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A direct comparison between Psychedelic and Dissociative ego death
Although certain pieces of information on this article have been written about before, this article is going to serve as a direct comparison for the two differing states of ego death found at the highest possible level of hallucination on both psychedelics and dissociatives. I am hoping that once this article has been written a formal distinction will truly be be drawn between the two.
To make things as clear as possible however, I should first define for people what exactly the ego is and what purpose it serves before I go into breaking down the base components that comprise these two states .
Put simply, the ego is a human being’s sense of self or “I” as intrinsically separate from and somehow more important than the external environment. It is essentially a person’s consciousness or ability to be self aware, as fueled by the constant internal dialogue that we call our thoughts.
Ego death is defined by the psychedelic community as any total suppression or loss of a person’s sense of self. It is something that occurs at both high dose dissociative and psychedelic experiences, as well as in every day life; since natural sleep, passing out drunk, general unconsciousness or death can all technically be classed as forms of ego death. However, the clear cut distinction between hallucinogen induced ego death and other more commonly experienced forms is that sensory input is not maintained through deep sleep or normal unconsciousness. Psychedelics and dissociatives on the other hand, both offer differing versions of the same experience that universally becomes triggered during these states and is perceived through all of the senses.
In terms of the thought patterns and general mental processes, dissociative and psychedelic ego death are very similar in a number of ways. Both capable of being broken down into 3 basic levels.
- Ego suppression - Partial failure of a persons short term memory. Something that can be described as a general increase in distractibility, loss of focus and an increasing inability to process anything outside of the present moment.
- Ego loss - Complete failure of a persons short term memory. Something that can be described as a person becoming being completely incapable of remembering any specific details regarding the present situation for more than a second or two. Resulting in disorientation, thought loops and confusion for the inexperienced. Long term memory however remains almost entirely intact, with people still being perfectly capable of recollecting their name, date of birth, childhood school, etc.
- Ego death - Complete failure of a persons long term memory. Something that can be described as a person becoming completely incapable of remembering any basic fundamental human concept that is stored within the long term memory. Including your name, who you are, the fact that you are on drugs, what human beings are, what life is, what existence is or what anything is. Giving the profound experience that there is no longer an “I” experiencing the intensity of the trip anymore, there is just the trip as it is and by itself.
So it’s not the ego loss in itself that differs between psychedelics and dissociatives. What differs between them, are the consistent hallucinatory experiences that they are accompanied by, both of which share many common visual characteristics with each other whilst simultaneously being worlds apart, the base components of which I will now begin to break down and describe…
Psychedelic ego death:
The final and most profound stage of psychedelic visuals (level 6) is usually the very thing which triggers ego death during a psychedelic experience. This is most likely because of the sheer perceptual and sensory overload experienced during these states, something that occurs only once the trip has reached a level of intensity in which the environment has become completely replaced with visuals. As the visuals reach their highest possible level, the mind suddenly feels as if every point within the brain has become completely interconnected with every other point, leaving the tripper under the overwhelming sensation that they are experiencing or becoming everything within the universe all at once. This is something that can be described as an infinite sea of geometry, concepts and fractals that is always perceived to contain within it, all of existence, all that there ever was and all that there ever will be. A vast ocean of mind that is not just seen in front of the eyes but physically felt through each of the senses in an incomprehensible level of detail on every single point across itself. The experience is immediately perceived by everybody who undergoes it to be “the universe”, or at least “everything”.
At its lower levels, this effect is something that fluctuates wildly, pulling trippers in and out of the room in a fashion that many find extremely disorientating. Instead of remaining constant and static it is triggered by the experience of a concept. For example if somebody were to say the word “internet” to a person who is currently in this state, they would see the mind’s concept of the internet immediately manifested in a perfectly fitting geometric form. This is a form that quickly branches out from itself like some sort of ineffable spider diagram, enveloping the concepts which you associate with the internet and then branching out to include the concepts you associate with those. This spreads out exponentially and within 2 - 3 seconds, quickly grows in a sudden flash to include every single stored concept within the entire universe. The tripper is completely disconnected from their external environment before they are re-stacked back into the room, until something triggers the process again, usually immediately. Trippers are snapped in and out of the room repeatedly as the process is triggered continuously.
It can to a certain extent however, be held at bay through continuous physical movement, stopping the process from branching out into everything by not giving it the time it needs to lock onto a concept.
As dosage is increased however the process becomes easier and easier to trigger whilst extending in length and duration, eventually resulting in a stable state of complete disconnection from the external environment and a lasting sense of oneness with the universe.
In terms of a specific description of the thought patterns and mental processes found throughout this state, beyond the simple memory loss experienced during psychedelic ego death, the experience is capable of triggering a unique array of mental hallucinations, delusional scenarios and false memories throughout the duration of the trip that are in a completely different class from that of standard psychedelic hallucinations. These are not the familiar dream like states, imagined landscapes and contact with entirely imagined autonomous entities that play out in front of your eyes as they happen in a format similar to a dream or a film. These are extremely detailed yet false memories of the current situation or scenario that a person is already in and what has already happened to them. This varies wildly in its limitless number of different manifestations but generally follows two different routes depending on the trippers outlook and perspective on the world in day to day life.
For positive, well balanced people it results in scenarios with themes of transcendence and overwhelming religious or spiritual undertones that occur regardless of the trippers theistic beliefs. Feelings that your entire life has building up to the present moment, which is historically significant for all of humanity and that nothing is ever going to be the same are extremely common. People will also often believe that they have learned a reality shattering secret. A secret which once a person has sobered up is either realized to be untranslatable into human English or lost forever to the winds of short term memory loss.
On the other hand however, unprepared, negative or mentally unstable people who undergo states of extreme psychedelic ego loss tend to find themselves in delusional paranoid scenarios that have genuine potential to cause somebody to harm themselves or others. These scenarios could be literally anything but generally seem to share a few extremely common plot elements, such as:
- Thinking you are going insane.
- Thinking you are going to die.
- Thinking the people around you are “out to get you”.
- Thinking you have done something wrong.
- Thinking you are somehow tripping wrong.
- Being absolutely convinced that something is very very wrong with the situation but being unable to explain what your point is when asked because you never had one in the first place.
It’s worth noting however that with time and repeated exposure to states of ego death, as a person becomes familiar with the state and it is no longer confusing or disorientating for them, the false memories decrease in frequency and intensity until they are simply not present. Even ego death can eventually become familiar and normal to a person. So it’s my personal experience with these states that has led me to theorize that they stem directly from the person’s complete lack of short term memory and resulting inability to keep track of anything that is happening around them. It seems as if a person’s sense of the present situation, who they are, where they are, what they are doing, etc is generated instantaneously on a subconscious level as a result of our current sensory input with or without the ego. The ego seems to simply steer and direct the process with its reasoning abilities and a normally functioning short term memory, the loss of which results in the subconscious taking over, completely unconstrained and unable to reason, coming to wildly inaccurate conclusions through extremely distorted and incomplete data. Please keep in mind however, that I have no idea what I’m talking about and have nothing to cite besides my personal experience.
Dissociative ego death:
In terms of its thought patterns and mental processes, dissociative ego death is much more simplistic than those that are found on psychedelic ego death, stemming from their pharmacological ability to disconnect the brains neurons from each other, creating feelings of dissociation, detachment and disconnection from the external environment, then the body and eventually the self. It’s here at the highest level of dissociation (level 4) that ego death occurs and people find themselves without any sense of self. Constrained entirely to the present, due to ego deaths characteristic loss of short term memory but still maintaining awareness of the sensory input that their trip is producing to accompany it. Separated not only from their own sense of self, but their body and external environment as well, causing you to be pulled into a place outside of reality.
This is a place which can only be described as floating through a dark and infinite void, generally accompanied by a monolithic structure floating above, below or in front of you as it gradually zooms, rotates or pans into focus and is unveiled before your eyes at a slow pace. Structures can take any static and comprehensible shape possible but are commonly experienced as vast spires, pillars, blocks, teardrops, wheels and pyramids that are often fractal in nature and occasionally made from materials that look real such as stone or metal. They alternate between each other by morphing in a comprehensible, consistent way or by panning and rotating out of view until another structure takes its place.
As a tripper’s dosage increases, the level of detail in which these structures are seen and felt increases proportionally. This continues until the sensation of seeing the entire universe condensed into an infinitely vast and intricate self transforming machine form becomes present, accompanied by the sudden realization that you are the structure that you are staring down upon and that the structure is also you. In terms of its appearance, this state is even harder for me to describe than psychedelic ego death, despite the fact that it is definitely a less complex experience. The structure can take any form but usually appear to be consistently shaped machine-like structures or clouds that are infinite in size and felt at every point of detail across itself. This is immediately interpreted through some sort of innate instinct as “the universe” or at least, “everything” by everybody who undergoes the experience.
It’s worth noting however that, although this state is just as likely to cause a bad trip in the unprepared as a psychedelic experience, people who are undergoing a level 4 dissociative trip are by its very definition completely disconnected from their own body, making them significantly less likely to move around, bringing themselves or others around them to harm.
So put extremely simply, psychedelic ego death will cause you to become the entire universe while dissociative ego death will cause you to fly over the entire universe, leading me to believe that both of these states have enormous historical significance that is still being severely overlooked by science and society in general.
Regardless of its visual effects which are not even necessarily present every single time somebody experiences these states. The sensation of ego death can be both disorienting or amazing. It is in my opinion the most intense experience a human being can possibly go through, leaving the unprepared and the unstable in states of panic, confusion and paranoia. These stem from the fact if you do not have a healthy subconscious, and you release it from the constraints of the rational ego, the true nature of a person’s mind becomes manifest. For those who are stable and prepared however, the experience of ego death can be extremely liberating, allowing people to experience the immediate sensation of being as an organism devoid of a constant internal commentary through their biased and cultured thought stream.
If you want to experience ego death for yourself but feel that you may not be ready, the only advice I can really give you is to learn to let go and give in. Never trip in a negative state of mind and do not under any circumstances try to fight, control or understand the experience, as to do so is to trigger a bad trip.
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