Eli5: What exactly is ‘ego death’ and its role in treatment with psychedelic substances?

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I’ve read stories about how it’s a sought after side-effect and key factor for treating mental health issues using substances like psilocybin or ketamine. What about it actually helps improve the mind? For those that have experienced it, what does it feel like?

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Anonymous 0 Comments

A lot of people journey through life without ever being aware of the wider reality. Call it main character syndrome or something. The ego is only concerned with things that directly concern them. Ego is built from how you think others perceive you, whether you are attractive or ‘normal’, how you compare to society. You might have hang ups around religion or what your parents or peers instilled upon you.

A ‘trip’ can shed the layers of perception and leave you with the realisation that you’re just a bag of water and chemicals with a brainstem, floating in the universe. You can get the sense that it is miraculous that you exist right now. You are a fizzing mess of atoms that is somehow conscious of your existence. The realisation of how profoundly unimportant you are and how fleeting your time here is and how little your everyday stresses and worries matter in the grand scheme of things is what I would call ego death.

After such a breakthrough “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.” You can do anything you like with your existence. It’s better for everyone if you are kind and generous and loving, but ultimately it doesn’t really matter.

Anonymous 0 Comments

A lot of people aren’t raised with empathy or don’t have the emotional capacity for empathy because they believe their view is the only logical, reasonable view in the world, therefore everyone else must be stupid getting caught up in the trappings of life. Therapy with an open mind can get you there eventually, but mushrooms can kinda for the door open in ways you didn’t realize were possible.

That being said, I hang out with a lot of people who do shrooms, and I feel like the ego death is more lipservice to realizing other perspectives exist, not necessarily understanding those perspectives are reasonable and valuable. The only folks who truly adjusted to realizing the scope of society and the fact that every person on the street has their own individual backstory came with extensive therapy.

Anonymous 0 Comments

As a human, we’ve created an identity for ourselves through our accumulated experiences. You might have some set thoughts on certain matters like your gender identity, your political views, your favorite food.

This personality that has been shaped by your preferences, observations, learned behavior is what we call the ego.

The Ego is the you that you think you are. The ego says “I am a boy, I want to be a doctor when I grow up, I don’t like broccoli, I’m scared of the dark”

Ego death is a state where you don’t have that sense of self anymore. You’re not thinking about what you like, what you don’t like, what other people think of you. You’re living in the present moment as an observer. You are no longer the “You” as how the Ego made you seem.

Substances that alter your perception, in high enough doses, allow you to melt away who you think you are. Because you’re seeing the world in a different light, everything that you’ve experienced, you’ve thought of, and held on to dissolve as you experience a new world.

Ego death can be achieved through other ways too like deep meditation, but the reason why drugs are so popular is because it’s an easy way to change your brain chemistry to register the world in a new perspective.

Anonymous 0 Comments

I’ll start by linking you to one of the many, many articles online that explains this topic well: https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-ego-death-psychedelic-use-7089738

Then I’ll follow up by saying that I’ve taken many but not all of the hallucinogens. LSD, mushrooms, ketamine, some of the esoteric 2C class, GHB, and some letters I can’t remember. I haven’t yet had the chance to do ayahuasca or mescaline, and I am no longer sure if I feel the need to try them. Ibogaine intrigues me. I also have done a fair deal of MDMA, although it’s not really a hallucinogen.

I don’t know that I’ve ever experienced a true ego death, but on therapeutic ketamine under the watchful gaze of a licensed practitioner I definitely got pretty far out of my body. Much farther than I’ve gone when just using drugs for a good time.

I’ve had a few notable trips on acid where I was really able to make some progress with mental issues. Eventually I got interested in doing this therapeutically and I have been able to have one truly therapy-minded trip (vs just for fun at a festival).

The generally positive effects of all the hallucinogens I’ve tried have been to shake up the neural pathways – aka “getting you out of the rut.” Just like a road, your brain develops patterns/paths and hallucinogens can force your brain to take new paths and leave some of the old ones behind. But your brain will eventually try to come back to the old ways. I find that a few weeks after a good trip the depression and anxiety comes back, although not always as severely as it was before.

Getting back to your question, my understanding of ego death is that you get so far away from your well-worn neural pathways that define who “you” are that no longer know who you are. You just exist. All of the little things that define you and trap you no longer matter. Once freed of this constraining sense of yourself, you can look objectively at the things that have been weighing you down and decide not to carry that weight anymore.

Anonymous 0 Comments

You see how tenuous and fragile the connections you have to relationships, other people and society really is.

Who are “you”?

You live somewhere, because you have money to pay to stay there. But you don’t physically have the cash, it’s all in the bank.

You have a job and a boss who likes you, but that’s just an arrangement that’s convenient for both of you and could be destroyed in a second.

You live in a country, everyone has decided to drive cars on one side of a painted line and obey colored lights – but there’s no real reason for it, your car works perfectly fine on the other side of the road and a red light on a pole is just that.

Psychedelics let you “see” the bullshit framework of society, and also your connections to it. If there’s a problem, like your Dad beat you, it lets you “see” that that was his reaction to whatever stresses he had in his life. When sober, someone could explain it to you, but with psychs, you can feel it.

Once you’re at ego death, nothing makes sense, you are just a human and you realize that a lot of your relationships in life are just made up – so you can reshape them – as they only (mostly) exist in your head.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Realizing that you are not bounded. You are just a facet of the universe experiencing itself. You is not you. Not singular. Not separate. You are a part of everything else.

When your ego dies, you can let go of so many things that you’ve taken personally. You can see beyond the false appearance of separation between you and others. You can connect, empathize and love. And when the time comes for your physical body to die, you know that you are not dying bc there was never a you in the first place.

Anonymous 0 Comments

It is perceiving yourself as being one with the universe instead of as an isolated, separate being.

The experience of connectedness can bring a lasting sense of peace to some people.