Personality Of The Subject
When we discuss the significance of the subject's personality for the nature, content and course of the LSD experience, it is necessary to distinguish between the role of personality factors in individual sessions using low and medium dosages on the one hand, and in consecutive sessions of a therapeutic series or high-dose psychedelic sessions on the other. We will first cover the more superficial per sonality variables and later move on to the deeper underlying structures that function as determinants of the LSD experience.
Some interesting personality variables can already be observed in the pre-drug phase of LSD treatment—during the initial interview and the preparatory period. There is a very typical group of individuals who approach the LSD sessions with multiple anxieties and great apprehension. They raise a number of questions and doubts concerning the effect of the drug and value of the therapeutic procedure, dwell on the horror stories they have read in the newspapers or heard on the radio and TV, and show a tendency to procrastinate and delay the actual session as long as possible. It is not uncommon that these subjects have serious disturbances of sleep or terrible nightmares as a result of the approaching prospect of taking the drug. Such persons usually require much reassurance of a general and specific nature before they agree to have a drug session.
There seems to exist a typical cluster of conflicts and problems that many of these individuals share. In their everyday life they are constantly concerned about maintaining perfect control over their feelings and behavior. They are afraid of temporary or permanent unleashing of instinctual energies, especially those of a sexual and aggressive nature, and of involuntary emotional outbursts. There is frequent preoccupation with the issue of loss of control and fear of social embarrassment, blunder and public scandal resulting from the ensuing behavior. The struggle with forces that threaten to emerge from the unconscious can take much time and energy in the life of these persons, and is often associated with feelings of inferiority, a sense of guilt, and self-reproach in regard to the instinctual drives. In the extreme, the above concerns can take the form of fear of insanity or death'. These persons typically dislike and fear all situations such as fatigue, diseases with fever, sleep deprivation, and the hypnagogic period which threaten to reduce the degree of conscious control over the unconscious impulses. In some instances the fear of the transition between waking consciousness and sleep is so intense that these patients take long, fatiguing walks before going to sleep or keep themselves busy until late hours to shorten the hypnagogic period and expedite the process of falling asleep.
Since full sexual orgasm requires a temporary suspension of voluntary control, such problems usually find their most salient expression in the sexual life of these persons. Their problems in this area range from impotence, frigidity or incomplete and superficial orgasms to a tendency to avoid sexual situations altogether. Discussions about their experience of sexual intercourse may reveal a fear of unleashing aggressive impulses in themselves or their partners, and a frightening sense that the situation might get "out of control." On a deeper level the associated fantasies can take the form of intense unconscious fears of devouring the partners or being devoured by them. People with such problems usually instinctively sense or deduce from the reports of others that LSD has a disinhibiting effect, and that its administration can result in loss of control and a powerful upsurge of unconscious material. The prospect of having an LSD session thus feeds directly into the central fears of these individuals. The problems related to sexual intercourse and orgasm that are described here also betray the manifestation of perinatal energies in these persons. (See a detailed discussion of these problems 011 p 71 ff.)
Another problem related to the negative attitude toward LSD therapy and unwillingness to have a drug session is associated with a lack of trust in oneself, other people, human society, and the world in general. If these feelings are within the neurotic range it is necessary to spend extra time with the patient to develop a sufficient degree of trust before administration of the drug. Openly paranoid attitudes about the procedure, especially when the patient tends to include the therapist among the suspected persecutors, should be considered a contraindication for LSD therapy.
An enthusiastic approach to LSD treatment, vivid interest in the drug, and an eagerness to have psychedelic sessions has been observed in certain types of intellectuals who are dissatisfied with the dullness and monotony of their everyday life and are looking for unusual, exotic and stimulating experiences. In this group, the possibility of exploring hidden recesses of the mind is also frequently seen as a unique learning opportunity, and adds to the special appeal of the experience. Patients with a strong positive component in the transference relationship sometimes see the major attraction of the psychedelic session as the prospect of having the full and undivided attention of the therapist for an entire day. Some of the patients, unconsciously or with various degrees of conscious awareness, use the framework of the drug session as an opportunity to experience, express and act out some of their otherwise unacceptable tendencies.
On occasion, a potentially dangerous eagerness and strong motivation to have a psychedelic session is observed in certain desperate patients with few alternatives left in life. They find themselves in a subjectively unbearable situation of intense conflict associated with great emotional distress and tension. Typical characteristics include serious questioning of the meaning of life, toying with suicidal fantasies, and a careless and risky approach to various life-situations in general. Unable to tolerate the intensity of the conflicting psychological forces, and tired of making painful compromises, they crave instant termination of this agonizing state. In their fantasy LSD becomes the magic tool that will give them instant relief, either by mediating a miraculous cure or by precipitating self-destruction. If the psychedelic sessions with these individuals do not result in elements of ego death and transcendence, they can activate the existing self-destructive tendencies. It is quite important to detect such attitudes in advance, analyze the underlying motives, and discuss the situation with the subject before the administration of the drug.
All the factors discussed above are of primary importance before the first LSD session. When the drug has been repeatedly administered in the context of a therapeutic series, most patients realize the possibilities that psychedelic experiences can offer in terms of deep self-exploration, finding the roots of one's emotional symptoms, and solving life problems. Even those patients who were initially concerned about loss of control usually discover its therapeutic value. Their previous concept of control, that once lost it cannot be regained, is replaced by the insight that suspension of defenses is a liberating experience. They discover a new way of being in the world in which one can exert control without any effort because the urgent forces that required constant anxious attention have been discharged.
By and large, all patients treated with serial LSD sessions tend to develop a positive atittude toward the treatment. Although after particularly difficult sessions some individuals might show fear and a reluctance to continue, they usually do not lose trust in the value of the process. The major exception to this rule are patients with severe obsessive-compulsive neuroses, who can maintain a generally pessimistic attitude all through the procedure. Their pessimism is frequently reinforced and confirmed by uneventful sessions and an apparent lack of therapeutic benefit.
Special mention should be made of subjects with superior intelligence and « strong intellectual interests in human culture, psychology, art, philosophy, and v religion. Such subjects tend to discover very quickly that the process of serial LSD sessions transcends the framework of traditional depth-psychological analysis and offers unique possibilities for a serious philosophical and spiritual quest. As a result of this insight, they pursue psychedelic self-exploration with great interest and emotional involvement. In this context, LSD sessions can be seen as an opportunity to confront the mysteries of the universe and the riddle of human existence. They thus assume a function comparable to the spiritual practicas of ancient and Oriental cultures, or to rites of passage, temple mysteries, and various esoteric procedures of the mystical tradition.
We have also observed interesting connections between the clinical diagnosis or symptomatology of some patients and the nature of their LSD sessions. These are most striking in the case of persons suffering from severe obsessive-compulsive neuroses. These patients usually belong to the group of those who are afraid of the drug session before they have experienced it; they tend to voice a number of concerns and questions, and typically delay the onset of treatment. Their resistance to the effect of LSD is extremely high and even sessions with excessive dosages are frequently uneventful. The phenomenology of their LSD sessions is usually limited to a determined fight against the effect of the drug and an extreme effort to maintain reality-testing and full self-control. There are practically no disturbances of optical perception and the only manifestations of the LSD effect are typically massive somatizations. If they experience any unusual feelings at all, these patients usually present multiple complaints about unpleasant physical symptoms, such as headaches, weakness, fatigue, general malaise, a tendency to collapse or swoon, nausea, profuse sweating, chills and hot flashes. They might be alarmed by their sense of losing touch with reality, concerned about intensification of their sexual and aggressive drives, or preoccupied with conflicts regarding self-esteem and ethical issues. Their sessions are characterized by intense inner struggle and are usually followed by excessive feelings of fatigue. For patients with obsessive-compulsive neuroses of extreme intensity, it can take a considerable number of LSD sessions before their resistances are reduced and the sessions start having a more concrete content.
In individuals with a hysterical personality structure and symptomatology, the nature, content and course of the LSD sessions is usually substantially different; as a matter of fact, they seem to be at the opposite end of the spectrum from the obsessive-compulsives. Excitement, and intense curiosity about the procedure is quite typical of these patients and their attitude toward the drug experience is generally much more positive. They are extremely sensitive to the effects of LSD and frequently display a rather dramatic reaction after a relatively small dose. In this group, the various perceptual changes are extraordinarily rich, with a definite predominance of visual elements and intense body sensations. In agreement with observations from classical psychoanalysis, perceptions of an erotic nature and rich sexual symbolism seem to dominate the experiential world of these patients. Their images tend to have a flowing scenic character; they are usually dramatic, vivid and colorful with visualization of various glamorous daydreams and other wishful elements of fantasy life. This smooth scenic course can be disturbed when patients approach traumatic and pathogenic memory constellations. Like everyone else, hysterical patients are not immune to difficult and painful experiences in psychedelic sessions. However, they seem to have high tolerance of suffering and can appreciate periods of inhuman horror and torture as much as episodes of ecstatic rapture. During LSD psychotherapy, as in systematic drug-free therapy, these patients might present special challenges and problems in regard to transference and countertransference.
Observations from LSD psychotherapy seem to confirm Freud's findings of a close relationship between homosexuality and paranoid behavior. It was repeatedly observed that patients with serious latent or manifest problems concerning homosexuality had a greater disposition toward panic reactions, paranoid perception, use of projection in regard to their LSD experiences, and delusional interpretation of the situation and the session in general. These difficulties usually occurred or were particularly accentuated when a preoccupation with their homosexual problems was the central focus of their experience.
We have not been able to detect any fixed and specific correlations between symptoms of clinical depression and the nature of the psychedelic experiences. Although deepening of pre-existing depression and intensification of suicidal ideation can often be observed in LSD sessions, the clinical condition of depressed persons frequently appears quite labile and prone to dramatic changes and breakthroughs. In neurotic depressions, heightened affective lability sometimes results in a peculiar condition in which depressive affect and crying occurs simultaneously with euphoria and forceful laughing, or alternates with them in a rapid succession. In general, it is not uncommon that a depressed patient experiences most of the session in a thoroughly euphoric or even ecstatic way and that a marked and sometimes lasting improvement can be noted after the session. Several accidental observations have suggested that a single LSD session can cause a complete remission of a serious periodic depression with a very stubborn pattern without, of course, changing the underlying personality structure or preventing recurrence of future depressions at the usual time periods.
Repeated observations of LSD sessions in depressed patients suggest that the drug can be useful in making a differential diagnosis between exogenous and endogenous depressions. Patients whose depression is basically of exogenous origin usually deal in their sessions with rich biographical material which is thematically and dynamically related to their disease. In patients with endogenous depressions, the content of the sessions is usually much more limited and frequently consists of accentuation of the deep and primordial feelings constituting the depression. In these patients there is a definite risk that their clinical symptoms might be temporarily intensified after some LSD sessions. This observation is in agreement with the experiences of Arendsen-Hcin (5), a Dutch psychiatrist and pioneer in LSD psychotherapy.
In general, it can be concluded that the relationship between the diagnostic group and the nature of the LSD experience is not sufficiently distinct and constant to be of great clinical value, except in the few extreme cases mentioned above. In this sense, LSD certainly cannot contribute much to the clinical diagnosis established by psychiatric interviews and conventional diagnostic techniques. The relationship between the original diagnostic category of the patient and his or her psychedelic experiences becomes even looser and less predictable in serial LSD sessions. As we will discuss later, repeated exposures to the drug are associated with major dynamic shifts in the personality structure and frequent changes of symptoms.
The limited value of LSD as an auxiliary to conventional clinical diagnosis contrasts sharply with its potential for dynamic diagnosis. It is an unrivalled tool for the exploration of the forces constituting the basic personality, and for study of the deep dynamic structures underlying clinical symptoms. In sessions with lower and medium dosages of LSD, and in the termination periods of high-dose sessions, one can often observe a marked intensification of pre-existing personality characteristics and behavior patterns. This is typically accompanied by accentuation of current clinical symptoms or recurrence of emotional and psychosomatic effects that the patient suffered from at some point in the past. Sometimes this reenactment involves relatively recent history, at other times very early periods of childhood or even infancy.
Occasionally, completely new symptoms may emerge during a session which the patient does not remember ever having experienced before. This offers a unique opportunity for the researcher to study the psychogenesis and physiogenesis of clinical symptoms in the process of their origination, in statu nascendi. The general dynamic structure of these newly formed symptoms seems to be identical with that of the usual neurotic manifestations; it represents a compromise formation between powerful unconscious drives or tendencies and the mechanisms of defense. Phenomena of this kind seem to be reflected in activation and exteriorization of latent matrices of the unconscious which exist in the dynamic structure of the personality. The reason why they have not manifested earlier in life is that they have not been activated by biochemical or psychological forces to a sufficient degree to influence the patient's ego. The so-called "vegetative" symptoms frequently seem to fall into this category.
The individual characteristics that are amplified in the low-dose range represent more superficial but practically important aspects of the personality. In everyday life some of these elements are so inapparent that they are not readily detected and identified, or the subjects use various techniques to counteract and hide them. LSD can enhance these subtle features to such a degree that they reach the point of a caricature. Under the magnifying effect of the drug they become so obvious that they cannot possibly escape the attention of either the therapist or the subject. The broad spectrum of phenomena belonging to this group can be divided into several typical categories.
The first category includes manifestations reflecting emotional reactivity and general feeling tone. The subjects can get deeply in touch with their present emotional condition and explore the experiential dimensions and characteristics of the various affective states that it entails. Probably the most valuable insights available in this context are into positive and negative feelings towards certain persons and situations, especially in the form of ambivalence and conflicting attitudes. Similarly, many patients may fully experience and express their anxieties and various specific fears, depression and despair, states of aggressive tension, irritability and impulsivity, or emotional lability with alternating depressive and euphoric moods. An experience that characteristically occurs in neurotic patients is an agonizing feeling of loneliness and isolation with a sense of uselessness. The feeling of being superfluous in the world and the inability to see the meaning of one's existence are frequently associated with the need to be needed and sought after. Individuals who experienced marked emotional deprivation and rejection in childhood frequently show at this point an intense need for love. Such cravings usually have strong infantile features and involve anaclitical elements. On occasion, experiences of this kind can result in valuable insights into the basically childlike nature of various dependency needs, and lead to an understanding of how this confusion creates conflicts in everyday life.
The second category involves problems related to self-image and self-esteem. The most frequent phenomena in this area are agonizing inferiority feelings experienced in regard to different dimensions of one's existence. Thus patients quite often express dissatisfaction, unhappiness, or even despair about their physical appearance. They complain about being ugly, misshapen or repulsive, point to imagined or insignificant physical defects, and greatly exaggerate the relevance of some existing handicaps. This preoccupation with self-esteem is as often related to intellectual abilities. Subjects describe themselves as stupid, dull, unimaginative, incapable, primitive and uneducated, often directly contradicting their real qualities and social achievements. It is typical of the neurotic group to compare their own abilities unfavorably with those of significant others, such as parents, siblings, peers, and co-patients. This is frequently projected onto the therapist, who is highly idealized and seen as far superior in every respect. As a result, patients may spend much time and emotional energy ruminating obsessively that they do not deserve the attention being offered to them, and that some other patients could make better use of the therapist's time.
An especially striking manifestation in a great number of subjects is low moral self-evaluation and conflicts between instinctual impulses and ethical or aesthetic principles. They feel that they are bad, evil, disgusting and worthless human beings and see their lives as utterly immoral or sinful. It suddenly appears to them that by their actions in everyday life they are exploiting other people, betraying them, offending or bothering them, imposing upon them, or hurting them. This can reach such proportions that some subjects talk about sensing dirty, perverted, bestial, or even criminal elements in their own personality. In most instances these objectionable traits involve tendencies and activities that are quite trivial, or represent ubiquitous and common human characteristics. Another variation of low self-esteem is the feeling of emotional inferiority. Some subjects complain that while others treat them with love and warmth, they are unable to reciprocate these emotions. They feel incapable of experiencing genuine affection and human concern toward their children, marital partners, lovers, parents, or siblings. Other common manifestations in this area are agonizing guilt feelings, qualms of conscience, and self-accusation.
Less frequently, one may see an activation of self-aggrandizing tendencies, such as unnatural bragging and boasting, condescending and pseudoauthoritative attitudes, exaggerated demonstrations of power, indulgence in caustic attacks and hypercritical comments, or a tendency to cynicism and ridicule. The amplified caricature-like quality of these manifestations makes it easy to recognize them as compensatory maneuvers covering up underlying feelings of basic inferiority and inadequacy. These dynamics quite regularly reflect important pre-existing problems in the subject.
The third important category of phenomena related to personality characteristics involves accentuation of typical patterns in the subject's social reactivity. Some individuals show a marked enhancement of sociability, with incessant search for human contact, non-stop talking, and a tendency towards clowning, joking, and entertaining others. Sometimes there is an enormous need for attention and imagined or actual neglect is experienced as very painful. This may be associated with various attention-getting maneuvers, typically those also used to some degree in everyday life. They can range from noisy and theatrical performances to affectionate behavior and seeking gentle physical contact. Sometimes the erotic component can come to the foreground; this results in coquetry, seductiveness, minor sexual aggression, or verbalizations full of sexual undertones or overt obscenities.
Conversely, one may observe a marked accentuation of withdrawal mechanisms which the subject uses habitually in everyday life. Psychological withdrawal and an unwillingness to interact with people in an LSD session can be an expression of a lack of interest in socialization and preference for aesthetically or intellectually more attractive introspection. However, in some instances it can be a manifestation of complicated interpersonal problems and inner conflicts. Avoidance of human contact may reflect the patient's fear of people and his or her low self-esteem. Sometimes this comes from an underlying feeling of being unimportant, uninteresting, unpleasant, or disgusting; in others, it may be associated with a strong fear of rejection. Tendencies to withdraw can also reflect conflicts and problems related to aggression: the presence of other people, their,expressions and behavior are experienced as irritating and trigger hostile impulses which are unacceptable and frightening. In this case, withdrawal is used in the service of self-control. A typical problem that an LSD session can amplify is the conflict between the need for the company of others and the tendency to be alone. The patient is afraid to be alone but at the same time cannot stand the company of others; he or she has an intense craving for human contact but is also afraid of it.
Another frequent occurrence is intensification of social and interpersonal patterns related to dominance and submission. This can be reflected in strong tendencies to manipulate, control, criticize, or mentor others. The subject may make determined efforts to create situations involving competition and testing of powers, or the derogation, humiliation and ridicule of others. Similarly, submissive manifestations and deferential behavior patterns can be accentuated to the point of caricature. Some subjects keep apologizing for various trivial or imaginary things and require reassurance that they are not interfering with anything or anyone. Others keep asking if they are offending or hurting anybody, or want to make sure that nobody is angry with them. Irresolution, anxious clinging and passive-dependent maneuvers may also reach extreme dimensions and border on anaclitic behavior.
A remarkable and frequently observed manifestation is the desperate and determined fight for maintenance of full self-control. As already described above, this typically occurs in subjects who have various problems with self-control even in their everyday life. Conversely, individuals with a rich inner world to which they can turn as a protective shelter against traumatizing reality, often complain in an LSD session about their inability to relate fully to either the external world or their inner experience.
While lower dosages of LSD activate and accentuate superficial layers of the subject's personality structure which play an important role in everyday interaction, higher doses exteriorize deep dynamic forces and tendencies. After the LSD dose reaches a certain critical limit, which varies considerably from one person to another, a striking psychological reversal can often be observed. At this point, various powerful tendencies which are contrary to the above superficial elements tend to surface and dominate the experiential world and behavior of the subject. These represent important dynamic undercurrents that are counteracted and controlled under normal circumstances by various defense mechanisms. While the phenomena discussed earlier lead to a better descriptive knowledge of various more-or-less manifest aspects of the subject's personality the emergence of these deep tendencies can contribute significantly to an understanding of the dynamics of the personality structure.
This reversal is most frequently observed in extremely submissive and anxious persons who in their everyday existence are timid, shy and overly polite, and meticulously avoid any interpersonal conflict. After losing the struggle for self-control, these individuals exhibit marked aggressivity with hostile and destructive tendencies. A temporary conversion of a similar kind is quite common in subjects who normally have strong sexual inhibitions, Victorian prejudices, an excessive proneness to shame, and tendencies toward asceticism, puritanism and prudishness. In the LSD sessions of such persons, overt sexual manifestations frequently dominate the experience. These subjects tend towards coquetry, frivolous or seductive behavior, and social exhibitionism with a sexual undertone. They may indulge in obscenities, show signs of sexual aggression, or attempt to masturbate in the presence of the sitters.
Sudden, dramatic changes can take place in persons who normally suffer from intense feelings of inadequacy and inferiority. They tend to become grandiose and overtly self-confident, manifest various dictatorial and domineering tendencies, and express mégalomanie ideas and fantasies. Conversely, in markedly authoritarian persons who are excessively autocratic in their normal life and ostentatiously demonstrate their personal strength and power, this phase of LSD therapy frequently brings out the compensatory and defensive character of their stances. Under the influence of LSD, the underlying feelings of abysmal insecurity, low self-esteem, and childlike helplessness surface and dominate the experiential field. Many male patients who in their everyday life demonstrate elements of masculine pride and macho behavior with an emphasis on bodybuilding, who accentuate male supremacy and superiority, and treat women with disrespect and irony, discover in these sessions that they have serious doubts about their masculinity and harbor intense homosexual fears. Similarly, hypersensitivity, emotional frailty and excessive vulnerability frequently appear in sessions of people with a manifestly cynical attitude toward the world, who are otherwise overtly caustic and derisive of human feelings and positive values in life.
It is also quite common that church-oriented persons, who have been brought up in families dominated by religious fanaticism and hypocritical bigoted attitudes, often manifest strong antireligious tendencies and make heretical or blasphemous comments. Conversely, extremely rational and logical persons, whose adherence to pragmatic values and reason has a defensive character, often show on a deeper level intense tendencies towards metaphysical fears, irrational ideation, superstition, and magical thinking.
Various aspects of the personality structure discussed above—the superficial facade, the deep dynamic forces that underly it, and the interplay between the two—can be expressed in LSD sessions in many different ways. These elements may be experienced in the form of emotional feelings, physical sensations, specific thought-processes, and behavior patterns. However, they are more typically associated with a variety of perceptual changes in all the sensory areas. These can result in systematic distortions of the body image, intricate autosymbolic transformation, and experiences of complex symbolic scenes, in which not only self-perception but the perception of the human and even the physical environment is drastically changed.
Instead of attempting to describe the entire spectrum of phenomena that can occur in this context, we will briefly review the animal symbolism that is particularly frequent. During characterological self-exploration, many LSD subjects identify experientially with various animals that traditionally represent certain human personalities, attitudes and behaviors. Thus an autosymbolic experiential stylization into a predator such as a tiger, lion, jaguar or black panther can be used as an expression of the subject's intense aggressive feelings. Identification' with a monkey can reflect polymorphously perverted tendencies and uninhibited; indulgence in genital as well as pregenital,pleasures. A strong sexual drive can be represented by a transformation into a station or a bull; if it has a strong component of lust and indiscriminate promiscuity it might be symbolized by a dirty wild boar. A streak of masculine vanity and sexually tainted exhibitionism can be ridiculed by an autosymbolic representation of the subject as a noisy cock oil a dunghill. A donkey or an ox may symbolize stupidity, a mule can indicate stubbornness, and a hog usually represents self-neglect, sloppiness, and moral flaws.
In sessions where the subject's eyes are open, the intrapsychic events can get projected onto other persons or even on the physical environment. Therapists, nurses, co-patients, friends or relatives can be illusively transformed into representatives of the subject's instinctual tendencies. They can be perceived as sadists, lechers, perverts, criminals, murderers, or demonic characters. Conversely, they can represent embodiments of the critical attitudes of the Superego and be seen as parental figures, judges, members of a jury, policemen, jailers, or executioners. In the extreme, the entire human and physical situation may be systematically transformed into a complex scene of a bordello, harem, sexual orgy, medieval dungeon, concentration camp, courtroom, or death row.
Detailed analysis of the form and content of all these phenomena, using the method of free account or free association to all their elements, can become the source of additional specific and relevant information about the personality of the subject. If LSD therapy is combined with non-drug experiential approaches, any of these images can be used later for further therapeutic work; for instance, the complex scenes mentioned above are particularly suitable for the gestalt techniques developed by Fritz Perls for dream analysis. (79) Thus it is clearly demonstrated that LSD experiences are highly specific for the personality of the subject; they represent in a condensed and symbolic way his or her most important emotional problems, and are closely related to various relevant situations from past history and the present life situation. A detailed study of the individual elements of the LSD experience on this level, using Freudian technique or the new experiential approaches, reveals far-reaching similarities between their dynamic
structure and the structure of dreams. Freud once called dreams the "via regia" or "royal road" to the unconscious, and this is even more applicable to LSD experiences. Association to all the elements of the experiential content of an LSD session that appear on the psychodynamic level leads very directly to important emotional problems of the subjects.
The tendency of LSD to selectively activate unconscious material that has the strongest emotional charge makes this drug a unique tool for psychodynamic diagnostics. Even one LSD exposure can frequently identify the areas of most significant conflict, reveal the deep dynamic structure of clinical symptoms, and help differentiate between relevant and irrelevant problems. All LSD experiences of a psychodynamic nature are generally multiply overdetermined, and express in the cryptic shorthand of their symbolic language the key problems of the personality.1
The significance of personality factors for the nature, content, and course of the LSD experience becomes even more evident when the drug is administered repeatedly in the framework of an entire therapeutic series. Under these circumstances the subject is usually able to trace various emotional and psychosomatic symptoms, interpersonal attitudes and behavior patterns to their deep sources in the unconscious. This occurs quite spontaneously in most instances, without the use of free association or much interpretive help from the therapist. Sequential LSD sessions can be understood as a process of progressive activation and unfolding of the content of dynamic matrices in the unconscious.
The nature of the LSD experience depends on the level of the unconscious that gets activated and becomes the focus of conscious awareness. Although the nature of the unconscious, and thus the nature of LSD phenomena, is holographic, multileveled and multidimensional, it is useful for theoretical and practical purposes to distinguish certain major experiential realms. Each of them has a distinct content, is governed by specific dynamic systems, and has a characteristic significance for mental functioning. The following three categories of LSD phenomena seem to be sufficiently distinct and well-defined to be described as separate types:
a. Psycliodynaniie experiences b. Perinatal experiences c. Transpersonal experiences
We will omit in this context the abstract or aesthetic level of the LSD experience which seems to reflect chemical stimulation of sensory organs and is not relevant from the point of view of a deeper understanding of the personality structure.2
Continue reading here: Psychodynamic Experiences
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