Do Psychedelics Just Provide Comforting Delusions? | Vice.com

Shayla Love champions the approach of marrying psychedelic therapy with philosophy in so far as the ethical implications resulting from psychedelic experiences with their often life long lasting effects aren’t addressed anywhere so far. Moreover, the experiences under the influence of psychoactive agents is being considered to ’cause’ the outcomes that ‘psychonauts’ often report from these experiences. She and a number of committed researchers question that conjecture or rather: They’re suggesting that it required scientific investigation whether or not or to what extent this is truly the case.

Source: Do Psychedelics Just Provide Comforting Delusions?

For quite some time now and from looking deeply into psychedelic experiences and their therapeutic benefits as well NDEs and their dramatic aftereffects, and in particular from looking at a potential intersection of both, an unease has grown in me about the reasons for these changes in people, which often have them change their lives in dramatic ways, abandon former career paths, relationships, even marriages and pursuing a continued journey of self exploration as well as coaching others with that. In particular, the ‘mystic experience’ type has many ‘psychonauts’ drop their former belief systems – if they had any -, converts atheists into staunch ‘believers’ and reaffirms those having walked the various spiritual traditions resulting in even increased fervor of doing so. Bluntly put, it’s become increasingly annoying to me to read the same narrative over and over: People undergo their psilocybin, DMT or Ayahuasca ‘trip’ with or without a sitter, in a clinical or indigenous people’s setting, alone or with others and they ‘come back’ forever changed! And the overlap with NDEs and the often dramatic accounts of having met deceased relatives or religious figures, “archangels” or whatnot were striking to me in so far as they sounded like a different flavor of the same “treat”. And because the experiences typically exceed anything we’d get to encounter on a day-to-day waking consciousness basis, are “ineffable” and “impossible to put into words” that do them justice – as particularly NDErs don’t tire to reiterate –, it is hardly ever questioned or even just systematically looked into exactly of what nature these experiences are: Are they indeed hints to an underlying or “supernatural”/transcendental reality that encompasses our physical existence, are they indeed “proof of an afterlife” as Prof. emeritus Dr. Bruce Greyson purports (who has been investigating NDEs for several decades in his career and who came up with a scale measuring the depth of the experience), do they allow a sneak peek into what’s “really real”? Or are NDEs simply a different type of illusion very akin to psychedelic experiences? So far, I have only seen studies done by Imperial College, London, and another one at the University of Virginia, who provides a neurochemical model of Near Death Experiences (feel free to fill me in should I have missed similar studies from different sources). Both sound very plausible to my ears, I must say.

Plausible or not: The point is that it is typically accepted as a ‘given’ that the nature of both NDEs as well as mystical type experiences during psychedelic ‘trips’ are being taken ipso facto as “realer than real” or some ultimate reality which surpasses and indeed contains our day-to-day experience of life, our Earth, the Cosmos etc. Seriously? Based on which criteria should that be so? Because every single person having had such an experience tells us so? (and others typically don’t or not often confront them knowing full well that we so far lack a commonly agreed on framework for these experiences which would help to identify their significance with regard to our understanding of our world or more specifically: The human condition, human consciousness; particularly the latter is still very poorly – if at all – understood with one camp suggesting it was an ‘epiphenomenon‘ and others insisting consciousness was the ‘base substrate’ that permeates the cosmos – and everything in it.) So long as we haven’t found at least some common ground even with more mundane issues like e.g. whether or not there was free will in humans to begin with, how could we possibly tackle the more complex questions arising from psychedelic experiences and what I’ve come to believe to be a subset of the former, i.e. NDEs? (Fairly convincing work has been done on the correlation of a near death experience and psychedelics and how it is that NDEs produce such vivid imagery and “spiritual” experiences – and it had been my personal hunch all along, I will say).

So, I guess after … all in all an amount of time comprising decades of personal research into these phenomena complete with a NDE–’like’ experience of my own at only age four, I’d have to place myself in the camp of sceptics denouncing the possibility of an afterlife or any kind of ‘transcendental’ reality that awaits us when we die. I am not seeing that it was easy for me to contend, there are some major ethical and other implications one is somehow prompted to come to terms with. On the other hand, the evidence we have is not convincing to me, albeit I’m well aware of the super rich body of anecdotal reports from ‘survivors’ of NDEs and the likes. (I’d have to counter that very wording by saying: If you survived it, you weren’t dead, as death is an irreversible condition).

But to each their own. I just linked above article, because I thought it to be valuable in terms of making serious attempts of finding a base set of criteria that might help to put such experiences, extraordinary as they may be, in context and perspective. (Oh, and b.t.w.: I had two psychedelic experiences in the context of a clinical trial last year, none of which produced hallucinations, so they might qualify as that type of experience that is transformative to an extent (and therapeutically viable in that regard) minus the psychoactive/hallucinatory/mystical content that so many report and which some scientists quoted in the article call for.

Free free to see for yourself, if so inclined (I mean, the article 😉 )

Ethnographic Accounts of Ketamine Explorations in Psychedelic Culture, here: Kenneth Ring’s Frightening Ketamine Experience

Whoa! I think I am at liberty of giving myself permission to have incurred long lasting post-traumatic outcomes from my own “NDE–like” experience at age four in the context of surgery and when getting anesthesized with either truly Ketamine or a very similar anesthetic being used at the time (ca. 1970). As I have repeatedly mentioned in other blog entries, I still sometimes wake up with night terrors from this experience that I must have dissociated from for more than four decades until it instantaneously resurfaced in a huge flashback in October 2009, when I suddenly had the entire and complete memory of this experience return to my waking consciousness along with a knowing that I had indeed had something of a frightening NDE at that time, something I’d more recently and cautiously began referring to as an NDE–like experience after having immersed myself in the literature as early as age 14 – roughly in the mid 70ies and after Moody’s “Life after Life” had just been released – and with renewed determination and dedication of inner exploration and integration following my flashback in 2009.

I just finished reading the first part of this paper by the California Institute of Integral Studies issued in July 2014. (I’ll link to a downloadable version as I’m not sure about their rules on disseminating this paper publicly and can’t risk any copyright claims or any such thing). I’m likely to read the rest as well, but will give myself pause for tonight in another set of searches over the course of the last few days for information that might help me make sense of just what the heck it was I underwent – or should I more aptly say suffered – as a young boy when undergoing throat surgery. In cutting to the chase: Prof. emeritus Dr. Kenneth Ring of their department of Psychology at the University of Connecticut recounts several psychedelic sessions in the context of having gotten invited as a speaker at the Esalen Conference in June of 1985. Seeing as he had been a researcher of and expert on Near Death Studies for most of his career, he had been invited in that capacity. As seemed to be a culturally accepted custom during those times, him and other individuals involved with the conference or other research projects collectively underwent experiences on MDMA and Ketamine in private settings (with harm reducing measures in place, as I understand the paper). While most of his Ketamine induced experiences were of the “trippy” and near-ecstatic variety, he mentions one particular experience some time after Esalen – but in context with a personal encounter preceding and following it – that had him deeply disturbed with its contents and which he would be adversely affected by even until days later. (He also mentions in this paper and personal account that to this day – he’s 85 today – he had never forgotten the experience and the very disturbing contents it seemed to convey. Specifically, the nature of the common “dissolution of ego”, which Ketamine “trippers” notoriously seek out and subject themselves to, and where the latter is usually experienced as a state of ultimate bliss, this time Prof. Ring’s experience was radically different: He came away from it with a “message” or understanding that ultimately humans aren’t real, that we are rather led to believe we were, when in fact we are what he calls simulacra or to quote him about this part of his “trip”:

But only the images are real, not the people. We were no more than simulacra— the whole of existence was not as we supposed. Instead, it was empty—just full of moving images. Who or what was behind the projector? Nothing … . I am certain that I have never experienced anything more unnerving and psychologically destabilizing in my life. I felt that all points of ordinary reference and meaning had dissolved and that it left me, or what I had thought of as me, completely void.

Prof. Emeritus Kenneth Ring on an experience with a high dose of ketamine

Yikes and then some, no? This… idea of not only humans, but everything about life as we know it including Earth, other people, life events being a complete projection without any real basis or factual reality to it, such was the overwhelming and utterly terrifying nature of my experience as well – at effin’ age four for cryin’ out loud! If a seasoned “psychedelics veteran” at the time and grown man with a firm sense of identity coins this experience as nothing more unnerving he had ever experienced and [nothing else more] psychologically destabilizing, what the heck do you think it does to a four year old?! In fact, as I recalled the contents of this entire experience in this brutal flashback in 2009 with all the distressing somatic expressions most likely associated with it at the time I originally experienced it, not only was I given the message that humans didn’t really exist, but that nothing existed, had ever existed nor would ever exist! I was made to understand by some unseen, shapeless “entities” for lack of a better suitable word and in a telepathic kind of fashion that everything I had ever thought about myself, my life, my family, creation at large – to whatever extent I may have had a concept of the latter – was just that: A figment of “my” and in fact everyone’s imagination, a projection we are born with and allowed to believe in, which in fact is not based in reality and that in fact the whole of creation had …. never happened nor would ever happen! Oops… I guess, I should have issued a trigger warning…

Well, other than these semi-regular night terrors I still encounter every once in a while, each of which is really horrible to the umpteenth degree when it occurs and sees me waking up from my own screams of terror…, I don’t think that it affects my day-to-day “life” – or rather what’s left of it – much any more. And in fact, in trying to make sense of whether or not this very early experienced and dramatic “altered state of perception/consciousness” was either an NDE or something else, I am now more than ever leaning towards NDE–like. In fact, given my own experience as well as Prof. Ring’s contributions in the field and more recent research into the commonalities of NDEs and psychedelic experiences like e.g. this or this, still being the sceptic I’d take both phenomena for coming from the same realm of the human psyche and/or biology. To be more precise: I still don’t and simply can’t believe in an afterlife…; I rather take NDEs – spectacular as some may seem and as extraordinary as some of the experiences may be, just a hair shy of “proof” – for just that: An altered state of perception invoked by a “flood” of naturally produced chemicals in the brain, such as e.g. DMT, which make the process of “fading out” better bearable. Or to be even more “brass tacks” about the entire idea of an afterlife: I find this idea to be an utterly distressing one! What? Eternal consciousness and existence? That…to me… feels like the biggest trap one could find themselves in. It is entirely likely though that my personal position on the phenomen is … shall we say “clouded” by this early … “k-hole” experience I seem to have had.

Does that put my mind at ease? I don’t know. And frankly, I can’t care too much. Other traumatic events preceding that one have an ongoing grip on my soma and have produced complete incapacity. So… that latter part is what I’m dealing with on a daily basis and which reduces perceived quality of life dramatically. But then… I guess, I was “preaching to the choir”, right?

(P.S. I should note that having had two mostly very pleasant LSD experiences in the context of a clinical trial last year was very helpful in hopefully countering the outcomes of that early terrifying NDE–like “thing” – or such was my hope. Sadly, though, I had had another severe night terror not too long ago, so… I guess my hopes of “overriding” the memory by way of a happy “trip experience” did not manifest the aspired outcomes and lasting effect. Oh… bummer. However, in looking at the brighter side of things: At the very least I know from experience that such “oceanic feelings” do happen. And … that I can experience it as well, ideally without the use of still illegal substances… And yes, nature does it for me. So.. .that’s good, after all)

Difference in Action of Ketamine vs. Other Psychedelics? | Psychology Today (Annie Lennon)

Source: Charles Thonney/ Pixabay

And why this differences is important in considering use cases.

Source: How Does Ketamine Work Differently from Other Psychedelics? | Psychology Today

Here’s an article by Annie Lennon, co-authored by MD Dr. Jeffrey Becker, explaining how ketamine works very different in the brain when compared to other psychedelics like e.g. LSD, DMT or Psilocybin (the latter is the active agent in “magic mushrooms”). Her key points are:

  • Whereas ketamine works by relaxing the brain’s inhibitory architecture, psychedelics work by overriding it.
  • Because ketamine and psychedelics have different mechanism of action, they may be better suited for different use cases.

Psychedelics work to “relaxe” (ketamine) or “overwhelm” (other psychedelics) those brain functions that inhibit altered states of consciousness in our waking consciousness. In doing so the brain’s coordinated interplay of different brain regions gets temporarily disengaged or altered, thus invoking “profound insights” and “mind altering” states as typically reported by experiences of psychedelic substances. In above linked source Annie Lennon and Dr. Jeffrey Becker explain how ketamine works differently from other perception altering substances, which might make it therapeutically better suitable for conditions like unilateral chronic depression, anxiety disorders and/or trauma related symptoms.

The authors stress that “set and setting” are crucial with both given their fairly dramatic effects on the mind and psyche. (I can personally attest to it from two experiences with minor doses of LSD when participating in a clinical trial at UPK Basel last year.) More info in the link above along with URLs to related reading.

“Billy Fingers” Wouldn’t Approve of This (and others might neither)

Book cover image for the eponymous book

“Family drama is the first drama. And it’s got a lot of oomph.”

Billy “Fingers”, Annie Kagan’s late brother in “The Afterlife of Billy Fingers

Lately, I seem to gravitate towards stories about loss. There’s this one for example, or that Netflix series, both dealing with (fictitious) characters and how they cope with the loss(es) of a loved one. (spoiler: Mothers in both cases, a brother for the book). I am not exactly aware as to the why, but … I’d reckon that next to the loss of marriage, my former adult life in high tech and in an at least periodically fairly successful conventional career, I’m about to lose my bio family – for good this time. I’m not necessarily talking about physical loss/deaths, although given the age of both my parents one never knows, the likelihood for eventually fatal “happenings” is increasing given their 82 years of age each. No, I’m talking about really losing what frail bond there may have been to begin with. And it’s a bigger humdinger than I thought it would be as this will effectively make me an orphan – in the future and in retrospect.

I’ve been having this strange hunch of ending up like this for years seeing as I experienced major abandonment right in infancy, a mere two weeks into my young life, which left me chronically and in a major way traumatized to this very day. In fact, it wasn’t until about a month ago that I got fortunate of getting to find and “enlist” a real trauma therapist for the first time in my life. (and believe you me, I’ve been trying forever with increased commitment to finding help after 2008 when I first learned what my underlying condition actually was and what’s at the root of these many, many and again major problems I’ve been having throughout my younger and also adult life – to this very day so. Trouble forming and maintaining dependable, healthy, lasting relationships comes with the “program” of this very challenging condition next to a host of somatic symptoms each of which can and often does stop you right in your tracks… and may linger for any amount of time.)

But… I’m disgressing again. Family, right. Or loss thereof, rather, be(coming) an orphan of sorts (actually for real this time). I felt it coming and I had already and successfully severed ties in 2008 and following year. Until October 2009, when a major flashback had me emotionally relapse and regress to a four year old after waking up in a hospital bed and following minor facial surgery from a fall and laceration as well as concussion. In the aftermath, my sister encouraged me to start talking to my parents again and I guess, I must have taken this to be a good idea (although I had the very kind support of a longtime dear female friend, who took it upon her to drive two hours out from where she lives to come see me and support me; I guess, I could have pulled through if she had been able to stay for the night at my place home, but she wasn’t.). So the situation was that I had already divorced bio family from my life. And I felt better, relieved in a way, but also…. and of course… sad. However, the sadness veiled itself in anger, which I “coped” with by using all sorts of self medicating, naturally alcohol being the one which is always available and easiest to “stock up on”. And I have been doing so for years without really admitting it to myself. Was I getting off on a tangent again? I hope not as I believe all of this tying tightly into the various stages of trauma and post-traumatic grief, most often including varying degrees of addiction.

It isn’t until recently that I realized that my underlying massive rage, not just anger, is a morphed outcome of suppressed grief. For… the infant in that hospital bed was really fighting for his life and I had to do it alone as my family wasn’t allowed in. I had been quarantined for the first part of this as they suspected some kind of infection carried over from my mother’s pregnancy and needed to isolate me for fear of either contracting something else and/or infecting other young patients or whatever the medical rationale may have been. What mattered to me – and the body keeps the score, as Bessel van der Kolk succinctly showed – is:

“I’m alone in this, noone is there to help me. I must survive.”

My infant me

Needless to say, it never takes much for me to get triggered in that way, the slightest form of disregard or neglect launches me into survival mode. (and those modes are basal reflexes from our autonomous nervous system, in other words: Becoming aware of the trigger-response-dynamic gets you only half way there to actually getting to regulate your nervous system. And children typically can’t do it on their own, but require an attachment figure to do it for and with them. The main point being: It’s all about experience, NOT knowing (which is why cognitive-behavioral therapy and similar modalities typically fail in the face of trauma treatment as their main prerequisite is for the patient to be able to regulate their emotional – and thus somatic – responses to distressing or otherwise disregulating events in life. And trauma patients are incapable of regulating their emotional responses as my new therapist had me know at the end of our latest session).

So… here I go again, creating all this context instead of coming right out with what it actually is I mean to communicate…

Well… I guess, I am deciding to let anger or rather rage take the driver’s seat with me as being passive, “forgiving”, understanding and “mindful” produced largely this outcome: I am even less seen than I have felt beeing seen before (and getting disrespected on top of it)! And in this context and where it relates to bio family, I plan on tearing them apart. That’s right, I think I am zeroing in on giving myself permission to let them know in no uncertain terms what their response to me in all these years and especially recently did to me. Fuck, I feel so much rage I think I’m about to become a demon of revenge. (not physically, of course, that would get me incarcerated, they aren’t worth it).

The funny thing is this: With my NDE–like experience at age 4, which produced something that’s being described as the meaningless void in distressing NDEs, it was the idea of “returning” to said bio family that must have helped me in coping with this very traumatic peri-surgical experience and afterwards. With a “knowing of nothingness” at the root of consciousness – and if you needed to phrase it differently, you might liken my experience to having experienced Brahman – I was nowhere near ready to accept this as the ultimate reality and “decided” to rather live the “lie of maya” than succumb to this very bleak, if not grim and utterly horrifying experience of non-existence (in a way; for full non-existence, consciousness would have had to be “switched off” as well, I suppose…, which unfortunately was not my experience or only in part and when the anesthesia will have kicked fully in, I guess.). When experiencing my flashback of this earlier experience, the very clear memory resurfaced from the recesses of dissociation that I had made a decision to return to that lie that I was “told” life was instead of staying in the realm of … nothingness. (or near nothingness, like I said). But… in every vital situation where I would have needed the soothing, calming, reassuring support of … another nervous system – i.e. bio parents – they … had remained largely inaccessible to me, unavailable and … of “no use” for me in getting to better deal with or even overcome those stressful life events.

In recent years, my life has seen tremendous adversity which next to my past, whose outcomes I had been dealing with forever and a day, amounts to clear cut retraumatization to the umpteenth degree. I’m going to spare us the details, but believe you me: All the symptoms in the book were not only present, but got amped up to levels that brought me within close calls to losing every impulse control I had been so fiercely holding on to throughout all of my life. In other words: I had almost lost it a couple of times, in fact, I positively lost it one night close to closing hour at the local supermarket, when the staff there went about rearranging goods on the shelves and an empty wooden palette fell to the floor from an upright position right behind me, creating quite a volume of noise paired with the physical sensation of its weight crash landing on the tiled floor…. I freaked out!! (and even then, from this almost masochistic degree of “keeping it together” no matter what, I didn’t freak out completely and even made an effort to explain myself to the bystanding staff who were… shall we say unamused by my response… My point being: Not only did bio “family” never see that adversity I have been experiencing forever and at increased levels in the past 10+ years, but it’s now my sister’s and theirs who degrade me for having arrived in a situation that saw me becoming homeless at one point, losing all my savings, marriage as I had mentioned above, identity… and I guess remaining shreds of sanity. To them, I am the spoilt brat turned looser and the disdain and contempt I feel underneath this is so thick, you could cut it with a knife. Thanks, no thanks you overbearing motherfuckers! Sure, they’d “support me” on the outside, while talking poorly behind my back and coining me a freeloader, parasite and other “nice things” of that caliber. Wow. I had known that we were different, I hadn’t been aware of this degree of contempt! (and I had my sister’s back when we were young as well as my brother-in-law’s in a situation, when their burgeoning relationship could have gotten prevented by my parents if I had given away his sneaking in overnight several times…; but I’m not a snitch, nope, never).

Wow. Really wow, and then some. My first choice will still be to just divorce them from me – this time for good, for now I know for a fact that they’d rather see me wither and die from living in the streets than being cooperative in a matter of inheritance that would at least remove the constant threat of becoming homeless from my current situation. In other, clearer and much uglier words: Massive greed, money over family “ties”, and hell to the no, blood is not thicker than water in my family, go to hell, motherfuckers! Who needed that kind of continued abuse?! Huh?!!

But… while expressing my rage may feel liberating for now, it is only a very short-lived “cure” to the infinite sea of shock and sadness that this kind of abandonment carries in its wake. However… I must make do with it, one way or another. They don’t leave me a choice, I’ve been knocking on their doors for all those decades that I have lived. No longer. Oh, and for the record: “Nice” is over. No more playing it nicely. You had it coming and I plan on using every bit of negative energy I’m capable of in … ripping them apart at the seams. I’ll still be sad then, I know that. But enough… is eventually … really… enough. And I’m not …. going to continue being at risk of homelessness for their motherfucking greed and indifference towards me. I owe it …. that infant I once was. I owe it … me – and my dignity.

Acid test: scientists show how LSD opens doors of perception | Science | The Guardian

lsd ticket on tongue of bearded younger male person
By comparing scans of the brain on LSD versus placebo, the researchers found that the drug reduced the amount of energy the brain needed to switch from one brain state another. Photograph: vladans/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Source: Acid test: scientists show how LSD opens doors of perception | Science | The Guardian

The findings presented in this article pretty much align with my own experience during a clinical trial at Psychiatric University Hospital, Basel that I got to participate in in 2019. Doseage was 25 µg in each of two sessions under substance (with further sessions for medical screening and post-substance integration as well as two fMRI scans without substance).

My hope was and still is to “go back” to states prior to enduring childhood trauma in my infancy – shock trauma with ensuing developmental trauma stretched out over my entire upbringing – and “rebuild myself” from there. Agreed, that’s a bit of an overgeneralized, very brush strokes kind of description of an idea, but that’s basically the gist of it; and it doesn’t seem to be so far removed from approaches that MAPS take with their phase III MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for individuals suffering from chronic PTSD.

Another immediate tool is applying polyvagal theory in a therapeutic setting, which is what I’ve currently started to explore with the help of the first therapist I was able to find in decades, who really deserves the nomer “trauma therapist” where I’m concerned.

Coming To Terms…?

This will be one of those personal entries again… more like talking to myself in hopes that some of it might resonate with some of you. (I’m almost certain at least parts of it will, although no two different [life] stories will ever be the same…).

The Gulf Islands....
Ferry ride to Vancouver Island
passing San Juan Islands in Haro Strait

I’ve started this blog some time in the fall of 2007 when returning from the Pacific West Coast in Canada, which I’ve headed out towards with high aspirations and hopes of writing the next chapter in my life living there. As it turned out, my system wasn’t all that well compatible with the mostly wet climate and not exactly balmy temperatures there and during my stay of some three weeks there was not the slightest hint it might ever adapt. So I played the “reasonable” card and called the whole endeavour off, thinking I was doing the sensible thing. (In hindsight: Maybe I was, but had I known only a fraction of an inch what was waiting here… no army of border officers would have been able to get me on that plane back from where I came…).

I repurposed this blog some time in 2012 and about one year prior to receiving my official diagnosis of C–PTSD that I had been living with forever and a day as it turned out. And yes, I’d say I had been living to the fullest that seemed possible given this at times absolutely debilitating condition that has a whole bunch of so–called comorbidities in its wake (and where almost all of those hit me at one time or another with more or less vengeance, including “problems with self-medicating”, of course, not to mention severe depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, the “whole nine” of what any of you “co–travellers” will have experienced your-heroic-selves. (And yes, I think, we’re all heroines and heroes, but I can’t go into detail lest I digress).

Like I just said in the parenthesis: I will spare us the details. (And who needed them in the first place? Those living with it, will feel and know them firsthand, those who don’t, will never begin to “understand” what it is we’re dealing with 24/7, day in, day out. So no need for details, no.)

However, as I’ll be addressing some of the implications that this “disarray” of connection harbors, I won’t get away without some detail including relational and relationship issues; in fact, this entry might be primarily be about the latter, but from a specific angle. So consider this your fair trigger warning at its due moment. For I’m hearing left, right and center how C–PTSD’s outcomes dominate (emotional, though not limited to it) self-regulation and as such is a “chronic condition of disconnect” (a definition I recently learned in a presentation of the therapeutic application of Stephen Porges’ Polyvagal Theory). So without other ado…

If I had to put things in a nutshell: I’ve been barking up the wrong tree(s) for most, if not all of my life.

(my “epiphany” tonight)

How’s that? Well, some time ago, a therapist lady in training identified my make as typical of highly gifted persons. There is only so many of us with this … well… challenging to say the least… bag of traits. So the first … let’s still call it challenge… is in the mere numbers and from all we know, the majority of a group typically calls the shots, not the other way around. In other words: Because of the sheer aspect of being rare highly gifted children (and adults) stand out (whether they like it or not, know it or not, either; one of the recurring themes in this subject area is the exclamation “But I don’t see myself as that!”, since highly gifted children learn from the get–go to become invisible; see here as well [PDF, so it may download automatically]). Why invisible? Because standing out most often comes at social reprimand and since all humans crave connection (in fact, pretty much all mammals do), standing out – and for that often getting singled out per se – is not such a great experience. So we shape shift into being lesser than we are in order to accommodate the less-exceptionally gifted ones. Since I borrowed this term from Brooke, please find her at the link or hear her speak on the subject firsthand:

So yes, this was me too, “hook, line and sinker” as the saying goes! Your “skinless”, boundaryless and as such “unprotected” – I put that in quotes as it will more readily apply to infants rather than adoscelents or adults –, overly empathic and super aware HSP, feeling other people literally! Today I had a big epiphany that drove the message home with a vengeance that I’ve been shape shifting for most if not all my life in order to accommodate other people and not have them become uncomfortable with my mere presence and expression of self. And that, of course, is directly related to one’s image of self and more specifically to one’s self esteem. Needless to say that if you happen to find yourself multi–gifted or simply even just interested in more than one thing at a time and all that with passion, but interests also meandering and wandering from one to another on an ongoing basis, you’re almost bound to receive an ADHD diagnosis, when you might simply just be equipped with a rainforest mind! (And frankly speaking, from all the incorrect and inadequate bullshit I had to listen to over the course of my life from “therapists”, I nowadays don’t think too highly of any conventional diagnosis any longer, as they are about conformity, which you are to get squeezed into…)

But self esteem is a big one, not only for traumatized individuals. (this source in German, hope that GoogleTranslate will make sense of the gist of it), chances are that as an HGP/HSP you’ve had your share of issues with it (and with trauma you’re almost guaranteed to have seen struggling with minor self esteem issues in the aftermath of things that … simply shouldn’t have happened to you, period!). From (painful) experience I’d go as far as saying that boundaries require a healthy sense of self first in order to be successfully implemented, applied, practiced and … well “executed”.

Today I realized that I had bent myself so far out of shape that it’s taking a heavy toll on my physical health as of late. That’s where I definitely need to set my foot down and put an end to it! (i.e. the incredibly draining shape shifting in an attempt to accommodate other people and the former including the wilful diminishing of myself just so they won’t have any beef with me…) I won’t put their well being first any longer. Yes, of course I’d like to get along well with people and yes, sure, I prefer being liked or even loved over any other stance expressed towards me. But at the price of being a martyr of sorts? (Maybe not physically speaking so, right away, but who knows…).

For the past decade or longer I’ve tried everything to get around life more smoothly – at least that’s what I believe my intention was. But in doing so, I had things the wrong way around: There is no getting around “smoothly” if I forget about myself in that equation. And as so often, my body had to tell the story and from utter exhaustion for weeks on end now there simply isn’t any other choice any more but place my well being much farther towards the top end of a list with an apparently unquenchable, unstoppable horde of priorities.

And so I am finally giving myself permission to be my most colorful, impossible to understand, “complicated”, “demanding”, uninhibited, “weird”, “too deep”, but also empathic, inquisitive, fearless (yes! You can be fearless and be traumatized at the same time), explorative, creative, (intellectually) insatiable, impatient, “instable”, impulsive symphony of self that I am! No need for waiting around and getting “permission” or “approval” or any such ill-conceived thing from anyone any more!

How about yourself? Can you give yourself permission to be you in every facet of you? I hope your answer will eventually be a resounding

Yes!

Dr. Gabor Maté Interview | The Tim Ferriss Show (w/ Trigger Warning)

This is a really long interview on the Tim Ferriss Show with guest Dr. Gabor Maté, who has been devoting the bulk of his career to treating people with addiction and in the process found that almost every addiction has trauma at its root of these less–than–beneficial behaviors. His family was directly affected by the insanity of the Nazi regime in Germany and he lost several close family members to their ‘murder industry’ in the concentration camps, which had him become deeply interested in the reasons why people become perpetrators and resort to inflicting cruelty on their fellow men.

Dr. Maté eventually went to Canada where he spent the larger part of his adult life and career and ran a medical practice directly in Vancouver’s (B.C., Canada) Downtown East Side which is known for its social challenges in terms of homelessness, crime, addiction etc. He started a social center which would provide temporary homes to people who were forced to live in the streets and treated countless patients pro bono who didn’t have health insurance.

Later in his career he experimented with the clinical and therapeutical application of psychedelics, but as far as I’m aware he had to cease doing so because of the Schedule I status of most of these substances. I think that patients interested in undergoing psychedelic assisted therapy modalities can still book safe retreats under the direction and medical guidance of Dr. Gabor Maté in countries, where these substances are either not Schedule I or where there are legal loopholes that facilitate their application. (I’m no longer 100% sure on that latter part as I did not further pursue or research this after some time, i.e. I can’t say whether or to what extent Dr. Maté is still involved with some of these projects that he initiated as a compassionate use scenario, so don’t take it face value. There are other options, though, none of which I have personal experience with and at this point wouldn’t recommend as being really safe unless they follow compassionate use rules which do exist in most Western countries, but may be hard to come by or even just research).

I’ve been following his public lectures for some time on a semi–regular basis as I am fairly convinced that he actually found at least one field of injuries people incur, which connects trauma and addiction – the latter as a so–called co–morbidity – in significant ways.

But see for yourself, if so inclined and interested. Be warned that the contents discussed here may trigger some of that which you might be working on.

Addressing Trauma and the Nervous System | MELT Method

Learn how to recover from traumatic events utilizing the MELT Method. Understand the role that the nervous system has in handling trauma.

Source: Addressing Trauma and the Nervous System | MELT Method

Here’s another self-help exercise which sounds easy enough to do and actually addresses that very part of our nervous system which got ‘derailed’ from trauma: The parasympathetic nervous system which helps to calm down again after distressing events and feelings. Also, they mention the vagus nerve, which according to Dr. Stephen PorgesPolyvagal Theory and henceforth derived therapeutic applications regulates communication with our brain and inner organs, it’s like a “data highway” constantly sending updates from and to those organs and is crucial in experiencing well being and (safe) restfulness, including a good night’s sleep. But don’t take my words for anything, see for yourself in above linked article if so inclined. Sounds very appliccable and not all that hard to do.

‘The ketamine blew my mind’: can psychedelics cure addiction and depression? | The Guardian

Awakn in Bristol, staff
Laurie Higbed, Ben Sessa and Steve O’Brien at Awakn in Bristol, the UK’s first high-street provider of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy. Photograph: Joel Redman/The Guardian

This week sees the opening of the first UK high-street clinic offering psychedelic-assisted therapy. Could popping psilocybin be the future of mental healthcare?

Source: ‘The ketamine blew my mind’: can psychedelics cure addiction and depression? | Health & wellbeing | The Guardian

The UK’s first high–street clinic opens to the general public offering psychedelics–assisted therapy. There is some hope that these modalities might be available via the NHS some day not so far into the future. I wish the same was true for my country of residence or that I’ll still get to participate in one of the rolled–out MAPS.org trials having commenced to be conducted in Europa.

Trauma and Spirituality – is it a Thing?

Says here in the stats that I have some 200 plus subscribers. And on the above question, I’d like to hear from you: Has opening to concepts of spirituality helped you in any significant way in simply enduring our particular package better? Has it done anything for you?

For the past years and maybe for all my life, I’ve been looking at a number of ideas promoting the idea of humans in actuality being something beyond our meat coat, bones, neural connections, electricity surging through the body and all. I’ve done my best to research NDErs’ accounts and had an impromptu recollection of an NDE–like experience of my own at age 4, which “revisited” me fairly brutally in 2009 in a major flashback episode, which then broke down the apparent life long dissociation I had employed in dealing with this ‘event’. I’ve fairly recently interviewed experts on the idea of a personality incarnating more than once (i.e. reincarnation and reincarnation memories in young children) and I’ve sat down with Mr. Tom Campbell, whose take on the cosmos is that we live in a simulation. Long story short: I’ve done my best to ‘locate’ myself somewhere in the historically known schools of spirituality or rather: I’ve attempted to open up to the concept per se that our consciousness might be something which is not determined by or created by a (well working) brain. Spoiler: To not much avail so far. (and maybe it’s an epistomological fallacy to even expect that one might get there at all… ).

What is your take on it or more importantly: Do you think that opening up to spiritual ideas can help at all to better come to terms with our particular personal history? I would rate myself being a largely pragmatic individual and I’ve been living my life following a “script” of not needing to hear about a problem if there is zero perspective as to its resolution. (and yes, I have the hardest of times with simply accepting anything as is, in a manner of saying it. Or rather: I do not believe in acceptance a lot as a concept as everything is in flux all the time, nothing ever stays the same and if we’ve learnt anything from walking this questionable 3D realm it should be that ongoing evolution is the driver of equally ongoing change and what was known yesterday might be old news tomorrow… or something like this).

So…. don’t be shy. Although I’ve expressed a fairly radical way of thinking above, I’d really like to hear whether and in what regard spirituality helped you on a day-to-day, pragmatic level – if it does or did, that is and if inclined in sharing.

Thanks.