Psilocybin: The Therapeutic View
Psilocybin: The Therapeutic View
The ego has various roles, one of which is a filter, allowing what it deems agreeable into conscious awareness, and repressing what it considers to be disagreeable into the unconscious. In a view supported by both depth psychology and modern neuroscience, the vast majority of the psyche is unconscious. As noted in Psilocybin: The Scientific View, psilocybin can temporarily deactivate the brain region associated with the ego by reducing activity in the brain’s Default Mode Network. Once this filter is removed, we gain access to the vast unconscious parts of ourselves that are usually hidden in the mind and body.
We need to understand our unconscious parts in order to become whole and fully in control of our lives. Indeed, psychiatrist Carl Jung cautioned that “until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” Our thoughts, beliefs, behaviours, and emotions can become distorted and influenced by content hidden in our ‘shadow’ - the unconscious parts of ourselves that we deny, ignore, or repress, whether perceived as negative or positive (both our painful memories and our love, compassion, playfulness, and creativity can be hidden from us). We may therefore move through life reactively, without fully understanding how or why.
Moreover, whenever we are shamed, hurt, abused, humiliated, scared, neglected, abandoned or overwhelmed in any way, we unconsciously enlist the support of our protective parts. The walls go up. But the same walls that keep us from being hurt again also hold us prisoner. As the years go by, we get so used to the walls that we don’t realise we are entrapped. Although well-meaning, these protective parts prevent us from realising our full potential or from seeing a brighter reality.
“Psychedelics, used responsibly and with proper caution, would be for psychiatry what the microscope is for biology and medicine or the telescope is for astronomy.”
Stanislav Grof, Psychiatrist
Most of us also exist in a culture that isn’t conducive to fostering self-compassion and inner-listening. We are encouraged to compare, compete, distract, and numb ourselves. We might follow intense socially-conditioned pressures to be more productive, more successful, fitter, stronger, or prettier. We may not ever fully realise this, accepting it merely as the status quo, without fully appreciating the impact it has. We also mostly view ourselves as isolated egos, rather than being profoundly interconnected. It is not a metaphysical claim to say that most of us identify more with our thoughts that temporarily rise and fall in and out of consciousness, than identifying with consciousness itself, which is a constant precondition of the mind. We might become disconnected from our bodies, feelings, and senses. Further, happiness is sold as something found at some forever moving point in the future, instead of something that is innate and right here, right now.
Psilocybin has the potential to lift the curtain so that we can see beyond such limitations and conditioning, granting access to a deeper, brighter felt sense of knowing regarding the true nature of ourselves and existence.
We might also connect with our own existing innate wisdom. In line with various wisdom traditions, Internal Family Systems (an increasingly popular evidence-based therapeutic model) calls this inner wisdom the Self, whereas psychiatrist and renowned psychedelic researcher Stanislav Grof calls it the Inner Healing Intelligence. It’s the idea that, given the right environment, just as the body knows how to heal itself if wounded, so does the psyche. The psyche is a self-regulating system in this sense, and will naturally move us towards wholeness and wellbeing. In their separate research paths, psychologists and psychedelic researchers Bill Richards and Margot Cutner similarly posit that there’s an innate wisdom to the psyche, giving the psychedelic participant the experience they need in order to move forward in their life at that particular stage, whether that’s immediately understood, or is revealed over time.
And we are more than just a mind, of course (see the Trauma/Somatic Lens section). Our entire organism is one big interconnected, interdependent series of systems - decades of research shows that the body doesn’t have a brain, it is a brain, and contains memories, blocks, and trauma. It’s understood that every overwhelming event or period in our lives will have a specific somatic manifestation associated with it. Often the body knows the truth of the matter, compared with the narrativising ego mind that can lead us astray. The body is deeply wise because of all this, so I believe we must work somatically, too. Psilocybin has the potential to increase sensations in the body and relax chronic muscle tension while surfacing dissociated material. This combination can create an opportunity to access, feel, and sometimes even spontaneously and instinctively release material that becomes stuck in the body whenever we are overwhelmed. Or it can at least let us know where such material is being stored, to be released later with bodywork, massage, stretching, and so on.
Although there can be no predictable givens in this work (see Common Experiences section), with commitment, courage, and careful preparation and support - before, during, and after the psilocybin experience - and by working with the mind and body, there is great potential to lower our walls and release our blocks. This catalysing process can deepen a sense of knowing and connection to our essential Self, others, and the world around us.
“Psilocybin has the potential to lift the curtain so that we can see beyond such limitations and conditioning, granting access to a deeper, brighter felt sense of knowing regarding the true nature of ourselves and existence.”