Ego death triggers an encounter with “one’s true self,” and that is where the magic lies.
When one loses their ego through what is called ego death, they lose their sense of current existence and connect with the primordial nature. Ego death, ego loss, or ego dissolution is being in a space where you have no boundaries in time and space. It exists for a moment, but it is a beautiful moment that can have lifelong repercussions.
Psychedelics such as DMT, LSD, and Ketamine are proving to be instrumental in the management of treatment-resistant depression, and drug addiction. Researchers have been eager to find out how psychedelics can produce such favorable outcomes in mental therapy. It is now emerging that ego death, arising from psychedelics, plays an integral role in psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy.
What exactly happens during a psychedelic trip, and how does this function as therapy? It is essential to tear apart the entire psychedelic trip to its bare essentials to answer this question. In this article, you will understand what happens at every stage and how this progressively builds up to ego death and the recovery thereafter.
Many believe that what happens after the dissolution of the ego is even more important than the ego death itself. Let us not put the cart ahead of the proverbial horse but rather begin with the basics.
What Is Ego Death?
Ego death (ego loss) is a hallmark of the psychedelic experience when you venture into large enough doses. During a heavy psychedelic trip, what often happens is the blurring of the boundaries between the sense of self and the external world—hence why some prefer the somewhat lighter term ‘ego dissolution.
Ego Death Has Been Described in the Following Ways:
- Losing the sense of current existence to connect with the primordial nature
- A loss of boundaries between one’s self and the world
- A complete loss of the sense of self/self-concept/ individuality
- A state of meaninglessness when users discover that they are mere travelers on this planet
- A mystical state of Nirvana
- Being one with your own “soul”
In one psilocybin study, a patient suffering from end-life anxiety reported an experiential feeling of being interconnected with the transformational universe.
What Makes up the Ego?
The ego is made up of the external things that define a person; their sense of self-identity. This includes the thoughts and opinions that have been accrued as a result of experiences over time. Challenging everything that defines your identity and existence is the beginning of ego death.
Our ego is what we know and who we believe ourselves to be. It is the result of how we interpret information that is channeled to as from the external environment. It is formed by layers of experiences that seek to define our being and existence. But what if there is more to our reality that goes beyond the ego?
When you embark on a psychedelic trip, you get this feeling that everything that you might say is pointless because it's just words. And words are meaningless in this situation. Ego death occurs when we wake up from the narrative, feeling that our voice and existence are part of this world and we are only travelers.
So What Happens During Ego Death?
To grasp how and why ego death is therapeutic, it is essential to break down the process of ego death.
When one consumes high doses of psychedelics such as ayahuasca, psilocybin, LSD, and Ketamine, they embark on a journey known as a psychedelic trip. This trip takes one through mystical experiences that make them question the essence of reality and what is not.
In the beginning, the user will experience sensory changes. They may become more tuned-in to sensory stimulants such as light, sounds, or smells. They may experience colors and textures coming to life and become more sensitive to tactile sensations. This is similar to opening up one's physical senses to be more receptive to receiving information.
Changes in the Higher Centers That Happen With Ego Death
Science has shown that psychedelics (LSD) trigger novel neural connections between regions of the brain that generally don't communicate with one another. Repeated psychedelic experiences reinforce these connections.
A psychedelic trip can be compared to taking a literal trip "out of your mind." You forget everything about yourself, including your name, skills, and everything else you have previously used to define your identity. You also forget your fears and passions, and you forget how you typically relate with the world; money, possessions, people. You also lose the sense of time and place.
Users have described this sort of zombie state as a feeling of floating in the air. It's a sense of eternity that knows no limits or bounds because the traveler has no intention of time or space. This culminates in a state of meaninglessness when users discover that they are nothing more than sojourners on this planet.
The State of Egolessness
Can one achieve a state of "complete egolessness?" As much as this is a lofty goal, some claim to have gained it through the use of psychedelics. It's a state that's called "Nirvana" in the Hindu and Buddhist religions. Though in these religions, other techniques such as meditation are also used to achieve ego death.
Nirvana is a state where the soul is ultimately set free. In this mystical state, the ego is dead.
Reaching Ego Death
If you are new to psychedelic drugs you should know that when you experience the magic mushroom trip as a process itself in the actual present, you will no longer be able to ask the question of whether your ego is dead or not.
If you ask the question, the answer is probably that you are not there yet.
This is why some people say that it may not be necessary to see ego death as a goal in the trip. Instead one can look at it as a particular point in the spectrum of the effect of the substance or as part of the trip. In any case, if you engage in goals such as reaching ego death during the trip you may to some extent impair your journey.
Think about it, it's like constantly asking the driver "Are we there yet?" It's better to just breathe and enjoy the ride. At some point, today, or tomorrow you will get to where you need to be.
What Happens After Ego Death?
Preliminary research suggests that ego death precipitates a sense of self-introspection that leads to self-awareness. The "trip" triggers users to re-evaluate their lives and assume fresh perspectives in dealing with their life difficulties. Those who take the trip can evaluate the actual cause and meaning and make peace with their state.
A group of 50 Norwegian (regular users of psychedelics) took part in a study titled: Making “bad trips” good: How users of psychedelics narratively transform challenging trips into valuable experiences.
Most of the participants argued that: “The unpleasant experiences during bad trips had been beneficial and had sometimes given them deep existential and life-altering insights.”
In some cases, ego death allows users to let go of pain and suffering and make peace with the infinite. It will enable them to redefine their existence based on the infinite and not the finite. This is the basis of true healing, facing mortality and connecting to the primordial nature.
The Essence of Psychedelic Ego Death: How Is This Therapeutic?
Ego death is a crucial feature of the psychedelic experience. A group of London researchers investigated the basis of the "Validation of the Ego-Dissolution Inventory (EDI)."
The results of this study demonstrated a close relationship between ego death and the psychedelic experience. The researchers observed that ego death is relevant for psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy and requires further investigation.
Anecdotal reports point towards the process and outcome of ego death as significant contributors to healing and recovery. Ego death triggers an encounter with "one's true self," which is where the magic lies.
Ego death is a mysterious experience that people experience by using psychedelics such as magic mushrooms, but there are other ways such as meditation to reach this state.
We do not have enough research to explain what this experience actually is. It is just the beginning of a discovery of something amazing that we do not yet fully understand.
It is important to emphasize that no "spiritual or mystical" experience is worth your physical and mental health.
Improper use of psychedelic drugs can yield unwanted results. Therefore, if you are interested in an ego death experience, it is recommended to do so in a controlled and safe environment. Also, if you are new to hallucinogens, do not try to get to this experience on one of your first trips.