What’s the opposite of a traumatic event?
A non-traumatic event? (Nope, let’s go deeper.)
How about this? A radically positive experience.
I’m in love with this three-word phrase, and I’ll tell you why.
But first, the source. I heard it from Michael Pollan, bestselling author of How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness,
Dying, Addiction, Depression and Transcendence, on a November 2021 episode of Red Table Talk. In the episode, Jaden Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Gammy Norris speak with Pollan, journalist Lisa Ling, oncologist Paul Song, and entrepreneur Bob Parsons about the therapeutic potential of psychedelics.
As soon as I heard the phrase, I knew I was going to write about it. Pollan was talking about how one traumatic event can change your brain. Dr. Song had shared about his experience of neglect as a baby and young child and the impact it had on his ability to interrelate with others–especially his wife and kids. And Parsons had shared his experience as a veteran of the Vietnam War who suffered from PTSD and other issues as a result of his upbringing.
Pollan pointed out that people who have experienced trauma often get into an ongoing loop of negative thoughts. For some, it is constant negative thoughts about others, but for multi-trauma survivors, it is often the cycle of negative self-talk.
A successful healing from trauma involves breaking that cycle, and Pollan’s point was that “one radically positive experience can change your brain” just like one traumatic experience can.
Just think about that. One radically positive experience.
That’s where the psychedelics come in. (Sounds funny, but stay with me…)
While most of the original medical use of psychedelics was for treating war veterans suffering from PTSD, now psychedelics are used to treat depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders, and more. By using one of these drugs (in a careful, controlled way), you can have that one experience that will rewire your brain.
And it isn’t like you just go to your local drug dealer and buy a hit of acid.
There are a number of medical professionals working in this space now. Once you’ve talked with your doctor about the treatment and what it entails, you would then make an appointment with a psychiatrist or psychopharmacologist who provides this type of treatment. On the day of the treatment appointment your psychiatrist works with a trained psychologist (therapist) to administer the treatment inside a medical office. You stay there for the entire, fully guided treatment, which takes 4–6 hours.
The psychiatrist determines which treatment plan (and medication) is best for the patient’s circumstances. The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is “ground zero” for research and engagement with the medical community, the regulatory factions (like the FDA), and research scientists. They’ve conducted research and worked with other organizations on trials for the use of MDMA, Marijuana, LSD, Ibogaine and Ayahuasca.
Unlike the other therapies I’ve written about, I have not tried this. But the whole idea that it represents the potential for one singularly positive experience to rewire the brain–to undo much of the damage traumatic experiences have done–is massively appealing to me.
So there you have it: One radically positive experience.
Important side note: I learned that if you suffer from certain forms of mental illness, such as schizophrenia, personality disorders or mania, this treatment likely isn’t an option and could cause harm. This is why a doctor–preferably a psychopharmacologist–is the first step.
So definitely DON’T just go buy a hit of acid from a dealer, no matter how nice they are.
What do you think? Would you try it? Join the discussion through the comments here.