One approach to accessing your unconscious is the utilisation of psychedelics. Why? Some people believe that psychedelics may be appropriate because they access a part of your mind that you have not been conscious of before. In a clinical setting, the use of psychedelics, may have some merit. Because instead of being on your own, you’re being guided by a professional who, once you’re in that place, will lead you to discuss, address, consider and examine the areas that you need to. This isn’t what I do by the way, I just think it’s a really interesting perspective.
Psychedelics (especially MDMA, mushrooms and ayahuasca) basically dampen down the amygdala which is the source and control of your fear emotion. If you become fearless, you can talk about things without re-traumatising yourself. This is what we replicate in a therapeutic stetting with the therapist acting as the medium for this. They will contain any fear and know when to challenge you and when to pull back.
The use of psychedelics in general is intended to access a different part of your brain that you have not visited before. Accessing this different part of your brain is what we need to replicate without resorting to psychedelics. What I will do with you in the Conceiving Conception workbook is to take you through a number of exercises which work to try and get through to that part of your brain also, just in a different way. We’ll get there through the use of creativity, imagination and curiosity. In the meantime, let’s consider it’s practical application.
Most people that I have known who have experimented with psychedelics have been trying them for fun. Some people do it because it takes them to a higher state of consciousness. If we consider the aim of both approaches (the use of psychedelics and my clinical verbal approach) they both aim to do the same thing – access the consciously inaccessible.
I believe we want to access this part of your mind because, if you’re suffering with unexplained infertility, there’s likely something there than needs to be examined. For some people, their trauma may be pre-verbal – perhaps you can’t put it into words. Something may well have happened to you before you were even born.
Let’s consider a pre-verbal trauma case. I treated a patient who was a very successful thirty something in the corporate world. She came to me when her father died and she was finding it difficult to cope. She simply could not stop crying. She could not muster the energy or the will to get out of bed. Quite simply, she was no longer able to function. I worked with her for about a year and, whilst her anxiety had come down, it still remained stubbornly high. This seemed very unusual to me, I can usually tame anxiety a lot quicker than this.
This woman was, in fact, one of the worst cases of anxiety that I had ever seen. She was so anxious that she could not open her jaw enough to brush her teeth. Her hands were stuck in a claw-like shape and had been since she was a child. She was so rigid all the time that she couldn’t properly move her thumbs. She never went to sleep without experiencing night terrors. Every – Single – Night. So, we had managed to decrease her anxiety and what we concluded was that her current episode of grief didn’t stem from the death of her father, it was actually about her mother. How did we come to that conclusion?
Well, having worked together for a year she was still anxious. I concluded that I must have missed something so suggested that we start right back at the very beginning. I asked her to tell me everything that she knew about the time of her conception and her mother’s pregnancy and about what she knew of being first born.
It transpired that her mother was pregnant during the period when the Communist Party of Poland was coming to power in the 1940s. Her parent’s lives were full of uncertainty and, often, they were unsafe. Her mother was hiding, running and living in constant fear. Then, when she was born, the family was still under threat and, as a toddler, she experienced night terrors. She would wake up in the middle of the night screaming. Her hands had been in a claw-like position since her early years and several surgical opinions had been sought – all were inconclusive. As I hope you’re starting to see, this was a very deeply set trauma. The genesis of which was before she even had the words to articulate or understand what she had experienced in utero and following her birth.
In my professional capacity, I very rarely refer people to go onto anti-depressants. I believe you can dramatically decrease anxiety through talking therapy – and we had made great progress. Nonetheless, she was so unhappy and so desperately wanted to get back to her life that I was about to send her to commence a course of antidepressants. I knew she couldn’t continue to live like this. As she sat in my office and I drafted a letter to her GP recommending anti-depressant medication. Whilst I was doing this, she mentioned her upcoming trip to New Zealand. Almost as an aside, I suggested to her that whilst she was there, she should go and see a Mauri healer. Having had a brief experience of mauri healing myself, I felt confident that she may experience some relief. She was initially dismissive – she was anti-therapy - even with me! She was lovely, and we formed a really good working alliance but she simply rejected everything I said to her. “This is ridiculous” and “Why am I doing this?” were common refrains from her, with an accompanying eye roll.
So, with her GP letter in hand, I suggested to her that it may not do any harm. When she returned a few months later, she immediately came to see me and told me what happened. She said that the flight to New Zealand was so bad (she had claustrophobia and a fear of flying) she found herself a Mauri healer immediately. Her husband went with her to see the healer because she was so anxious about it. The healer gave her what seemed like a simple massage. Following this, she went home and for the first time in recent memory she slept without night terrors. Her symptoms remained better for about a week and as she continued her tour of New Zealand, she sought out a further healing. This time, feeling confident about it, she did not take her husband.
The second healer was nothing like the first, this was a much more intense experience. She told me that he had placed stones in her hand, which she immediately rejected as “hocus pocus” meanwhile he tuned into her body and mind. She told me that she had never felt anything like it, it was as though her body was carrying electric currents that were coursing through her body, causing significant discomfort, she was scared. She was sweating, she was boiling hot, her body felt like it was on fire.
She said all the time she was thinking to herself “When I get home, I’ll kill Louise for making me do this”. The healer kept saying to her that “This isn’t about your father; this is about your mother”. She told me that she believed I’d somehow set this all up! She was saying to herself “How does Louise know this guy and why has she told him everything?”
After an hour of suffering and pain which, in her own words, was “The worst experience I’ve ever had”, she re-joined her husband at their hotel. Feeling slightly traumatised. BUT! For the first time in as long as she could remember she slept soundly. In the morning she went to brush her teeth and her jaw was free, and she was able to move her hands freely. The relief that she felt was incredible. This healer had released the pre-verbal trauma that was in her body.
She hadn’t been able to put her trauma into words because it was so early in her life – in the womb in fact! It was a physical memory, not a mind memory. The stress hormones from her mother would have been coursing through her in the womb. Her body remembered it in her jaw and hands and in her unconscious anxiety. Still, to this very day, she reports no anxiety and no night terrors. Her body had kept score of the trauma and the healing had released it.
Now, before we all rush to New Zealand to seek out this healer (believe me the thought had crossed my mind) what I would say here was that this patient was extremely resistant to therapy. It took this extreme healing to help her, it is a rare case for me and I feel very confident that in less extreme situations, will be able to access your unconscious through the exercises that we will start very soon, and begin healing.
If you're battling unexplained infertility or working through IVF, psychedelics clearly have no place but what is important is the place they lead you to but... let’s hold a space right here as the next topic we need to discuss is what the mushroom could do for you! It's a place I can get you to without the need for any mushrooms or a flight across the world. It's a place you need to get to and it's a place we can visit together.
If you'd like to try some tea, I recommend Lion's Mane Tea.
Stay strong and be kind to yourself.