Cindy and I returned from our psilocybin-assisted retreat in Jamaica a couple of weeks ago, and, supported by our ongoing group chat and our first group integration video call yesterday, the changes have coalesced enough that I can begin to describe them. One major theme is related to a clarification of the boundary between myself and others.
There has been a softening of what a friend has called “the hell of self-consciousness.” I have a habit of being worried about how other people are perceiving me, often finding myself revisiting conversations in my mind after they have concluded, second guessing my responses, and questioning if I behaved in an optimal way, in a sufficiently kind, generous, or curious way. I have a habit of not trusting that I did the best I could in the moment and letting that effortlessly pass into history.
During all three of my psilocybin dosing sessions, this doubting of myself, this questioning of my own reality, showed up as a form of paranoia, a psychedelically-amplified experience of a usually sub-clinical process. The cost of these chronically-tolerated, old mental patterns were laid bare by being taken to their logical conclusion, to the extreme of almost complete delusion. But even in that confused and troubled state, some part of me seemed to be quietly witnessing. After coming back and coming down, and in these days that have followed, my awareness is now able to discern the flavor of this type of thinking, more able to calmly thank it for its service and then gently and effortlessly pull the rug out from under it.
In the past couple of weeks, I have caught myself again and again spiraling into cycles of self-doubt, into impossibly unsolvable conundrums of managing other’s perceptions and expectations of me. It might, at first and at times, seem that these problems are worse than before the retreat, but I think it’s actually that the awareness of them has increased. This increased awareness has enabled me to reach out to those I trust in order to get a reality check, to take helpful and healthy actions like meditation, sleep, and exercise, and to draw the focus back into myself. Rather than struggling with what other people might be thinking or feeling about me, it’s so much clearer that I am struggling with something inside of my own psyche.