When he first began gobbling down potent psychedelics, my pet chimp was immediately captivated by their potent capacity to subtly subvert his malleable social construction of reality with characteristic humor and elation. He'd been focused on sociology, cosmology (as an atheist and devout Dawkins disciple), and graphics design at the tail-end of high school - while maintaining a devoted relationship with getting himself blitzkrieg-ed drunk, white-knuckle cocaine high, or pin-point-pupil numb with oxycodone & heroin (not in that order ). He was always surprised, however, at how popular psychedelics were at parties; while he'd enjoy such environments on the drugs, he knew he was consciously suppressing many of the sensations & effects while focusing in on others. He quickly found that his favorite experiences were in solitude or with a sole companion - when his attention was forced to go beyond dazzling sensory activity, and actually think about the way he thinks. Amazed by his capacity to comfortably confront his unconsciously repressed emotions with these compounds, he began to value them beyond mere recreation; he identified some psychedelics as particularly useful tools for re-evaluating his aspirations, values, and urges. Astonished, he was approaching something similar to a lasting calm. His use of more addictive substances returned to recreational levels, rather than dependent. Whether it was simply maturation associated with growing in age, or his exposure to new ways of thinking & perceiving afforded by psychedelics, he's not certain. He is certain, however, that neither might easily be eliminated as crucial contributors to his ability to overcome significant emotional obstacles, and pursue the things he deemed important and interesting, not just those things that made him feel good at the time. It seemed that his emotions had begun to be guided by his thoughts, rather than his thoughts dominated by emotion.
As the chimp continued to consume various psychedelics, he realized that he was still suppressing certain sensations - the ones he considered to be at all unpleasant in comparison those euphoric or viscerally pleasing in nature - with the intention of consistently avoiding 'bad trips'. He intentionally neglected side-effects, or anything that didn't feel positive, ignorantly ignoring the grotesque qualities of dis-ease or discomfort. The 'acid-tummies' or 'mushroom grumblies', muscular tension, strange sinus sensations, changes in facial expression, and over-sensetivity to inflection and tone during interaction with others that he'd experience all began to present a newfound intrigue. When watching movies, he'd be completely distracted by, and envious of, the actors' talents at conjuring emotional expressions at will - noticing the subtleties in mannerisms and gestures they recruited to communicate the nuanced differences between similar feelings like frustration and anger, tenacity and obsession, or love and dependence. He found how much we speak with each other through facial expression, and that language fortuitously presented the detail necessary for accurate & intended perception. Inevitably, these observations influenced his own expressions when interacting with people when sober; he began to feel that he expressed himself more honestly and according to his thought processes, rather than the state of his body or emotional status. The chimp also began to look for ways to effectively alleviate the strange digestive sensations he'd observe; various methods of torso-stretching and manual facilitation of digestion were sought and found, and now have a particularly special value due to transitory stomach ulcers acquired from his former alcohol fixation.
An esteemed administrator once cited an individual whom many would consider to be the father of modern psychedelia, Sasha Shulgin, while discussing potential side-effects observed from research cannabinoids.
This struck a chord, though likely not precisely the one intended. After spending far too much time navel-gazing, and deciding to leave the social sciences to individuals with considerably higher levels of patience than his own, the chimp decided to pursue a conspicuous and exceptionally intimidating elephant-in-his-room, neuroscience. It was borderline voyeuristic pornography to learn what the drugs he'd been consuming had been doing to his body; like an elegant and complicated labyrinth or garden of forking paths, he could endlessly explore profoundly intricate relationships that comprised his body - every component having a delicate impact on every other component. Each psychedelic adventure began to incorporate images of anatomy that he could both spatially imagine and intuitively feel with an unprecedented resolution. When stretching to attenuate muscle tension, he could almost see his tendons sliding, sarcomeres stretching and contracting, and blood flowing through his arteries and veins. He could visualize his lungs expanding, bronchioles exposed and ravenously absorbing the compounds present in his pleasantly smoked cannabis. One time he was lucky enough to actually observe himself become infected by a common cold-style virus, and watch his body's tissues reliably respond and fend themselves from the invading pathogen. He could picture his sinuses swelling, various immune-system proteins transferring chemical signals to one another like a stock-brokerage firm responding to a crash in the market, trying to execute the best strategy to adapt and overcome a novel obstacle to survival. In essence, the chimp was re-introduced to these compounds as study-aids of unparalleled efficacy, derived predominantly from the side-effects he'd long been ignoring. He was learning from probing his physiology with the side-effects of psychedelics, and this opened up a whole dimension of the experiences that he'd never anticipated.
I hope this hasn't come across as self-agrandising or arrogant; quite the contrary, most individuals are able to implicitly learn these lessons without nearly the same degree of egocentrism as they mature, and my chimp is undoubtedly and enviously stunted, emotionally and intellectually, in many of his realizations. The invaluable lessons the chimp extracted from these experiences have been long lasting and character-defining. The information he's privileged to study falls into a beautiful biochemical ballet, each character playing a part as significant as the next; when it comes to psychedelics, there are no such things as side-effects for the chimp anymore. Each effect represents a biological system in an altered state, which is one of the most fundamental ways that we've learned about our universe; most frequently, the most foundational lessons in neuroscience have blossomed from disruptions of typical activity. At least in my chimp's experience, side-effects are some of the most physiologically relevant ways to understand the nature of the systems subserving our abilities to interact with, and perceive, the external universe.
An affectionate and appreciative cheers to those who took the time to play along.
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Serendipitous Lessons from Psychedelic Side-Effects
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