Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Comments by fourth-horse

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  • This is a fascinating article, and it’s really helping me to broaden my view of the range of what’s possible within human consciousness and perception. Also fascinating are the long and well-thought-out responses. It’s a conversation I’m really interested in. Is there any such thing as “normal” experience? How much difference does our attitude make when our perceptions go outside the range of our previous experience? I’m going out on a limb to connect the ideas in this article with my own philosopy of healing through self-acceptance.
    I don’t actually have experience either with taking psychedelics or having perceptual distortions, but I have been making my own journey of healing from childhood trauma and delusional thinking, after decades of frustration with therapists and drugs that didn’t help out with the chaos going on in my mind.
    I have become interested in the healing possibilities of psychedelics; in particular, I just read Michael Pollan’s “How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence”. From that book I got a sense that taking psychedelics can lead to a significant shift of perspective that has the possibility to lead to healing from depression, alcoholism, PTSD, and other mental illness.
    One major point made by Pollan is that your attitude going into taking psychedelics makes a huge difference in whether you have a positive or negative experience so it’s important to have an experienced “tripmaster” to create a calm and relaxing setting for your trip, and to provide support for whatever you go through.
    Taking a psychedelic drug, as I understand it, can throw you way outside your normal experience and put you in a vulnerable position. This is what makes it possible to heal by becoming aware of repressed memories and integrating them, but it can also leave you open to further trauma if you are in a stressful situation.
    In an otherwise unsuccessful experience with an EMDR therapist, there was one kernel of wisdom I picked up–“whatever comes up in your thoughts is OK”. This seems to resonate with values of compassion and radical acceptance, which are at the core of Buddhist thought. I had tried meditation, but I would constantly judge myself and make myself miserable. Somehow I found a way to just witness my thoughts zinging around and hurling insults at me but not freak out. Over time, it seemed that I was reaching into earlier experiences and revisiting them, like old-school analysis. Can you analyze yourself? It’s worth a try, and it’s a lot cheaper than therapy!
    So how does this apply to flashbacks? I propose that it goes back to your attitude. The distress doesn’t come from the perceptual distortions themselves but from your reaction to them, just like your experience of taking psychedelics has a lot to do with the setting.
    I know this can sound like blaming the victim, and heaven knows my inner judges have been constantly harping “It’s your fault you’re depressed, if you just changed your attitude you wouldn’t feel this way”. It’s been hard for me to learn NOT to judge myself, to say instead something like “I see that I’m upset, and I’m reacting to it by harsh self-judgement”. One way of getting to this sort of awareness would be to go for a walk for 2 or 3 hours. As I walked, I would be more aware of some of my childhood experiences that were connected with my internal voices. I might still be in that space and experience sadness, fear or anxiety, but I learned that this was part of the process. It somehow felt real, and it felt like I was slowly coming to an understanding of different parts of myself, and making a truce with them. It’s hard to explain how I worked this out–there’s a lot of twists and turns, with no magical formula. For an impatient person like me, it’s not easy.
    I hope for anyone else who is living inside a mind which is upsetting them that they can find some kind of healing process. I realize that sometimes circumstances and the people around you can make that really challenging, and my answer might look way different from the answer that works for someone else.
    Wishing all of you peace.