At the The New Inquiry, Natasha Young reports on the recent explosion in scientific research confirming that psychedelic drugs and the "ego death" they often produce have a range of therapeutic benefits, from reducing anxiety to mitigating PTSD. Young also writes about her own experience of ego death upon taking acid: "The trip had changed me ... I’m more self-aware and therefore better able to check myself when those old habits kick in." Here's a longer excerpt:
We go to a great deal of trouble to live without fear. But to experience ego death is to confront your worst fears in a brief period of time. With its ability to clear a safe space for getting over yourself, an acid trip “substantially reduces fear of death, and probably reduces fear in general,” Morris said, “which I imagine is the case for many frightening things. I imagine skydiving has a similar effect, or bungee jumping — anything so conducive to extreme anxiety that you feel bolder for having survived it.” Indeed, only by dropping acid and confronting my fears and self-destructive patterns head-on could I have written this piece.
Because we now know that the ego has a physical analogue in our brains and therefore dropping acid truly neither kills nor dissolves it, a better term better “ego death” is needed. Though researchers have preferred to call it ego-dissolution, to my mind it resembles the “little death” (la petite mort) of orgasm, as mentioned in countless classic works of Western literature. From sexual climax follows a transcendent lightness, and with it a release from a condition of mind in which thinking about yourself precludes existence.
Escaping from that condition of mind in order to look at yourself as if from the perspective of another person can be a scary prospect — one which is made scarier still if it comes not during repose after sex but while peaking on psychedelics. It’s no wonder, then, that some people are completely opposed to the idea. In order to ascend and transcend through LSD, you must trust that an unpredictable series of neurochemical reactions will benefit you. And though it may bring you to a truly transcendent state, what matters in any therapeutic sense is your interpretation of that state, and how you decide to incorporate it into your everyday thoughts and behaviors.
Image via The New Inquiry.