With Christmas fast approaching, I have more time than usual to reflect. Prior to limerence, I hadn’t appreciated how I used my addictive tendencies to distract myself from my inner feelings of anxiety and dysthymia, a constant low grade depression that has been with me most my life. I used work, food and shopping as ways to numb my feelings, to fill the “hole in my soul”.
It took limerence and its addictive element for me to really appreciate the tenaciousness of addictions and our inability to just stop partaking in the behaviour that is problematic. I should have sensed things were getting out of control when just before limerence struck, I almost blew our life savings on buying a second-hand aircraft.
I sense many limerence suffers grapple with an addictive personality, if not full blown addictions. Four years on and once again I am reflecting on the tenaciousness of addictions and how we seem at a loss in how to best treat them. Relapse rates for addictions run at a staggering 90%. My own experience of overcoming limerence has taken four years of intense work, individual and group psychotherapy, marriage counselling, immersing myself in my own psychotherapy training, working with clients struggling with similar issues, the secure base of a loving and supportive partner, working as a volunteer therapist at an addiction clinic plus a bunch of other stuff. Its only been recent permanent No Contact that I’ve finally been able to sever the remaining psychic tendrils of connection to the Limerent Object.
At the start of my limerence, I read an excellent book on addiction by a Canadian Psychiatrist, Gabor Mate – In the realm of hungry ghosts. It was one of many books I read on addictions but this one seemed to resonate the most. Interestingly we are both doctors that are children of Hungarian holocaust survivors. At that time I also became curious about altered states of consciousness and came across N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) , also knows as the spirit molecule.
DMT is released by the pineal gland, a pea sized organ deep in our brains, in small quantities when we sleep and in much larger doses at the point of death. Many think it responsible for the near death experiences (NDE) that are reported on an increasing basis. I became fascinated by NDE’s whilst working as a physician in the emergency room during my hospital doctor days.
DMT is also the active compound found in the Ayahuasca plant, used in shamanic traditions of South American tribes. My interest was again piqued a few weeks back when talking to a psychotherapy peer that is off to Peru on an Ayahuasca retreat and in conversations with another therapy friend that is a shaman. Ive known for some time that ingesting Ayahuasca can help in the treatment of addictions, depression and PTSD. I was curious as to how?
I came across this excellent documentary on Dr. Mate’s experience of Ayahuasca, here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UAbZLPxpr08 This has one of the clearest explanations of the possible effects in how the drug works:
“In early life, powerful or traumatic events create an imprint on the brain, a pattern. This pattern is like a shortcut, activated every time we face a similar situation. For example, if we were as a child attacked by a dog, our brain might harbour a set of these pathways that associate that dog with all dogs, making us fear them in general. We might even react adversely to a distant bark. Repeated events cause these neural patterns to reinforce their connections, binding them with protein, and building them up like scar tissue. Ayahuasca hyper-activates the entire brain region where we store and process emotional memory, often uncovering long forgotten memories. This hyper-activation enables the conscious part of the new brain to temporarily override previously entrenched patterns, allowing new connections to be made. We are no longer experiencing the event as a small defenceless child but now as a grown adult. Dogs, for example, may no longer be feared as these new connections are created and memories, re-evaluated. In field studies, ayahuasca users typically describe having new perspectives on past experiences, and deeply rooted patterns of behaviour.”
Other descriptions on possible mechanisms include this from a therapist:
”Ayahuasca is a shortcut to the unconscious. It allows for the possibility to relive stressful biographical situations again, and repair them, reorder them. This has tremendous therapeutic value. For example, Western pharmacopeia and psychotherapy can be of little help in cases of deceitful abuse or childhood violence; however, ayahuasca provides the possibility of reliving these situations with the same emotional intensity of the original moment, but with a structure and the experience in the present. Then, one arrives at forgiveness: which is to liberate the conflict and remain in peace. Ayahuasca is one of the possible ways to achieve this. Ayahuasca provides for a kind of mirror that does not conform to the patient’s sophisticated denial mechanisms. The mind is loosened up and maladaptive thinking and feeling is brought to the patient’s awareness…the patient is then confronted not by treatment structures or therapists but by their own inner self. This aspect is, I believe, what makes ayahuasca especially effective in helping addicts because they are unable to deny their reality and must therefore accept change.”
Sadly it seems since this documentary was made, the Canadian authorities have prevented him from making further inroads into this area. It seems odd that as a society we condone depressive altered states of consciousness through the use of alcohol and anti-depressants, but higher states of consciousness are frowned upon as demonstrated by the classification of hallucinogenic compounds as illegal compounds. One can only speculate as to the reasons why. As in the words of Terrance McKenna:
“Psychedelics are illegal not because a loving government is concerned that you may jump out of a third story window. Psychedelics are illegal because they dissolve opinion structures and culturally laid down models of behaviour and information processing. They open you up to the possibility that everything you know is wrong.”
I have yet to try Ayahuasca and am not advocating its use for the treatment of limerence. But i am curious if this compound when used in its cultural context and combined with other supportive regimes with a success rate of upto 60% perhaps one day could help alleviate some of the intense suffering us limerence suffers endure.