colorful illustration of ego dissolution

What is Ego Dissolution and Is It Helpful?

“Ego dissolution” (or “ego death”) is the temporarily diminished sense of self that is often experienced on psychedelics. The feeling is usually captured by statements like “I felt at one with the universe” or “I lost all sense of myself”. Ego dissolution can help users incorporate less ego and more soul into their daily lives.

How Ego Dissolution Can Help

Over the course of our lifetime, we build up a collection of memories or predictions that we identify with as our “self.” For many people, this model of themselves makes them very unhappy, especially those suffering from mental illness. Experiencing the reduction of sense of self can lead to better introspection. It can also disrupt negative patterns of behavior.

How Psychedelics Contribute

Psychedelic medicines interfere with the parts of the brain generating a sense of self. When the medicine is active, the person can temporarily stop seeing the world through the lens of past experiences. With proper integration of these new perspectives, the person can choose to see the world differently every day, creating a new “self” in the process.

Is Ego Death Always Positive?

While ego death can be a blissful, mystical experience, it can also be  an upsetting one. Some patients experience an increased sense of self during their session rather than forgetting themselves. 

A 2016 study found that ego death and ego inflation were both positively correlated with an improvement in well-being after psychedelic drug use.  Ego dissolution can be a wonderful tool but is not alone sufficient for healing. 

One can temporarily lose their sense of self but then may not proceed to make any meaningful changes in their life. This is why integrating your experiences is so important. Without integration, it can be hard to reconcile your lived existence with the insights gained on your journey. This can lead to feelings of disenchantment or even solipsism.

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