depressed, and find it impossible to sleep. In fact, insomnia is the equivalent of the leaking water from my bucket brain – what won’t sink in during the day seeps out at night.

But this is all a bit serious isn’t it? What you want to know is whether brains can explode. Alarmingly, it seems they can. Wikipedia says:

Exploding head syndrome is a parasomnia condition that causes the sufferer occasionally to experience a tremendously loud noise as originating from within his or her own head, usually described as the sound of an explosion, roar, gunshot, loud voices or screams, a ringing noise, or the sound of electrical arcing (buzzing).

Wow, that sounds truly disturbing. My own brain, while struggling to contain its wriggling, hyperactive contents, at least stops short of blasting me senseless with unexpected loud noises. 

Moving on from explosions, here is my second big question: do brains have a mind of their own?

Sounds like a riddle, but here’s why I ask – my brain does things I don’t want it to do. It is both my greatest attribute and my worst enemy. A day and night with my brain is like going on a wild ride on a magic bus driven by a chimpanzee. You just never know where you will end up. It could be somewhere sublime or hilarious, or dark and terrifying. It could be an alpine meadow with blue skies and singing larks, or it could be a freezing cave, swarming with unseen terrors.

My brain thinks of things that other people don’t think of. It thinks of things I’m not even sure I’ve thought of myself. And while this can be an exciting blessing when it’s on good form, it’s bad news when its evil twin comes to town. Let’s call this evil twin Paul Brookes – the twisted, misspelt alter-ego of the real me, Paul Brook.

Paul Brookes takes the vivid imagination of his almost-namesake and crafts big, fat lumps of worry from it. He finds a hint of self-doubt and gleefully magnifies it. He unearths unhelpful memories and plays them on repeat. Nasty Paul Brookes.

Brookes is a hungry boy. He always wants feeding. He is like the biggest bird with the most wide-open beak in the nest, guzzling twice his share of caterpillars while his sibling shivers behind him, squawking feebly.

But – and forgive me for going back to my Star Wars analogies – Brookes’s powers are weakening. A new hope, the mentally malnourished Brook, is slowly rising from the shadows. His time will come. Before then, there are mighty battles to be fought.

If there’s going to be an explosion, I fully intend Brookes to be first in the firing line. Especially as, reading this back, he has made me sound like Gollum from the Lord of the Rings books.

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11 Comments on “Can brains explode?”

  1. Gary says:

    Hi mate, this maybe no use, but thought I would send anyway as it’s something that has helped me.

    All our brains are dysfunctional to different degrees. And, its’ not our fault. It’s a symptom of the way we live today. Although not our fault, we can take responsibility for clearing up the mess and gain authority over the situation. Replaying an event which we took to heart (in a negative way) is one of the commonest ways we mess up our heads. Not only do we replay the event, but we begin to embellish it with other things which inflate the thought and feelings about the thought way out of proportion. This can be more prominent in creative people, as there imaginations are very fertile.

    Fact: You are not what you observe.

    The part of you which observes the thoughts come and go in your mind is not who you really are. For example, lets say, you were a mirror in which all the things in your life are reflected. It’s quite common to become so strongly attached to the reflection, that we feel emotionally pulled, pushed, dropped and kicked by life. However, if one keeps in mind you are the mirror, not the reflection, life will not seem to be such a roller coaster ride. Once you realise this, all things reflected in you can be enjoyed, or simply observed.

    Take care my friend, see you soon for our Moroccan night out – ‘show us your kaftan’ – wayhay! 🙂

  2. Jen Summers says:

    Pablo – you know only too well that my brain does whatever the flip it likes on a regular basis :o) So I feel your pain.

    But aha… I have a solution. It’s a perspective thing. Of late, I have given myself permission to not do things: I don’t have to be perfect, I don’t have to impress people all the time, I don’t have to stay in the job etc etc

    Sounds bleedin’ obvious doesn’t it. But somehow it’s taken the pressure off me. Nothing is set in stone after all eh. And nothing needs to be perfect, in fact nothing can be. And to go all deep and meaningful (or even more so) someone once said to me when I was even more bonkers than usual: “Forget about perfection. It’s the cracks in things that let in the light.”

    Right – enough introspection for a Friday lunchtime. I’m off to talk cack to someone ;o) xx

  3. Jo says:

    I am a huge fan of your writing Paul. I love reading your blog, you are so honest and open and I really admire and respect that. You are one of the nicest people I know too. Keep the blogs coming…you are fab.

  4. […] brain full of negative thoughts, anger and worries that destroyed my concentration and memory and kept me […]

  5. […] with myself – often in the morning, and most commonly in my own company. The dark powers and over-thinking can take over for a while, but, like invading orcs, hungry trolls or sly goblins, they can be […]

  6. […] with myself – often in the morning, and most commonly in my own company. The dark powers and over-thinking can take over for a while, but, like invading orcs, hungry trolls or sly goblins, they can be […]

  7. […] head, which means anything new trying to get into my headspace feels like an intruder. Sometimes my brain is so full, it overflows and I get […]

  8. […] particularly in some social situations; the bursts of anger and moods that blacken quickly; and the restless brain that chunters on to itself at random intervals during the day and […]


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