Meeting the discomfort

– If something really bad has happened, if your girlfriend has broken up with you or if someone has died, it might be a good idea to drink alcohol to get over the initial shock.
That piece of advice comes from my teacher of psychology in high school. Of all the advice I have been given in life, it ranks up there with the worst.

I was reminded of that advice the other day when a girl I know came home and found her father dead drunk, asleep on the kitchen table. She woke him up, the situation degenerated into a quarrel and he slapped her. What she did next? She went to the pub to drink beer, to drown it all away. She didn’t seem to reflect on the fact that her father had just shown her what a bad way of handling things that was.

Our society has a deep fear of anything unpleasant. Even when an infant begins to cry, many people’s instinctive reaction is to try to distract the child. We continue to program one another to avoid, distract and numb ourselves, rather than to face fears and unpleasant things in life. And what happens then? Well, we shy away from life, try to escape anything unpleasant, we swallow our discomfort so that our stomach curls up in a knot and we build walls around us to avoid feelings.

– Drink alcohol in order to get over the shock.
The teacher must himself have been a very frightened man, to think that was a sensible piece of advice to give young people in a period of life when many start abusing substances.

I want to offer you a different kind of advice.

Meet the discomfort head on. Feel it. Examine it and label it. Say “oh, this is what discomfort feels like. I’ll try to remember that. ”

Don’t try to defend yourself, hide from it, dodge it or sedate yourself. Go straight into it, even if it scares the crap out of you. Because if you go into it, you will also eventually come out of it. When you do so, you will be a bigger and wiser person. However, if you duck and flinch, you will prolong the discomfort and feel bad for a long time to come.

All situations have something to teach us. We attract them to deal with our life lessons. Seize the opportunity to grow.

And I promise you – nothing in life is permanent. Everything changes. What is extremely uncomfortable right now will also be nothing but a memory soon enough. The question is what kind of memory you would like it to be. Should it be the memory of something that taught you an important life lesson and helped you grow? Or should it be the kind of memory that you still have not dealt with, that you have stashed away in a dark corner of your stomach where it still makes you feel bad?

Photo: drunk by peter castleton on Flickr

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The quacks

A friend of mine was extremely unhappy with his job. He HATED it and it made him feel lousy. Every conversation we had over two years was mainly about how much he hated the job and how badly people there were treating each other.

Then he went to a doctor and got medicine. I talked to him a few weeks later and asked him how he was doing.
– Yes, well … I feel almost nothing, but the job is going great!
And once again I am struck by the absurdity that doctors with their medications are considered qualified to treat people who feel badly. What that doctor did with medications was nothing other than quackery. To medicate someone who feels that lousy about their job, so that the person can continue to be in an unhealthy environment, is ignorant and cruel.

Here’s a suggestion:

We should turn the entire health care system around, so that people who prescribe medications are the LAST to meet people with mental issues – instead of as today, among the first.

banksy - peaceful hearts doctor - 4 by Eva Blue on Flickr
banksy – peaceful hearts doctor – 4 by Eva Blue on Flickr

Before anyone is offered medication to deal with feeling bad, a competent person should help examine what is causing the uncomfort and how the person can deal with it. It may involve such things as changes in lifestyle, exercise, diet, social grouping, work, school, leisure activities, home environment, close relationships, abuse, unresolved trauma, to name some of the more obvious.

If it is necessary to use medications to move forward, it should be given in consultation, not by the doctor him/herself. And the doctor who still encounters people who feel badly should always first make sure that the person comes in contact with someone who can help find out what is making life uncomfortable.

If you skip that step and believe yourself to be able to resolve a patient’s life troubles with medication… then you are a quack in my eyes.

Main photo: I’m a doctor, not a psychiatrist! by JD Hancock on Flickr

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The drug box

We have created a box and written the word DRUGS on it. Then we randomly placed a lot of different substances in the box, and since it’s clearly says DRUGS on the box, we assume that the substances are similar or connected in some way.
– They’reDRUGS! someone exclaimswith horror in their voice.

But if one was to unpack the box one would soon notice that there are often remarkably few similarities between the substances. One makes you alert and talkative, another evokes empathy in you, a third makes you lazy and craving sweets, a fourth lets you talk to your dead grandmother, a fifth places you in an apathetic dream state and a sixth will bitch slap you and explain to you how you should be living your life. One is an escape, another a medicine, one is a spiritual tool and another is just for fun. Some you can actually die of, some not, others are extremely addictive, others not, some are natural, others chemical.

A patch for the ignorant.
A patch for the ignorant.

Yet ignorant people go around talking about DRUGS, as if they were all the same.
– But honestly, there’s no logic to this.
– Here, have a patch and stop questioning so god damn much.

Main photo: School supplies by The U.S. Army on Flickr

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Cutting through the bullshit

– I’m not interested in what you have read. I don’t want to know what you have watched on TV, what someone else has told you or what you learnt in school. I want to know what you have experienced in life and what that has taught you.

His words rang true in me and I adopted the same attitude. I try not to have too many assumptions about things before I have personal experience. It certainly isn’t easy, but when it comes to knowledge, personal experience and practice always massively outweigh books, tv and theory.

And when speaking with others I have lost almost all interest in the everyday blab of reciting the news and going through the gossip of politics, celebrities and sports. It just feels less important than ever.

But when you tell me about life changing experiences – about traumas in your childhood, loves you have kept in your heart, sexual experiences that have shaped you, shit that you managed to cope with and happiness that you haven’t – then I am 100 percent there. Because that, in my mind, is what really matters. That is where we get to know each other, where we connect and where we can actually teach each other some valuable lessons.

Photo: Talk Listen Door by Alex on Flickr

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On ghosts

Early 2012 Swedish media reported that a fifth of Swedes believe in ghosts. It was Sifo that had conducted a study where they asked two questions:
1. Do you agree with the following statement: It happens that people stick around after death.
2.Have you ever seenorfeltthatyouhave been in contactwith, or had asense of, a person whois dead?

The answers were fairly similar to both questions. But I don’t think it is correct when the media chose to report that 20 percent of Swedes believe in ghosts. As far as I can see 20 percent know that ghosts are real, because they have first hand experienced of it.

The difference is quite important.

If we add all those who have had experiences of angels, demons, fairies, tree spirits, God, gods, goddesses, and anything else that demands our attention out there…

Well, then you realize that we are very many who know more than what is generally accepted.

Photo: Ghost by Jordi Carrasco on Flickr

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Other reasons to use substances

There are mainly two kinds of drug use discussed in the public discourse, and they are often connected. It’s ABUSE and RECREATIONAL USE. Since we are basically only talking about those two, it is easy for the uninitiated to believe that these are the only uses that drugs have. This view is reinforced by the fact that the primary legal drug – alcohol – has few other uses than partying. But there are at least a couple of other, far more important uses for psychedelics. Here are the four main uses that I have identified:

1. Recreational use.
The substance is used as a social lubricant and to have fun.

2. Medical use.
The substance is used to cure or relieve a condition, or to find an acceptance for what is. Psychedelics have been used successfully to cure such things as substance abuse, depression, post-traumatic stress and fear of death. Psychedelics are especially valuable for working with psychosomatic conditions, where the disease wholly or partly stems from mental or emotional imbalances.

Plants help us connect with spirit.
Plants help us connect with spirit.

3. Spiritual use.
The substance is used with spiritual purpose, in ritual or to get in direct contact with higher or other dimensions. Psychedelics have been used for this purpose for many thousands of years, often under the guidance of a shaman, medicine man, witch, or other spiritual guides. Some examples of common experiences are getting in direct contact with God / Mother Earth / the Universe, communication with angels / spirits / the dead / past lives, contact with other dimensions, contact with plants and animals, telepathy, the experience that all is one and that we all belong together.

4. Abuse
The substance is used to flee reality. Abuse is charactarized by obsessive craving and unconscious behaviour.

Of course it is extremely difficult to have a sensible discussion about drugs and legislation with someone who does not have this basic understanding, that substances can serve more than one purpose. Writing laws with the misconception that there is only recreational use and abuse is extremely problematic, because it is at the same time criminalizing people’s inherent rights to heal and have their own spiritual practice.

Main photo: Tian Tan Buddha at Ngong Ping, Lantau Island, Hong Kong, China by R Barraez D´Lucca on Flickr

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Intimacy in role playing

Horny teachers, naughty schoolgirls, doctors with perverted persuasions and meter maids in suspiciously high heels. Sexual role playing might be great fun, but can also be used as a tool for self exploration, intimacy and sharing.

Naughty schoolgirl.
Naughty schoolgirl.

There is a great difference between acting a role and finding that aspect of yourself. If you are acting it’s like a costume that you put on, which works nicely with the naughty little outfits you find in your local sex shop. But what schoolgirl or meter maid actually dresses like that? It is very much an exaggerated fantasy, which is all good and well, but I find that it is a game of dress up.

If you on the other hand find that aspect of yourself, you are exploring within, but the representations you find there might not be as two dimensional and unproblematic as in theatrical role playing. If you truly connect to your inner horny teacher, there might be some quite worrying imbalances expressing themselves. By meeting those imbalances, playing with them and talking to our partner, we have the opportunity to learn and grow from the experience. We can find a greater understanding for our tendencies and actively choose which to express, rather than being pushed around unconsciously by fantasies. In doing so together we come closer, find a greater understanding and can support each other.

Tantric lovemaking.
Tantric lovemaking.

In the same way that we might explore our shadow sides, we might of course explore our highest forms and aspirations. To take this to a yogic level, you might have sex as god and goddess, as Shiva and Shakti. Or you might find your own inner most enlightened and pure state, to meet that state of your partner.

But role playing in that sense doesn’t have to be limited to exploring personas. In yoga I have often been reminded to remember the energy of the beginning. Whenever you go into a new relationship, there is that very special buzz of something fresh and unexplored. There are many people that explore their naughtiness in order to spice up their stale sex life after many years, but going back to the beginning can do the same. Invoking the energy of the beginning, seeing your lover once more as if it was the very first time, can spice things up without the theatrics.

Taking that one step further, I would like to share with you a scenario that might not be the first that comes to mind when you think of sexual role playing.
– What if… we both pretend that this is our first sexual experience ever? That we are both virgins. That you are my first, and I am yours.

Main photo: Kiss And Makeup by JD Hancock on Flickr

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Common mistakes with psychedelics

Some classic beginner mistakes that people make with psychedelics.

Accidental overdose.

You don’t know how potent the substance is and haven’t been bothered to find out. Without intending to, you take a far higher dose than you thought.
Solution: Ask the person you are buying from. If it is a new substance that you feel uncertain about, start with a low dose.

“I don’t feel anything.”

You are impatient and don’t wait for the substance to get started before taking more. Many things can delay the effect, including how you take the substance, what you ate before and how conscious you are in the moment. The time it takes may sometimes differ more than an hour.
Solution: Be patient! It can be good to determine a dose and stick to it. If that dose gives little or no effect, it’s was supposed to be that way. Accept and be grateful for it.

Insecure surroundings.
tryps 4 by honeymoon music on Flickr
tryps 4 by honeymoon music on Flickr

A common error among inexperienced psychonauts is that they take the substance in an environment or with people they do not feel safe with. If something happens or they are forced to face something unpleasant, they cannot handle it because they feel insecure and cannot get help.
Solution: Go tripping in a context and together with people that you feel safe with. Take care of each other.

Unstable psyche.

Psychedelics can be tremendously healing for someone who is unstable, but generally you shouldn’t take psychedelics unless you are sure that you are prepared to meet every hardship in your life that you haven’t faced. I’m not saying that you will have to, but psychedelics have the ability to lower your guard and lift your hardest memories to the conscious level. That’s what makes these substances such powerful tools, but in the wrong context, it is also the great danger.
Solution: Don’t use psychedelics if you are mentally unstable or feel that you have things in your past that you are not prepared to meet. Do not use psychedelics in unsafe surroundings. If you are fragile, and want to take psychedelics with a therapeutic purpose, do so with a shaman or guide that you trust and that is familiar with the substance. Don’t use psychedelics if you suffer from schizophrenia, or similar disorders. Don’t mix psychedelics with other substances, such as alcohol or medications.

Photo: World Water Day by Albert Lozada on Flickr

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On 30 hits of LSD

– We are very experienced, his friends assured him.
They were at a German trance festival and he was going to try LSD for the first time, under the wings of his knowledgeable friends.

Liquid LSD.
Liquid LSD.

They had bought a small bottle of liquid LSD, but at home they had only seen LSD in the form of blotter.
– How much do you think it will take, one of them asked.
– I’m not quite sure. 10 drops perhaps? replied the other. *
So guided by his LSD-savvy friends he got ten drops on the back of his hand, which he licked up, and his friends took the same amount.

After approximately half an hour one friend said to the other:
– I don’t feel anything. Do you feel anything?
– No, I don’t feel anything.
– It might not be so strong? Perhaps we need to take more?
So they portioned out another 20 drops on each hand and licked them up. Just after they did, the first ten trip hit them.

When I met him, it had been many years since that first LSD experience.
– It was really heaven and hell, he told me. I would not wish anyone that experience, because I have never been through anything as terrible as when I was in hell. It was purgatory, endless torment and utter hopelessness. But at the same time, I have never experienced anything as amazing as when I was in heaven. Everything was blessed, peaceful and healed.
– The trip lasted for an eternity. I think I landed a couple of days later, but when I came out of it I was in a state of profound peace and gratitude. I really felt like a buddha and remained in that state for many months.

* One drop is a trip. A strong trip may be two or three drops.

Photo: by Evan Brant on Flickr

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