1. Why did you take part in psycholysis? Did you have personal problems, were you in therapy or were you just curious?
During one of my trips to Germany in the late eighties, a friend had offered me MDMA. I hadn’t been feeling too good at the time, maybe I was going through something like a midlife crisis. The idea of dabbling in substances had never before occurred to me, yet when asked, I accepted the offer. The experience opened up for me, quite unexpectedly, a world full of connectedness, love and a deep egoless state of awareness, which included an awareness of my own strengths and weaknesses. It was a state of self acceptance in the true sense, in which I could have lived forever. Subsequently I began to look out for an experienced guide to help me understand this state of mind better, and luckily I found such a person, through whom I began to really come into contact with my true self.
2. If you were having problems, to what extent did psycholysis help you to overcome these problems? How was it different to other forms of therapy? If you were not having problems, how has the experience influenced your current life.
At the time that I first came into contact with MDMA, I had arrived at the end of a two year stint in psychoanalysis in India and believed that I had resolved most if not all of my personal problems. I felt that my reason for doing psychedelic work was to go deeper into the spiritual aspect of life. In the course of group work based on psychedelic substances, I saw that in fact I had not been aware of certain feelings which had gone undetected, for example my fear of loneliness, my envy of others. (I grew up with a permanent physical disability on account of early childhood polio). During one of the sessions I recognized for the first time, my buried hatred of “normal” people and the extent to which it affected my life. Over a period of time and much reflection that followed this work, I was able to leave behind this and other such obstructive feelings and to regain confidence in myself in the real sense. In short, this work transformed my life. I think that psychedelic therapy takes you deeper into yourself than any other therapy. It helps to unblock parts of oneself which cannot be opened up any other way.
3. One reads time and again that psycholysis equates to abuse of power, transgression of boundaries and charlatanism. How do you see this based on your own personal experience?
In the field of psychedelic therapy I think that the real danger is posed by the truth. The truth has a way of transgressing artificial and limiting boundaries we set up for ourselves. Psychedelic therapy often confronts us with our own face, through the mirror which these substances hold up for us. Those who are not able to accept what they see are the ones who project their bad feelings onto others, especially onto the ones who are leading the therapeutic process by whom they feel manipulated. Such people are unable to take responsibility for their choices. When things go wrong they find it more convenient to see themselves as victims and the therapist as perpetrator.
I have high regard for those who undertake this work because they do it knowing the dangers. In spite of the difficulties they face, such therapists continue to engage in this work, creating a space for external change through inner transformation.
4. Psycholysis, or rather the majority of the required substances are banned. What is your opinion of this ban?
Bans are counterproductive. I know this from experience. In the case of substances with therapeutic value, I think lifting the ban would resolve many issues. Those who anyway want to use or experiment with the banned substance, whether for kicks or for self discovery, will do so regardless of the ban. Meanwhile, many who have been helped by these substances would feel encouraged to talk more freely about their experiences. I also think that the open use of substances would minimize the sale and use of substandard or downright spurious drugs which have caused mishaps and deaths. Proper guidelines could be made officially and freely available on the safe use of substances. Those individuals who wanted to use substances would then be able to make appropriate decisions on how to use them.
Uma Ranganathan (65), Instructor in communication