بخش 92کتاب: چگونه ذهنیت خود را تغییر دهید / فصل 92
- زمان مطالعه 8 دقیقه
- سطح خیلی سخت
دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»
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متن انگلیسی فصل
Surprisingly banal, it turns out. Not that their journeys were banal—psilocybin transported them all over the world and through history and to outer space—but the insights they brought back with them were mundane in the extreme. Alice O’Donnell, a sixtyish book editor born in Ireland, reveled “in the freedom to go everywhere” in the course of her journey. She grew feathers that allowed her to travel back in time to various scenes of European history, died three times, watched her “soul move from her body to a funeral pyre floating on the Ganges,” and found herself “standing on the edge of the universe, witnessing the dawn of creation.” She had the “humbling” realization that “everything in the universe is of equal importance, including yourself.
“Instead of being so narrowly focused, moving through this little tunnel of adult life,” she found that the journey “returned me to the child’s wider sense of wonder—to the world of Wordsworth. A part of my brain that had gone to sleep was awakened.
“The universe was so great and there were so many things you could do and see in it that killing yourself seemed like a dumb idea. It put smoking in a whole new context. Smoking seemed very unimportant; it seemed kind of stupid, to be honest.”
Alice imagined herself throwing out lots of junk from her house, emptying the attic and the basement: “I had an image of tossing everything over the ledge, all the stuff I didn’t need anymore. It’s amazing how you can whittle things down to the few really important things that are necessary for survival. And the most important thing of all is the breath. When that stops, you’re dead.” She emerged from her journey with the conviction “that you should cherish your breath.” She has not had a cigarette since her psilocybin journey. Whenever she feels a craving, she goes back in memory to her session “and thinks of all the wonderful things I experienced, and how it felt to be on that much higher plane.”
Charles Bessant had his epiphany while on a similarly “higher plane.” Bessant, a museum exhibit designer in his sixties, found himself standing on a mountaintop in the Alps, “the German states stretching out before me all the way to the Baltic.” (Wagner was playing in his headphones.) “My ego had dissolved, yet I’m telling you this. It was terrifying.” He sounded like a nineteenth-century Romantic describing an encounter with the sublime, at once terrible and awe inspiring.
“People use words like ‘oneness,’ ‘connectivity,’ ‘unity’—I get it! I was part of something so much larger than anything I had ever imagined.” We were speaking by phone on a Saturday morning, and at one point Bessant paused in his account to describe the scene before him.
“Right now, I’m standing here in my garden, and the light is coming through the canopy of leaves. For me to be able to stand here in the beauty of this light, talking to you, it’s only because my eyes are open to see it. If you don’t stop to look, you’ll never see it. It’s the statement of an obvious thing, I know, but to feel it, to look and be amazed by this light” is a gift he attributes to his session, which gave him “a feeling of connectedness to everything.”
Bessant followed up on our conversation by e-mail with a series of clarifications and elaborations, striving to find the words equal to the immensity of the experience. It was in the face of this immensity that smoking suddenly seemed pitifully small. “Why quit smoking? Because I found it irrelevant. Because other things had become so much more important.”
Some volunteers marveled themselves at the simultaneous power and banality of their insights. Savannah Miller is a single mom in her thirties who works as a bookkeeper for her father’s company in Maryland. Possibly because she spent her twenties tangled in an abusive relationship with a man she describes as “a psychopath,” her trip was painful but ultimately cathartic; she remembers crying uncontrollably and producing tremendous amounts of snot (something her guides confirmed really happened). Savannah gave little thought to her habit during the journey, except toward the end when she pictured herself as a smoking gargoyle.
“You know how gargoyles look, crouched down with their shoulders hunched? That’s how I felt and saw myself, a little golem creature smoking, pulling in the smoke and not letting it out, until my chest hurts and I’m choking. It was powerful and disgusting. I can still see it now, that hideous coughing gargoyle, whenever I picture myself as a smoker.” Months later, she says the image is still helpful when the inevitable cravings arise.
In the middle of her session, Savannah suddenly sat up and announced she had discovered something important, an “epiphany” that her guides needed to write down so it wouldn’t be lost to posterity: “Eat right. Exercise. Stretch.”
Matt Johnson refers to these realizations as “duh moments” and says they are common among his volunteers and not at all insignificant. Smokers know perfectly well that their habit is unhealthy, disgusting, expensive, and unnecessary, but under the influence of psilocybin that knowing acquires a new weight, becomes “something they feel in the gut and the heart. Insights like this become more compelling, stickier, and harder to avoid thinking about. These sessions deprive people of the luxury of mindlessness”—our default state, and one in which addictions like smoking can flourish.
Johnson believes the value of psilocybin for the addict is in the new perspective—at once obvious and profound—that it opens onto one’s life and its habits. “Addiction is a story we get stuck in, a story that gets reinforced every time we try and fail to quit: ‘I’m a smoker and I’m powerless to stop.’ The journey allows them to get some distance and see the bigger picture and to see the short-term pleasures of smoking in the larger, longer-term context of their lives.”
Of course, this re-contextualization of an old habit doesn’t just happen; countless people have taken psilocybin and continued to smoke. If it does happen, it’s because breaking the habit is the avowed intention of the session, strongly reinforced by the therapist in the preparatory meetings and the integration afterward. The “set” of the psychedelic journey is carefully orchestrated by the therapist in much the same way a shaman would use his authority and stagecraft to maximize the medicine’s deep powers of suggestion. This is why it is important to understand that “psychedelic therapy” is not simply treatment with a psychedelic drug but rather a form of “psychedelic-assisted therapy,” as many of the researchers take pains to emphasize.
Yet what accounts for the unusual authority of the rather ordinary insights volunteers brought back from their journeys? “You don’t get that on any other drug,” Roland Griffiths points out. Indeed, after most drug experiences, we’re fully aware of, and often embarrassed by, the inauthenticity of what we thought and felt while under the influence. Though neither Griffiths nor Johnson mentioned it, the connection between seeing and believing might explain this sense of authenticity. Very often on psychedelics our thoughts become visible. These are not hallucinations, exactly, because the subject is often fully aware that what she is seeing is not really before her, yet these thoughts made visible are nevertheless remarkably concrete, vivid, and therefore memorable.
This is a curious phenomenon, as yet unexplained by neuroscience, though some interesting hypotheses have recently been proposed. When neuroscientists who study vision use fMRIs to image brain activity, they find that the same regions in the visual cortex light up whether one is seeing an object live—“online”—or merely recalling or imagining it, off-line. This suggests that the ability to visualize our thoughts should be the rule rather than the exception. Some neuroscientists suspect that during normal waking hours something in the brain inhibits the visual cortex from presenting to consciousness a visual image of whatever it is we’re thinking about. It’s not hard to see why such an inhibition might be adaptive: cluttering the mind with vivid images would complicate reasoning and abstract thought, not to mention everyday activities like walking or driving a car. But when we are able to visualize our thoughts—such as the thought of ourselves as a smoker looking like a coughing gargoyle—those thoughts take on added weight, feel more real to us. Seeing is believing.
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