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salma-davis
#1 Posted : 1/17/2021 3:55:50 AM

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Hello everyone, I feel like I should start with how I got here typing this up on this forum. I want to start with talking about my first trip, but I feel like the journey started much earlier when I first started doubting my faith. I was raised in a rather orthodox religious community and when the first seeds of doubt began to sprout, it was characterized by the deepest anxiety I had ever felt.

But the option of not investigating the contradictions further never really occurred to me. When others showed a lack of concern about the contradictions, I was deeply perplexed at first, but I had too high of an opinion of my Self and my own intellect to be comfortable staying in that confusion so that confusion turned into a bitter, hateful, cynicism. I'd feel like, "How could you all fail me so so so badly. How does a 15 year old kid see this while you don't. Obviously, I'm totally and utterly alone in figuring this out given how obviously open to self-deception everyone else is." The more I learned about science and philosophy and religion more generally, the more contradictions would emerge. The irony was that in my ignorant self-elevation I was blinding myself to the obvious fact that I needed the contributions of a vast number of people to begin to feel like I knew anything again. I wasn't truly alone and every bit of research was evidence of that fact. The cruel irony was that, because of the confused way I engaged with it, all my studying turned into something I felt ultimately self-assured in using to justify my superiority over others. I got a lot of narcissistic enjoyment out of being contrarian, at least until even the capacity for enjoyment began to fade. Insofar as I deluded myself into thinking every bit of the self-improvement ultimately came from me, I distanced myself from others. I emphasized the differences and made it harder for me to see our similarities to such an extent that I truly began to doubt even my physical/biological capacity for feeling the same things they felt despite a childhood full of evidence to the contrary. I'd think, "Maybe you're just bound to be isolated. You should just learn to accept that." Looking back, my adopting of a stoic, indifferent, and ruthlessly pragmatic persona was really just a desperate attempt at self-protection. Part of that was my habit of smugly deprecating any means of aesthetic enjoyment I could see in others, but not in my self. Because if it's not in me, it must not be true. Even as a kid, I hated 95% of the music I'd hear. I had learned to interpret the emotion it would evoke as cynical, often profit-motivated, manipulation. Same with any art in advertisements. Same with many sports (except the one I enjoyed of course, because I had good reasons unlike all those fools). That confusion became a deep reflex.

After feeling as though I had totally lost my faith and seeing the general pattern of a gradually diminishing capacity for pleasure, I was fairly convinced that the ultimate cause of my death would be suicide. It's just luck that I don't feel so miserable now, but I probably will eventually. How could it not be when I couldn't find any satisfying answers despite years of trying? I had been academically gifted and often praised for it so I had it in my head that if I couldn't crack this, then it's because it's not solvable. Which means it's all ultimately meaningless and the only rational and self-consistent response could be suicide once the deception of the transient pleasure had worn off. With this idea in my head, it wasn't surprising that I would really take to Albert Camus's statement that: “There is only one really serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Deciding whether or not life is worth living is to answer the fundamental question in philosophy. All other questions follow from that.” I would later find a lot of value in Existentialist thought.

The word 'spiritual' carries a lot of extra baggage, but I feel like it's the only word that captures the most important feature of the thing I'm talking about, so that's the word I'll use. I didn't see at the time that what I called 'mere entertainment' or 'just following my curiosity' was often a part of a greater whole, what I'll call a spiritual path. I'd note the frequency with which studying philosophy would produce for me generally good metaphors for how best to live and the analogies between those and many religious texts. And my life would tangibly improve to the degree I integrated and acted in accordance with the metaphors. The most obvious ones are often expressed in cliches. Dead metaphors. I desperately needed the tangible improvements and so it felt like once they came, I clung to them. Looking back, I can't help but feel the suffering of my isolation had to be felt to the degree that I was convinced of my ultimate superiority over others and then acted accordingly.

When I left home for undergrad, I was really smacked in the face with the hard truth that I wasn't nearly as independent and self-sufficient as I thought I was. The culture shock in addition to my already present lack of social skills and confidence caused an even deeper sense of isolation. At least when I was living a lie by still going through all the religious rituals I could at least physically be around people I loved, if not in spirit. The suffering of the isolation caused the next terrifying large doubt: what if I was wrong to first doubt? Finding the truth is supposed to ultimately make life better right? Why have I been so miserable ever since? My interpretation of that particular depressive episode now: that was me first realizing that there was actually an unquestioning faith in my first instance of significant doubt: it was in my deification of my self. And it was that kind of self-deception that was really producing the suffering. Before that moment, I felt a deep sense of tension and anxiety just being around so many unfamiliar people. After that moment, I still felt anxious, but it was a resolvable kind of anxiety. I just need to learn to socialize more skillfully. I can do that. I've learned more complex things. Before that, it was ineffable.

So there's baby steps of improvement. The fact that being studious made me helpful to others created a deep sense of fulfillment. I'd get to do something I couldn't help but enjoy even at my most depressed and feel a sense of connection with others. I don't think it's a coincidence that that kind of activity was the first time I remember a genuine sense of care finally re-emerging. There wasn't a doubt in the value of that activity even though it's associated with positive emotion, the thing I had learned to always associate with falsity.

Despite my tendency for self-isolation, I stumbled upon becoming friends with someone from the same community who had similarly begun seeing contradictions and asking questions and being dissatisfied with the answers and feeling intense isolation because of it. We became best friends. Despite my overall narcissistic attitudes, I couldn't help but love that about her because it was what I loved about myself.

We dropped acid together for the first time. I had so much fun and laughed so much my cheeks kinda hurt the next day. I had gotten a glimpse of how I could make my life truly worth living because of how amazingly free of anxiety or fear or depression I was during that trip. It didn't feel like an artificial boost in emotion like I had experienced with adderall, for example. It felt like I was free from those things because I understood something. I understood something so deeply that I was faaar from being able to verbalize to an extent where I felt like I knew that I knew it. During the trips I only knew it. It was a unknown known. Put in more psychoanalytic terms, my subconscious knew it, but my ego didn't. I still struggled with anxiety afterwards, but again, it was now just an object to work on and I had enough self-confidence to know I could improve it.

My second trip was solo. It was one of, if not the most, significant day of my life. I could see all my worse mental habits with so much clarity and from such a safe place that the whole day I was in a state of ecstasy. I felt like and acted like a different person for the next month and it was astounding just how much better my life was. I remember being invited to hang out after a brief interaction. I was making friends and I actually knew how I knew how I was doing it! That had never happened in my life. I had gotten used to opposite. I had felt like almost every friend I had made was really just a friend by obligation. In high school, we were all stuck together so some degree of social connection was inevitable just out of mere practicality.

Old habits returned and the habits and negative thought patterns were mutually self-reinforcing. I'd spend more and more of my die just alone lying in bed on my laptop. After undergrad, I started med school and was really troubled by how I felt that first day. Alone again and not really sure how to not be. But the social anxiety was not visible at least. And I had learned to observe and thereby prevent the unskillful anxious trains of thought that were making me so anxious I was vomiting multiple times a week. That in itself was amazing and worth being grateful for. When I look back at the journals I had written about the social anxiety I can't help but laugh at the number of times I write, "I think that will actually be the last time I vomit. I think it's over now." I'm realizing right now that I actually can't remember the last time that happened. I do remember it not happening after that first trip though.

The depression in med school was different. Gone were the intense episodes of dread, despair, self-hatred, and malevolence. Now it's just numbness. But I could see myself sliding slowly backwards in my growing tendency to isolate myself and spend more time on my laptop/phone/digital pacifier. To be clear, it's not the tools themselves that were the issue, but the way I was using them. The tools just made it incredibly easy to use them that way. My vice, if you want to call it that, was social media, which I'm realizing is really a broader concept than just Facebook, Twitter, etc. neither of which I had used. It was in the inherently addictive nature of social approval with the gamifying aspect of having something like a point system. It would scratch enough of the itch for social connection enough to convince myself, which did still have some anxiety about it, that I could do without the real, in-person thing.

Eventually, enough of knowledge from that trip had faded that I realized I needed a dedicated and regular practice to maintain it. That was when I started meditating regularly and it did me tremendous good. But the absence of negative emotion had created a false contentedness in me. The anhedonia was a growing problem and I was in denial about how well I was doing. I started to drink to cope with it. 99% of the times I've gotten drunk, it was alone. And I wouldn't even spend my time all that differently: lie in bed alone on my laptop cycling between TV, movies, reddit, and porn. Fortunately, I had enough self-awareness and humility to realize that I couldn't quit it on my own (after failing and denying it probably over 100 times lol), so I sought help. This time a little sooner. I had been only pathologically consuming alcohol for around a year, so I hadn't quite solidified all the worst habits to the same extent that I had in other instances. I feel fortunate that that problem could get nipped in the bud because the desire for it is gone.

Somewhat in the background of all this was continuing questioning in the form of really exploring the philosophical questions I felt were most fundamental and meaningful and therefore felt a sense of natural curiosity about. The disciplines I felt most curious about at this time were cognitive sciences, Buddhist philosophy, and the Continental philosophical tradition. A sense of personal progress in these areas was often a source of hope. I feel like I genuinely questioned the value of everything at different moments on this path, but I couldn't genuinely question the value of increasing my understanding (both of myself and of the universe) because in the very act of questioning it I'd be reaffirming it by asking another question, the means of growing one's understanding.

My first couple DMT experiences in my last year of med school were fascinating. I only really tried to breakthrough once, but it felt inhibited by my own mind. Like I could appreciate all the majestic visuals and ultimate self-similarity and connectedness of everything, but there was a sense of a self-imposed barrier. I don't know why, but I got the sense that since I already knew what to do and how to better myself, not only do I not need to have this experience now, but I can't have this experience now because of my sense of certainty that I could understand it. I could see this with powerful clarity while on the rocket up. The habit of my mind to narrativise and categorize everything with the certainty that it's all ultimately understandable. After all, everything I had come to understand was just a finite and particular thing. I didn't really know that I had already been working on undoing that bit of confusion.

I had a trip around the middle of med school where the most salient takeaway, again thanks to the aforementioned friend, was a sense of curiosity about the works Douglas Hofstadter. I read his book I am a Strange Loop and it was amazing how much was making sense. It felt like a unification of a lot of very different lines of inquiry. It made more sense the more of his works I read. It was the beginning of the realization that the Truth I was looking for and participating in and positing in every moment of questioning could not be ultimately located in any formal system (the intuition I had that the fundamental nature of reality is universally understandable by a formal system). That intuition would be later consummated by learning more about the ideas of Richard Rorty and Jacques Derrida, who ironically are often derided as nihilists/relativists, yet pointed me in the right direction on this path.

I'll never forget the moment it hit me. I was reading the intro paragraph about Hegel on Wikipedia to better solidify some of the stuff I had learned about his ideas (which took a long time) and there was something about the weight of the words various philosophers used to describe Hegel that gave me enough of a sense of self-confidence that the realization I had been beginning to feel and intuit was not unusual. They're all seeing the same thing. Specifically it was the quotes from Heidegger, Derrida, and Tillich. The only way I could sum up that experience now would be undecipherable (I'm still learning how to better articulate it): it was a flood of self-similar, self-referencing realizations where the process of realization was identical to the realization itself. It was making sense and it was making sense how it was making sense. The only drug in me then was cannabis, yet the whole experience felt...continuous with the psychedelic experience. I felt like I could breathe a sigh of relief from the bottom of my soul after that.

Then something really amazing began to happen, I suddenly found that ability, which came from a genuine sense of love, to talk to people and actually make a genuine connection was here again! I didn't reflexively hate 95% of the music I'd hear, a habit I had come to dislike about myself! I knew what I knew in that earlier trip. My fundamental confusion was in thinking that deprecation of particulars was the Truth. The exact opposite turned out to be true. Love and care of finite particulars insofar as it leads to their elevation is the truth.

I normally did not really care for patient interviews. I could put on a professional face and do the job, but there wasn't a sense of connection, generally speaking. Not only did that change, I found that I was more able to deepen the few, close friendships I did have. I found that people would increasingly want to spend time with me. I remember driving to the hospital on multiple occasions and just thinking it through, using the dialectic as a tool on my own mind, was clarifying more and more things about myself and it would bring tears of joy to my eyes. Positive emotion had often been associated with a sense of anxiety in me because I knew I'd suffer when it inevitably went away. But that wasn't happening this time. It really felt like the only reason I could get it was because I had freed myself from the craving of it.

Insofar as I was 'deifying' my mind in the studying of philosophy, I was not only distancing myself from others, I was doing that to myself. That manifested in a gradual and troubling loss of a sense of curiosity and love of the science of medicine. An aspect of the realization was truly appreciating the depths to which I had come to identify with my ability to put things into words. I remember feeling deeply confused by the concept of poetry. "If the goal is self-expression, why not just use normal words? Isn't that how we express ourselves?" would be the thinking. Which is why the line about "[Hegel] had undoubtedly summed up the entire philosophy of the logos" hit me like a ton of bricks. It was summed up...and yet there was more. That was why I felt so incredibly reserved in so many social settings. I had confused myself into thinking that expressing myself honestly would be bearing my soul in such a way that it could be irreparably damaged. And perhaps that's because I remember a lot of instances as a kid where honestly expressing myself really did lead to punishment from authorities or mockery from peers. The confusion was that it even could cause me that kind of damage. It was reparable. It was better than reparable.

The more I could integrate all that I had learned, the further away from the depression and all those unhealthy habits I could move. And I'm realizing the self-deception was always in the form of deceiving myself about the extent of the problem as opposed to the mere existence of the problem. The further I move away, the more I realize that I was actually in a much, much deeper hole than I thought. Part of that reflexive self-censoring was never being fully honest about my life to others because a large part of me was embarrassed and embarrassed to even be embarrassed because of the concern that shows for mere appearances to others. So I'd never be fully honest to anyone or myself about how long I had been living like a bed-bound terminal patient. Moving my body less and less. Losing the energy to feed myself. Losing the energy to clean myself and my living space. The M.O. for a long time was to put minimal effort into everything because anymore than is necessary for this meaningless existence is foolish. So why not fully retreat from as many challenges as you can? Why not lie in bed with the endless novelty the internet offers all the time? Most people I imagine don't need to be convinced of the ultimate self-destructive nature of that kind of living, but I guess I had to learn the hard way because of how smugly self-assured I was and how afraid I was of seeking help. But that's ok because although I often felt like I would arrive at stuff that looked like conventional wisdom, the degree of honest doubt and inquiry that went into arriving at that point had the effect of producing a deeper understanding of the things that matter.

Which finally brings me to the DMT experience I had a couple nights ago. I started off with a very low dose and gradually increased and it felt like I could see with even more clarity the habit of narrativizing and conceptualizing, but this time I had a great intuition of the direction the rocket ship was moving me toward, but I wanted to hang out mostly in conventional reality because the realizations and reaffirmations of every positive step I had taken was so deeply comforting. The fact that my vision itself was showing me the self-similar unity made the experience feel like just an extra concentrated form of all other instances of understanding the truth. It was always a process of refining limited binary oppositions. It felt like I could feel the presence of multiple entities observing me, the way a loving parent might observe their child investigate the world around them in the adorable way babies do. I also had the sense that any and all symbols I'd use to try to represent hyperspace and anything in it would ultimately just be conventional tools for me to use while in conventional/consensus reality. It could have been conceived of us one entity with many aspects or as many entities. Or as not even an entity. I felt like I could really see the futility of the task my mind was so diligently and habitually trying to complete. But it was ok that it was futile because I could learn through experience first rather than symbols.

That's how I got here. I had been trying to talk to some close friends about this, but I can't explain it and they're not really getting it. Although they have been supportive and curious, I realized I needed to find people who would get it. At least to the limited extent that I do. Reading the Attitude page made me really happy because everything about it communicated that not only is there a community of people who get it, there's a community of people who could help me with future trips. It feels like I've come such a long way, yet I'm just getting started as I have yet to breakthrough. That used to be something I'd dislike, but I'm increasingly learning to enjoy discovering areas of my own ignorance and not to deprecate the associated discipline just because I'm unfamiliar with it. It feels natural since I've basically been in school my whole life. I don't know if I've ever felt such a deep sense of hope without the inevitable anxiety that comes from thinking about the foolishness of hope in such a finite and contingent world. That anxiety doesn't apply because the hope isn't predicated on whether or not particular events occur. It's deeper and more universal than that.

Sorry, that turned out way longer than I thought it would. It was cathartic to write regardless.
“I tore myself away from the safe comfort of certainties through my love for truth - and truth rewarded me.”
― Simone de Beauvoir
 

Good quality Syrian rue (Peganum harmala) for an incredible price!
 
downwardsfromzero
#2 Posted : 1/17/2021 10:03:52 PM

Peeing into the abyss

Chemical expertSenior Member

Posts: 5413
Joined: 30-Aug-2008
Last visit: 05-Mar-2021
Location: square root of minus one
Hello and welcome to the Nexus!

That was one of the more thorough and frank introductions I've read lately - there really is no need to apologise! The fact that you've read through the attitude page - and, furthermore, that it encouraged you to sign up - really counts in your favour.

It looks like you'll find the Nexus to be a great resource for your continued self-development.

For a more immediate way of communicating with people you can drop into the chat (link at the top left of the page).

See you around.
Ora, lege, lege, lege, relege et labora

“There is a way of manipulating matter and energy so as to produce what modern scientists call 'a field of force'. The field acts on the observer and puts him in a privileged position vis-à-vis the universe. From this position he has access to the realities which are ordinarily hidden from us by time and space, matter and energy. This is what we call the Great Work."
― Jacques Bergier, quoting Fulcanelli
 
TGO
#3 Posted : 1/17/2021 10:18:37 PM

Music is alive and in your soul. It can move you. It can carry you. It can make you cry! Make you laugh. Most importantly, it makes you feel! What is more important than that?

Welcoming committee

Posts: 2536
Joined: 02-May-2015
Last visit: 20-Jan-2021
Location: Lost In A Dream
Hello, welcome to the forum. Thank you for taking the time to write out a thorough introduction.

I also grew up in a heavily religious household and over time, things just didn't seem to make sense, contradictions were everywhere, and the people within religious organizations always seemed to be the most judgmental and hypocritical people. This was very off-putting to me, so I gradually moved away from it completely by the time I moved out of my parents house, and have been trying to move forward ever since then.

Your story is certainly compelling. The transformative nature woven through this post is interesting and inspiring. I appreciate your honesty and the introspective clarity you have articulated throughout. As a fellow human, I hope you are doing well and that you continue successfully on your journey of self-discovery.

This is a supportive community, full of unique people from all walks of life. I hope you'll stick around for a while. It was nice to meet you.

Take care!

-TGO
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