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Self-concept and Ego

Alaina sat down with Dr. Neşe Devenot, a psychedelics and bio ethics researcher to talk about their work with understanding different aspects of phenomenon associated with ego-dissolution and self-concept.

Her recent paper, analyzing outcomes and the research manual from the Johns Hopkins smoking cessation study, identifies some common themes of self-concept or identity shift. This study focuses on directly analyzing reports of participants directly following their experience, instead of looking at retrospective interviews.

The team found that there was a significant priming of patients through the preparation for the study. Specifically, some lessons that were cognitively discussed in the manual appear in the psychedelic experience of participants

  1. Quitting: reoccurrence of participants describing that they were done smoking and quickly felt emotionally done.

  2. Non-smoker Identity: descriptions of needing to have total abstinence to be a non-smoker

  3. Revealing the Real Me: shadow-guided imagery of stepping out of the addiction

Considering these primed themes almost seem like a self-hypnosis, Alaina and Neşe talk about the use psychedelics in this way and how it can be potentially problematic. For example, using psychedelic-hypnosis or suggestibility for harmful conversion therapy. We need careful thought to mitigate some of the potential negatives coming from these frameworks, such as better informed-consent processes and education for participants across the board.

"We're trying to build the airplane as we're flying it."

There are a lot of current dominating ideas in psychedelics and psychedelic-assisted therapy that are from the underground and not evidence-based. It's important to listen to those who have been harmed from some of these ideas, such as "bad trips are the best trips" or the use of touch in therapy.

It's important for leaders in the field to practice humility and transparency when it comes to these issues, especially as more studies come out about what works and what doesn't.

Finally, we want to reiterate that it's possible to love psychedelics and still hold a nuanced perspective. Questioning how things are going, doesn't mean someone doesn't want to see things move forward, it just means they want to see things move forward in a better way.

Here are some of the papers we talk about (if you need a pdf copy, as always, just email us!)

Psychedelics, Meditation, and Self-Consciousness

Neural Mechanisms and Psychology of Psychedelic Ego Dissolution,by%20models%20of%20the%20self

Psychedelic medicalization, public discourse, and the morality of ego dissolution

Could the Embrace of Psychedelics Lead to a Mental-Health Revolution?

Psychedelic Identity Shift: A Critical Approach to Set And Setting

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