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A very, very important topic. Thank you so much for writing this piece.
PS: Here is another interesting link, a video from MAPS: http://vimeo.com/94015594
I would like to comment here to point out, as it seems to me others have as well, that psychedelic therapy, at least as they have been used in specific subsets of psychiatry and psychology – humanistic and transpersonal – work arguably in a very different way than “traditional” psychiatric drugs. In that they do not “numb” a person to their distress; it allows rather a more unfettered access to the distress, thus allowing for an often more rapid and complete processing of the psychological pain and assumptions causing the distress, and thus clearing of the “symptoms”.
As modern, initial research with MDMA with PTSD shows (http://www.maps.org/research/mdma), often only a few sessions with MDMA (the effective ingredient in “ecstacy”) coupled with psychotherapy can be effective in taking drastic steps toward the healing PTSD.
That being said, it can be very dangerous to do psychedelics like MDMA without caring people with personal experience of these states around you who can – if it comes to it – restrain you physically if you come in touch with very deep parts of your psyche containing aggression or deep anxiety; or at least provide an anchor to ordinary reality, and to take care of the physical needs of your body. I also think it can be dangerous to take these substances without being in the presence of people who know and have personal experiences with them, as profound, life-altering realisations can occur under the influence of them. Futher, it seems some people can become triggered to such an extent by psychedelics – perhaps people now labelled as having “psychotic disorders” or “anxiety disorders” that they would require a prolonged protective setting around them for them to be able to integrate the experience properly and return to the needs of their physical reality. For this subset of people, perhaps a few isolated psychedelic trips might do much more harm than good, and they ought not to engage with psychedelics until they can be provided with hospital-like quality and quantity of care.
One “community” which induces “non-ordinary states of consciousness” without the use of psychedelics is the community of Holotropic Breathwork. There are groups who offer workshops in this in Europe, USA, Russia, Australia, and I think elsewhere as well. This is a kind of community where experiences and insights might be processsed without having to be labelled “crazy” by misled mainstream psychiatrists. Also, there is an essential social component to this practice, which involves sharing ones experiences in deeply humane, warm-hearted settings. I don’t think it can be stressed enough the importance of a trustworthy social setting with certified, experienced people when undergoing induced extreme states.
I do think it would be literally disasterous if science did not take a very hard look at psychedelics and their potential for healing a lot of our human wounds. If you read the work of Stan Grof, for instance, you get the sense that the ideal approach to psychedelic psychotherapy is precisely one that allows for unconscious content to arise, with psychedelics functioning rather like an “initiator” of an awakening of the unconsious – indeed the literal meaning of “psychedelic” is “mind manifesting”, or “mind revealing.”
Before we judge the onset of research into substances like LSD, psilocybin, MDMA, ayahuasca and more, we ought to really explore the literature around this subject with an open minded and critical attitude. I personally believe if we do, psychiatry and psychology will undergo a revolution in the way it treats “mental illness”; away from a “disease model” to a more humane, humanistic and even spiritual view of human distress. This may be several years up the road, however.
Please reply to my comment if you have literature which suggests otherwise, or have objections to what I wrote.
Here are several sources that can be explored.
1. http://thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/volume-27/edition-9 – an edition that focuses on psychedelics.
4. Stan Grof interview for the movie “Crazywise”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CDlY5OcU_rI
6. Additionally, a trailer for the movie “Crazywise” which explores, it seems to me, the often spiritual content of mental states labelled as “psychosis”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDks1H2bzbo
Wishing you all well
I live in Oslo, and I was excited to see that there is at least one person in Oslo, or at the very least Norway, who writes about this. Kuddos to you. Thank you.
I stumbled upon this video of a Norwegian lecturer on my facebook-page today, and immeditately I thought: wow, I really hope this catches on and spreads throughout this country. The lecturer talks about Open Dialogue in Norway.
Here is the link: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/53754553
My own interest lie not only with open dialogue and such approaches to therapy, but also to include the spiritual perspective in therapy. I believe therapy cannot be a complete package for “sick” people unless it includes the spiritual aspect of the human being. I would like to mention a big name in this field: Stanislav Grof (The Stormy Search for the Self; Healing our Deepest Wounds). Perhaps you’ve heard of him.
I previously have some experience working in a psychiatric hospital, and it was an utterly depressing and deflating experience. I wanted to become a psychologist at one point, but I lost interest. There is so much bull**** in the mainstream field, to put it bluntly. But my interest in healing, self-development and spiritual growth remains, however; and I would love if these sorts of approaches would spread in Norway.
Check out the video!
Wishing you well.