How To Change Your Mind
Pretty great book from Michael Pollan, a UC Berkeley Professor of Journalism (go bears!). Mostly talks about LSD and other psychedelics; their history, usage, what it’s like to trip, and how they may be used effectively.
Some cool takeaways:
- People who do psychedelics report a mystical experience likely due to the loss of the ego (in the Freudian sense) that the substance causes. This can lead to positive changes or outlooks towards different things in life and often creates some large outpouring of love or emotion that’s long lasting.
- Psychedelics like psilocybin and LSD have shown promise in being used as therapeutic drugs to help “cure” (in some soft sense) alcoholism, depression, or fear of death. Usually a more “mystical” experience has a greater positive outcome in these scenarios and whatever realizations that people have during their tripping experience generally tend to stick with them long afterwards.
- The history of LSD is pretty interesting. The story goes that a scientist was experiementing with chemicals from the ergot fungi for potential medicinal use, and did a self-experiment on some old compound he stashed away only to have a really bad trip. In the 60s, LSD became a cornerstone of the counterculture movement (until it was moved to being a Schedule 1 drug). It’s interesting because a lot of the things from the counterculture movement are like what I imagine being on LSD is like.
- Lots of research was done back in the day of legal psychedelics, such as the Harvard Psilocybin Project. However, Timothy Leary (the guy in charge of the project) was an odd man and Harvard shut him down. One such example is when Leary tripped with his students during class time. However, there’s some cool research to come out of that lab.
- Bad trips are common, so it’s important to keep “set and setting” in mind when tripping. There are quite a few psychedelic advisers / therapists who will care for you during that journey in order to increase the probability of having a positive experience. There’s this common advice for people to approach anything bad they might see during a trip to interact with it and I think it’s the idea that you want to explore concepts or deep-rooted assumptions you might have.