Longterm Changes In The Personality Structure Worldview And Hierarchy Of Basic Values

Since we have been discussing the LSD procedure primarily in a therapeutic context, the question of its lasting influence on various personality characteristics is of particular interest. Under certain circumstances even a single psychedelic experience can have profound and lasting consequences. If the subject's personality structure has intrinsic potential for a fundamental positive or negative shift, the administration of LSD can catalyze and precipitate a sudden dramatic transformation. On occasion, one LSD experience has drastically changed an individual's world-view, life philosophy, and entire way of being. It has mediated a profound spiritual opening in atheists, skeptics, and materialistically oriented scientists, facilitated far-reaching emotional liberation, and caused radical changes in value systems and the basic life style.

At the other end of the spectrum, less-fortunate individuals have been deeply shattered by a single exposure to the drug and the psychedelic experience became for them the "last straw" that led to a psychotic episode. Serious emotional disturbances triggered by ingestion of the drug and lasting months or even years are not uncommon among persons who approach self-experimentation with LSD casually and take it under poor circumstances. This should not happen in the context of supervised LSD work. Individuals with serious emotional problems that border on psychosis should be screened out in advance, unless the therapeutic team is willing and equipped to work through all the problems that might be activated by the administration of the drug, and bring the therapy to satisfactory completion. In this section, we will discuss changes that occur in the course of systematic and judicious long-term LSD psychotherapy following the principles described in this book.

Although the process of psychedelic transformation shows many individual variations, it is possible to outline certain basic trends that are reasonably constant and predictable. In the Freudian stage of LSD psychotherapy, which involves biographical self-exploration, subjects tend to discover that various aspects of their life are "inauthentic." Certain perceptions of the world, emotional reactions to persons and situations, and specific behavior patterns suddenly appear to be blind and mechanical automaton-like processes that reflect psychological fixations from childhood. As the traumatic material from the past is confronted and worked through, LSD subjects free themselves from certain idiosyncratic perceptions, inappropriate emotional responses, rigid value systems, irrational attitudes, and maladjustive behavior patterns that are products of their early programming. This process can also lead to elimination or alleviation of some psychopathological symptoms and various life problems of less serious proportions. Since the life history varies greatly from one person to another, the changes on this level can take many different forms.

Perinatal experiences have a much more fundamental and uniform impact on the LSD subjects. The insights that occur in this profound confrontation with the extremes of human experience can drastically change one's perception of oneself and of the world, and result in an entirely new strategy of existence. In this process, many individuals realize that the inauthenticity of their life is not limited to certain biographically determined partial distortions, such as lack of confidence and poor self-image, chronic problems with authority figures, or difficulties with sexual partners. They suddenly see that their entire concept of existence and approach to it had been contaminated by a deep, unconscious fear of death. A strong need to prove oneself, a chronic sense of dissatisfaction and inadequacy, exaggerated ambitions, tendencies to compare and compete, feelings of pressure and lack of time, and the "rat-race" or "treadmill" type di existence that were previously considered intrinsic and inevitable aspects of life, suddenly appear in an entirely different light. They seem to reflect subliminal awareness of the perinatal energies and their insidious influence on the ego. An individual who is under their spell is, in a sense, still psychologically involved in the life-and-death struggle in the birth canal. This entails a peculiar paradoxical mixture of unconscious feelings; from one point of view, one has not yet been born, from another, one is afraid of death. Under these circumstances, many trivial situations become symbolic equivalents of the birth process and are seen as having survival, relevance. In a more concrete sense, certain fundamental approaches to problems, projects, and situations are, at this point, seen to be repetitions of the basic aspects of one's biological birth.

As the individual moves through the perinatal process, he or she discharges and integrates enormous amounts of physical tension and negative emotions, and gains experiential access to unitive states associated with BPM I and BPM IV. This tends to change the way of being in the world and the basic approach to life. The ability to relax physically and emotionally and enjoy ordinary things in life is greatly enhanced. The emphasis shifts from pursuit of complicated external schemes to appreciation of simple aspects of existence. The individual discovers new ways of enjoying his or her own physiological processes and develops more respect for life in all its infinite manifestations. Deep satisfaction can now be derived from a number of things that have been available all along but were previously ignored or barely noticed. Pull participation in the process of life becomes more important than pursuit of any specific goal. It appears quite obvious that one should be concerned about the quality of the experience of life rather than the quantity of external possessions and achievements. Feelings of separation and alienation are replaced by a sense of belonging or being part of the life process. This is typically accompanied by a definite shift from a competitive orientation toward synergistic behavior patterns. A selfish and competitive approach to existence is seen as ignorant, inferior, and ultimately self-destructive. Complementary and synergistic arrangements become the new ideal, to be applied on all levels—in intimate relationships, working situations, large social groups and in regard to the entire population of the planet.

The old belief that "more and bigger" automatically means better, on both the individual and social scale, is rejected as a delusion and a dangerous fallacy. The Western life philosophy, which confuses conspicuous consumption with richness of life is replaced by a new emphasis on "maximum well-being with minimum consumption" and a definite shift toward "voluntary simplicity." The new holistic world-view quite automatically includes increased ecological awareness and a need to live in basic harmony with the environment. It seems that the need to control and manipulate people and nature is related to the influence of negative perinatal matrices and reflects the memory of life-and-death struggle with the maternal organism. Conversely, the holistic and synergistic approach to the human and natural environment seems to be related to positive perinatal matrices and based on the memory of a mutually satisfying and nourishing exchange with the maternal organism.

Another striking aspect of the psychedelic transformation is the development of intense interest in consciousness, self-exploration, and the spiritual quest. A spontaneous inclination toward mysticism, ancient and oriental spiritual disciplines, the practice of yoga and meditation, and a fascination with mythology and religious art is particularly common. It is associated with the spontaneous emergence of a new transcendental ethic, quite similar to Maslow's concept of metavalues and metainotivations. The individual seems to gain access to a value system that is not understandable in terms of his or her early history or cultural norms. It entails a sense of compassion, tolerance, basic justice, and aesthetic appreciation that has a transpersonal or even cosmic quality. Successful completion of the death-rebirth process thus results in a more joyful, interesting, and satisfac-

| tory way of being in the world, with a sense of belonging, meaning, natural I spirituality, and synergistic participation.

This development involves a great conceptual expansion in many ways, but does not seem to influence certain basic philosophical cornerstones of the Newtonian-Cartesian world-view. The world is still seen as objectively real and material in its essencc. Space is three-dimensional, time is linear and causality is acceptcd as a mandatory principle governing the course of events, although its roots have been extended far into the transpersonal realms. Intrauterine experiences, racial and phylogenetic memory, metaphysics of the DNA, archetypal dynamics, and the law of karma might have to be incorporated into the subject's thinking to account for the enormous expansion of the experiential world. A scientifically trained individual still typically accepts at this point the Cartesian division between mind and matter and tries to find material substrates for all his or her LSD experiences in the structures of the central nervous system.

As the psychedelic process continues and the subjects explore the world of transpersonal phenomena, many of the above attributes of the Newtonian-Cartesian world-view become philosophically untenable. The possibility of transcending the limitations of matter, time, space, and linear causality is experienced so many times and in so many different ways that it has to be integrated into the new world-view. Although for the practical purposes of everyday life the individual still thinks in terms of matter, linear time and causality, the philosophical understanding of existence approaches that of Kashmir Shaivism, Taoism, Tantric Buddhism, or modern physics. The universe ceases to be a gigantic assembly of material objects; it becomes an infinite system of adventures in consciousness. The new understanding has distinct holonoinic features, and the dichotomy between the part and the whole, experiencer and the experienced, determinism and free will, form and emptiness, or even existence and non-existence has been transcended.

Since much of the information in this book has been obtained in a clinical context, a few words should be said about the implications of the above transformation for the understanding of emotional disorders and psychotherapy. The LSD process can be viewed as therapy in the traditional sense as long as the self-exploration remains limited to the biographical areas. Once it reaches the perinatal level, it can be better described in terms of a rite of passage or spiritual transformation. Although the client is still working on emotional, psychosomatic and interpersonal problems, the emphasis tends to shift toward a philosophical and spiritual quest. Many symptoms and difficulties in living disappear in the process, some of them in a psychodynamic context, others during the death-rebirth process, or as a result of certain transpersonal experiences. However, as the process deepens, each client without exception also has to deal with a number of problems that were previously latent and only emerged during the LSD procedure. In general, the emphasis should be on a good integration of each LSD session in the series, rather than on long-term maximalistic goals such as eliminating all negativity from the sessions, which is unrealistic.

There are aspects of the psychedelic approach however, that are much more important than concerns about simple symptomatic relief. The intensity and magnitude of the LSD experiences are so great that they change the basic tolerance for difficulties in life and alter the very concept of what constitutes a hardship.-The . simplistic approach to life, which tries to eliminate any difficult experiences and create a Utopian world free of problems, is replaced by a "transcendental realism" which sees the dark and light side of the universe as two intrinsic and inseparable components, in the sense of the Taoist yin and yang. From this point of view, the objective is not to eliminate the negative elements from life, but to develop an attitude that would affirmatively embrace the universe as it is in its complex cosmic dialectics. In this context, various aspects of the life proecss that previously would have been considered negative appear to have multiple new dimensions and can be seen from so many different points of view that they become intriguing and interesting. The ultimate reconciliation with the universe—not necessarily with its status quo but with the unfolding cosmic process—comcs from the insight that the totality of existence forms a unified field or network which is experientially available to each of us. From the point of view of an advanced LSD subject, we are all ramifications of the principle that has created this universe in its infinite complexity and are thus responsible for all the processes involved.

Continue reading here: Notes

Was this article helpful?

0 0