Falling in love with myself – 5-MeO-DMT experience

I sit on a bare mattress in the center of an almost perfectly cubical room. Windows allow the sun to shine in through a mild and promising spring afternoon. Next to me sits a close friend, but today he is also my trip-sitter. I am going on a 5-MeO-DMT trip today, and I while I am not anxious, I am feeling a sense of jittery anticipation. I have heard several stories about the drug that is known as one of the stronger psychedelics. I have no idea what to expect, but my friend tells me “You can do whatever you like, don’t try to judge your experience as right or wrong, you can go and have a shit in the corner, or take off your clothes if that’s what you feel like”. Since the trip takes less than thirty minutes usually, I don’t expect to be going to the bathroom during the experience.

The substance is smoked in a small glass-bowl pipe. The 12.5mg of crystallised 5-MeO-DMT is placed in the bowl that is then heated. My friend holds the pipe and heats the bowl with the impressive gas-flame lighter. He has instructed me to conserve my intake of air and slowly inhale to allow for all of the substance to vaporise before I run out of space in my lungs. He looks at me and I nod, we’ve known each other long enough for us to feel comfortable with just that, and I feel as ready as I could possibly feel for something I have no idea about. The crystals begin to bubble and then vapour begins to swirl inside the little bowl. As the little swirling cloud thickens he looks at me and with a very serious voice says “It’s almost time”. I exhale completely and move my head closer to the pipe, he removes the finger that is covering the mouth of the pipe, allowing the vapour to slowly move through the tube. I put my lips to the glass and begin inhaling slowly, like I would smoking weed from a short pipe.

The taste is sweet and thick. It is a bit too hot to be very pleasant, but definitely not unpleasant or bitter. It is best compared to the taste of the hookah, but thicker – more substantial. I keep inhaling without trouble, and finally run out of space for more air. I exhale a little in order to get the last smoke in an extra inhalation.

I don’t feel a thing. But then after a few seconds it begins. It feels like a river, I notice it in my headspace first, but it quickly grows to a fullbody experience. My meta-selves retain consciousness and clarity observing the experience from outside. I hold myself with pre-programmed integrity-selves that – after this experience – I am sure I have crafted well enough to stand against any psychedelic. After a little while I decide to let go, to get the full experience and not treat it as an exercise in meta-self-programming. I notice my friend out of the corner of my eye, and I “see him”. I see that he is truly there. And then I fall back, slowly.

On my back on the mattress the river begins to strengthen and I loose myself in the flow going through me. I become the river and my sense of self completely dissolves into a sensation of pure naive pleasure. I meet the reason for my movement, I meet the reason for my whole being. I meet the thing that initiates all initiative and provokes all provocation. I am faced, not as a self, but just as an experience, with that which is me. It is who I am when I am most free, when I feel the most safe, when I feel the most liberated. It is the one who I am when I forget to be who I want to be. It is an eight year old boy walking curiously through a forest. It is a naive trust given from a source of curious sweetness. It is an unhurt child smiling at anything in the world asking “Hello, what are you?”. It is looking at the world without fear, without a self created to protect. It is the body beneath the body, it is the thing I have created a self to defend. It is a defenceless young smiling soul, full of love and curiosity for everything it meets.

My deepest and unspoken anxiety about the experience was that I would unleash a monster from within. I feared that a dark demon would come out, a devious, game-playing and cruel being. But instead this came out, this very “felt” physical river inside me, this bubbly young thing.

My body moves in a naive feminine ecstatic movements, sometimes almost orgasmic – yet too innocent to be erotic. I am completely taken away by this and I just wriggle in the pure joy of this feeling, sometimes mouthing a “Wow!”. This wow is at my own being, at my surprise at meeting this. And I fall in love with this being, this little river inside me. I fall in love with its sweetness, and I understand all who have loved me before in my life.

After a while I get a desire to experience other things, while still under the influence. I reach out to my friend and catch his foot. Initially eye contact would be too much so I just drag myself up to him, and allow him to hold me. I cry, I smile, I mouth “Wow!”. We stare into each others eyes for several minutes. He has tried it before, so he knows that I am going through something, but he is probably not completely aware what. After about twenty-five minutes we begin talking, and sharing the experience in words.

My experience remains with me. It is not one of “That was an interesting drug”, it is one of seeing myself. The most profound side-effect is that I can see who have love for me, and who does not. This took an understanding of love for myself, something most probably learn from childhood, but I had missed for several reasons. I already knew who had love for me, and who had not. But I missed it because I was standing in the way of this myself. My personality created to defend my little river, is all the river is not. It is often hard, determined, controlled and understand everything that is going on. It has everything figured out well before it happens, and will not change its mind based on experience.

Tasting the sweetness of myself made me believe that I was loveable, because I now loved myself. I felt a kinship with those who loved me, an agreement with their decision. I looked at those people in my life who had no love for me and thought “What am I doing trying to force love out of an empty box?”, I felt a strange twinge of “Well, you have no love for me, that’s clear, I don’t completely understand this. I’m really REALLY sweet you know?”, but then I also accepted that this was not their taste. People have different tastes and that’s only fair. I felt no compulsion to try to make those with no love for me somehow change their mind. I reached out to some and thanked all those from whom I felt love clearly. Some I reached out to and asked “Do you have love for me?” because it felt right to ask. Some I told “I have love for you”. But mostly I just felt that whatever anyone else feels, most importantly I have love for myself, and it’s a love I want to take. So the most important thing you’ll ever learn, is just to love, and be loved in return. The hardest lesson in this is that you need to do this alone before you do it with anyone else.

My most therapeutic dream

I lay down. Close my eyes. Perform my breathing exercises. These feel like crying and laughing at the same time, but without the head and mind. Just the body performing these two tasks, with no sound and with no tears. No facial expression, just the body breathing and going through movements.

I become tired. I slowly drift off. I face my own decoherence as I observe my singular center dissolving into the confusing cloud that we call sleep. Most aren’t conscious while they sleep, it takes practice. Some believe it is boring, it isn’t though, time doesn’t feel the same way. The mind isn’t thinking unless provoked.

I begin to dream, and I notice that I have taken a bit of urgency with me. I don’t know why this is happening though but it becomes my entire reality. Just like waking up, I awake into my dream.

The nightmare part 1

I am in my room from when I was about seven or eight years old. Something odd precedes this vision, something I do not understand. A vision of me lying down, I hear a man’s voice, I can make out the sounds but I’m not able to understand the words. It flashes me forward into my room quickly, or maybe not, time is strange. I’m in my old room, it’s messy, because I hadn’t yet learned the quality of order. I now see it as messy, through the eyes of someone who have not learned the beautiful pattern of order. I recognise a strange tickling dissonance between my current and past self. A girl stands naked in the room, she must be between seventeen and nineteen, I can’t tell. She stands with her back to me performing some sort of operation. She’s a sex symbol, I understand, a sex symbol of my younger mind. Next to her is a small table with wheels, made from metal. It is like the trays you find in operating theatres. It has an undreamt number of tools that I simply know to be there, but my imagination does not bother to pull them forward.

I am filled with a kind of dread that I cannot fully explain to you. It is the dread of a child watching a horror movie for the first time. No parents are home, and I know I will need to spend the night alone, with the memory of what I’m about to see. Yet I move forward, compelled by the tide-like current of the dream. I am moved towards her, and she turns suddenly with a big grin. I cannot see her eyes, or maybe I will not see them. I am so afraid of this horrific witch-like demon who nakedly is performing some sort of operation in my bedroom.

She laughs at me, not an unfriendly or cruel laugh. A bubbly joyful laugh, which makes everything even worse, then she pushes me back. And I stumble back and fall among books and complicated toys that are scattered on the floor. I rummage around this pool of mechanics and literature that supposedly represents my childhood. Outside the door I hear footsteps, the door is right behind me. I am so afraid, because I know that if anyone comes in they will think I was the one doing the obscene operation of… Of what?… My mind instantly performs incredible jumps of imagination, a baby, a small pet. I used to have a hamster when I was a kid, what happened to it?

Filled with terror that someone would come in and see me as the awful butcher and torturer who then performed a malevolent disgusting autopsy in my room. They would think I did it. And they would then hate me. My eyes fill with tears, and part of my mind reports that I am crying with fear – outside of the dream, in the bed, in Austria. Hypnotism has its strange moments, most noticeable when you hypnotise yourself into reporting bodily functions like this. My obsessive compulsion to control my mind speaks volumes about how I perceive my own center. But I remain in the dream, caught in the shackles of a cold fear. A fear that someone will see, that which is lying there dead and cut open.

She laughs again and I start out of my premonition. I push myself up and push her aside, and with a magic stroke (some can fly inside their dreams, I can apparently produce black bags out of thin air) I have a big black bag in my hand, I begin scooping all the evidence into it while she laughs. Even though I know she must know that she did this, I feel shame at her laughter. She looks at me as if I am the one who did this, she shames me for the act of removing the evidence. I hear people at the door, I push the remaining tools, bloody paper and other surgical leftovers into the bag and clutch it to my chest.

She blows me a kiss from the window sill, and jumps out into the dark night. I remember the big windows of my childhood home. And how terribly square and black they would be at night. I always feared seeing a face outside of them. Now I just see my reflection, a young child clutching a black bag to his chest. Not knowing what is in it, I hold it close, feeling something move in there, probably dying. I just know it’s a baby or a pet or something horrible.

The door opens and my father comes in, he is naked. He is very happy and starts talking and poking dad-jokes. He walks like I remember he did – he still walks this way now that I think about it. With a bit of a dance to his step, as if he is a little bit more happy than everyone else. He tries to see what’s in the bag, and I cry harder with fear. I push at him telling him to go away. I am so afraid that he’ll see what I am hiding and think I did it.

A second mucknh harder fear hits me. This is by far the strongest fear I have ever felt. It feels like an icicle going through my breastbone. Like a hard sharp thing cutting through the front of my chest. This is the feeling of that fear, it is so intensely physical that I don’t bother identifying it. This is the fear that as long as I hold this bag, I will need to push everyone away, because if anyone saw what was inside, they would hate me, and think I was awful. So in that moment I know that I will have to push anyone who gets to close away, that I will be alone forever, because of this bag. Because of this horrible evidence of a crime I didn’t do. Something awful happened, but I didn’t do it, I wasn’t at fault, but who would believe me? I’m sure no-one. So I push him away.

My mother comes in now. She is slightly mad (crazy mad – not angry mad), but also very jolly. She tries to get the bag as well, and I cry and tell her to go away. I scream that they should all just go away and leave me alone (I’m not kidding, this nightmare truly was this symbolic, it seems a bit silly and over the top, but I report it exactly as it was dreamt).

I sit there, so afraid that I will be alone. That I will never let anyone close, because I know they will want to see what’s in the bag. I’m alone in my childhood room, crying on the floor, and crying in my bed in the Austrian mountains as an adult. Knowing that anyone who comes close must be pushed away, violently if necessary, especially those who wishes to get close. I will need to hurt them in order to hide what is in the bag. The alternative is too painful, to be judged as the torturer.

The waking nightmare

I wake up. Partly by choice, also from sheer emotional stress. I’m gripped by the same fear, but now I begin seeing faces on the walls. The swirls in the wood become judging eyes. The solid night behind the curtains stare at me through its gaping mouth. I am experienced with psychedelics so I know to control myself and acknowledge that experience isn’t always reality. I feel like I have two minds, one is very calm, almost detached, and one is completely in terror, close to hysteria. This is what it feels like to experience a traumatic experience, I know this from books.

I reach out to my phone, almost not daring to reach out from under the covers. I fumble to get it out of flight mode through eyes that are filled with tears. I’ve turned on the bedside lamp when I awoke somehow, I don’t remember doing this. I open my facebook messenger and look for someone active. A girl I know who is a psychologist is active, I write her, and she is there. I let my consciousness flow directly into the keyboard, and she gives space and listens.

She can tell that I’m fairly distraught and my battery is running low, I’m at 8%. She suggests listening to some music I like, and I feel almost stupid to not have thought about it. I put on some of my own piano playing. The second the wellknown song played by myself sometime in the past comes in I feel that this is absolutely right. I begin to calm down slowly.

The nightmare part 2

I drift into a dream like state. Still holding the phone in one hand. The music keeps playing through it’s lonely solo piano, I know every note, they came from my own hands after all. I know exactly why they are timed the way they are. The dream begins to resurface, the child sits there, among books and nerdy toys. Clutching a black plastic bag, sobbing silently.

My mind is completely held by the music, so I hold out the bag in front of me. I decide to open it up. I reach in and pick up something soft, and warm. It moves slightly, a small spasm, a cramp. And I’m so afraid to see this babys head or pet or part of something, some gristly gory thing. I take it out, and I’m astounded. Not only in my dream but also my meta-self is astounded. I feel my meta-personality go “Oh wow”, and it begins to cry tears of joy. My meta-self stands behind me and goes “Oh wow Theis, you didn’t know… Neither did I”. And my meta-self is right, it didn’t know, and I didn’t know. No part of me knows this…

In my two small hands in front of me is nothing more or less than my heart.

And I look back on a life of keeping people away, because if they saw what was in the bag they would hate me, they would condemn me. For having a heart, for having needs, for being vulnerable, for not being ok when something hurt. They would only like the man without the heart, the perfect man I had built who could not get hurt. So I hold my heart there, and finally understand that a small step has been taken towards a vulnerable life.

Early morning lonely

It’s three in the morning, and the rain drums quietly on the roof. I walk ponderously between sleep and wakefulness, going through frustrated dreamlike states of loneliness. Different people are shown to me, and my mind expresses a backward desire for being reached out to by them. Blames them for not knowing that I’m alone, frustrated and needing to be seen and loved. My mind proposes strategy after strategy, in its unending helpfulness. This is my primary way of dealing with loneliness: Planning. I stumble into one dead end after another “Maybe if I wrote this person, in this way…” or “Maybe if I said this when I meet that person…” but they all fall short. I know I will be a different person when the time for plan-execution arrives, and what I feel is happening right now.

The raw feeling is not one of failed planning though. The feeling is that of a physical weight on my chest, and the sensation of an iron mask on my face. It has no symbolism, it’s just that physical sensation. I can try to tease it apart with an analytical scalpel. Turning it into words and concepts, but I already have clear primal understanding of what is going on. It is the sensation of being alone, and it feels wrong. I am in my bed alone, and it doesn’t feel right, and my body is reaching out. My brain tries to help, asking “What if I did this?” but my body is no more advanced than when I was ten years old and missed my parents. Through years of suppression I have forgotten how to physically react to it, so I simply lie there and stare into the darkness like so many insomniacs before me.

My body insists that something is wrong, the pressure remains on my chest, urging me to do something. My mind goes through scenarios and solutions, propositions of what I could do differently. How I can build to protect myself from this feeling.

But something deeper is wrong, because I can write this for everyone, but not to anyone. There is no single person I feel comfortable reaching out to. There is no one that can know this. Because no one has the keys to the inner sanctum of my cathedral. The doors are open, and the cold stone floors and massive pillars are on display. You’re expected to talk in hushed tones, but no one even knows of that room five stories below, where a heart beats. And I don’t blame them, because it is hidden away with great care; not open to tourists. The most you will get is a picture on a post card.

I have built my relations with my strength, with my can-do with my know-how. I thrive in being alone most of the time, and I consider emotional outbursts and loneliness to be weaknesses. When people are out of control I mostly react to it with a controlled caring facade, but I’m rarely able to hide my patronising disgust. If their lack of control hurts me or ends up asking me to change, a cold gate will immediately slam in their face. Unfairness cannot be tolerated after all. This disgust is also at myself obviously, so I try to prove that I am sensitive, by exposing that which seems sensitive, rather than exposing that which is sensitive. I tell the story of that which resembles openness, rather than tell the reality of that which needs to be seen.

I was surprised when I learned what the word vulnerability meant. I thought it meant being hurt and in a state where you should be hiding. A state where people could easily utterly destroy you in case they saw your moment of weakness. I saw it as being temporarily weak, and open to attack. This is partially true, but only when seen from the narrow point of view of the fighter. I only learned very late in life that it meant: Letting someone in to a place where they can hurt you… Or heal you. It struck me as such a surprise that this was the meaning. To give someone the keys to do either. Admitting to those around you when they are in a position where you are easily hurt by them. Doing this in the context of a fight is suicide, doing this in the context of love is required. If the keys are never given, you will never be hurt and never be healed.

A few months ago I am sitting in the opening circle of a contact improv class. People are sharing how they feel mentally, emotionally and physically. A more than average number go into crying and hugging sessions, sharing various diagnosis’ with the group. When it comes to me I say (in a feat of classical me-ness): “I feel emotionally stable and physically strong”. It’s a pun on all of their pain of course, and it’s funny enough to illicit laughs from the group. It’s not funny enough to stop anyone from crying. I have the feeling that some wiser person sits in such a group, looking at me, knowing what is happening. And in that persons wise kindness it feels sorry for me. But at that moment I’m hard and blind.

I pay for it in the middle of the night of course, when there is no one to reach out to. When my mind’s go-to reaction is strategic planning on what I could say or do to make someone reach out to me. At all cost I want to avoid being vulnerable to the specific someones. To all those people who holds the keys to my heart without knowing it. It’s so easy for me to blame them for not reaching out, to enter into a state of bitterness, or regret at my own failings to share. But the truth is that I didn’t tell them. I just left the keys at their place. Like that friend who knows how to fold the origami birds. Who always makes them from a random scrap of paper and leaves them on your table. You keep them for a little while, but then just throw them away.

In my fear of vulnerability, I made it clear to the world that it shouldn’t come close. Don’t piss in my cathedral, don’t even talk. Don’t even think about crossing the velvet rope that leads into the basement. Because to me vulnerability means being hurt, and not healed.

I’m not fixed in this obviously, I could make it seem so. I could make this out to be a “story of me as I was” but that would utterly defy the point. I don’t write this to be seen either, I don’t write it as an invitation into my cathedral; that place is closed off to the public still. This is me, as I am, I’m ok with that.

I write this because in my writing the most common feedback I have gotten is “I feel less alone in my feeling”. I write to remind myself to be there when someone reaches out to me in their loneliness at three in the morning. Because if they dare to do this, maybe I will be inspired by their bravery and do the same some day. For now I’ll just go back to bed.

Listening to yourself and others

Radio and microphoneI occasionally encounter someone who has either been with or been one who has lost her/himself in a relationship. I give my advice on these situations through the lens of listening. It has proven tremendously helpful to talk about these situations (and others) through the lens of the balance between listening to youself and others (or inward and outward sensitivity). In my work as a therapist I have found myself returning to it many times and I want to share it with you here.

I initially came upon this idea when I was listening to a podcast interview with Esther Perel1. I had seen her two Ted talks 2,3 and read her book Mating in Captivity4. I had been impressed by her eloquence and frankness when speaking about touchy subjects; so I was scouring the internet for more from her. I’m sorry to say that I haven’t been able to find the interview later (I will update it this post if I find it later). I would strongly recommend reading her books and seeing her videos, they continue to inspire me at each re-watch and re-read.

In passing she muses that (while also admitting it is a strong generalisation): Men are culturally brought up to know what they want while women are culturally brought up to know what others want. It struck a chord with me and I ended up using this concept as a tool to understand relationships. Initially I will say that I don’t attribute either quality (listening to self or others) to women or men, but I believe that these are acquired abilities. The more we practice listening to our desires, the better we will get and vice versa.

The most profound lesson I learned from looking at the world through this model is that they are mutually inhibitory. That means that being relatively more sensitive to one side means the other becomes harder to pick up. So even if a person is very experienced with both, a bias will turn into a blind spot. I didn’t understand the fully until I began using the metaphor of two microphones pointing in either direction, connected to just one speaker. When one microphone becomes very sensitive the signal coming in through that one drowns out the signal coming from the other, and vice versa. The relative sensitivity between the inward and outward pointing microphones defines us on this spectrum of listening to ourself and others.

This helped me to see that some are incredibly sensitive to the desires of others and it ends up leading them away from their own needs. It wasn’t that they were sacrificing themselves to please others, they simply couldn’t hear clearly what they desired. Especially when around someone who expressed their own desires strongly. I understood that people who seemed selfish actually found it hard to pick up the desires of others when they hadn’t fulfilled their own first. It wasn’t stupidity nor malice, it was simply an unbalance in sensitivity.

I do believe that Esther Perel has a point in saying that men are generally praised for being masculine by knowing what they want. Not knowing what they want is often seen as unmasculine, and so a man does not fully realise himself until he expresses and knows his desires. In the same way women are often praised for diplomacy, and being unreasonable and selfish is often seen as hard or unfeminine. The hardness of masculinity and the softness of femininity may have its roots in this sensitivity to self or others.

It is usually those who are biased towards being outwardly sensitive who approach me for advice. These are the ones who get lost, and suddenly find that they have not fulfilled their own needs for years, while spending all their energy on others. They hit a critical wall, where some part of them pulls the handbrake and they usually react outwardly with a sudden ferocity. I often see people who explode into a period of exploring their own needs after leaving a relationship, I think this is connected to a lacking inward sensitivity during the relationship. Those who are balanced towards inward sensitivity are usually too self driven to ask others for advice, and for better or worse never notice their problems.

Being strongly biased towards inward sensitivity is usually associated with selfishness, solipsism and/or egomania. These are people who simply aren’t able to hear the desires of others before their own has been fulfilled. It is the feeling of knowing exactly what you desire at all times, but the volume of that desire is so high that the desires of others seem less significant. This can potentially grow into a form of sociopathy, where the person suffering from a heightened inward sensitivity can perceive the feelings and desires of others, but simply does not care as long as it has desires of its own.

My experience is that simply understanding where you find yourself on this spectrum is very helpful to guide you away from overly selfish or overly selfless action. We may introduce artificial volume knobs that amplifies the volume of either our own desires or those of others. We may also be interested in practicing either expressing our desires or listening to others express theirs, in order to balance our sensitivities.

Personally I have a strong desire to balance my sensitivities, and from there improve both together. I wish to do this in a practice of listening to others while I express my own desires. I don’t want to confuse this with reaching agreement or finding common interests, to me it is rather one of being sensitive and accepting towards the desires coming from within and without at the same time. My own experience is that by doing this the resolution becomes greater and the waters of desire becomes clearer. To me it is a big part of relating to create a space that can hold my own desires and those of others. Knowing that some are initially set up to be very outwardly or inwardly sensitive helps me greatly in my creation of this space.

I believe we all have private worlds, and we all long to reach out and be reached out to. I hope that this text will inspire you to either getting less lost or perhaps listening more. Then maybe someday I will be lucky enough to enjoy a relationship with you (or I’m lucky enough to already be in one with you) and that relationship can be a house where our desires can live together in mutual acceptance. That sounds a lot like love after all.

  1. Esther Perel – Therapist / Author / Speaker / Thought Leader ↩︎
  2. The secret to desire in a long term relationship ↩︎
  3. Rethinking infidelity … a talk for anyone who has ever loved ↩︎
  4. Goodreads: Mating in Captivity ↩︎