Saturday, December 20, 2014

Yelp is a scam, if you didn't know. And other tales from my hectic life...

I keep forgetting to mention this, but remember that commercial I said I did for Dr. Hypno? It turned out really nice, but it was not ever posted online because it was done through the scam known as Yelp. I didn't even think to check it out beforehand since other hypnotists that compete with Dr. Hypno have Yelp pages with very professional-looking video ads.
` Problem is, when Dr. Hypno tried it for his own practice, it was fairly worthless besides making a commercial with an independent company -- and he will still have to pay that company $500 just to use it.
` Besides not putting the video up, nor good reviews he's had from clients, Yelp charged him $18 per click on his ad -- and it mysteriously got 11 clicks on the first day. He tried to contact the people in charge of Yelp, and was subsequently blocked from accessing the very page he had paid for.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Psychedelics ≠ Intoxicants: A cultural commentary

I said I wouldn't do this again, but a certain skeptical entertainer, which I have finally revealed as George Hrab, has inspired me to write about psychedelics once more -- here's the backstory, if you are interested/concerned for my mental health.
` The crux of it is, I feel an urge to speak up when people espouse false information or condescending attitudes about things I have an understanding and appreciation of -- especially when the point of their podcast is to help dispel myths and propaganda, and otherwise have a geeky good time.

After answering a listener question about the psychedelic brew ayahuasca in Episode 385, I was tempted to write Geo another email, but instead thought it would be better as a more generalized piece on my blog.
` Granted, if I had my own podcast up and running, I would already have a much more interesting public platform at which to direct people when they make dismissive or misinformed comments about topics that I think are important. That'll be the next step for me. For now, I'll do what I can here.

I also want to mention that I have not had much Internet access while writing this text file, so it isn't full of links to sources, which I would prefer it to be -- even moreso than my previous four articles on the subject.
` If you think I'm wrong about something, go ahead and check it for yourself -- it's the skeptical way, right? Besides, I loves me some comments, so fire away if you think I'm wrong, or have any other thoughts!
` Also, I would like to point out that my use of the pronoun 'you', as opposed to 'one' is meant to help connect what I'm writing with 'your imagination'. Although I've included descriptions of psychedelic states before, this is meant to be the most 'vivid', if that makes sense.

So, here's the text file from my laptop, cutted and pasteded for your enjoyment:

Why do some intelligent, critical thinking-type people still dismiss psychedelic drugs as not important to neuroscience, psychotherapy, history, art, religion, and/or even as an experience to be had?
` It's abundantly clear (as I hope I've shown already) that they are, but why is it that some skeptical types are keenly interested in this stuff, while others think very lowly of it?

It's not just because psychedelics are classified as a Schedule I drug, it's because of the myths about them that are meant to justify their illegality. What's the worst myth of them all? That they're somehow more damaging than the most damaging drug in the world -- alcohol. After all, alcohol is legal, so how could it be worse than LSD? Or marijuana, for that matter...
` Because everyone knows that alcohol is a powerful inebriant, they might assume that psychedelics will just make you lose awareness/control of yourself in a similar way. It is the familiarity, legality and social acceptance of alcohol which actually works against the public understanding of psychedelics.

This realization came sharply into focus while listening to Geo's podcast when he called ayahuasca and mushrooms "intoxicants", a word which implies toxicity and a loss of control of one's faculties or behavior. He has said in the past that he doesn't want to experience intoxication and has an "irrational sense" of almost-superiority because of this.
` Apparently, this attitude is very ingrained in his identity, as is his grouping of various "drugs" together in the category of "intoxicants". Some people, though they might use alcohol or marijuana, may say that they aren't the "type of person" to take "hard drugs" like "heroin or LSD", as though those are somehow equivalent.
` Laughably misguided as this is, some of these people are fairly rigid in this part of their identity, and I've seen a few react quite emotionally upon hearing facts to the contrary. It is then ironic that a good dose of LSD is known to reveal the core awareness that lies beneath such cognitive dissonance -- but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Although Geo has expressed some strong opinions about "drugs" based on his impressions of them, he has said that he knows very little about them, and that he's not the one to ask about this subject. I've met quite a few people who fit this description, so perhaps it shouldn't be surprising to them to learn that psychedelics are a bit more complicated than mere "intoxicants":

Their primary effect is quite different from alcohol, almost the opposite, in fact -- although still very different from the primary effects of the "intoxicants" known as caffeine and nicotine. No, it's not the hallucinations which make psychedelics unique:

It's important to note that there are three main classes of hallucinogens: Deliriants, dissociatives, and psychedelics. The first two tend to cause more confusion and delusions of unreality, but the third lends itself more to reflection and meditation:
` The word 'psychedelic' means 'mind expanding' or 'mind manifesting', and those who study and/or have experienced these effects do not use this term in an ironic fashion.

Psychedelics like ayahuasca, psilocybin mushrooms, LSD and mescaline are known to increase self-awareness to such a shocking degree that they can be used to hurl people out of their addictions and traumas.
` It is common for people to change their personalities based on what they learn about themselves in the space of a few hours' trip. (Especially when in the proper set and setting.)

So far, these drugs are not known to cause brain damage, despite their incredibly strong effects: Unlike stimulants, opiates, and the rest, which bring about familiar states of consciousness, psychedelics change the quality of consciousness itself.

Hence, the impossibility of describing this to people who can't imagine what a "different" quality of consciousness would be like. Different in what way?

Far from causing extreme incoherence or speediness, the overall effect (under proper conditions) is generally an increase in sobriety, lucidity, sensory awareness, self-awareness, and being 'present' in the moment.
` Whereas caffeine gives one a narrowness of focus and possibly the jitters, psychedelics are very 'clean'. They allow one's very consciousness to perceive much more than it normally can, literally broadening what is possible to experience.
` According to actual psychedelics researchers and experienced trippers alike, you start to notice things you never noticed before, and can feel the "space" in your mind expand as though it was a physical space:

At a "Level 2" or so, it expands to the point of opening up into a sort of 'virtual reality headspace' that you cannot normally access. It actually feels like a parallel physical space that surrounds you, yet is clearly separate from your perception of the actual world.
` Only when the fetters are lifted can you be made aware that they were even there, and you realize that you have lived your entire life up to that point being held firmly in place, with your face up against a tiny window of perception.

Now that you are free to turn your head (or, change perspectives in your head) for the first time in your life, you are astonished to find that surrounding you is an entire universe that has been there all along but that you have never even suspected was there. How does it all fit into your brain?
` Closing your eyes to "look around" in this space, you may blanch at ornate fractal landscapes filling your mind's eye to infinity in all directions at once. You can even have an 'inner body' which may be distorted with an indeterminate number of appendages that you can both feel and move independently of your actual body.

It's as though you can experience two different 'dimensions' existing in the same space, and can choose which one to give your attention: The world of sensory perception of what's around you (which may be distorted/augmented), or the one in which you appear to be some kind of alien, melding with surreal landscapes that you can see in multiple directions at once.
` As I mentioned in my last post, as you get higher, the more this inner reality takes hold, and in some cases it can actually obscure sensory data. Still, this does not necessarily mean that the person experiencing this suddenly believes that the inner world is "really happening".

Geo asked how much stranger this would be than "a dream or a thought where you can rid yourself of outer influence". I'm not sure what he meant by "outer influence", but this is not exactly an isolation tank trip, or a lucid dream.
` This is exploring another 'reality' in your head, and manipulating what you find therein, to your advantage. This is a tool kit:

Sunday, December 7, 2014

My life and blog content... what's going on here?

Have the machine elves abducted me and made me their slave? Not exactly...

Since TAM 2014, I have been essentially living out of a suitcase, with little in the way of internet access outside of my phone. In September, I outright bought a similar car to my previous one, and in November I got my belongings out of storage and into an office -- only to find that they were not all there.
` Still, life is slowly improving, as I've actually been paid for some of my writing, and I look forward to being paid for more. Even both of my cats have a place to live! I, still, do not have my own place, although I no longer live with six messed-up roommates, and keep well away from my abusive ex as much as I can.

Although there are many varied posts in 'draft' form on this blog, I've mostly been publishing ones about psychedelics for a while, for various reasons:

Shortly after TAM 2012, I started learning how the mind and brain can be warped with hypnosis and psychedelics, and also their relationship to woo and religion. Fascinating stuff.
` I also learned how people in this culture have been purposely brainwashed by the government to dismiss psychedelics, as well as marijuana, in spite of scientific findings.

It's like a skeptical smorgasboard!

At TAM 2013, I actually talked about writing about psychedelics with Michael Shermer, who said it would be a great topic for me to write about for Skeptic Magazine. Although other articles about psychedelics and 'the war on drugs' have appeared in Skeptic, none of them have been by me.

That's mostly because my life was becoming more and more of a living hell as the person I was living with and taking care of became more paranoid, narcissistic, gaslighting, frightening -- well, he almost killed me with his utter neediness and crazy-making.
` I'm almost ashamed to admit, but he convinced me into thinking that my desire to write meant that there was something wrong with me, and that I had some kind of 'glued to the screen' addiction because of it.
` (If that is so, then Dr. Karl has such an addiction far worse than I, and he told me this at TAM 2014!)

I've written about my situation a few times on my blog during this time, just to tell people that I'm still interested in writing about intellectually-challenging topics, but was under the sleep deprived spell of a dying control freak who was being denied the healthcare that he desperately needed.
` Instead, it was my job to take care of him and drive him to the ER a lot, and take the blame for problems of his that I did not cause. And if I didn't like it, then I was just 'trying to kill him', and no, don't tell anyone else because they don't know the truth, blah blah blah...

I knew it was wrong to stay, especially since it kept tearing away all the progress I was making in breaking out of three decades of PTSD-causing narcissistic and institutional abuse, torture, etc., but I didn't want to let him die.
` Since it's resulted in permanent nerve damage in my face, and another couple of years of my life wasted, I actually regret not just walking out the door and letting him die of starvation. Or at least dumping him at a hospital before leaving and telling them that he will die if they kick him out.

During the same time span since 2012, I was listening to back-episodes of the Geologic Podcast, which I found to be inspirational to my own podcast -- yes, it is possible to attract an audience with entertainment, music, shlock and silliness! I like. It was a welcome distraction of sanity while I was trying to keep my brain functioning at least slightly.

In many of these episodes, I was shocked at the condescending nature of Geo's comments about all 'drugs', including psychedelics. He even essentially said that LSD made the Beatles' Sargent Pepper album, and other psychedelically inspired works, worse than they could have been.
` This is someone who should know better than to spread propaganda  -- on his skeptical podcast!! -- although I didn't think it was worth telling him unless I knew just what to say.

Starting about a year ago, during a particularly rough time, I felt the need to write on my blog, but didn't have the brainpower or internet power to write blog posts that required frontal lobes to understand. So, I wrote emails to people, including Geo, which I've described a while back.

It wasn't until last spring and summer that for whatever reason I became so offended by Geo's misguided and inaccurate remarks that I sought to educate him on the subject. After all, he is misinforming his audience.

So, I wrote him some emails about psychedelics. It doesn't seem as though he's read them, but I thought they were good enough to fix up and post on my blog, and that's what became Parts 1-3 of The Ultimate Skeptic's Head trip (starting here).
` Based on the responses I've gotten, it's apparently possible for some skeptics to appreciate what I've written and become interested in the subject themselves. It was only then that I revealed who the emails were to.

I've also added a Part 4, which was a conglomeration of material from various sources that all sort of fit into the same blog post -- although it was a tight squeeze. I figured that was enough psychedelic material for now, but have since changed my mind:

Last month, Geo made some dismissive comments about ayahuasca on his show, which inspired me to finally write that article I've been meaning to write for Skeptic Magazine. I think I understand my angle now.

Without my own internet access, this is difficult, but in order to help myself break out of the rut I'm in, I set out to develop my inspiration by writing him another email. Then I realized that this was probably a mistake, so I figured it would be better-received if I posted it straight to my blog.

That will be my next post -- which you can now read here. And the one after that will, mercifully, be on another topic -- this time, the facts and fallacies of hypnosis.