Polishing Ajna.

Jonas and Elizabeth come over between eight and nine in the evening. I had woken up from my post-third-shift slumber a few hours before, drank some coffee, relaxed, taken a shit and a shower and waited while trying not to think, think, think.

Elizabeth was wearing all black save for her tie-dye hippie socks. It had been awhile since I had seen Jonas, and his hair had grown and taken on a look that reminded me of the traditional style of the eighties. Kind of like Luke in Star Wars: A New Hope. I met them at the side entrance to my building and Elizabeth led the way up three flights of stairs and along the short stroll to the door to my one-bedroom apartment, where we all sat down in the front room in front of my laptop monitor. I had set up the papasan by the computer for myself, as I knew it would be the most comfortable thing for me to sit on during the experience.

Jonas has some initial difficulties cutting one of the tabs in two, finally succeeding by use of the X-Acto knife I typically use to clean out my bowl. Using their tweezers, he then places a whole tab on her tongue, one of the halves on his own.

This was happening. I felt wary. Did I want to do this? Me, I always said I’d never do this. Then he picks up the other half with the tweezers and extends it towards me.

Shit. This is the moment of truth.

I’m nervous, not entirely ready, and in my hesitation he accidentally drops it. Though this would be unfortunate in the event it could not be found, I was thankful for the moment of reflection it permitted me. We look around for it on the carpet between us all as I try and build up some courage. Eventually one of them finds that it had fallen into my shoe. With the tweezers, he plucks it from my sole and places it on my open sketch pad. With diminishing reluctance I go for the tweezers but Elizabeth says it would probably be easier to just lick it off my sketch pad. It seems a weird way to go and that typically works for me, so I do it. I feel mildly apprehensive after doing so, but curiosity of what may be to come quickly takes dominance.

We smoke a bowl, a cigarette each, and I try to keep it under my tongue, eventually realizing that it is gone. That I must have swallowed it. They tell me not to worry.

As I did not take notes during the experience, I cannot be sure of the exact sequence of all events, though particular events in and of themselves are certainly vivid. It began while we were watching Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey.

If I were to do this, I had decided some time ago, I had to watch Cosmos, most of all episode 13, “Unafraid of the Dark,” which was particularly visually stunning in its depiction of supernovas. Elizabeth also insisted we watch episode 5, “Hiding in the Light,” mainly due to the portion regarding soundwaves. It was still on Netflix, thankfully, and so we watched “Hiding in the Light” first.

At some point as we were watching it I suddenly feel as if certain parts of my brain light up, blasting me into this heightened awareness. My vision was crisp. I felt this intensity in my body. I felt a sense of euphoria with a side of anxiety.

As time went on I experienced periods of sudden, incredible and sturdy focus — which would be strange enough if it did not seem as if I could focus on several points simultaneously. Psychological absorption was at an all-time high. Fantasy seemed more like a parallel world I had equal access to alongside sensory reality; shifting between them was akin to changing channels or switching stations. In time I came to be very, very absorbed in what we were watching on my laptop.For other, brief periods — at least once, to be sure — I became tangled in a web of divergent attention and high-speed thoughts, achieving a height of frustrating confusion before wriggling myself out of it and coming back into focus.

To my left I could see my bedroom door, opened just a crack, and the light bleeding through kept catching my attention, fucking with me. I finally had to get up and open the door. Then I kept thinking I was seeing the lights and shadows from the bathroom, accessible through my bedroom, move as if something was there. At one point, I thought I saw something small and white run from the bathroom into the darkness at the other side of my room. None of it frightened me for more than a second, after which I realized it was just my imagination and laughed at myself in response.

When I was talking with Elizabeth and Jonas sometimes I would catch the laptop monitor out of the corner of my eye, convinced for a moment that something was playing on it, like a movie or something, but there was merely a motionless visual on the screen. It kept fucking with me in a fashion similar to crack in bedroom doorway.

In our conversation before taking the acid, they told me I should eat first and if I needed to poop, I should do it beforehand, because it was rather disconcerting under the influence of this chemical. They also told me that pissing was kind of strange, but I knew I would be unable to avoid that one — in general, I tend to take in a lot of fluid: water, coffee, iced tea, booze. This equals pissing like a race horse.

When I inevitably had to get up to pee, Elizabeth suggested I look at myself in the mirror. Piddling itself was a perplexing experience indeed. I felt high up, incredibly tall and skinny, and it seemed as though my dick way, way down there was pissing into a teeny-tiny toilet. After I went to the sink and washed and dried my hands, I looked up, into the mirror, focusing on my eyes. My face seemed to morph around my point of focus, though not into anything discernible. My vision brightened, everything seemed white and yellow. I was transfixed for a while, but eventually returned to the front room and sat in my comfy nest.

Over the entire course of the evening, I had only one fully-scale visual hallucination. As I was watching the bedroom door (which I had absentmindedly closed again when returning from pissing and skrying) this little transparent ball with a long, tadpole tail swam in a slow, wavelike fashion across my field of vision. It was like an oversize, slow-mo air-sperm.

Getting up, I opened the door again.

More subjective strangeness took place than sensory, hallucinatory phenomena. For instance, at times I felt that while I was inside my body I was not entirely attached to it. I often felt as if I was residing in my body in positions that I ordinarily did not. Typically I feel as though my consciousness resides inside my head, for instance, but for a period I felt as though I was hanging out in the chest area.

So we watched the two episodes of Cosmos. The segment on sound waves was astounding, though I got the feeling that it was not the “full experience” Elizabeth had experienced herself when she watched it on acid. When we got to the episode on supernovas, I must have been at or near my peak. More than just the beautiful explosions of dying stars, there was the journey through space in general that drug me in, embraced me. I even said to them, “Twelve hours of just that. Just journeying through the stars. I would love it.” In retrospect it reminded me of those dreams I had as a kid, just soaring through the stars at fantastic speed, alone in the vast, silent beauty of space.

At some point the journey ended as the camera pulled out from space into Neil deGrasse Tyson’s star-spore, dandelion-seed-shaped Spaceship of the Imagination through one of the windows — which initially looked to me like the gigantic, slanted, almond eye of your typical Gray alien. No one else seemed to make that connection. I don’t know if I felt sad to be alone or thankful for my isolated association.

After the two episodes, we watched Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, where I came to confront the Cheshire Cat, another symbol from my past. After we began coming down and had tired of conversation, we turned back to Netflix and watched the first two or three episodes of American Dad, which I had never seen before. I noticed that I was more prone to laughter, at times ridiculous laughter. While I felt in most cases the laughter was appropriate, it was far, far more amusing than it would have been had I been sober, or even stoned out of my mind on Mary Jane. I was laughing so hard there were tears in my eyes.

It was morning when we finally came entirely down. They slept on the couch in the living room and I closed my bedroom door and lay in my bed. My body was so comfortable. There was no tossing, no turning. My body was relaxed, vibrating, though my mind was still acute. They had given me half a pill of a muscle relaxer, and it finally kicked in.

When I awoke, to my disappointment, I didn’t remember any dreams, though I did recall that I had some that I would have found interesting.

Advertisements

High Absorbency.

Oh, how they have explained me.

“Your brain is like a radio receiving all stations at once,” Dr. Napier once explained to me with enthusiasm. On another occasion, he explained me as “jet fuel without a container.” Finally, on still another occasion, he summed it up. “If I was forced to use one word to describe you,” he confessed, “it would be ‘intense.'”

In roughly the same manner, the psychologist I saw during college when the anxiety attacks amped up told me that a good word to describe me would be “sensitive,” but then offered another as well: “cerebral.”

Napier also referred to me as a “fantasy prone personality,” which I knew about generally but never once bothered, amidst all my Googling, to look up. So I finally did.

Evidently I am one of the roughly 4% of the population are said to be fantasy prone personalities. These highly hypnotizable “fantasizers” have creative and intense imaginations which leave them prone to hallucinations and “self-suggested psychosomatic symptoms” which can lead them to confuse imagination for reality. They may even have what is known as a paracosm: an elaborate fantasy world full of stable history and geography, populated by your choice of the conceivable. If as a child you had imaginary friends or an imaginary identity or if as a teenager onward have a vivid imagination you invest the majority of your time in, this may be you as well.

If you claim psychic abilities, have out of body experiences, see apparitions or are abducted by aliens: uh-oh. Red flag.

Closely associated with this is psychological absorbency. Absorption is essentially hypnosis (fixed attention with a reduction in periphery awareness) but rather than it being intentionally spawned by a hypnotist’s induction technique we are instead entranced through our sense of identification with the object of attention.

This is why we get absorbed in any story. You become “one” with the object of focus and react to its circumstances as if it were your own. Like the character you identify with in a book or movie or the character you play in an online role playing game. This is also found in our capacity for empathy with another. We forge a bond and nurture it until fusion; until what Campbell calls “the seizure” takes place and it all becomes indistinguishable from real.

We believe in, but can believe and back out again. People get absorbed in a book, movie or video game and snap back out of it. People explain how they fall in and out of love. We focus, concentrate, zoom in to experience a first-person perspective through absorption. We zoom out, push away, distance in a third-person perspective through use of dissociation.

Some of us get stuck in. Some are locked out.

Stuck in Zoom.

I fight against the rhythm of the cabin, striving to fall out of time, but the hypnotic pull of the three others snoring around me kept drawing me back into synchrony. I couldn’t blot out my awareness of the tempo, and intentionally breathing out when they breathe in proved to be just as bad.

Not for or against, but regardless; not alliance or rebellion, but true individuality: that has always been the aim, I have felt. To beat to the rhythm of your own goddamn drum.

This is a rather extreme microcosmic example, but that only shows how deep this battle truly rages in me, and its history stretches far behind the present, far beyond this male-bonding weekend of kayaking, a cabin, of booze and weed.

With ease I remembered when I would lie beside my mother in bed when I was younger. I would always try resisting the hypnotic pull of synchronizing my breathing with my mother’s breathing, her heartbeat with my own.

Earlier in the day the four of us were playing a game of corn-hole in the playground just across from the cabin, and I’m not usually one for games and being high did not help, I’m sure. As soon as I was supposed to not toss the bean bag in the opponents hole, I became a god of the nothing-but-net corn-hole equivalent.

“I don’t know why it is,” said John in the midst if it all, “but every time someone tries not to make the hole, they always end up getting it in the hole.”

What you resist, persists. Both craving and aversion constitute absorption. Both constitute the psychological zoom in. The goal is no neither try to or try not to.

I must learn the art of zooming in and out at will.

Dissociations of Our Personal Narration.

“The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.”
— Muriel Rukeyser.

A narrative is a story told by a narrator to the equally obvious reader. We are both the narrators and readers of our own personal life story, though given the existence of automatic negative thoughts or “ANTs,” this is often done automatically and largely subliminally.

“Evidence strongly suggests that humans in all cultures come to cast their own identity in some sort of narrative form. We are inveterate storytellers.”
— Owen Flanagan, Duke University.

Narrators such as ourselves tell their stories through one of three general perspectives or points of view, each expressed by the use of specific personal pronouns. These points of view reflect the nature of the narrator’s relationship with the story.

The first person (1p) narrator identifies with a character in the story and tells the story to the reader through the perspective of that character. This is accomplished through the use of the singular pronouns I, me, my, we, us, our(s). We are each our own narrator stuck in 1p perspective, telling ourselves, the reader, stories in alternating tenses through a character we identify as self — a story and leading star that we have become “seized” by in the Joseph Campbell sense.

With the use of pronouns you and yours in second person (2p) narration you are assigning an identity, relationships, circumstances as well as the private psychological reactions to a reader.

So we go from I to You, from Us to Them.

In our personal narratives this can manifest as transference, parataxic distortion or projection of aspects of one’s own denied personality traits onto another individual, leading to projective identification and self-fulfilling prophecy. In any case, by use of 2p you are drawing an individual into a story not of their own as you accomplish distance from that story.

In the book Stranger in the Mirror: Dissociation — The Hidden Epidemic, authors Marlene Steinberg, MD, and Maxine Schnall describe dissociation as representing a continuum with adaptive association at one extreme end and maladaptive dissociation on the other.

Maladaptive dissociation — defined as a “persistent, recurrent and disruptive to social relationships and job performance” — is a psychological defense mechanism triggered in response to stress and is characterized by a distancing and distortion from one’s senses, memories and sense of self. It is thought that traumatic histories involving abuse or negligence in the early years can nurture maladaptive dissociative tendencies.

When a child is exposed to a trauma from which one cannot run or hide nor has anyone in which to confide, we might expect this 2p function to kick in as a psychological survival mechanism.

Moving from “I am being abused” to “you are being abused” requires either repression and projection or dissociation and identity alteration.
If not projected onto an Other in your social environment, than the embodiment is custom-made as the alternate personality or Alter in the psychological environment. Here your dissociated parts take on the form of an imaginary friend, enemy, or the ever-ambiguous frienemy. To this imaginary entity the dissociated memories can be attributed, and so securely compartmentalized in the 2p Land of Not-Self.

This extreme end of maladaptation in the whacky world of dissociation comes to us in the form of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), otherwise known as Multiple Personality Disorder. Here the aforementioned imaginary entity can develop into a full-blown alternate identity or Alter.

In DID, at least two distinct personalities constantly take the driver’s seat of the body. The alter may identify with a different age, sex or species. It will have its own distinct body language and speech pattern. To boot, the Alter can take the wheel and assume position in the driver’s seat of the body.”Switching” is the term used to denote the transition from one personality to another, but this is not a simple on/off switch.

Partial dissociation involves varying degrees of overlap where both personalities are consciously involved in the body at once. It would seem to comprise both the experience of depersonalization and derealization. In depersonalization, you look at yourself from an outside perspective or feel detached from parts of your emotions or body. In derealization, you are instead detached from your immediate environment, now distorted, and familiar people seem foreign.

As an important additional ingredient, however, there is what Steinberg elected to call “identity confusion,” which is a overwhelming sense of uncertainty or conflict with respect to one’s sense of self. The host may find himself compelled to do things without any sense of control over them. Depending on the degree of the switch, one may feel like a passenger in one’s very own skin.

Full dissociation involves the complete “switching” from one personality to the other, leading to “dissociative amnesia” — loss of memory regarding your past or identity — for the Host. Having evolved now from identity confusion, we are faced with “identity alteration.”

Typically we use 1p and moderate 2p in our life narrative, but there is indeed a third. You get there by the following pronouns: he, she, it, him, her, his, her(s), they, them and their(s). In this third person (3p) narrative perspective, the narrator impartially observes the story unfolding from an outside-looking-in perspective. The style in which the narrator does this fractures into 3p into four different subcategories, namely the objective, omniscient, subjective and limited 3p perspectives.

3p objective is limited to descriptions of the physical circumstances and conveys details in a neutral or impersonal manner without any direct insights into the subjective processes of the characters. You are a camera, a fly on the wall, just looking over the shoulder of the character or characters in a neutral, uninvolved fashion. 3p omniscient has an additional degree of freedom in that not only objectivity but telepathy with those of one’s choosing is available, and even some interpretations of the events. The 3p subjective narrator reveals the narrative by honing in on different characters, one at a time.

Then there is 3p-Limited, which offers an additional dimension of perspective to the first person perspective. The narrator closely follows a single individual and knows his thoughts and emotions directly, though from a distance but everyone else is perceived externally.

Mild degrees of dissociation are experienced to some degree by ordinary individuals in response to emotional stress, sensory overload or experiences perceived as life-threatening. These are rare, swift episodes that have minimal effects on one’s ability to function. There are other important distinctions, however.

“The two main characteristics of dissociation are that it occurs automatically, and that it allows a person to not experience something,” writes Stephen Wolinsky in his book Quantum Consciousness.

A paragraph later he adds:

“The dis-association of self-observation, by contrast, allows you to become aware of what you are already feeling, and happens only as a consequence of conscious choice.”

This is the “witness” consciousness, which seems synonymous with adaptive dissociation.

The mind is like a camera with a zoom lens. Concentration, which is exclusive to whatever you happen to be zooming in on, is cultivated through forms of meditation like trakata. It narrows the attention down on a specific target as periphery awareness dims to nonexistence. Mindfulness, also cultivated through meditation, is inclusive. It involves stepping back, zooming out with broad awareness covering the full scope and depth of the present moment. This is accomplished through becoming attentive to our thoughts, emotions and sense data without judgement, manipulation or identification.