Rick Doblin: The future of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy | TED Talk

I found out about MAPS.org in 2014 and their – then phase 2 – trials addressing the many challenges that patients suffering from (complex) post-traumatic stress disorder are confronted with day in, day out on account of the condition. As … Continue reading

A Text about Dying (German): Das Sterben zu verstehen, kann Ängste nehmen (via ZEIT | ONLINE) // trigger warning

Beim Sterben verändert sich unser Körper, die Atmung, der Blutkreislauf, das Bewusstsein. Wie genau, erklärt dieser Text, den wir am Karfreitag erneut zeigen.

Source: Tod: Das Sterben zu verstehen, kann Ängste nehmen | ZEIT ONLINE

As usual, I’m not sure how much meaning gets lost in translation when employing Google’s Translation Service. At the risk of the source’s meaning getting all garbled, I’m posting it here again – of course, with a major trigger warning.

However, as I read through the article, they mention Sam Parnia’s AWARE study and in particular the phenomena Near Death experiencers report. Similar to what another study about DMT seems to suggest, I very much side with those that attribute mystical phenomena during an NDE to the physical changes going on in the brain when a person dies. Moreover, yet another study on dying rats strongly suggests that an increased level of consciousness occurs right after cardiac arrest, which might explain for the perceived hyperrealism NDE-survivors commonly report. (the conclusion follows the fact that the brains of rats and humans are fairly similar in structure and function).

As I’ve been struggling my entire life with making sense of an experience at age four, which I today rate under medical trauma from effects of the anaesthesia and the situation of perceived isolation and terminal aloneness, looking into and analyzing NDEs seems to have been a tool for me to help with that endeavour. In particular, I seem to have tried assessing NDEs’ potential as evidence for an afterlife. Being a sceptic myself and preferring to rely on the resources at hand like science, logic, rationality, reason I’ve always tended to trust immediate evidence more than spiritual interpretations. I have to admit that some deathbed phenomena like e.g. visions of deceased ones even perceived by palliative care personnel or relatives attending to the dying person are hard to explain in terms of known science, granted. However, I find it a lot more conclusive to assume that science simply hasn’t evolved to the point yet where we might explain such so-called paranormal phenomena in terms of natural phenomena occurring at the time of death and maybe having to do with a transformation of energy or something along those lines.

Be that as it may… I’m afraid I am simply not capable of truly embracing the idea of a spiritual realm as it sounds and feels too much like a cop-out to me.

So what’s the alternative or conclusion from that? I guess for me that conclusion would be the prompt to make peace with my mortality, no matter what.

Sorry for these morbid thoughts. But maybe Good Friday – in the world of Christians – is not too bad a timing for such a post… (bear with me)

Radikale Akzeptanz: Ich schaffe das! | ZEIT ONLINE (ZEIT Online article on Marsha Linehan and her Conception of CBT – trigger warning)

Eine Patientin hasst und verletzt sich selbst. Ihre unglaubliche Geschichte führt die Psychologie auf neue Wege. Wie die radikale Akzeptanz uns hilft, Krisen zu überwinden.

Source: Radikale Akzeptanz: Ich schaffe das! | ZEIT ONLINE

Again, this is an article which unfortunately appeared in a German newspaper publication. Maybe Google’s Translation bot can make good enough sense of it. It talks about Marsha Linehan and how she came up with the concept of radical acceptance as a starting point for change and personal transformation even after the most grave of human travesties. Trigger warning.

Where Does Your Mind Go When Your Body Is Near Death? On Post-Operative Delirium, Near Death and The Brain (mild trigger warning)

In deep delirium after a catastrophic heart attack, my subconscious ran wild

On Postoperative Delirium

Source: Where Does Your Mind Go When Your Body Is Near Death?

I just came across this interesting read on Medium.com, where the author pretty vividly describes the effects of post-operative delirium that he suffered following a major heart attack and a stroke, landing him in an emergency surgery situation and ICU following the former.

Upon reading it closely and more importantly, carefully examining the interpretations of these experiences provided by one of Mr. Costello’s doctors, I can’t help but conclude that post-operative (partial and temporary) coma, delirium and near death experiences are but one and the same, mitigated by a still partially functional brain or parts of the brain being in the process of resuming “normal” functioning. Whatever share of “mind” is left or comes around will go at lengths in piecing those bits together to form a somewhat coherent story. Because that is what our brains do: They take whatever stimuli and events come in and process them in such a way that they form a coherent narrative, a story, if you will, which is apt to put the self, the mind, the ego at ease, and the former for mere reasons of healthy biological function in the context of navigating life in this world (for reference, see this and this and maybe this, too). You might call it a standard mode of operation for anyone  who is not in a “vegetative” state. So far, so conclusive (at least to me).

For the past years, I’ve logged hundreds of hours of reading about, listening to and watching videos of accounts of people who have had an NDE, experiences with paranormal phenomena or post-mortem communication with late relatives. (the related sources behind those links are just a very small sample of the vast amount of reports, articles and books I have read on the subject, including experiences from so-called “psychonauts”, who willingly underwent substance-induced altered states of consciousness. Again, the linked source just one of many sources). In addition to that, my own uncle shared some of his post-operative delirium after medically induced coma and both following a fairly dramatic emergency surgery and the former required to save his life after an early morning motorcycle accident with major impact on his left lower leg, which almost got severed and ultimately and unfortunately had to be amputated. I felt strongly reminded of his narrative when reading Mr. Costello’s account of what he went through following his emergency heart surgery.

While facts, locations, personae obviously differ for reasons of differing biographies, a pattern becomes visible to me which seems to hold true for both stories (and possibly others from other patients): There are actual bits and pieces of real events that patients remember and that seem to have occurred during brief periods of lucidity, while there are other “sensations” – for lack of a better word – that the mind seems to make up in order to “fill the gaps” between those real events and the supposed times of semi-consciousness or even temporary coma. To me it appears as if the “restarting” brain seemed to try and resume above mentioned “standard mode of operation” while still dealing with the effects of physical trauma and plain physical malfunctioning as a result from the surgery. (And in the words of Dr. Page in above linked article, “It is the physical trauma of major surgery, rather than the effect of anesthetics or sedatives, that triggers delirium.”)

When holding my own “NDE” at age four against those examples, interpreting it in terms of above sketched hypothesis becomes a bit more difficult as the nature of it neither matches the bulk of – largely positive -NDEs nor the pattern of post-surgery delirium. I guess, the most likely explanation would be an adverse reaction to anesthesia being used at the time. (when carefully examining the medical use of nitrious oxide on wikipedia as well as its use for recreational purposes, I can’t help but conclude that the dissociative effects of this substance induced the experience I had after inhaling it and after having it forced on my face by the nurses preparing me for surgery; very unfortunately I have never been able to firmly establish exactly which anesthetic had been used on me at the time. Zeroing in on it by way of excluding those anesthetics no longer or not yet in use, there is strong indication pointing to nitrious oxide vs. ether or chloroform, both of which are unlikely to still have been medical practice at the time of my surgery). But I guess, I’ve started to digress here.

Bottomline: From carefully reading, hearing, studying all accounts of non-standard states of consciousness, either induced by way of a (psychedelic, anesthetic) substance or by traumatic events, I am personally arriving at the conclusion that they all are attempts of the brain in coping with major trauma to the body and more specifically a major impact on its nervous system. For reasons of my left brain hemisphere obviously dominating over the right one and as a result being the constantly questioning type, all these accounts of “spiritual realms” never sat right with me. Moreoever, I’m a strong proponent of Occam’s razor and following that principle, even if there was a spiritual realm of some kind, those “explanations” never gave me much clue on the pragmatic side of things and pertaining to questions of how best navigating day to day life and integrating those extreme experiences undergone so early into my life. Seeing them for what they most likely turn out to be, i.e. the effects of a substance on my perception, feels like the best way of eventually making sense of a very non-ordinary state of consciousness. Humor me, if so inclined….

Update/P.S.: I think this concludes my “spiritual quest” as in: Call off the search.

Dr. Gabor Maté: Emotional Loss & Trauma Are the Root Cause of Addiction – Reset.me

Emotional Loss & Trauma Are the Root Cause of Addiction – Reset.me.

On Friday night, I had written a longer blog along with this video. For some reason, it vanished into the recesses of the server cloud at wordpress.com – or I was too drunk at the time to actually hit the “publish” button and closed that text window prior to saving. I don’t think this was actually the case as far as I remember, but maybe this was the universe’s/internet’s funny way of saying that my blog post sucked to begin with… 🙂 So here I am, trying to capture the thoughts and sentiments again that were sparked by this clip. First off, upon watching above linked video, I realized without a shred of a doubt that Dr. Maté is right. What he says about pain and the role it plays in an addict’s life resonates strongly with me. How am I being an addict? Well, I think, I’ve become an addict to food by way of recurring bouts of binge eating accompanied by the “bright” choice of washing said food down with fairly sizable quantities of alcohol. (they feel sizable to me, as my constantly overclocked, overheated, overcharged nervous system – a “gift” from a lifelong existing C-PTSD as I learnt in 2013 – doesn’t require large amounts of any substance to produce even wilder modes of altered consciousness). So in admitting to the fact that I have become addicted to food and quite a bit of alcohol, I just mean to say that I think I get the “addict” part of his monolog here (and since I am aware of the health risks coming from that behavior I think about replacing these choices of self medicating with cannabis, which I believe to go easier on the system according to the research I’ve done on it – and maybe even produce some welcome positive side effects in regards to physical and emotional health). The urge to soothe the pain by overeating and then slipping into a quite comfortable sedation, the latter amplified by alcohol, is a way of using these substances as a pain killer – or to drive out utter depression from sometimes feeling completely void, empty, destroyed inside. At those times, the feeling is that the sentient part of me is irreversibly shattered. (By now, I think I have come to understand this as a false assumption brought on by lingering outcomes of experiences from my early and later past growing up, which seem to have dominated my inner monolog and thought process for … well forever. But realistically speaking, for as long as I can feel anything, if even just for fleeting moments, the sentient part of my being can’t be dead. I try to remind myself of this during times of severe distress serving as an anchor for not losing sight of the goal and perspective).

When I had sat down that night to link to the video and add my personal comments, I had gone through a series of strong, negative emotions that brought me to the brink of completely freaking out with red rage over spending a couple of days at my former home. I say “former home”, because I feel that I have made a new home for myself where I currently live – and I think I did so more or less consciously, because that former home never felt much like a good home to begin with. For reasons too mundane to go into detail about, I had to accept help with money from family in recent years and in order to make it acceptable for me in some way, I tried to talk myself into the idea that this might also be an opportunity to regrow a relationship that has wreaked havoc on my very being from pretty much the get-go. So I guess I’m saying that spending those two, three days there exposed me to XXL-sized triggers, the nature of which I even believe the Buddha to have driven beyond any measure of impulse control, not to mention preserving the “sweet spot” of that heartspace of balanced and centered awareness. Needless to say that I have to make quite the effort to get more control over my life and my actions and decisions again, if I’m not to keep betraying myself completely and thus sabotage any serious attempt at healing the still lingering, deep wounds from the past and their outcomes. But I’m digressing.

Emotional loss and trauma – I think, I can say from plenty of years of personal, felt experience that Dr. Maté nails it here. There were brief moments in my more recent past and in an attempt to heal myself all by myself when I gave myself permission to feel that loss, be with that pain of having lost true connection with my former caretakers from early on, brought on by being seperated from them and then later for all the abuse that went on and prevented me from expressing the true nature of self or even getting seen and maybe even loved for it. Those things definitely didn’t happen in healthy ways and it became never more evident to me than over those recent few days.

I mention these things, because – quite naively – I believed that if I could access this deeply rooted pain over isolation and loss, and feel it and let it come out, a natural consequence would be that I’d thus release that pain from my bodymind. But I now have to admit to myself that this was indeed a short-sighted approach. “No man is an island”, the saying goes and I had to find out that this is true. In order to truly release the still largely unaddressed and unprocessed pain from my earliest days on the planet, someone has to be there with me when I’m with my pain, as Maté points out from his experience as a therapist. Apparently, it doesn’t suffice to just feel that pain and then let it come out (in quite violent emotional break- and meltdowns that sometimes lasted for hours). Apparently, the witnessing part is an important component I had overlooked and which seems necessary to experience some sort of natural bonding that should have happened much earlier and feel a sense of connection with someone in order to truly have a healing effect. And the other aspect I realize about this loss is that the need to fill that void left behind by initial emotional loss doesn’t vanish over time. Time doesn’t heal those deep wounds from the past at all. Only compassion does. At least, I hope so.

I would have preferred to do the healing all by myself. But apparently it doesn’t work that way. In terms of taking pragmatic steps, I am now happy to report that I have contacted researchers conducting clinical trials for MAPS.org and made it on a wait list for another round of phase III clinical trials some time in late 2016/2017. Frankly speaking, I have no idea how to keep going until then. I can only hope that my innate wish to live and become healthy, which has kept me going for 50 years, won’t let me down so close to the actual first-time ever prospect of experiencing a potential true recovery from those deeply engraved wounds from day one… Wish me luck, if so inclined!

Hypnosis Can Help You Overcome Trauma, Quit An Addiction — Maybe Even Revisit Past Lives – Reset.me

Amazing. After a longer hiatus of not seeing my trusted hypnotherapist (friend) for reasons of feeling stuck in the process, I visited his office today – we had arranged for this follow-up appointment a few weeks ago. And we eventually went to a very traumatizing experience of mine that happened at age four and which I believe to have actually set in stone a certain predisposition resulting from distressing painful events in my infancy and thus bringing about a textbook-like, fully expressed post-traumatic stress disorder. I do have detailed memory of that situation back then, so we worked on that today and “rewrote” that experience in such a way that my child self could feel safe and at comparable ease over the entire time. We also introduced an “anchor” which I could safely employ at any time should any feelings of distress or anxiety as brought on by flashbacks return.

My therapist friend let me know that the process might take some time to fully take root and reminded me to work with the imagery employed today.

Upon coming home, getting a snack and napping for a few, I get on the web and find this:

EEG Bands of brainwaves

image source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electroencephalography (found at Comparison of EEG Bands | http://goo.gl/d9C69l | )

Hypnosis Can Help You Overcome Trauma, Quit An Addiction — Maybe Even Revisit Past Lives – Reset.me.

The article explains some of the science behind hypnosis in general and how different levels of trances as induced during a (clinical, medical) hypnosis clearly show in EEGs and brain activity What’s interesting about this is that those brain waves are distinct from sleep as in: Sleep looks different in EEGs. Next to completely trusting my doctor and his abilities, I take that as an additional encouraging note. As a first feedback and observation from this, I clearly noticed a certain kind of peace and much less apprehension as usual over the entire rest of the day – which became even more evident when napping earlier this evening. Usually, I’m always anxious as to someone walking around upstairs, which often is the precursor to an anxiety attack and sometimes a fully expressed fight-flight-freeze reflex with all the physical manifestations of discomfort. Not so today – or at the very least at a much lower, easier to bear level. I knew my neighbours were in and I nonetheless managed to relax enough to actually dose off a bit, something I usually can’t do at all when knowing they’re at home and haven’t gone to bed.

Is it possible I am now actually overcoming the outcomes of no less than 50 years of having lived with post-traumatic stress? The prospect sure is enticing (if not life-saving)!! Check out the above linked article, if interested in the procedure.