The science behind psychedelics and increasing your connection with yourself

Posted on Jan 17, 2020 12:00:00 AM
“There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self."- Aldous Huxley
Colourful corner of the universe

How connected are you to your true self? Would you like to learn more about yourself, your mind and even your life purpose?

Being better connected to yourself can improve your own life as well as those close to you. It can bring you a sense of purpose, identity, and fulfilment. 

If you work on improving your self-connection, you can escape harmful patterns and start making your life and the world around you a brighter and more meaningful place.

ConnectionSo how can you better connect with yourself? Experts recommend everything from spiritual journeys and psychotherapy, to meditation and spending time in nature. But in modern times, with the mounting stresses of technological capitalism, these types of experiences have become less common.

The psychedelic renaissance offers a new opportunity. Psychedelic experiences have been shown to renew our sense of purpose, understand ourselves more deeply, and help us work through our own traumas. Could a guided psychedelic ceremony help you rediscover self-connection?

The cost of being disconnected from yourself

Many people in the world feel like they lack a clear sense of meaning or purpose in their lives. They might struggle to find values they align with, or may feel as if they don’t have an important role to play in the world. Many people find it difficult to foster self love, or are mired in guilt or regret. We are often taught to believe in values of identity that go against our best interests.

Western societies are built on the concept that material wealth is the most fundamental part of our wellbeing. But studies have shown that the more we strive for monetary wealth, the less happy we are (Lee & Kawachi, 2019). Western capitalism means that people are often forced to take unfulfilling jobs in order to survive, or feel that they have no choice but to forfeit their personal values for monetary gain. This disconnect from healthy values has the potential to deeply hurt us. Research consistently shows that people whose core values are about material things are the least satisfied of all of us (Roberts & Clement, 2006).

As well as material values, the identities imposed on us through gender standards can be harmful to our self-connection. We are taught, through media and tradition, that men must be “strong” and women must be “nurturing.” These values are deeply ingrained in our social conditioning. If we don’t align with traditional values of masculinity or femininity, we can find ourselves being ostracized, or even repressing ourselves. Research has shown that most of us experience some kind of pressure to adhere to gender stereotypes in childhood, and that 51% of those people feel this has negatively impacted their careers, while 44% feel it has harmed their relationships (Culhane & Bazeley, 2019). Conforming to gender standards can cause all of us to suffer in a multitude of ways, and it can keep us from understanding our identities and desires (hooks, 2003). 

Basically, if our core values are all based in the external material world, or on other people’s standards, a disconnect from the self is not surprising – and it could result in deep dissatisfaction and unhappiness.

When re-connection leads to healing

In the most severe cases of disconnect, people with traumas such as PTSD and depression may ultimately be struggling to connect with the dark parts of their life experience. The clinical term for this is “derailment,” and occurs when a person fails to identify with their past self (Ratner et al, 2019). It can be both a symptom and cause of depression.

polarization-1201700_640One of the goals of therapy for people who suffer from depression or similar mental health conditions is to bring them gently back in touch with themselves. The hope is that patients will be able to reframe their relationship to their shadows, and reconnect with themselves without the traumatic associations they are used to.

MDMA-assisted psychotherapy, for example, has proved so successful because of its potential to reconnect us. This empathogenic psychedelic substance has been granted “Breakthrough Therapy” status by the FDA because of its effectiveness in the treatment of PTSD. According to the experts, this therapy is so powerful because MDMA allows patients to form a trusting relationship with their therapist(s), and talk through their past and present traumas without the usual negative reactions (Thal & Lommen, 2018). This kind of therapy is a dramatic example of how healing it can be for people to get back in touch with themselves.

[Important note from Synthesis: mental health is complex, and victims of trauma should never be blamed. Although disconnection may be a feature of some mental health conditions, this does not mean that those sufferers are responsible for their condition, or that they are capable of recovering from it without compassionate professional assistance.]

Rebuilding a connection to the self

Smiling man - self-connection

The first steps in exploring our connection to self could involve starting therapy, or beginning a spiritual practice like meditation. Basically any technique that holds up a mirror and helps you encounter your identity will start the process of reconnecting you to yourself.

But sometimes you need an extra push to really encounter your true self, in all its glory and darkness. Therapy or spiritual practices alone may not have what it takes to help you break through that threshold.

Thankfully, psychedelic substances, including the natural psychedelic psilocybin, have been shown to increase our sense of connection to ourselves, nature, and others. One profound guided experience with a psychedelic could reconnect you in more ways than one.

How can psychedelics reconnect us?

Our own research at the Synthesis retreat has shown that our specially guided psychedelic experience increases scores of connection, using a questionnaire called the “Connectedness Scale.” Our guests experienced a 130% increase of their connectedness score (from 32/100 to 74/100), which was sustained for at least four weeks after the retreat. This connectedness score takes into account a sense of connection to the self, to others, and to the wider world.

CornerWhen we delve a little deeper into the psychedelic experience itself, we can begin to understand why it has the power to bring us in touch with our deeper selves. Trip reports often involve descriptions of revisiting past traumas, and resolving personal issues.

This participant’s report, after a ceremony, shows how the psychedelic experience can bring you in touch with a sense of purpose or acceptance.

I experienced the discovery of self from my Synthesis experience. A true ego dissolving experience that continues to provide guidance and meaning in life. This stands alone as one of the most important experiences of my life."- jacob, Synthesis retreat participant

The experience that psychedelics produce can also bring us in touch with something beyond our normal understanding. This encounter with the “mystical” can help to give us a fresh sense of purpose, revelation, and spirituality – with the potential to dramatically improve our relationship with ourselves.

People score highly on the “Mystical Experience Questionnaire” following a psychedelic trip, measuring things like encounters with otherworldly beings, or feeling a vast realization about the meaning of reality (Barrett et al, 2015). People who have more intense mystical experiences with psychedelics are also more likely to see healing benefits for traumas like addiction and depression (Griffiths et al, 2016; Garcia-Romeu et al, 2014).

The Synthesis experience is also rated as highly mystical, and nearly half our guests have a “complete mystical experience” as measured by the Mystical Experiences Questionnaire. Breaking down the individual components of the mystical experience, 69% of participants had a sense of encountering ultimate knowledge, 65% felt the experience was beyond description, and 76% experienced feelings of joy, peace, or ecstasy.

Read more about the mystical experience here.


Is Synthesis For You?

The carefully crafted psychedelic experience at the Synthesis retreat may be ideal for people searching for reconnection in their lives.

Our research (in collaboration with Imperial College London) has shown that the Synthesis experience can increase people’s sense of connection to themselves, others, nature, and even to the mystical unknown.

The environment at Synthesis is designed to be as safe and comfortable as possible – with dedicated guides and facilitators during the ceremony. 

If you’re looking for a dose of connection, in a beautiful and supportive environment, Synthesis might be right for you.


Tags: Psychedelic Science