If you’ve been exposed to psychedelics in any capacity, you’re likely familiar with the term “ego death.” Shrooms enthusiasts have been hyping up the experience for decades, citing it as a necessary experience for spiritual development – it can be a painful, harsh experience. Still, ultimately, many will claim that ego death is a necessary part of ascension. For those who have never experienced this phenomenon, the term can be scary and unclear, but ego deaths are really nothing to fear, and here’s why:
What Is Your Ego?
There are many definitions of the ego, though most of them refer to one’s self-esteem. In psychology (shoutout Freud,) the ego is the mediator between the conscious and unconscious minds. For philosophers, the ego is a conscious thinking subject, meaning that it’s your internal monologue or the part of your consciousness responsible for internal narrative.
No matter what definition you choose – though all of them are technically correct – the ego can be understood to be a critical component of thought. For psychedelic enthusiasts, the ego is often defined in the Freudian sense, meaning it mediates between your conscious moral center (or Superego) and your irrational, unconscious Id.
In the context of ego death, the ego is just the fluid sense of self. It’s all preconceived notions of yourself – who you are now, who you want to be, who you were, and how those things differ can all fall under the category of “ego,” and during an ego death, it is these concepts that are lost temporarily.
What Is An Ego Death And What Does Tt Feel Like?
Ego death can be described as a complete dissolution of subjective self-identity – in layman’s terms, you lose whatever preconceived notions (conscious or not) you hold regarding yourself. Ego death, psychic death, or ego loss are all synonymous and often used in the context of mysticism. Daniel Merkur, a religious studies expert, described “ego loss” in the context of mysticism as “an imageless experience in which there is no sense of personal identity. It is the experience that remains possible in a state of extremely deep trance when the ego-functions of reality-testing, sense-perception, memory, reason, fantasy and self-representation are repressed…”
Ego deaths aren’t just for shroomheads. In fact, they exist in numerous religions, including Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism. When you take psychedelics, however, your brain activity and chemistry are altered.
In a 2016 study, the neurological effects of LSD, including ego death, were examined by scientists using various neuroimaging techniques.
They discovered that reduced activity between the parahippocampus and retrosplenial brain was related to ego death on acid. This finding raises the possibility that these brain areas are engaged in upholding our sense of self and ego.
According to a psilocybin study from 2020, glutamate is another neurotransmitter that affects ego disintegration.
The scientists discovered that psilocybin changed the glutamate levels in different parts of the brain. A pleasant experience of ego death was predicted by decreased levels in the hippocampus. A negative experience was indicated by higher amounts of glutamate in the prefrontal cortex.
When these things happen in your brain, you can potentially feel several different emotions and sensations. People report feelings of:
Dissolution or disintegration of the self or ego
Feeling at one with the universe or God
A sense of union with others
A decreased sense of self-importance
Feeling less absorbed with one’s issues and concerns
Losing all sense of ego
All notions or sense of identity dissolve away
Making The Most Of Your Ego Death
These sound pretty positive, but the results of your ego death largely depend on your preparation. Resisting the dissolution is a great way to genuinely feel like you’re dying. To have a positive experience, it’s best to embrace the natural fluidity of consciousness and ride the wave. Meditation and reflection will be essential actions before, during, and after your psychedelic experience, so be sure to prepare yourself adequately and remember to take the lessons you learned with you as you move forward.
An ego death can be a scary and intense experience, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be liberating, spiritually fulfilling, and an important part of your healing journey. If you’re interested in trying psychedelics to achieve an ego death, be sure to manage your dosage carefully. You should also be in a safe, relaxing environment and be sure to reflect on your experience afterwards – this part is critical to retaining what you learned and taking it forward with you.
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