July 19, 2021
What is "metaphysical geometry"? What do we get out of surrendering to the idea of death? Why do some people find the sensation of intense fear to be pleasurable? Is psychosis valuable? Are all mental states valuable? Why are altered states of consciousness typically socially unacceptable, and why should we move towards accepting them? Could oxytocin be used as a less risky alternative to MDMA in therapeutic contexts?
Anthony David Adams is a visionary, inventor, activist, artist, entrepreneur, and the transformational coach / trusted advisor to the founders of the worlds greatest organizations and their teams. He's known for his capacity to support the world's most powerful leaders in doing deep inner and outer work. He holds a BA in Psychology from Edinboro University and an MS in Urban Planning from Wisconsin. As an activist, he's one of the country's leading voices on psychedelics and mental health reform — recently becoming the first person to hold space for an "underground" MDMA therapy session on national television. You'll find him in Brooklyn's Prospect Park or Presque Isle's Beach 11 playing Ultimate Frisbee and online at AnthonyDavidAdams.com, BioMythic.com, and FoundersHike.com; you can follow him on Instagram (@anthonydavidadams) or Facebook (@anthonydavidadams); or you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
JOSH: Hello, and welcome to Clearer Thinking with Spencer Greenberg, the podcast about ideas that matter. I'm Josh Castle, the producer of the podcast and I'm so glad you've joined us today. In this episode, Spencer speaks with Anthony Adams, about metaphysical geometry, processing fear during psychedelic experiences, and developing positive therapeutic contexts around psychosis.
SPENCER: One thing I'd like to dive into with you today, Anthony is some of the psychedelic experiences you've had — that you feel were profoundly impactful in your life and just kind of hear about them, what they felt like from the inside — and also some of the ramifications they had for you going forward. One of the topics that I want to talk to you about is metaphysical geometry — I have no idea what that is to be honest. So tell me a bit about that. What is that?
ANTHONY: Metaphysical geometry is a concept that I encountered — I guess, it was a term that I coined not really just for my own integration process from a 5-MeO-DMT ceremony that I sat in a couple years ago with this Australian shaman in Brooklyn. The space that it came from, was that I went through this process. The best way that I could describe it was that, it felt on some very basic level, it was like interacting with the spiritual concepts, it was very hard to differentiate whether it was just like a 3D representation of my most deeply held beliefs. Or if it was based in reality, it was kind of difficult to determine what those were and it makes sense, it would likely be beliefs versus base reality. But it was this 3D representation of what it felt like happens when someone would die (sort of in the space between life and death actually), is what the 5-MeO experience regularly occasions for folks. When I came back from that space, there's a lot that I kind of unpacked after that, one of the pieces that kind of landed was metaphysical geometry. A couple weeks ago — I arrived last week — I happened to walk into a Catholic church. I decided to go to a mass and as I was sitting in the mass, as I was looking at the iconography (like the cross and the sort of the the architecture and the big thing behind the priest sort of a sculptural kind of thing that most many Catholic churches have) it struck me that that was the same metaphysical geometry that I had seen in that space, and that it also mapped to other wisdom traditions that I've studied.
SPENCER: In what sense, was it the same?
ANTHONY: Okay, in the space that I explored on 5-MeO, was a white light type experience — like a central point that was a white light, on the sides of it was darkness. At that particular point in my life, I was in a very depressed space, there's parts of me that were still confronting some suicidal ideation and challenges like that, the best way to describe it is I went into those feelings, I kind of got pulled in almost a seductive energy pulled me into the outskirts of that white light, so to speak — if you would imagine a bull's eye, the white light being at the center, sort of the farthest edge from that was where I kind of landed at that point. In that space, I encountered an energy that felt very committed, felt like, “Oh, this is the devil or a demonic energy”, it's in that space. I confronted it. I said, “Hey, I want to live my life”. At that point, I sort of came out, and I had this recognition, that this white light at the end of life, is something that I would want to be able to embrace, just to be able to go into it fully. The mechanism to do that, was orienting my life in such a way that I was waking up every day, and just embracing sounds cliched and away, but really embracing the challenges of the day — it's like going into the uncertainty in the mystery of every day — in such a way that when that moment of death comes, you're primed yourself with your daily practice to be able to surrender into with curiosity, into the art of the moment of death, into that white light. I sort of also saw kind of in the center point of that, almost as if there were a bunch of mirrors, that were bouncing light back and forth. I recognize that as relationships, sort of this idea of the way, really like it was like the golden rule sort of shown met like geometrically is the best way I could describe that. How is that map? When I was sitting in the church, and I looked up at the iconography,you see the cross at the top, which is actually almost like a marksman cross. There's a circle and as a marksman is crossed, there's a sense that in that space, a consciousness emanating down from the cross. It's like going to church was across as a circle — there's like a triangular sort of like, filigreed energy coming down from the cross, and there was a bunch of people, there's Jesus, and there's the disciples and saints, sort of, in that space of consciousness. When I saw that, what I recognized was that this idea of the metaphor of the cross is, it's the struggle of your life and its death. By orienting one's life towards the miniature deaths, we experience every day as we surrender our ego, or we work in service of our deeper values, we take on a particular type of consciousness, that there's a certain way of moving throughout the world.
SPENCER: I have a hard time commenting on what you said, like at the object level — I guess, a meta level comment. I meta comment is, what I interpret you doing here is, you had this really intense psychedelic experience, where your visual system kind of got connected to these concepts. In other words, you weren't just like thinking about these ideas, you were actually seeing these ideas, almost like a synesthesia, between vision and thinking, the way that like a synesthesia might mix two senses (every word has a color, or maybe the taste of chickens sounds like a bell), you are like mixing the visual processing system in your mind with the kind of like thinking and suddenly this vision was created. That's why I interpret you as doing and this was like a deeply meaningful experience to you, which then you could tie into, like all these other things that you think are important life lessons.
ANTHONY: The thing that I would shift around that, is that the visual experience was actually fairly low resolution, like it wasn't sight in the sense of it was more perceptual — if I could explain it this way. When I think of visuals, I think of bright lights and colors and kind of seeing this whole thing, there was a sense of light and dark. But that's basically,“Yes”, it was literally just like a sort of a lightness and a darkness, it was more three dimensional… geometric, you're moving around a space, you're feeling kind of the concepts in three dimensions, right? It's almost as if you were feeling the desk in front of you in the chair that you're sitting on and kind of making your way through a room or actual space. If it was a hallucination. It was a hallucination like proprioception, or that's not even the correct term.
SPENCER: That makes a lot of sense. If you listen to blind people talk about what their dreams are like. That's what their dreams sound like. If someone became blind as an adult, they might see things in their dreams, perhaps. But if you said, I'm someone who's always been blind, they're born blind. They don't see things in their dreams, usually, what they have is a perception of like, space moving around touching things, the feeling where objects are, and so on.
ANTHONY: That will be a more accurate description of what that experience of that space was like. What's interesting about this for me is that the metaphor of this bull's eye kind of experience, right? Like the idea of sin, which might be things like suicide, or hiding your drug use — different things people would use to kind of hide the pain in themselves. It's an archery term, like sin means to miss the mark, which I don't know, people typically understand, it's a term for missing the mark. When I was in that kind of geometric space, it literally was like, “Oh, this is just like, you've missed the mark.” You've just pointed, you're sort of consciousness, you've oriented yourself towards the wrong thing. Orienting towards the challenge in the struggle and death, so to speak, that there's a consciousness that emerges from that. In that moment, it was like the feeling was, “Oh, this is just how things are. This is like the primary experience.” These wisdom traditions aren't unique to Christianity, by the way. I mean, I think, you know, Augustine talked about Christ, going to the cross like a bridegroom to his bride. This idea that you surrender passionately and willingly, not only to death, but also to the struggle of your life. This is not unique to the Christian ideal. I think you see this in like the obstacles the way, you see in stoicism, you see it in mythologies, you see it in Native American tradition, it's a theme of Beasley doing the work. In a certain sense, it's like, here's the path and take a staff, right — some of you can get into this very simple way — but he experienced that moment, brought it to life in such a beautiful way. It was almost holographic, in a way for the experience of life is the way that I would describe that experience.
SPENCER: What do you think we get out of surrendering to death, not trying to die, but just surrendering to the idea of death?
ANTHONY: I mean, you've known me for a while. You've talked to me, when we've hung out, when I've been in spaces where I was flirting with death in the sense of like, suicidal ideation, or I was kind of in that space. One of the things that I've realized is that I do this high performance coaching for people, and one of the things about athletes that I've noticed is this is a fairly common thing — I'm sure you have heard of it. The idea that athletes code fear and excitement differently in their bodies, where a championship athlete often will have the same physiological response, going into a championship match, as the person who hasn't really become a champion, they'll both describe my faces flashed, my hands are kind of clammy or a heart's beating — the champion describes it as excitement. The sort of second tier athlete will describe that same physiological responses fear. Same feeling, it's just a different labeling and a different way of then taking action based on those experiences. That's important. And it's so good for this, but orienting towards death. When I was in that suicidal space, one of the things that really became clear for me, was I would say, mislabeling as suicide, that impulse, I would argue, and this is something we could get into is, in the same way that a champion would code fear as excitement, I recognize that I was miss-categorizing this experience that I was having that I needed to kill my physical body. I never acted on that. I recognize that was actually a signal from inside, I needed to go through an internal death and rebirth process. Ego death is, I would say, an ego regeneration process or updating your default mode network, to be able to function in a context that maps more accurately with reality. That orientation towards death is a couple things. One is the death in life every day, there's finding yourself in a new context, there's some challenge. For someone that is like myself, and many of the folks that I work with who are highly intelligent, sensitive, creative, oftentimes, things can literally feel like they're going to kill us. I remember like making the Love Game and literally feel like if I put this out in the world, it's going to kill me not figured — I will die if I put this in the world — having to push through that other existential challenges the feelings of like, “Oh, I feel this grief”, or if I feel the sadness, or if I feel this rejection, it will literally kill me. I'm avoiding it. Because my nervous system says “Nope, don't feel like you're gonna die”. I think that's grounded in family systems and lineage stuff, which we could talk about. But the orientation towards death, is then if I am unafraid, or if I am surrendering to the process of death, it's much easier I day-to-day basis, to surrender into those feelings of okay — I think this feeling is going to kill me and I can fully feel it and I can die into the next version of myself. It's like a lobster molten shell, right to kind of put on a new identity for the task at hand or the responsibility so that the person can find themselves.
SPENCER: With regard to how people respond to fear. For example, professional athletes. Recently, I posted on social media, asking people “why do they enjoy horror films?”, because this always kind of confused me because I've always found them just very unpleasant to watch. People have a wide range of different reasons.—
ANTHONY: I remember this post, that was great.
SPENCER: Yeah, people offered a wide range of different reasons. Some people said they really liked this sense of release, when you kind of like the story gets resolved. Some people said they get bored easily, and horror films hold their attention more. Some people said they really like high stakes and horror films because, literally, life is on the line. But one of the most interesting responses that I heard was that some people just enjoy feeling afraid. Then, I ran a poll after that, because I was just curious about this. In this poll I ran, I said, “When you feel intense fear, do you sometimes enjoy the feeling of it in your body or mind?” 0% of people said it's always enjoyable — so that's just not a thing people have. 6% is usually enjoyable when they feel intense fear, which I thought was quite interesting. Then, 28% say it's occasionally enjoyable. About 1/3 of people at least sometimes find intense fear enjoyable — I think that's just so interesting — this feeling that most people would describe as this kind of purely bad feeling, it just as a form of suffering, almost. Other people are like, “no, no” actually sometimes it feels really good. There's also, just the fact that people experience different levels of it — one person, you know, going into a tough negotiation might feel just extremely afraid, and another person might just feel slightly afraid. I think all of these things can modulate how we deal with this.
ANTHONY: The relationship to fear feels like it's so deep. There's such richness there. I've always been really averse to horror films — My brother loves them. I think I commented on that and your post — it's an interesting thing. I do think that we can… if we find it useful, I mean, I don't think you want to recode necessarily fear — I've heard some stories of people that really have performed in really incredible ways, this orient themselves towards it. Daniel's Mockingbird tells a story about his father who is like a kid. There's a liquor store ,and there were gunshots in the parking lot ,and his father instinctively, just sort of sprinting towards the liquor store. When he got into the liquor store, he found that, I think there's a person that tried to rob the place, the shop owner would actually defend himself ,and the shop owner was okay — I don't actually know the full details of it — but the shop owner was okay. I think maybe the person that was trying to rob the store might have been shot. But his father's default setting was, I can run into this liquor store. I know that my momentum will carry me far enough that I can take a few bullets ,and get the gun out of the hand of the guy shooting the store owner, that was just his default setting. Daniel grew up in that environment.I do think some people are kind of wired, on some level to just orient towards fear, I suppose my question is, “Are there opportunities?” — Well, we do this in some sense, we have exposure therapy, we find new things, there's, there's there's experiences that we can have that make certain contexts less frightening? Which to some degree, I think, is what psychosis can be for people, if it goes well.
SPENCER: To what you're saying about fear, I feel like one of the most valuable heuristics, I've had in my whole life is this idea that I should never let fear stop me from doing some math, I'm valuable. Of course, I don't live by this perfectly. But for a very long time, I've just tried to make that my attitude. If something's worth doing, fear should never be a reason to not do it and pushing myself to do those things. It almost becomes, I'm afraid of this thing, and I know it's actually valuable. Fear is an additional reason to do it. It's not only not a reason not to do it, it's not a reason to do it. Because I'm afraid.
ANTHONY: Right? I think that there's something to that — I mean, you remember my birthday party, right? When I was 10 years ago, and I’m 31 —
SPENCER: Yeah, I did.
ANTHONY: You remember the sign that you synchronistically picked out of the pile of things to get assigned to you.
SPENCER: What was it remind me?
ANTHONY: Fear is the gatekeeper of opportunity.
SPENCER: Perfect. It's a perfect one for me to pick.
ANTHONY: 10 years ago, crazy. I've always remembered that it was an amazing birthday party. I think that you're right. I think that there is work that I do. We talked about alchemy, he said, “What is alchemy?” I love that I sent you three things to talk about and they were all like made up words or things. [Laughed]
SPENCER: Yeah, he said these three things. Like, what are these things?
ANTHONY: Metaphysical geometry, Synchro-destiny, and alchemy. And alchemy at least is a word that you'd heard.
SPENCER: I was like, Okay, so we're gonna talk about transmuting lead into gold. That is the topic?
ANTHONY: Metaphorically, the idea that — there's a whole school of thought that these alchemist, I think on one level, they were studying things in the physical world, they were trying to kind of complete the task of turning, base metals into higher forms of metal — I guess they're doing that now, aren't they? They are sort of like quantum labs or something like plasma.
SPENCER: It is physically possible to change atoms into other atoms, right? We now know that.
ANTHONY: They were onto something, it was just a bit too soon. But certainly they weren't wrong to pursue that goal. But there's a way that there was also this deeply embedded spiritual practice that other folks approach. That it wasn't just about turning lead into gold, that was a representation in the external world for what they were up to. That was true that they're working on that task, which of course, it's wild that now we're doing that. There was also the spiritual process, it was taking the feelings, taking the lead inside of us, the sadness, the grief, the anger, the rage, putting that into a crucible, individually containing those right, not stuffing it down, not projecting it onto our community, or a part of it really holding a container. Actually add fire to it. In my case, we work with breath to amplify that. From that process — from an alchemical process of taking these called the base metals, the lead the heaviness of life, and transmuting that, turning that into what they were talking about the philosopher's stone, which was like a source of inspiration and sort of this magical kind of Oracle, you could also refer to that as the I mean, in a way I think the Philosopher's Stone probably tracks pretty closely to sort of Christ like experience, sort of the the deep kind of intuition, or as we would say, now probably, like young in psychology, you've reclaimed your authentic self. I think all of these are kind of riffs on the same theme. But that all chemical process returns someone back to their core essence, that it reconnects them to their authenticity to their authentic expression. That really is the work of alchemy. Yes, in a way, you're an alchemist, you recognize that there's a way to transmute fear. That something to avoid actually turns into an artifact, something that is, some tangible reality, that there's a reality, on the other side of that when you transmute yourself, when you move through that threshold, there's a whole other world on the other side of it. That in a nutshell, that's the alchemy process. The work that I've synthesized around myself the way that when it made sense for me to work with these more challenging emotional states or states of consciousness, then that's part of the work that I do professionally. I have experienced some things, within my own imagination in waking consciousness that have been the most terrifying fear like terror can attend. Just waking sober consciousness. At the moment, I think I didn't know that I liked it. Then I heard the wisdom of mentors that were telling me to surrender into it when I did. It was a whole other world on the other side of it.
SPENCER: What is it? Concretely to surrender into it? How do you think about that?
ANTHONY: When I had the 5-MeO-DMT experience was very similar to that, there was a huge amount of resistance that I had to the fear of death. But I initially went into it. I basically went psychotic ,and went to hell, and had this horrible, horrific experience, the first time that I smoked at 5-MeO-DMT.
SPENCER: That's remarkable that you did it again after that.
ANTHONY: Yeah, it's so funny because at the moment, it's like 20 minutes and you've lost your sense of time. It's literally just you with your deepest fears for eternity — if you could remove the time variable from your consciousness, and then just be like, “Oh, the things I'm most afraid of, here they are.”
SPENCER: But in like, normal clock time, 20 minutes here, you're out of it. That's insane.
ANTHONY: Yeah, you're in and out. [Deep breath] It really is just a fascinating experience. When I was there the first time, like, guess the reason people do this, so they never do it again — is that the purpose of this? — Then I came back from it. I mean, it was literally terrifying. It was all my deepest fears. I'm going to go crazy. You know, I'm never going to come back from this experience. I'm going to hell, it was like all of that programming and fear was amplified — the difference I've had with MDMA psychedelic therapy work versus say, 5-MeO-DMT. MDMA is the equivalent of you wake up and you're afraid of a monster in your corner, and your very sweet grandmother comes in and like gently turns the light on and shows you it's a coat rack, right That's like MDMA. 5-MeO-DMT is you're in bed, the coat rack destroys your house, destroys your entire family, you have to kill the coat rack, and you realize that death and all the material doesn't matter — that's how you conquer it.[Laughed] For paths to get to the same place, right? There I am in the craziness — In my head, I'm like, I guess you would just never do this again. That's the whole point of it. Then I came out of it, and I'm back in space time. I was like, “Okay, we definitely need to do this, at least one more time tonight.” Then, that second time is when I have the more metaphysical kind of experience of confronting suicidal ideation — which, by the way, has not returned. And, you know, two years I even whispered it, I'd be more creatively generative, I was able to navigate some difficult stuff like through the breakup. In that session, I saw the perfection of the whole thing it was like this is, everything is perfect exactly as it is. I came out with just such deep gratitude. In that place, the surrender for me was really like, there was a shaman, I was terrified. He was like, "Look, I was just going to go observe this because I was invited as an underground practitioner to go, just to kind of watch and observe. So I'd be familiar with the medicine.". When I get there, shine and prepare for it. The shaman just said to me, “if you're here, and you have the opportunity, you really ought to give it a shot.” That was like, kind of terrified. I just trusted it, I trusted and surrendered at that moment. So in that moment, it was a surrender to that experience, cuts like a year later — about a year ago, actually — we're under quarantine by the elite (a men's group). We meet every week for like over a year (It's six guys). We kind of work on different themes and Gestalt based practice kind of decentralized lead. We're working on a theme of altered states of consciousness. Part of it was talking about man's relationship to alcohol, or sex, or different types of drugs or success or different things people use to kind of alter their consciousness. It was I led all of us collectively through a remote breathwork experience. Spencer, I'm telling you, this experience was more terrifying than any drugs I've ever taken, in my life that I'd done to that point, and here's why —
SPENCER: But you were just breathing. Right?
ANTHONY: We were just… Yeah, so breathwork is certain deeper breathing. It was developed by Stan Grof is an alternate to LSD psychotherapy after prohibition in the 60s — Grof was a psychotherapist psychiatric doctor at University of Maryland, I believe. After prohibition, he was having such good results with LSD like healing, something like 50 or 60% of the alcoholics that came through, he needed an alternative because, the War on Drugs sort of took away that tool. He developed Holotropic breathwork, a mechanism for entering into an altered state of consciousness to get better access to your unprocessed, unconscious material. We started doing that breath work (It's remote first of all, there's no sitter.) Normally, you'd have a person guiding you in it — I was guiding, but I was also going in with the men. As we're drilling in (I'm doing the breath, I'm doing the breath.) All of a sudden, I start to hear it just fall on the hallucination of screams — literally the screaming of souls in hell is the best way that I can describe it. I felt like I was literally going to hell, and I'm breathing and I'm telling myself, “it's like you don't have the luxury of even reminding yourself that you've taken a drug” — I have fully lost at this time for sure. I've triggered something, I'm going to because I am a person with my background. I've always had this fear that I'm going to be in some psychosis for the rest of my life.
SPENCER: Because with a drug you say, “Okay, well eventually this will wear off.”
ANTHONY: Hopefully with a drug you take a drug , you're like, Well, okay, I took LSD and so in 12 hours , and I've taken, you can remind yourself, you've taken something. Now, some part of me maybe was able to say, “okay, you've you've been breathing”. But at that moment, I didn't have that conscious awareness. All I heard were Stan Grof 's words in my mind, which were, if you find yourself going to hell go, don't resist it, surrender into that experience — I surrendered. It gave me this deeper set of consciousness — It was dark, there was this, I suppose we could describe it as a very spiky demon, kind of sitting in the corner. And I was like, “Okay, well, here we are, here is the devil or some demon that's here to kill me.” — I'm staring at the demon. It reminds me of my first Hall, Paul Trebek experience from 10 years ago, where I went to this beautiful motif of sort of Native Americans, and being eaten alive by wolves. Being eaten was actually a beautiful process — it felt like being eaten alive by wolves in this vision experience, felt like me biting into a strawberry. It was so delicious, like being devoured by these wolves — in this particular motif, I'm there and there's this demon in the corner. I'm standing at him. I realized, “Oh, he's actually here to kill me, but that's okay.” I surrender to it, I kind of you know, put my arms back figuratively, and this demonic energy, so to speak, is a very spiky kind of being that jumps onto my chest, begins to eat me. What I realize, Spencer, is that it's eating away my anxiety — the anxiety that I've been carrying, probably since the last time that I smoked the 5-MeO-DMT, is like it's an unresolved stuff. It eats up this anxiety and kills me, so to speak. I find myself literally just like flying through the universe in this gorgeous experience — we come out of that, and then the other men are connected to men. It's a really very powerful experience for us. For me, that was surrendering into the fear in that space. I think that the practical example of this would be, I've had a huge paranoia about being arrested in going to prison since my like, for my entire life — as someone who use psychedelics at a young age as someone who's a psychedelic advocate, and just like general paranoia for the kind of stuff that I was up to, and doing that was not with not intention to harm people, but I could see how it could be perceived as a threat. I kind of always just experienced that from a very young age, that I ,as an adult, would carry fear, going to jail for your work or whatever. Because, I'd worked with people with psychedelics and helped support them through those experiences. I was given an opportunity this year to do PBS and they said, “Hey, we're looking for a person to kind of sit, and be with someone while they're under MDMA” — who, for whom, and this is not, this is not underground. This is like the exact opposite of underground. I'd like you to have paranoid visions of this in the past. And so I sat with it. I thought, on some level, it's really like the next iteration of this work. I presented it to a friend, who had had some really severe sexual trauma, when she was younger, this religious environment, or then she went home, her church, like blamed her and her parents blamed her and didn't believe it was horrible experience. She had really found healing through in part with MDMA helped her kind of reconnect to herself, returned, her spirituality returned to her community in a bigger way. — she's a lawyer. She was like this is important work, I would like to be the person that does this, and I want you to be there with me. I talked with her and I was like, “Man, she's so courageous. She's had such a good experience with this” I have to put my own personal fear aside, this is what you're here to do. This is on some level, activist work, it's being an advocate. I agreed to it, I said, “Let's do it” — we did it. They came in, they shot and we did this whole experience. I was terrified about it for a while, but I really made peace with it. And I really felt, like this was a space to be able to step into being authentic, to show a side of myself that I had been, kind of afraid to show and to really speak out and say, “Look, these are substances that can be healing, and that can be helpful”. We have things in phase three clinical trials, but there are millions of people that don't have access to them. They're going in this underground way. I would like to be able to show people, what that looks like, and also what it looks like when it's done well with support. Anyway, I surrendered into it, they showed a documentary comes out in a couple months — I'm retired from that work — but there was a part of me that, kind of came back to go be in the in the space, with this person that felt confrontational, I felt like I was really bumping up against the edge of the current system. We shall see, what happens with that I don't, tried to run the numbers. I don't really think that I'm in any real strong legislative risk for anything, especially with things changing, but it was something that felt risky, and I was afraid of it and I stepped into it. I do feel, I'm better for having done that.
SPENCER: I know you recently listened to the episode I recorded with Ayla, where we also talk about psychedelic experiences. I know you had some reactions to that, I wanted to hear what were your thoughts on that episode?
ANTHONY: I couldn't get through the entire episode not for lack of interest. But because, I had to stop ,and like to record all my notes within the first 10 minutes of getting through all the stuff that I wanted to talk about. [Laughed] I realized that it was much more time. She talked about, a read this like enlightenment project, I think that she did, which sounded fascinating, where she did a bunch of a series of interviews with people that were enlightened or claimed to be enlightened. She was trying to kind of understand, what their experience was in that process. Then she talked about her own experience, where she said that she — I think it was perhaps occasioned by meditation, or I don't exactly know the particular initiation point for her. But she went into a state of consciousness — described, I believe as deeply pleasurable, deeply painful. I think it impacted her short term memory (she took a couple days, I think), to be able to process this, it might be something that she was dealing with for a period of time kind of going in and out of these states. She said that when — it was not her words — but when it resolved that when she got through it, there was a window period of time where she felt like she was actually more calm, her anxiety had resolved that there was this space of clarity that she had attained. I think she said that now, she recognized that sort of as a skill. If there was a particular skill of working with that, and she said that it wasn't, I think you'd ask her, “Do you feel like it's from taking psychedelics?” and I think that whatever her response, was something to the effect of, I don't feel like I would have been able to kind of get through to that type of consciousness or that state without the psychedelics, but it is a space that I've been able to kind of return to without them. It's something that, wasn't did she initially linked to being caused by the psychedelics, but that they sort of allowed her to be able to experience that. It's the basic gist of what I got from that.
SPENCER: That episode you're talking about is episode 17 — if you want to listen to the first 10 minutes of it.
ANTHONY: I mean, listen to the whole thing. I'm going to go back, and listen to the thing. I did what I was so excited about, there's so many pieces here that I wanted to. It was just such good grist for the mill, there was such a richness there. There's a whole bunch of pieces from the interview. But the big part that came out for me — that I'd love to have — the idea that I feel like is important, is this recognition as Western psychiatry or Western psychology is called “psychosis”. This maybe… I imagined it to be controversial in some circles. This idea is what we're calling psychosis in the West (it's a naturally occurring process). I think we can observe that because people are naturally entering into psychosis. It is a biological mechanism that our brains use to attempt to regenerate , and a more updated default mode network. In the same way that we leave this metaphor before like a lobster throughout its life will molt (their hardshell protective structure and at a certain point of lobsters) I believe many points in a lobster's life when its shell has become too small, but needs to go crawl under a rock — I have to really dig into the biology of this because I use this metaphor often only makes certain that I'm using the correct animal here. Dale Schutte, (Dr. Dale Schutte listing my college honors oceanography professor who's made his life's work setting lobsters), he'd be disappointed in me if I got this wrong.[Laughed] Part of the lobster, my understanding of the lobster life cycle — I'm a little paranoid because I was just at a men's workshop, where I sort of got into a confrontation with the host, over using the metaphor of ostriches hiding their heads in the sand. This whole thing was like, they don't really do that they're just adjusting your eggs, nature wouldn't evolve a creature that just puts its head in the sand when it's under threat, or just die — I very carefully like phrasing this is my current understanding of the lobster, is that when it's time for a lobster to molt, it goes under a rock, I find the safe place, lets go of its shell (It's in a period of vulnerability.) Then it regenerates a shell, that then becomes more rigid, it can go out in the world. It's got more room, it's a bit more flexible, it can better navigate the world. And it's transitioned into, it's transformed. Its alchemizes itself into a new version of itself. What I'm suggesting — this is not my original work — there's transpersonal psychology would talk about this. This really was laid out beautifully for me when, I was going through my own process of trying to make sense of schizo-affective disorder diagnoses, bipolar disorder diagnoses, being in psychosis space, and really trying to get my footing in that world. There's a beautifully written like textbook style book called “Rethinking Madness'' by Dr. Paris Williams — the guy's lives in Australia, he might live in the Bay now gives the book away for free, you can get the really thick PDF, very clinical kind of explanation of these things, beautiful diagrams of how this stuff works— but that orientation helped me through my own process of integrating psychosis. What it is, in this kind of perspective, is that if I find myself too far outside my comfort zone (Paris calls it the Window of Tolerance) there's a context basically, the way I understand it is you find yourself in a context that is really outside your predictive capacity. It's like a threat — your brains, like, I don't really know what to do in this environment, and it's really not something I kind of found myself here pick away — we'll do different things to try to, we'll try to move back into our window of tolerance is I'm going to come back home, I'm gonna go back to what's familiar, we might try to change our environment, we're going to rearrange things to make it more comfortable, maybe we should change our perspective of it or think about a different way, sometimes those things work. But there often will come a time, where that won't work — we can no longer sort of hold back, our experience, like we can only hold back reality, so to speak, what Paris describes, it's sort of the final mechanism that the human has, to reconfigure their default mode network to something else that might work better in this current context, and this experiment is fairly predictable for people. What happens is that, they enter into a more open state, they experience often more unitive feelings, which map very closely to psychedelic experience — where the difference between me and you and the environment is no longer as clear. Through that process, if it completes, if what's called it's completed, almost like the shell of the lobster goes into the rock and the end is supported and safe, then this thing regrows. People traditionally come out of those experiences — much like Ayla — they come through those experiences, with more clarity, more confidence, more connection to their purpose, they've resolved some internal struggle. They've reached a resolution point by coming through that experience. When it doesn't complete, I would say that in the West, we have such a mono-conscious culture — meaning that we kind of value one lane of waking consciousness, (kind of consumer capitalist productive consciousness is generally what we're optimizing for). In the meantime, now, we're starting to kind of move towards other types of consciousness. But generally speaking, it's an external consciousness of things from outside of us — we kind of don't value challenging emotions kind of whole thing. We don't value these altered states of consciousness — at least we haven't traditionally. And so what that creates is when someone is going through a “psychotic experience” — it's almost as if a lobster walks into an ER, with its shell off, what it really needs is a safe space, and maybe some help to be able to process through that. What often happens is, well, we just scramble it, we stop it, we arrest this. Then what we have is a lobster that goes into a hospital, and we like to wrap it up in bandages, and we try to protect it from the outside world. We don't give it the proper support to regenerate, and reform its shell — what does that look like, traditionally? Well, we shoot people up with benzos, we put them on a variety of different pharmacological interventions that really are just managing symptoms versus getting to the root cause, which I would posit, I'll go out on a limb and say, in many, many cases, far beyond what is being acknowledged in the West, and Western psychiatric model is this need to reconfigure the default mode network. But in more traditional culture — and by the way, when does this happen?. Psychosis is a pretty predictable feature, it typically maps around points of identity change — leaving home and going to college, getting a new job, falling in love, becoming a father — anything that in more traditional cultures, we would have had a rite of passage, that involved altered states far beyond alcohol. Where a person goes into a context where they are supported by the community, there is a ritual experience for them to confront the parts of themselves that are most frightening. They gain resolution, they gain a sense of competence and accomplishment. They come through that with a new identity, more identified with the deeper values inside themselves, and slightly less identified with culture. The idea being here that as we develop, we begin to identify less with culture, and more as guardians or custodians of culture — in a way, that's what I see. I think that the way that we tend to suppress it in the West, the metaphor of it working with a woman menstruating having your period, it's very similar in the sense that it's shamed in the sense that we often provide medication to help manage it, in the sense that it's not deeply understood, and that there are cultures where it's more celebrated. It's celebrated as, in many ways, the woman being more sensitive to our environment — there's rich information there, there's feedback, there's an opportunity to kind of come in and have a spiritual experience with it. That's the experience, I attracted myself and was sort of one of the core practices that I was able to move through (this is from Williams's book) but the general piece here, is that psychosis is it's being called I would say, it's sort of an ego regeneration process, or better yet, like a default mode network regeneration that happens. One last piece, we typically confront unprocessed trauma. And so trauma being information that we've stored in our body, and our synapses, in our brain, and which is really just an undifferentiated fear response. It's like a low resolution experience that needs to be given space to fully process when the organism feels safe enough to process it. When it does that, it's able to kind of get a higher fidelity of what specifically about that was actually threatening, and what pieces can I let go. In that case, comes back into the world, of course, more relaxed — I'm no longer afraid of every person in a red t-shirt, when I was four, I got abused by someone in a red t-shirt, I realized that, “oh, there was an abuse that took place, and that impacted me, and I can make peace with that. I'm no longer terrified of red T-shirts.”
SPENCER: That's a really true perspective — I don't think it maps that well into my perspective of psychosis — I'm curious, let me describe my perspective, and I want your reaction to it. First thing, I would say is, I think that there is this personality trait, which I refer to as apophenia — there's a word in English apophenia, I'm using maybe slightly differently than it is defined in a dictionary — I mean it to mean, the tendency to notice patterns and things (those patterns could be correct.) You might identify a pattern that other people don't see, that's really there, or it might be incorrect or false positive, where you think there's a pattern, and there really is not. We can see this tendency for apophenia, in kind of all different kinds of animals — For example, the famous experiments of giving pigeons rewards a sort of a randomized schedule, such as the pigeons would like learn false rules, like if the pitcher happened to be spinning to the left, when it got the food reward, it might like actually just start spinning to the left a lot, thinking that's why I got the food reward. That kind of the pattern matcher can go faulty — we can see things that aren't there. I think that on the apophenia spectrum, I am on the somewhat lower side, maybe a little below average, you're way out way high up there in that spectrum — I view this as really just a trade-off — I think I miss things that you see, but I also think that you see things that are like false positives. It's about seeing patterns and also about drawing connections. High apophenia people like yourself do is they draw lots of connections between other things, and then people like myself are even lower on apophenia that myself will be like, “What are you talking about?”, “How are those things related?”. But you see connections, we lost everything, that's kind of the first piece — I'd love to hear your reaction to that.
ANTHONY: Oh, 100%. For me, I guess… It's like creativity and pattern recognition plus fear can be kind of a challenge — I don't see it as separate from psychosis. I can give you a classic example. I came out of this men's workshop (two weeks ago), It was very high intensity, almost like ripping the lobster shell off. He's gonna go with his metaphor, Dale Schutte, sort of a ripping of the lobster shell off experience, immersion in a new culture, to a lot of men, you're like fighting your way through — It's like a Fight Club sort of vibe — people are really pushing you to be in truth, that 100% commitment, really kind of intense experience (no sleep, you've had a peak experience) I know for me that if I haven't had, a lot of sleep, and I've been an intense kind of high dopamine, high serotonin, sort of like social space. I don't regulate my sleeping in my amygdala, I can get to a space for my pattern recognition by trying to understand externally why I'm afraid. It's like my amygdala saying, “Do you need to sleep?” That's the base message — You actually just need to go to bed right now. But if I don't have that, in my conscious mind, I can start looking for patterns to explain, why I'm feeling this low level of fear and anxiety. When I came back from that experience, there was a day, where I could feel that pattern recognition coming up. And I was like, “oh, there's some odd things happening in this therapy session.” I'm like, “is this therapist that I'm talking to, like undercover, always sort of a repeating theme?”, “Are there undercover people around me like trying to bust me?”. You know, now the context is, I have just a big documentary coming out, the government does do these things. So it's not like it's pulling it from nowhere, if there's useful material in that space, and we do find that actually people in psychosis, if you look at the patterns they're recognizing around them, they're generally grounded in some kind of reality, but you need to almost like divide by 10 — this is what one of my mentors taught me years ago, that was so helpful, my own experience — I learned that, if I do find myself in the states of conscious — from the meter of what is the probability that I'm currently being, that Spencer is currently trying to, get me to admit something and his podcast, so I can be locked away from being a psychedelic advocate or activist? You know, right now it's at zero. But if I found that it was like, 1% That's kind of like, even a little bit interesting. I would never think that — I normally would never think that you old lifelong friend — trusts you very deeply. But if I find that that did come up 1%, 2%, 3%, 10%, Is it like 50-50? I've learned over time, that I need to ask myself a question. This was something that this, like, psychotherapist that I'm friends with in California Tommy's, like, just divide by 10, which for me is like “Okay, what is the actual feeling in my body?, What's the somatic experience? Okay, I'm afraid. And let's start with Maslow. Have you eaten? Have you slept? Have you had water?” And then when I remind myself, “Oh, yes, your context that you're in is that you're at a conference, you're up, there's all kinds of excitement, stuff, whatever”. You're also in like a weird space where this therapist is actually kind of out of integrity, a lot of ways you don't really trust this person. Oh, yeah, there's some stuff happening with your romantic partner, that's a little bit challenging. Okay, they're not probably not out to, like, arrest you, or like plotting against you. But you need to make sure you go get some sleep, then when I drop into that sleep space,I can integrate the memories, and I can kind of replenish my neurotransmitters — I come out of that sort of laughing like, oh, that's kind of funny — that's not part of apophenia, you're talking about, it's like its misfiring in some way. When I look at it, there was also useful information there, there was a lack of trust, there's different pieces. I can unpack it and say “What was really happening internally”(this lack of sleep, and that was useful, that it brought up some patterns to the surface), that then I can work with later and say, “Well, what was really happening with that I can just play with it as like a personal insight tool”. Then, I'm back to a space of being regulated in my nervous system. How is this for you? How does this track to psychosis? Are you saying you see, psychosis is sort of pattern recognition gone? awry.
SPENCER: Let me make a metaphor for depression — I think it's easier for people to relate to depression, as most people have been depressed, at some point, at least had feelings of depression at some point — with depression, I view that as a sense of hopelessness usually, that's usually what it's about, it's a sense that value has been permanently lost, or you permanently lost yourself or permanently of low value, or the future doesn't hold value. Sometimes I experience the sense that, something of value has really been lost, like maybe a loved one died, or you failed at some big project that you really had your heart set on, or whatever. Where it becomes depression is when you kind of get stuck in it, when it becomes a sort of feedback loop, where you feel bad about this, like value being lost. Instead of the normal recovery process — we're kind of like, over time, you kind of get used to that and you find other sources of value. You just get stuck on that loss of value, and you feel like the world has nothing for you. Similarly, I guess my current mental model of psychosis is people who are high in apophenia, I suspect are much more prone to psychosis. It's sort of the way that after something bad happens, most people will feel somewhat depressed, then they kind of come out of it. Psychosis can be sort of like going off the edge of apophenia, temporarily, where you kind of get pushed too far in that direction — it can happen I think, from a wide variety of different causes, maybe it's biological stuff, you know, we can be triggered by lack of sleep, it could be triggered by a huge just psychedelics, maybe it could be triggered by a really horrible life event or whatever , or maybe it's just, it could be neurological, like maybe someone has brain damage or whatever. I think there's a lot of reasons that can happen. It's kind of spinning off that edge of apophenia. So curious to hear your thoughts.
ANTHONY: It's interesting… I don't think that we're disagreeing with you. I would say that, when I'm classifying psychosis, we could look at this and there could be some interesting stuff between the ego regeneration process and then psychosis — as it's talking about in the West, like psychosis being this thing where you end up in an ER and you're lost, and you don't know what's going on, and you're freaking out. I'm interested in helping us heal, because I have been that person. When I was 25, I went through a process of, going down a quantum physics rabbit hole, not sleeping for a week, ended up in an ER kind of convinced that my girlfriend was an alien, maybe a vampire, seeing Jesus, time travelers etc. — and terrified in that space. That gave me a sleeping pill, I went home, the curtain closed on this deeper spiritual vision I was having, I kind of came out of the metaphoric world back into the literal world too, so to speak. But that I would say was a kid — I had no understanding of how to even work with that state of consciousness. I didn't know what to do in that place, and no one in my community knew what to do with that place. It's like that no one around knew what to really do about it. The best option, was okay, you end up in an ER because everyone around you is freaking out. They're going to give you a benzo — which is going to help you relax in a way but you're not going to get completion on the material that's there — the reason, I know that Spencer is that, in subsequent altered states of consciousness, I've had to confront the same subconscious material that came to the surface. In that place when I was 25, I guess what I'm saying is that all of these states of consciousness have value. That's the thing… that I'm really driving for here is that, in the same way all people have value, all experiences are valuable, that all the data is valuable here. That really is, I think, the biggest piece. For me, this is apophenia, I guess it can go into a space of people being paranoid about all sorts of things — I would say what that is, is there's a disconnection between understanding their internal world. For me, I was so terrified as a kid to feel or express difficult emotions, that I escaped into my creativity, my intelligence, in the way that manifested as an adult was that I literally left the physical world to enter into this metaphor of visionary space for like a decade. Western psychiatrists, you weren't coming back from that, they were like, you need to be on medication your entire life. That was what was supposed to happen there. I had an intuition in my heart that there was an alternate way through that, I think you introduced me to Michael Vassar — thank God because I was helping him with a medical startup in the valley, medical research started at Meta med — they taught me other things in the western medicine are probably 30 years in the past, you need to go do your research, if you ever have a diagnosis — and so thank God, I had that sort of priming — I went off on this inner journey to be able to connect in that way. What I'm saying is that, when psychosis doesn't complete, it looks a lot like what you're talking about, when the person doesn't have a supportive space to go, to be able to process the internal experience and have someone hold them and guide them through that process. It looks exactly what you're talking about. Most people, they'll see disjointed thoughts, they'll see things that don't make any sense, and they'll see a dysregulated person that can't take care of themselves. I'm agreeing with you, I think that is what our general perception of psychosis is what most people experience, but I am suggesting is that, the future that I envision, is one with which when people undergo psychosis, first of all, they're not met by police officers who often shoot them or restrain them in some way, they're not given Benzodiazepines (can be useful to civic situations), but with the history of the get sick — it was branded as the chemical lobotomy, as far as I can tell them — I think you can see ads, where it was like, in our bodies were in vogue, it's like, we'd have a chemical version of that. I mean, that was really the pharmacological transition from lobotomy into what we have in psychiatry.
SPENCER: Now in benzos, I think it can be really useful for people for very short periods, right? —
SPENCER: Like for a week, maybe at the very most two weeks. Then after that, I think they're extremely risky, I think fortunate, I think medicine has kind of come to realize this and kind of pull back in another you sit you still frighteningly do see them prescribed for longer periods, which is quite scary.
ANTHONY: The history of psychiatry, let's be clear, we used to literally put ice picks through their eyes and scramble their prefrontal cortex — that was the foundation of what we did as humans. The benzo introduction, I mean, you can see the advertising for this, It was branded as the chemical version of a lobotomy, that was what the marketing materials were going out to these folks. It was celebrated as that, I'm not saying they don't have use[sic], it's a useful tool, I think that there's a whole other world available. It's like age — and by the way, I don't, I think that you have to break eggs to make an omelet — I think that we humans are experimenting and moving. There's not like a shame Plex around, even modern psychiatry, because to a large degree, modern psychiatry until quite recently until the work of activists in the psychedelic space, like Rick Doblin and the folks that kept it alive in the underground, their hands were tied to be able to utilize the most effective tools that we have to be able to explore and heal the psyche in that way. I've healed my relationship to the institution of psychiatry — and I had like a really adversarial relationship for a while — but I've just come to understand it's very well intentioned people that, are learning and progressing and that there are things that are currently being brought into that mix that are helpful. What's great is that, I've met many psychiatrists now and met many therapists that are part of this model. The idea that the symptoms someone is experiencing as a half-expressed, cure, or it's the medicine really, it's feeling more of it, it's going more into the fear more into the anxiety more into the space in a supportive environment, so that one can regenerate their default mode network. By the way, this is what's happening, I would say, I mean, the research of LSD initially was, Oh, it induces something quite like psychosis, that's what they were mailing it out to doctors for. They say, this is interesting, When you take this, it makes you feel like you're going psychotic. Psychiatrists should take this so they can see what it's like to be psychotic — that was how it was branded. They were giving out doses to anyone that would take them to give people an experience. And so I would say yes, the psychedelic is occasioning this psychotic experience. It's letting go of the default mode network enough, to try to form some new connections and yes, it's a risky process. It's similar to the tardigrade (I think the coolest thing about the tardigrade), when it's under stress — again, my understanding of the tardigrade and why I find it to be endearing. You have medical shows that will correct me if I'm wrong about this — but the genome of the tardigrade contains double digit percentages of other organisms. The tardigrade is able to survive in these like, very intense environments like very intense, intense contexts. One of the strategies that it has, I mean, if the environment gets too tough, if it's an environment where it feels like I can't survive in this place, (This is my understanding of it. So I welcome criticism around this if this is incorrect) but my working understanding of the tardigrade is that when under stress, in a random way, it will absorb other pieces of DNA from its environment, sort of as a, like interspecies sex experience to see if it could in sort of randomly find something that will help us survive. It's like a last ditch effort, and probably doesn't work most of the time. But sometimes like, “Oh, there's another living organism that's kind of in this environment along with me, and I can grab a piece of that DNA to kind of mix with my own in some way.” I mean, this is to get a basic understanding of how the tardigrade operates.
SPENCER: Well, I recommend a Google image search in the tardigrade, also known as a water bear.—
SPENCER: So yeah, they look amazing, they're really tiny microorganisms. They've done crazy experiments on them like blossoms of radiation, or literally put them in space and see if they can actually survive in some of these just ridiculous extreme environments.
ANTHONY: This could just be, my ostrich with its head in the sand moment, something like 16% of the genome comes from other organisms. The tardigrade is doing psychosis (biological psychosis), you have a belief structure in your brain, you reach a point where you're kind of out of your depth, you're in a new context, it's very stressful, it's very crazy. Your brain goes into this space, you acquire some new knowledge. Now, this does not have to go into full blown psychosis, by the way. I think that people experience some version of this in healthy learning environments all the time. I think people experience and have conversations with you, they pick up some of your intellectual or philosophical DNA from having a conversation with you, and they integrate with themselves — it's how we learn. But in a certain case, because of biology, because of our environment, because of previous trauma, because of the context, it can go into this space where, I'm in a completely foreign land, I don't know what's happening, and I need to try to find some new belief system, that's going to work, I need to find some new structure to orient my environment, that's going to work. From that place, people have experiences, like Ayla, where they go through it, and they come out the other side. I bet that if she would have gone to… if someone would have taken she didn't have the awareness that she got probably from her journey work with psychedelics, and in those states of consciousness came up. It didn't have the privilege, it didn't have the experience that she had, it's quite possible that an experience like that lands someone in the ER with her on benzos. And they're being told they need to be on those the rest of their life all the time.
SPENCER: It's gonna play out some ways that agree, in some ways, I think we disagree. On the way we agree, I think the importance of framing around experiences is so critical — one really compelling example of this is this woman who had psychosis for many years still has it sometimes. She experiences it as voices in her head that talk to her ,and tell her to do things. She had this actually for years, and was kind of totally fine with it, “okay, there are these voices, these beings that talk to me, and but whatever”. Then one day, she made the mistake of mentioning it to someone who completely freaked out ,and made her really afraid about it. Now, I shouldn't say it's a mistake to tell people about the experiences — that wasn't her fault, it was only a mistake, because she had the unfortunate luck that this person reacted the way they did. Anyway, this person freaked her out, she was then told that there was something horribly wrong with her. At that point, she had a shift in her perspective, now she became afraid of the voices, and suddenly her life was like a living nightmare — like, you're being stuck with, like demons in your mind — and eventually, it took her a long time, but she kind of came out the other side of that she still has these voices, now she's managed to kind of reframe them being like, “Okay, this is just part of me, these voices are me, it feels like I don't control them, they're just expressing some part of myself. Also, they want to help me and even if they say some things that are scary, they're just they still have my best interests at heart — this was kind of transformational for her. I just want to point out that like, I think we agree that the way that you press this stuff is just incredibly important. Viewing the state as just, “oh, this is all bad. There's nothing good about” this can actually be quite damaging in the sense that, it can both make it a worse experience and more terrifying, but also it can prevent you from giving useful stuff out of what's happening. If you're going to have voices in your head — it's much better to view them as looking out for your own interest ,and just stuff that you can hear. Not necessarily act on but just kind of take into account. Rather than you know these scary demons inside you that you've got to get rid of.
ANTHONY: I think that we are aligned there. I would say, well, that's the culture failing, because that person that she's interacting with is existing in a culture where hearing voices and talking to yourself is this horrible, terrible, scary thing, that needs to be medicated or whatever. There could be a culture, which is, it's quite normal to hear voices actually.
SPENCER: I would say, the vast majority of people hear voices of some sort in their head — they just kind of identify it as themselves — so they don't view it as scary.
ANTHONY: If you've been to Rome, go look at the creation of atoms — in the Sistine Chapel. It's a brain with a whole bunch of voices inside of it. There's this really beautiful sort of idea that might Michelangelo was hiding, if you look at it, the cross section of the human brain. There's this whole idea that, those are actually the human brain ,and that God is sort of coming out from the brain touching man — that all those angels and people like inside of those are the different personality pieces. This is before we have the idea of psychological theory, but that contained within the mind is God, t's all these different pieces, all these different parts of us, those are the voices. An integrated experience would be this: the wisdom of, I can work with all of these pieces, and I can connect. In my view, that would be what I'll be working with there, I think it's beautiful, like in the Sistine Chapel.
SPENCER: See, it's so funny. I think this is just such a good case in point about apophenia. I think what you're referring to shows that pulled up the image — around God in the image, or all these little like angels surrounding him, it almost looks like a brand that all these characters together — I would just never notice that, I could I've looked at this painting probably 100 times, and I've never seen that. This is a good example, where someone could look at this and be like, “Oh, that looks like a brand”. Just see that pattern ,and other people who are like sensitive pattern recognizers would just never see it, no matter how many times they looked at it.
ANTHONY: It seems, it's a fairly detailed thing — it's a mystery in a way, there's a whole other level of conversation around, beautiful spiritual synchronicities, and things that happen, even if the author wasn't aware of them. There's some deeper thing happening there — I guess what I'm saying is that with your friend, I would just hope that that person could grow up in a culture where, that isn't the case, she doesn't have to go through that trauma of a culture that says, “Oh, my God, all these things are horrible”. If that person would have met me, and I've worked with many people like this, we just worked to integrate those parts. Any good transpersonal therapist or any somatic therapist worth their soul would be able to work with that person, and help them navigate through that experience, they can be more imbibed, they can feel those parts they can learn to love that part of themselves versus kind of join in the culture saying this part of you is wrong — No, culture is not perfect — cultures is evolving operating system. At a certain point, some people need to take responsibility for that culture, we can't just be running the same programming, like things move, things change. I do think that there's, you talk about apophenia, there is this appears to be a correlation between high intelligence, high creativity and things like schizophrenia in our current culture, there is I mean, there's probably some upper limit on creativity, intelligence, we're just becomes too, it just it takes you off into some deep space and nature's had to kind of account for that. I guess, what I am hoping to do is to carve out some space to be able to expand the range with which people are able to sort of come back and integrate into reality and be able to bring their gifts to the world, where they don't feel like they've got a pillow wrapped around their head for the rest of their life with these super intense medications. I've worked with many of these people, people that medicated on and those are just like hoses, I don't think you have to go through a psychosis to experience like, what it's like to be trying to deal with depression for years, and be given medications that they just keep changing the thing — move this, try this, try this. I would say if you give that person a context, go into their hopelessness, go deeply into it in a container with another human being that isn't gonna say your hopelessness is wrong, that you need to change this, and they can help you feel it somatically that on the other side of that hopelessness is hope. Every single time I see it in my clients all the time, I see this with the folks that other professionals that I work with, that are coaches that are trauma informed, or somatic therapists, and folks that do this work professionally, there is a process of integration — I witnessed it first hand myself, I've seen it in other folks. I think that the research is going to be more and more aligned to this, I don't think it is a woowoo thing, I think it's actually just that we've kind of had a fundamental misunderstanding about human biology to a certain extent ,and in the same way that we were, didn't really understand psychedelics. As the culture starts to integrate, and because we're open to altered states of consciousness, there's more opportunity to first of all go into those states independently so that when you have a big transition, you can realize, “Oh, I need to go into an altered state. I need to take some time to be able to integrate this new version of my identity, so that I can come back and be a father or be an elder in the tribe or kind of take responsibility for culture”. This is the biggest thing, and on some level, it's taking responsibility for culture versus being kind of enslaved to culture, at a certain point of growth and development, we become the keepers of the culture. That is really — I think the part that I'm to a large degree is part of my part of my work — is to create that space so that if we can get less people that end up on medications in spaces that aren't super supportive for them, I want people to be able to regenerate those lobster shells and go on and do their thing in the world.
SPENCER: One more thing, I just want to say about where I think we agree, and now going to how I think we disagree. I think we agree that that kind of psychosis, like experiences, are much more common than we generally acknowledge — just for example, a friend of mine, went on a new type of birth control, and had experiences, where she literally hallucinated there being people that weren't there. She said, “One day, she went back to her room”. And there was a woman sitting on her bed, which she was really surprised by and started talking to this woman, like after a few minutes realized this woman was not a person that there was nothing there. She went off medicine, and the experience didn't happen. Again, another person I know, this is also triggered by some kind of medical patch they got, what happened is, they started to realize that they believe that objects in their environment were evil. They started to think like, “oh, the soap is evil, and the broom is evil.” Then the object environment started to kind of talk to them, and tell them to do things that they knew were bad, and they found this extremely upsetting — I remember when he told me one example where they were standing in their kitchen, there was a knife there, and the soap was telling them to take the knife and kill their brother. They had this feeling they couldn't disobey the soap, but they could just stand perfectly still. So they just did perfectly still until their brother walked away, an obviously terrifying experience — My point is just that these things, this person went off this ,and they didn't get this experience again. The point I'm trying to make here is that, they're actually a lot more people that have these kinds of experiences, I think that generally is acknowledged.
ANTHONY: Yes, I think that's great. If you want to, I do want to comment a couple things in the birth control example, birth control is not natural for humans. I thank God for your friend that that she had the support to just get off that birth control, there's a whole other world where she's just given him a psychotic or some additional medication to handle the side effects of the —
SPENCER: No totally, and then she would have just like, the birth control would have been continuing to cause this stuff, and she would be medicated —
ANTHONY: That totally.
SPENCER: And so they could go out of control.
ANTHONY: Exactly, that's so to me, I classify that as a cultural problem — and thank God that she was able to find a way through that with a cultural problem — her birth control piece, that's hijacking her hormone system, which has great benefit, on one hand, there's a tremendous amount of, there's a payoff to trade-offs that people have to make in a huge way. The other piece was, again, it was art, it was a chemical, medical patch or something, it was a side effect of that. However, one of the things that you would work with that person, if this person had come in, without it being chemically induced, same person came in, and they're like, “Oh, the soap is evil, it's killing me or something” Look at who's right or wrong, let me step you into a frame of how someone would work without psychosis — and I'm not unique on this, people dedicate their lives to this type of work. There's people who might be curious about psychosis, and Lapland, there's been some really good work with a process called open dialogue, and Laflin, where they basically just get everyone together, and they tell the truth, and psychosis seems to resolve (people offer opinions, and they tell truth, etc.) In that particular case, assuming that person was in a state of psychosis, and they were like soap is evil, what I would say, “okay, that's not not true.” I would say, “look, does your soap have toxins in it? Yes. Is it killing you? Maybe on some level? Is consumer capitalism killing you? Are these objects in your environment somehow evil? Meaning, are they causing harm on some level that you might be attuned to now? Because you stepped into this space?” The answer to that is yes. If I'm in that space with that person, I'm not going to, “oh, you're crazy. You shouldn't think the soap is evil,” I'd say “no”, I'd step into that I joined them in that reality and in a way that I could feel authentic with, you acknowledge the emotional experience they're having you step into it, and you have a conversation from that place. In a way, like your friend is hearing voices, and all of a sudden someone says, “Oh, my God”, and freaks out, what often happens is people enter into the states of consciousness, someone that they trust, freaks out. They take on that belief system, it's like they're in a very vulnerable place, they're going to take on the projection this other person is having about what they're going through. If you can help them work through that and say, “Well, yeah, like, the soap is kind of evil”, like when you go to an ER and they're trying to cheer you up, it is kind of they are kind of out to get you in the sense, they don't really know what they're doing, and they're maybe harming you to a certain extent. There's a way of leaning into the reality the person is in, this is not entirely novel to this experience — to a certain extent, it's a certain type of empathy. It's a bit more out there, it's a bit more like you think it's almost like a puzzle, sometimes you have to think it through. But because I've been in those states of consciousness, like, I can have a conversation with someone that thinks they're alien or thinks they're talking to Jesus or do these things, and because my nervous system isn't going to freak out, most people's nervous systems freak the fuck out when someone says, “I think I'm Jesus”, or :I think I'm Buddha,” or “I think I'm God”, or “I'm suicidal”, because the person holding space for that person has reached their own limit of what they have learned about these experiences and hasn't gone through a similar experience to guide someone through, they freak out, they take them to an ER, they do this thing. They don't support it in a way that is getting connected to them — this is, by the way, exactly what people do in psychedelic therapy space, you need to be present and resource yourself, you need to hold space for all of that. Because you could be in an LSD therapy session with someone , and they might think the soap is killing me and the soap has led me to get a knife and all these things — you need to have a safe environment, you need to have someone that can hold space and protect them in that way — what I am saying is that the knowledge we're gaining from holding space and psychedelic space, what would be required in a culture that was able to help move people through those states of consciousness, or to move through psychosis in that way, are the same thing. That it's the same skill set, it's the same approach, it's the same transpersonal understanding and to recognize that the visions that the people that were calling mad are having are valuable, there's valuable information there — I don't think you'll find a person on the planet that will say, “I imagine the soap industry could be killing”. There's a way that I'm working with the metaphor there, it's almost as if there's a metaphor happening, there's a deeper feeling. Now in this case, it was potentially that by the the medicine they were taking, but in a way in the event you might have is apophenia, I would say “ that's driving the point home, this person is experiencing some chemicals and foreign chemical from the the current culture in their system, it's poisoning them causing the hallucinate, it is obviously poisonous.”, I would look at it as a metaphoric experience that if there's someone who can work with them in there, join them in their metaphor and not be afraid by it, that person would have a much higher chance of resolving it versus being told, you shouldn't be hearing these voices, it's terrifying, or even a family system where people say you shouldn't be feeling your sadness, you shouldn't ever feel failure, you should never feel anxious, you should only feel happy. This is a spectrum that I would say the tapping our culture right now, I feel very grateful that I have those experiences and was able to return back to a regulated nervous system and have been able to do that time and time again, because I feel like it's given me a perspective to be able to say, “I can join you in those states. And I feel comfortable helping you navigate through them.”
SPENCER: Right, if the person said, “Oh, the soap is an angel, the soap is healing you”, you would also be on the roll just as easily because you have identified the metaphor in that too.
ANTHONY: All I'm saying here is, at the basic level, there's some basic biological stuff happening (attachment theory, attunement) when we humans get an emotional experience inside of us that we don't know what to do with, we bring it to another adult, we bring it to another person, and this is the foundation of how we learn to navigate our internal world. In a way we exist first as a relationship, and then we individuated — that's kind of a different perspective to look at it. When a kid is born, It's got this tiny brain and an undeveloped prefrontal cortex and a deep need to survive, bonds emotionally with mom. First of all, it outsources all the regulation of the limbic system ,and the more primary parts of the brain. It outsources the prefrontal cortex to mom, or your caregiver, through attunement, and what's that mean? Well, a kid moving out of its comfort zone — has an experience. Maybe he gets freaked out, cuts his knee, gets in a fight at school, teacher picks on or whatever she comes home, she's feeling some emotion, and a healthy family system, mom or caregiver is going to empathetically feel that emotion, that is going to give it a label, “oh, you're feeling afraid, you're feeling this.” Mom's not freaking out, because kids are afraid. The Healthy Moms resource, healthy caregivers resource ,grounded — they're like only going if we have medication, they're going to be able to feel the emotion of the kid regulate her own nervous system. She can do that if you agree with what she's dealt with, her own previous traumas, and kind of her own stuff, but if she can hold space for that kid to have their mini-psychosis, which is like literally thinking that there's some crazy thing happening in the world, they get back to a place of resolution. Most people don't always get that, so they bump up against these edges of emotions, they can't deal with parts of themselves that get fractured and fragmented, and miss a pretty standard kind of model for understanding the attunement and why that's important? — better to be attuned to mom and cut off a big part of myself emotionally or spiritually or intellectually, then to be left to the wolves, so to speak, just by myself, because I've been kicked out of the tribe. I have to fight to stay in connection with mom, and I'll sacrifice and hold back lots of parts of myself. As an adult, of course, our task is to reclaim and recover those parts, so that we can then become a whole integrated adult. I would say this is the exact thing that's happening and that psychosis space is a person having a dysregulated experience, they have a language to describe that experience. If I tell them that they're wrong, or if I make them wrong for having the experience, it's really on a biological level — no different than a mom telling your kid like, don't be sad. You're not to be sad. You're not to feel failure, like, as opposed to, “oh, wow, that's intense, you're feeling sad”, good therapist would do, what I am just saying that there's an extension of kind of the current body of knowledge of parenting, attunement, attachment theory, we can see this wisdom in traditions of people kind of going off into the desert and having these, what we would call now psychosis experiences, but then a culture that can better hold them, whether it's through psychedelic experience, or whether it's through a deeper understanding. People are doing this, I've sought out these therapists to work with over the years, the somatic folks, the transpersonal folks, etc. And then of course, learn to navigate that world, on my own, that there is this bigger narrative of, can the culture shift to be able to hold these experiences, and when they do, they can resolve and it's just like, “oh, you scraped your knee and get back out there and keep playing”, versus “you're now on this medication the rest of your life, and you're going to be super limited and have a diminished sense of motion, etc.”
SPENCER: I suspect the biggest point of screaming we have, is that I think you've all mental states as being valuable in some sense. —
SPENCER: And I think the way about it is that they can be valuable to different degrees — I think there are mental states that actually have just almost no value, and there are mental states that have a lot of value, and then kind of everything in between.
ANTHONY: Each mental state was zero value.
SPENCER: Yeah, so a mental state with zero value, would probably be one, where you're just in pure tortures pain — someone's just stabbing you in the stomach, I don't think there's much value in that, if any, just you know, a literal knife kind of figured in like a literal knife, someone just stuck into you.
ANTHONY: Okay, your case of zero value is having a knife stuck into you.
SPENCER: Okay, you're walking down the street, a stranger comes up to stab you with a knife.
ANTHONY: Is there value in that? I certainly wouldn't want to go stab somebody ,and think that I'm going to be adding value to them in that capacity. Let me tell you a context where that pain is actually valuable, because I think this will help us, you're walking down the street, someone stabs you in the stomach, and maybe you survive, right, let's hope that you survive (It was super traumatic), but as a result, you develop a phobia of walking down the street, or something like there's something that's going on for you where your behavior and experience of life is significantly altered, because of that experience. In a therapeutic context, there would be a couple of ways to deal with that , one would say, let's give you this pill, let's give this medication, give you this technique to never have to think about that experience again, which in a certain context, can be very helpful — you want to overflow or flood someone's life with those experiences, for sure, and much better to have someone that can enjoy life to a certain degree to work and do these different things, etc, if they don't have a context to fully go in and heal those things. That said, if someone's like seeking relief from PTSD, for example, from being stabbed in the stomach, it could be very valuable, and I would say, almost required valuable for them to be able to go into a space where they can re-experience that moment to re-experience it — where they're not disassociating, They're not fragmenting, they're actually able to stay with and be with the process of that experience. And this might happen in a dream for them, it could happen in a therapist space, it could happen in journaling work that we do with PTSD, kind of the whole thrust of the PTSD work that's happening when it's was working to resolve it, like with MDMA is that MDMA would bring you back to that moment to be able to make contact with that unexperienced experience (as one of my mentors likes to say that). We've captured information from that space, we've stored it away. And to really be able to integrate our full selves and let go of the neurosis that kind of developed to protect us from that experience, we would need to re-experience that pain. So I would say on some level, never wish those hardships on anyone, but you often can get a lot of value by revisiting them in the right supportive structure to be able to reclaim parts of yourself that you lost to deal with that trauma.
SPENCER: Yeah, I think you view it as well, maybe hypothetically, you could extract some value, whereas I think of it as like that experience is inherently bad, if you get any value out of it later, that's great, but it's more like a silver lining, and that experience is still a very bad experience.
ANTHONY: I'm not saying that we should go stab people — I mean, it's also I'm against circumcision — I don't think we should be traumatized. Let's be clear, I don't think we should be traumatizing people intentionally — although there are cultures, we should say. There are cultures historically, that had a very intense motif and intentionally caused trauma, and then taking people through a resolution process — that's a whole other conversation. I think that we might be missing each other in this, I'm saying that the first experience of having the knife in your gut — I mean, I think I have a particular sort of spiritual alignment that everything in life is happening, for my growth and development on a spiritual level, which helps me kind of navigate the uncertainty and the craziness of all the pieces, and I see how those things fit together in my own life. But barring that perspective, we can say, there's a version of reality where getting stabbed in the stomach is not anything for anyone to ever experience, and I don't want to express that either. Just saying that, if it did happen to me, I know that I would find a way to make that meaningful.
SPENCER: I believe that. I believe you would find a way to make it meaningful, yeah.
ANTHONY: Because in that moment, when you get stabbed in the stomach, my sense is that if you don't fully experience that pain in that moment, you're likely to develop a neurosis around the undifferentiated fear response, you'll take it and that's what we call trauma. Even though you haven't had that experience, then you would need to experience that in a more fully supported structured way — when I say experience it I mean, releasing the emotion going back into the part of you that's been fragmented, because what happens, right is we have a trauma experience, that memory doesn't go, it doesn't go into our long-term memory hold pieces of that, like in the amygdala, holding pieces different like variables of what is this on the street, this person, red t-shirt, whatever. Part of the integration process of a trauma is to actually react is to experience it, not to re-traumatize someone, but for them to complete that experience — I'm entering the space talks about experiences, something that happens over time, and we often will hide away, we disassociate, we trap memories, we hold things inside of us, because we're like, Well, my culture or my current context does not support me fully experiencing this. — then we need to be able to make space to fully process that integration. I think we're missing a little bit, I'm just saying that if one was stabbed in the stomach, that there could be great benefit, and then fully experiencing it later on, in a therapeutic context, where they were supported, and they could fully feel if they were having problems in their life, never saying everyone has to do that. But if someone went through a traumatic thing, where they found that they were terrified of going outside, the most direct path to be able to do that would be to allow them to go back into that state of consciousness with someone they trust, and to work through it and to process through it.
SPENCER: As a way of processing that experience. Yeah.
ANTHONY: The feeling is valuable, the experience of getting stabbed — fuck, that's a Brett, that's a dangerous thing to have happened to you. The feeling of like, well, there's someone in my culture who is trying to kill the whole… what's happening, well, then it's like, oh, what's happening with that person. Often, if someone goes into a psychedelic space, — this is very common experience in psychedelic space — is that you would go into a space where you would get to a play, and this is, a bit more esoteric (but listeners that have experienced psychedelics, will know that this is not even, people that are different spiritual, etc), there is a way to get yourself into a state of consciousness, where you are legitimately grateful for the experience. There's a way of being ungrateful for the person who stabbed me, I did get there during the DMT experience of going through a breakup and it wasn't stabbed, certainly felt like it was gonna kill me and I got to a place — I could see how it was serving me in some deeper way. I don't think that people have to believe that or have that kind of mapping of the deeper sort of aspects of life to appreciate that when someone experiences a trauma, one of the more effective ways that we're learning to deal with it is to allow them to go back into in some capacity — to fully experience it, and to integrate it, to move through that with a new sense of, I guess, self-determination about what's possible for them in the world.
SPENCER: Yes, to put the found peace in this, I guess your view is that these psychosis experiences, sort of have an inherent value, either to make the metaphor to depression again, I do think that often there is some value in the Depression people experience. There's something that they're getting from that. But I also think there's just a whole bunch of unnecessary suffering, that's actually not doing them any good. I think the same with psychosis, like I think there are aspects of it that can be beneficial to the person — then there's huge swaths of unnecessary suffering. I don't know how you feel about this, but I really do think that for some people, those experiences really, they get almost no value from it, and it ruins their lives. Taking any psychotics for some of them might be the best shot they have of kind of having a life of value again. I don't know what you're feeling about that.
ANTHONY: I wouldn't say that just because someone gets no value for something doesn't mean that it doesn't have value. As I say, that is the first piece, and people have their legs chopped off because we didn't know how to give antibiotics — those people were able to live and have families and connect. Historically, we've done a lot of things to people in service of trying to help them survive — and yes, if you cut someone's leg off before antibiotics, so it doesn't get infected in our distraction. Great, awesome, but I think that we're moving towards something where we're developing antibiotics, we're developing a capacity to be able to say, there's an alternate path — I don't have any shame or blame or criticism for folks that are, again, navigating what is a mainstream world that is just riddled with bad science or corporate interest, legacy systems, etc. Context : they might not be able to navigate through otherwise. I might have a belief that every person could navigate through this, if they were given the right context — I just really stressed that there's a right context for it. Without the right context that could be re-traumatizing and causing more challenges . Yes, I am deeply grateful for the innovations of an industry that works to help preserve some quality of life for people — absolutely, it's very noble, righteous, sacred work. I would say that my heart feels like it's a continuation of that work, and that you and I actually do both share a deep desire to help end suffering. I think that that's one of the values that we both connect around. Whereas I would say, yes, if a person has the option of lifelong suffering, that's like a 10 out of 10, or medication, and that's it, let's give them medication, let's help them reduce suffering to a certain degree. I think that the place that I've landed those that I'm at a deeper level, it's like, can we actually as a species, learn how to suffer. There's a saying that sort of like, our suffering is really only our inability to suffer, we were resisting our suffering, we just suffer really badly, and so we can't go through a period of suffering that we can make meaning out of — I would love to be able to, and I'm a big part of my life's work is helping people to suffer in a way that results and so that the suffering can by bringing meaning to it. I think that Chip Conley had this idea, that what he brought to me years ago was sort of like pain without meaning and suffering. But if there's a way to bring meaning to it, that it's no longer suffering, and there's pain there. It's just pain ,and I think it's kind of full circle, because that ultimately is right — that's the burden of the cross. Because back to the very first piece we spoke about that life is death, there's painful things, there's tragedy, there's getting stabbed in the stomach, there's all these things, all these things that kind of come at you in the gauntlet of life; if we can embrace it, if we can go into it — I'm not saying go run to the knife — I mean, unless there's a context where that really feels like it's serving your highest good for save a friend or comrade or something and battle. But generally speaking, embracing the pain of life, a willingness of it surrendering to go into it with, like, you go into a workout, you go into a sprint for Ultimate Frisbee, you go into the pain of losing a loved one you take, you suck the marrow out of your grief so that you can feel what it's like to love fully and completely, you can be touched to the depths of your soul by someone. I think that there's tremendous value there, it really frames our conversation perfectly from my perspective, and just that, when we can find a way to bring meaning to suffering, it just becomes pain and it can be manageable, we can work through it. Again, I don't want people to suffer unduly, I think we both have a shared value of how we eliminate suffering — I have just taken an alternate path it's led me to. I feel like it's a whole new thing, and again, I haven't invented many of these things.I've added some new modalities, but there's a new toolbox that is helping us suffer better, helping us to eliminate suffering in a way that is for me with a higher level of integrity to what all of us are sort of setting out to do in these spaces, which is to, first do no harm, and then to provide support for the growth and evolution of the individual.
ANTHONY: So I do actually think this saying that the mystic swims in the same ocean that the psychotic drowns in is really powerful — that's something that really meant so much to me and to be able to hold that to take the more mystic approach to things. So what does that look like? What is my life look like? Currently, I live in Park Slope, Brooklyn, I am building a coaching business called Earth Pilot. Our mission is to help build a steering system for Spaceship Earth. We work with the most visionary leaders in the world around leadership, emotions, integration, sort of the more invisible aspects of life — we have a program called Alchemy. Some of the world's most brilliant folks are part of that community. We just got a beautiful testimonial from a gentleman named Justin Rosenstein (who I've worked with for about three years), and Justin is the co-founder of Asana — which many of us probably use for a really successful software company, we've supported Justin in leaving Asana, and recognizing his Dharma was something bigger that he had a vision to really got to go to work on the UX of the economic system, so to speak, to kind of imagine a new economic system for the world. He left Asana, he has a project called One Project, we also support him through having his first child, he's also just really going through a really beautiful kind of point of personal transformation. Talk to Justin every week, we give a link to the testimonial from Justin, they can see that kind of work. They also, other company founders, people who are in points of transition. This is not a point of bragging but like, our coaching programs are some of the most sought after in the world. Now it's to work with me one-on-one, these days it is 50 to $100,000 a year, we have group programs that we're developing. I would say, that this thing that the West told me was not valuable, has become my greatest gift, my capacity to step into spaces that are unfamiliar, my capacity to hold space for a whole variety of consciousness, to be able to navigate the wisdom traditions, the deep spirituality, to be able to step into a playful space of exploring those without judgment, and to really just show up as a human being that feels at once in awe and mystery, sometimes frightened — but at a deeper level, just very sure that all this works out in a beautiful way. That's my work, I feel very connected to my dharma. I feel like this supporting the world's most visionary leaders, in bringing together this new vision for a future, whatever that looks like, really is meant to be my work. It will be very hard for me to say that any of these past experiences weren't valuable, because I draw every single one of them every day when I show up to serve my clients. We've had amazing, amazing transformations of helping people reconnect to these lost parts of themselves — you know, a woman that was struggling as an actress in New York, who was able to go through a process of transformation and really reconnect to these deeper parts and emotions of her who is now sober, and who just landed a leading role in a Netflix film with John Malkovich, and attributes that to this alchemical process of developing a deeper sense of connection to herself. We have tons and tons of testimonials like that, and I've done coaching work for the last 20 years. It's just that this process of being in rapport, with these deeper parts of myself, that sometimes would show up in what the West we call psychosis, I've recognized and learned how to work with those states of consciousness, because I believe every piece of me is valuable. If those pieces come up, I will do my best to integrate them and to bring them back home where they belong, which is inside of me and in my heart — that's the work that I'm doing with people. It's deeply rewarding, I've never felt like I had more freedom creatively, to just be myself in sessions with people. And I'm, by the way, in awe and humbled every single day that people show up. Though the business has been 100% referral for the last several years, we're just starting to do some outreach stuff as we expand. Now just kind of looking to see who exactly we need to work with in the world — seeing that we're noticing patterns from executives and company founders that are sort of struggling kind of feeling alone at the top, and don't have anyone to talk about, we are certainly the people that will not tell you that those voices you're hearing inside need to be shamed and go away, we can help work with and integrate those things. We feel like we've been getting incredible success with the folks we're working with. So I've been passionate about that and of course, as you know, I also do a bunch of other random stuff — we talked about a book giveaway, I'm just going to plug this in here you know, like doing AI research and stuff. I wrote this book, autonomous haiku machine and collaboration with GPT3. It's a bunch of beautiful haikus written by someone who really just said write a book, if I choose and generate that we use that style again, network to generate some beautiful art for that.
SPENCER: So like everything in the whole book presented by AI right, even the cover?
ANTHONY: Yeah, the title, the cover of the subtitle autonomous IQ machine are written by AI randomly generated without human intervention to the forward — to these very deep, beautiful poems like I'll actually read one to you. "The last one, Dying will be easy, and not at all terrible. When I'm with you." —
ANTHONY: So, so beautiful. You can get a digital copy of this, if you go to anthonydavidadams.com/ai. You can also download like 50 Zoom backgrounds — that I generated with a style gun after I trained it on this really dope Instagram account that does all these like hand collages like 1000s of handmade psychedelic landscape collages. You can get the digital copy of the book for free, you can get the backgrounds for free if you want. Also, I don't know what your readership is, but I would love to give like 10 print copies, I can do like 10 autographed print copies of the book to anybody that — maybe I don't know how you do this as a comment or something.
SPENCER: Okay, you could tweet the episode and tag Anthony. I appreciate the Thank you.
ANTHONY: Tag Spencer and tag Anthony. You know @anthonyadamsinapp.
ANTHONY: We got the episode and say I want the AI book, and I will personally send out 10 autographed copies — only the limited printing of these are on Amazon if you want one, but I'll give you one. You can also get the whole thing as PDF. Spencer, I love that you said that, this was one of the most Anthony things to do when Bernie said that wrote this book.
SPENCER: Oh, for sure. For sure. [Laughed] Because my recurring experience with you Anthony is that something will happen in the world, then you'll suddenly react and within like 24 hours you've already started a new business based on something , you've made a new book, or a new game. So yeah, super “Anthony thing to do”.
ANTHONY: I thrive at the edge, you know, and I really do feel I'm striving for Spencer. It really is a thing where I feel like I've integrated. I've made peace with the world's religions that I was kind of at war with. I've made peace with Western psychiatry. You know, we started the decriminalized nature nonprofit in New York City a year ago, I founded that we're about to get, I would say within this year (fingers crossed) you're gonna see psychedelic decriminalization, if not at the state level, for sure, at the New York City level. So that work of spreading the space for folks to get access to these medicines. I've been collaborating with doctors and psychiatrists and have developed some new protocols with oxytocin kind of helping some people along.
SPENCER: Can you tell the story's value? So when I see Anthony, he's vaping, something, which I assume is an e-cigarette, and it's actually oxytocin that you are vaping. I asked him, “is that a thing?” I've never heard of that. He's like, “no, no, I just made it up”. Then now you apparently convinced some researchers to start testing it as a protocol and do studies on this, vaping oxytocin? Is that correct?
ANTHONY: Yeah. The oxytocin piece was like, you know, one of my biggest challenges in life has been relationships. It's kind of in this thing that like, my parents divorced when I was younger, there was a lot of gaslighting that happened. I actually think that that was the fundamental fracture that kind of caused me to go into this like split reality where it was, Well, I can't trust the people that I thought I was supposed to trust the most — because they're lying to me about what happened, is actually an amazing book by Artie Lange (who posits that many cases of schizophrenia) he talks about that there's often a connection between dishonesty in the home, and what's showing up in the people — it's a whole other episode. But I've been fasting by relationship, I'm often struggling in the space of relationship personally, that's been one of my greatest teachers going through a breakup. Some of my men's group was like, “oh, you should try cuddle therapist”, and so I was like, “Yeah, I'll experiment I went”, it was incredible Spencer, I've had sexual trauma in the past that was assaulted when I was 25. — I've often had some issues sexually, where, when I'm with a woman, like, it just becomes a bit, it's like part of me closes down, that trauma is still there — when I went to this cuddle therapist, it was so beautiful to be able to have this close physical connection with a woman that I didn't need to, support emotionally and just, it wasn't sexual. It was so healing and then I became fascinated by it, “I was like, Oh, my God, what's going on here”, and then I went on a tunnel of cuddle therapy into oxytocin. I spent like two months, I read every paper and oxytocin that I could find. I came to find out that it's crazy. It's basically like a hug, in the same way when you're a kid and you're hurt and someone gives you a hug, you start to heal. There is, you Google oxytocin plus, — whatever it is cancer, mental health, any of the major ailments — there is like emergent research showing it's like these things are connected, that like oxytocin can help reduce cancer cell growth — it's a crazy field, and it's primarily only used with women to help them when they're not breastfeeding properly, give them an oxytocin helps them like let down their milk I think it's called. But yeah, through reading all that I read all these papers. I also then found, one study that was done with rhesus monkeys where they were trying to figure out, does oxytocin increase in the brain because there's effects that oxytocin is both the neurotransmitter and hormone — it's like it kind of functions as both. They were trying to see if it crossed the blood brain barrier, and what they found was that if you injected it, or if you'd like a nasal spray, it was not really showing up in cerebrospinal fluid, but if you use a nebulizer (which is like a little ultrasonic speaker, that's that vibrates really fast, and then creates like a coldness) you'd see it and like your humidifier, in a real like, ultrasonic humidifier, that if you nebulized oxytocin, that the brain concentrations were, orders of magnitude beyond what was normally available versus IV or versus nasal spray, and the crazy thing was, all of the research I saw besides this one study was all using nasal spray, I still have a no till I email all the research and you guys should really try to experiment with nebulization because sometimes the real string conclusive they don't really know, but the nasal spray and the IV were basically very low changes in brain concentrations — but nebulization was huge. I went and I sourced oxytocin, can you still buy it on Amazon? I think someone was just selling oxytocin on Amazon. I think, a scheduled substance, it's kind of like a gray area pickup artists often, buy it to, like, feel more confident, or like, sales people buy into, a hack or something.I just sourced it off Amazon, you can't get it there anymore, but there is still a company that called OxyLove — that will sell it to you. And then yeah, I source these nebulizers.
SPENCER: Okay, they say this is highly experimental. I don't really recommend anyone do this unless they're, well, yes —
ANTHONY: Yes. Say, this is not something that I mean, I started developing this was like, “oh, yeah, oxytocin,” and then I haven't talked about it, and I haven't released it. Because I self-experiment with it — I sourced and developed this prototype piece that could, and we used it. We were using it socially, I was experimenting with it, I noticed that it had very similar effects to MDMA, and I kind of have a theory that, partially why MDMA is useful is that it releases oxytocin as well. But why does it make sense? MDMA relaxes the nervous system, you can feel in process and integrate emotion — it's literally the same as when you get into a fight in the playground, and you come home and your mom gives you a big hug and you feel safe. Oxytocin is working on that same place, I find it to be healing. But at the same time, I also have recently just kind of gotten more interested in things like full departure from molecular enhancement of my psyche — I kind of go through these cycles of, just wanting to kind of experiment with altered states of consciousness through extreme sobriety. Currently, that's my iteration, but yeah, the oxytocin protocol. I introduced it to my partner, my girlfriend, who's a psychedelic therapist — we actually met for the first time and we like, try it together. She was like, “this could be really useful. I'd love to use this for therapy”. She actually started doing some digging, and she found it because she's a therapist that works with a psychiatrist that prescribes ketamine — they're doing work with prescribing ketamine. The therapist sits with the person, they're able to go into those spaces together. But her interest was, I can use this for therapy, because I'm not like a licensed person. I just kind of like coming from an underground background. Now moving into the above ground, with the coaching work and everything like that. I was like, this is interesting, and she was very fascinated by it. She started to do some research, and she did find that some of the ketamine pharmacies actually would say, “we have a couple people that are experimenting with ketamine and oxytocin together.” There's like this underground and even underground, there's like sort of a disparate community of people that are discovering oxytocin has uses far beyond what it's currently being used for, there's a couple books on Amazon, I've read all of them as far as I can tell, but one was like by a doctor who was giving it to women, his son was killed in a tragic accident (10 year old son, I think, was killed, like in it by trains, horrible thing),he could not get over the grief,iIt was like plaguing him day in, and day, and day into, he'd see a train, he would just it would just the memories would come back. He was just so stuck in that right, ruining his life. He remembered some research, he read about oxytocin, he tried it, he said that he woke up at what's called the hour of the wolf (which is like, kind of a store that's more of an arcade term, so to speak) four or five in the morning before the sun comes up. You wake up in the hour of the wolf, it's usually where your anxiety is most intense, your fear, your grief is really there — I would say it's because when you dream state, your default mode network is slightly relaxed, and then your subconscious materials closer to the surface. We do a lot of work with that — but he was able to use oxytocin in those moments. He took it a couple times, he was very measured with it because he understood the power of it, certainly a lot more responsible than I was when I was kind of, we literally would have like a bunch of these things going around Manhattan, like just people were just doing oxytocin all the time. It was a whole experience — Again, I don't recommend it — I think that this is actually a scheduled thing, I've gotten rid of it, this company sells it ,and I'm still trying to get an answer, “Am I allowed to buy it from this guy?” It sells it on Amazon, I just don't know, unclear, but he was able to use it in a very measured way, and he said that “the grief lifted, Something opened.” And what I would say is he went from sympathetic engagement into a more parasympathetic space — the healing side of things — he was able to reform his consciousness. I would say that there's probably a huge application of oxytocin in the psychosis space. I would love to see studies done with people that are going through psychosis being given an oxytocin treatment versus a benzo, I would pit oxytocin over benzos for someone in psychosis in the right context, any day of the week. I don't know, I'm so aggressive about that. But-
SPENCER: Hopefully, Maurices will be done at it.
ANTHONY: If you're going to do it, there's books people can read. There's tons of studies — you know I would say go through that process. I certainly know because I've talked about it publicly, I should probably put together like, here's a training or here's a video or whatever, on oxytocin that you can check out. I do this stuff ,and I also am very, like, I didn't share my story of overcoming psychosis for years, Spencer, because I was terrified that like I was wrong, or my thesis was off. If I even talked about it, somebody might go off and find themselves in a challenging situation I guess I should say, to land the play on this , cause all you got to think about the implications are just me sharing what I talk about. If people want to connect, I'm always available and I just give time to people. They can go to my website, they can book time with me if they're going through stuff, and they're like, “Oh, I heard this thing and I got myself into some weird situation”, give me a call, so I can help support you through that. Fact check of me, go see if like lobsters really molds go see if there actually is horizontal gene transfer. This is gotta you got to do there you go, because, I'm a fallible human being, you know, in the same way that researchers missed up I'm certainly missing staff all the time. I welcome any kind of critique, or people are saying, I think you're off on this, while Spencer loves our conversation so much. But yeah, again, I don't want to say don't do these things in order to do them, but just, there is a body of research that folks can look at and experiment with — I recognize that many of the current interventions that could bring someone relief from suffering, are out of bounds of the current mainstream space. As a person, it feels like I would be out of integrity to not share my own experiences and discoveries, along the way to kind of compare notes on the path with folks, which is really what I'm mostly really trying to do, can we just compare notes on the path and see other opportunities to grow and to learn and to to move forward some of these things. So like Spencer said, some tweet up this podcast episode that @anthonyadams and @spencergreenberg on Twitter, will give out 10 copies of the book autographed. Also, I will do a thing where if you go to the website and download the digital version of the “autonomous haiku machine”, I'll also pick some people randomly who have signed up for that from this podcast, and I'll give them some autographed copies too.
SPENCER: Awesome. Anthony, this is a really interesting conversation. Thanks so much for coming on.
ANTHONY: You hold such an amazing space, and I really feel grateful for the opportunity here.
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