By: Alex Waller
“Finally, some ordinary occurrence in daily life can bring the abrupt traumatic realisation that not only is every possible content transitory and ephemeral, but so too, is the ego itself. Ever vulnerable, in youth as well as in age, to illness and infirmity in body and mind, it must die.”
“Caught fully and apprehensively in the double anxiety of having to live and having to die, the ego undergoes the excruciating torment of the most piercing indecision of all: to be or not to be.”
– Zen Buddhism and Psychoanalysis, E. Fromm & D.T. Suzuki
For much of my adult life so far, I have felt incomplete, unsatisfied and unfulfilled. I have always known that my truth is of infinite value to me alone – even if this truth is my own, abject, inescapable suffering.
In bursts of depression throughout my early 20s and prior, the principle casualty has been my self-worth: absent of self-discipline and motivation. I took a test at a doctor’s once, but I was not deemed unwell by their metric. In addition, I was and remain determined that cannabis helps in many ways that packaged medication could not provide. This feels like a healthy medication because in the frugal but frequent amounts I consume I have consistently maintained sovereignty over my own emotions – for better or worse. In my experience there is no magic bullet to penetrate the psyche from outside. Unless, of course, it penetrates from deep within.
From the age of 19, I dabbled in psychedelics with increasing frequency and increasing ritualisation of late. Personal authenticity, even if it is to brave waters of extreme experience, is the most subversive concept in today’s ever twisting society. This will to adventure is in my very wiring as an intensely self-aware consciousness of large ideas. Your mileage may vary and you are by no means advised to replicate my scenario. Let this tale demonstrate that psychedelic healing can be as strange as it takes for you to feel safe.
My first experience of ego-death happened in unlikely circumstances. I had insuffulated diethyl ether at one particular house party (from a pair of underpants I promise were clean), which did and did not get me in the party mood. It remains the closest I have felt to death as other chemicals opportunistically available at that moment subsided in my system the morning after. It was not until my intellect had caught up with the weight of this experience in the space of a few years that I realised it was indeed ego death I had felt: a complete totality with the wholeness of the cosmos – but beyond all articulation in the moment.
The feelings of crushing hopelessness and complete self-loathing in me were, as a result of a fictional corroboration of unrelated events, to form an unreal anti-ideal that I held myself to. I never wanted to dominate my negative feelings, only for them to exist in greater harmony with my positive feelings. I am now playing the game I would expect to find myself playing in place of me. My negative chatter has found a safe place to dwell where its effects are as temporal as its nature, and where I can be informed rather than influenced by it.
This has not always been so easy. From lonesome schoolyard break times, to finding the right crowd at 6th form college, gradual social and academic withdrawal from university (to pursue a sweetheart in a bad domestic situation), followed by a long slow breakup and hand-to-mouth poverty in an unfamiliar town a long way from home…
The truth of my personality is that I am one to wash-under (as distinct from wash-over) the insecurities and struggles of others. It is in the genuine act of helping that I help mysel,; not because I am perfect, but because this yearning is an imperfection that I have to go out satisfyu as part of my character. I would be lost in my own head if I could not visit other heads and look under the sofa. This consolidates in my pursuit of romantic ventures. Human emotional depth in heterosexual men is occasionally received as intimidating because of what society expects, and I think this causes a lot more problems than we realise within, but not at expense of the great bulk of conventional feminist theory.
But I digress. As these things so often take place, the trip was in a friend’s out-of-town-parents’ house – complete with a lovely but static old VW bus on the drive. Our predominant social practice of consuming plant psychedelics entrenches them in a party setting, but with a spare room this can be overcome. I have voyaged with mushrooms and acid on my own several times in the past, trips I have spent watching lectures, writing, and dancing around naked in the living room for my own amusement. This time was one time for all time.
The setting was a party of maybe a dozen friends, and the time was late enough to be very early. There was a small amount of MDMA to start, later followed by a yoghurt that contained some leftover psylocybin mushrooms and two teaspoons of morning glory seeds – which contain LSA, a derivative of LSD. The way I ritualise these things is with a modest amount of neat spirits and several bombers – although on occasion I have tried without both, which for me nearly isn’t quite weird enough. Water available at all times.
After the noise in the party got too much, I decided to take myself upstairs and have a conversation with my state of mind. I gazed out of the window into the night, shut the curtains, lay down in silent darkness and asked out loud:
“Alright then, what can you teach me?”
This surrendering began a vast amount of indeterminable time unusual from anything I had experienced before. I remember more than I saw: very, very subtle, sublime coloured visuals with memorable images, almost like floaters in the eye, accompanied at all times by sustained intellectual dialogue of very powerful ideas about existential language. Seemingly these links could have been hewn from bits of previous, even low-threshold experiences. It was the end of childhood. My truth was observed behind my own eyelids.
When I was satisfied, I returned to the party to stare at the moving Artex on the ceiling in hysterical laughter. There was a time which followed afterwards of complete calmness, depth, and clarity – the same feeling successful meditation offers – but amplified and turned up to 11 by its presence in otherwise waking consciousness.
After everyone had crashed and lay down to obey gravity, it was time for me to deploy the Scotch parachute and notate the view. After frantically scrawling in a notepad, I finally settled down to something which resembled sleep at about 9:30am. It was a timeless period of only impartial consciousness which somehow brought me to 3:00pm – unsure of having slept at all, yet not fatigued.
My largest hammer for carving meaning in existence is philosophy, and my fascination was always with people – but this took so long to see because of the depth of feelings (good and bad) which people can bring, or sometimes have brought to me. I am absolved from the pain with renewed courage.
Past traumas felt so real because they were fixed aspects of my existence I clung onto, at odds with the transitory nature of daily life. Happiness itself is a process and not a co-ordinate – just like dancing or music. The point of dancing is to dance – not arrive. Believe in happy accidents. The best music is not who gets to the end the fastest. Love is much more of a verb than a noun, and it starts with yourself.
Never hesitate to let go and find your place.