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How does attachment theory factor into dosing psilocybin mushrooms?

And, is ‘five dried grams in silent darkness’ safe? I take the long road around to explore these questions by first exploring the concepts of how our relationship with our parents when we are children influence our sense of self (attachment theory, orienting voids, and compass points.)

I am sorting out these ideas and would love your feedback. Thanks!



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  1. Hi James, I’ve been loosely following your blog and podcasts. As a survivor of type I and type II trauma both of which happened in infancy and childhood – and more of that as I grew up – I’ve been trying to figure out for myself what potential psilocybin – or any other perception altering substance other than alcohol – might provide in order to mitigate and lessen the symptoms (the latter of which have now rendered me incapable at the age of 43 and having gone on for the past 10 years; I am 53 of age as I type this).

    This particular episode of your podcast really strongly resonated with me as I was concerned with the many reports of previous “trippers”, particularly when they talk about dissolution of ego and that “blending of self” with all that is. I was concerned because that very experience describes one of the traumatic experiences I had, in particular the “meaningless void”/NDE-type experience at age four (I no longer think that I had an NDE, because there would have been records of e.g. cardiac arrest while undergoing surgery or any such thing; but there aren’t/weren’t. So I’m led to believe it was a side effect or the outcome altogether of the anesthestics being used back in those days). Anyway, before I digress too far: The orienting void happened then in that experience – and on steroids so! (For comparison, find Nancy Evans Bush’s NDE of the “Meaningless void” – it describes exactly what I went through at age 4:

    So, I guess the bottomline is that I have to thank you for putting up this episode as it seems to confirm the reservations I had as to taking psilocybin so far, much more so without a “sitter” that might help me navigate the more problematic aspects of such an experience. The “pro” reason that had me consider psilocybin was the “embraced by all that is” aspect, the interconnectedness some trippers report (and the latter for reasons of massive damage incurred in regards to attachment theory that you mention in your episode; I guess my – probably naive – thinking was that if I experienced complete, non-judgemental connectedness even late in life, that might set off the healing process from the damage caused in my very early years in so far as I’d have a _visceral_ experience of complete acceptance – or something like that).

    Anyway… I guess, all this long-winded comment is basically a big “thank you” note.

  2. Alon Parag Reply

    Hey James, thank you for addressing this!
    I don’t think that there is any merit or heroism attached to consuming substances in and by itself, and that doing it in higher dosage level might be both irresponsible and infantile.
    In my opinion, the heroic act is when the voyager is taking a dose to which he can submit himself to the content of the experience. Furthermore, there is merit in requesting help in the integration process after an experience, or doing integration at all!
    I’ll finish with a quote that I heard from a medicine woman about sweat lodges, which I think also applies for taking substances:
    -A good sweat lodge doesn’t have to be where you push yourself through suffering, rather it
    is where you can humble yourself and pray.

    Best of regards,

  3. This is a worthy topic. (1) When i tried to explain to a friend the concepts you outlined, I got a bit stuck on the “compass point”, so I guess I’d like a little more clarification on that, especially since it’s pivotal to your thesis. (2) Then I wondered how we would test the idea that bad trips arise from misplaced “orienting”, but haven’t thought of a feasible, objective or psychometrically-valid way of measuring this orienting response prior to taking the psychedelic. Maybe that is covered in the book that you referred to. (3) Later, I found a video that explained how EMDR might work in PTSD, and it mentioned how some soldiers in the Vietnam war developed PTSD, but not others. The explanation for this was that we have a limited capacity to manage or digest stresses, and people who already had a trauma or unprocessed stress reacted to the war situation by developing PTSD. Others who were not previously stressed had more capacity available to succesfully process the same war traumas and did not develop PTSD. (4) Incidentally, some of that successful processing of trauma is thought to happen in REM sleep and dreams, which is interesting since there is a dream-like brain pattern induced by psilocybin. Perhaps that neural substrate that creates dreams is what creates the healing aspect of psilocybin.

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