Psychedelic Use Can Help With Your Writing

Be Present and Forget Old Habits

Posted originally at The Trip. Check them out!

Alexandre Porto – 8 min read

writing with psychedelics
A silent counselor — Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Writing is a process of understanding and expressing the world through language, as well as an activity that helps us to understand ourselves better.

Psychedelic use can help with writing because using psychedelics helps us gain insight into the workings of the mind and world, which in turn allows us to become more self-aware and better able to express ourselves.

These are necessary skills for any writer.

Writing can be a way to understand oneself; however, one cannot write about the self without first becoming aware of it. Writing requires introspection in order to flesh out our characters and stories.

This is a process that involves understanding one’s own biases and limitations, as well as coming to terms with the complexities of the world.

Psychedelic use can help with this greatly.

While not all psychedelic users are writers, many of them do find ways to express the insights they gain through writing.

Psychedelics can be used as a tool for self-reflection and introspection.

Crystallize Insights

The very act of writing helps to solidify and crystallize insights gained through psychedelic use.

It is important for the person tripping to be able to express what they are experiencing in a manner that makes sense.

Human society is filled with all sorts of interesting philosophical ideas about the use of psychedelics.

Some say that you should never take any psychedelics, and others will tell you to always go do a psychedelic drug when possible.

But I think there is an underlying reason why humans are so interested in taking these drugs or even just talking about them philosophically.

The reason is that these drugs are actually very deep philosophical problems.

The psychedelic experience itself is a problem of the limitation of the human perspective, and it brings up all sorts of interesting questions that humans have been asking themselves for centuries.

The very first question that pops into most people’s minds when they think about taking a psychedelic drug is:

What will happen to me?

What kind of trip will I have?

Will it be an insightful experience or simply just wacky?

But the most important question is:

Will it be a good trip or a bad trip?

Will you have a wonderful experience or one that was filled with terror and pain?

nitzche with psychedelics
Portrait of Friedrich Nietzsche — Edvard Munch, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

This question has actually been asked by philosophers for a long time. What is the nature of reality? Is it always good or bad?

One philosopher who has a very interesting theory about this is Friedrich Nietzsche.

He posits that the world that we live in is actually bad and that humans have created an illusion of good around it to make themselves feel better.

Philosopy and psychedelics
Friedrich Nietzsche’s signature.

With this idea in mind, I wonder if a so-called bad trip isn’t also just an illusion created by the spirit — mind & body — to help the psychedelic adventurer make sense of the experience.

From my personal journeys, I never recognize a moment as a bad trip because I’m comfortable navigating whatever landscape the psychedelic presents to me, but I can see where it comes from.

I understand that a bad trip is a moment of panic and absolute loss of comfort with no perspective of getting comfortable again anytime soon.

And to me — Alex Porto — this sensation of despair comes when I insist on the breaking of the fourth wall.

The Fourth Wall

Breaking the fourth wall refers to the cinematic resource of having the actor look at the camera and talk to the spectator.

Within the human experience, we say that the break of the fourth wall comes when a mental point of view is created to observe our first-person experience as an outsider.

If you are interested in this, I recommend reading about the Theory of Mind.

When I imagine myself from the perspective of an outsider and observe the effects of the psychedelic voyage on myself, I lose control of myself and of my surroundings.

Especially when this self-observation comes with a challenging part of the journey where I can’t recognize anything that I usually classify as ordinary.

So I tell myself to relax and let the fourth wall exist. Meaning that I don’t attempt to watch and judge myself from the outside.

Tolstoy writing about psychedeclis
Leo Tolstoy — Ilya Repin, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Bringing the Gold Back Home

To understand the true value of the sacred trip and bring the treasure back home, I hold to myself the principle hammered in the awesome book by Ram Dass :

Remember: Be Here Now.

With this mantra in mind, I don’t have any particular opinion about what is happening to me or around me, which is the optimal state of mind to navigate the psychedelic reality.

Another mantra that I keep repeating to myself, especially during extremely meaningful insights is:

Don’t despair: you will remember this.

During a moment of epiphany, it feels like I have to stop myself from the activity I’m engaged in to write or verbalize my experience.

I like to repeat this sentence because it calms the part of myself that wants to rush and record whatever meaningful epiphany I’m having.

There is a part of me that is awfully loud and insistent that truly believes that if I don’t record my experience; I haven’t lived it.

But this is not true.

The things that I experience will remain part of me forever. The places I go; the people I meet; the conversations I have.

They all will become part of each and every cell of my body and become an integral part of who I am forever.

I don’t need to record everything, I can just remember.

As a matter of fact, I don’t need to record anything!

I believe that this is the best way to go deep into the moment and make the most gold out of the psychedelic experience.

This is the first step to crystallize the insights of the journey.

The best way to talk about a certain experience is to dive deep into the present.

The valuable insights and experiences will return even without a conscious effort to express them and you will be able to write about them the next day.

Psychedelics as a means of self-expression

the dream of the poet
Le Poète — Henri-Jean Guillaume Martin, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Psychedelic substances are chemical compounds that alter brain function to produce profound changes in perception, thought, emotion, and consciousness.

The act of using psychedelics is one that can be seen as a form of expression.

It may be useful to define what is meant by ‘self’ and ‘expression’.

Self is a concept that I find challenging to define, although it seems clear enough in practice.

In my understanding, ‘self’ refers to the idea of individual identity and its accompanying characteristics.

This may be considered as something which is central to one’s personality.

The expression is an action that allows one to convey meaning or information.

In my understanding, the expression is a means by which information can be communicated. This communication may be verbal, non-verbal, and/or physical in nature.

In human society, however, there are a lot of misconceptions about the nature of reality coming from either a lack of information or conditioning.

What I mean by looking at oneself:

There is a distinction between the mental and physical.

The physical world is composed of energy that can be measured in many ways including light. This energy exists in waves or particles which are not entirely separate but intertwined.

The mental is what we perceive through our senses and how this information is interpreted.

For example, if I were to place a piece of paper in front of you that said something on it, the physical energy would be reflected off the paper as waves into your eyes which are then transformed into particles.

These particles go through nerves across synapses (see image) which cause neurotransmitters to activate which sends signals to your brain where the signal is decoded according to what language or symbol system you use.

Brain synapses on psychedelics
This is a diagram of a typical central nervous system synapse — Curtis Neveu, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The system of neurons, synapses, and neurotransmitters is mostly fixed which means they can be changed to some degree but not entirely.

Another important point is that the brain functions in a way that makes sense for survival as opposed to making logical sense.

So what does this have to do with psychedelics?

Well, the way we perceive and interpret information is heavily influenced by how our brains are structured.

Our perception of reality is greatly limited by the symbols and languages that govern how we translate information into meaning.

Psychedelics like psilocybin and LSD allow more information to come into the brain through the senses which are then interpreted by your language system.

This can result in hallucinations or distortions of reality because suddenly you are seeing patterns or hearing things that don’t ordinarily exist as a result of an overflow of information from what could be called an alternate reality.

Now the challenge is writing about this and using this new point of view to enrich your writings.

The poet dreaming
The poet Gallus dreaming — Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Break Down Old Writing Habits

The first step is to be present during the experience you want to write about.

The second step is to access your memories and express them in new ways.

In order to achieve this, I like to exercise something that Tao philosophy and Buddhism often preaches:

“A scholar tries to learn something every day; a student of Buddhism tries to unlearn something daily.”

― Alan Watts

The only way to talk about the ineffable is to learn new ways of expression and of manipulating language.

Practice to forget everything you know about the human communication code and rebuild the entirety of your expression system from scratch.

Give new meaning to old words and get practice defining a new language rule exclusively in the scope of the text you are writing at the moment and watch as alternative worlds blossoms from your writing and turn the ineffable into commonplace.

To me, this topic is very difficult to write about. As I said, expressing a psychedelic experience in a common language feels impossible.

The human language has yet to evolve to a new base-line in order to accommodate deep mental journeys.

Nevertheless, I believe that our current generation of mental explorers has the challenge of uncovering the communication tools to open the way for the next generations of psychonauts to have conversations about their voyages with precision and with people who never experienced them before.

If you’d like to join the conversation, I offer two discussion channels that are totally free to join.

If you have something to share or would just like to spectate the conversations, please don’t hesitate to be a part of.