High doses of psychedelics can make people lose their sense of self. Some researchers think this is a fundamental part of psychedelic therapy.
DMT, LSD, psilocybin, and other psychedelics are paving the way for the future of psychiatry. Psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy has demonstrated ground-breaking results in the fight against treatment-resistant depression, addiction, and cancer-related distress, to name but a few examples. But why are these substances so effective in treating mental health disorders?
To find out the answer, researchers have sought to look inward, and ask which psychedelic experiences translate into therapeutic outcomes. What has captured the attention of many scientists in recent years is the ineffable experience of ego death.
What Is Ego Death?
Ego death is a hallmark of the psychedelic experience when you venture into large enough doses. What often happens during a heavy psychedelic trip is the blurring of the boundaries between the sense of ‘self’ and the external world-hence why some prefer the somewhat lighter term ‘ego dissolution’.
The subjective ‘I’ that has endured through most of an individual’s lifetime may disappear at the peak of one’s trip. Suddenly, an overwhelming sense of interconnection replaces the egocentric lens with which most of us view the world. Joy, unity, and depersonalization temporarily replace the self-centered worldview.
While ego death is not an all-or-nothing experience, this sense of interconnectedness and a loss of self remains commonplace. One patient from a study on psilocybin for end-of-life anxiety talked about this feeling of interconnectedness as a transformational experience.
“It was like being inside of nature, and I could’ve just stayed there forever — it was wonderful. All kinds of other things were coming, too, like feelings of being connected to everything, I mean, everything in nature. Everything — even like pebbles, drops of water in the sea … It was wonderful, and it wasn’t…