Microdosing Psilocybin for Relationship Therapy
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Microdosing may offer a way for couples to improve communication, while simultaneously improving themselves.
In the past few years, a psychedelic revolution has been brewing. While research into the efficacy of psychedelics used to address mental issues and disturbances goes back to the 1950s, 2017 saw its renaissance. Since that time, researchers have been pushing hard for more studies and better funding into psychedelics and microdosing. Canada has become possibly one of the biggest proponents of the practice, following the nationwide benefit of the legalization of marijuana.
Seeing a decades-long social stigma erased with favorable legislation led many to believe that psilocybin, the psychoactive compound found in hallucinogenic mushrooms, could be the next step to social enlightenment. Psilocybin has long been used as a medicine in ancient cultures, facilitating spiritual release and combating mental pain and anguish. Microdosing is what takes this substance into the 21st century.
While many may not have access to a shroom dispensary yet, there are still millions of individuals who have used microdosing as a mentally assistive therapy- particularly for anxiety, depression, and alleviation of stress. However, more reports are surfacing that microdosing psilocybin may be hugely beneficial to those working through interpersonal relationship problems as well.
Why Relational Therapies
When we talk about relational problems, those both interpersonal and romantic, there are a few key causative factors that generally apply to most of these types of conflicts.
● Perceived Differences
Humans are naturally tribal. We ascribe and form habits and groups quickly, easily, and often without thinking. While this does aid us in many ways, it can also be hugely detrimental when it comes to interpersonal and romantic relationships. Inflating differences and polarizing views, with little drive to bend or budge.
● Poor Communication
Communication is key. In every relationship, it’s important to feel understood in order to believe that your needs are being met. It’s also important to be able to express those thoughts and feelings in a safe and conducive format, which can be difficult when tensions and emotions run high. It’s also exceptionally difficult for many people to be able to adequately express their subjective thoughts.
● Spatial Relationships
Humans also need space. They need work-life-family balances. The time for introspection is something that from a psychological standpoint, we all need, however- few get. And largely, even if many do enjoy an adequate amount of “me time” is often that we don’t confront our failings or uncomfortable habits.
● Trust Issues
Trust is something that is wildly important to relationships. While most often correlated with romantic relationships, it’s also important that interpersonal relationships harbor trust as well. There is an amount of vulnerability that must be accessed should two people feel they are able to adequately and openly communicate. This is what enables clear communication without trigger defense mechanisms. Trust is also important when it comes to being able to deploy empathy and forgive, which are important aspects of all relationships.
● Past Trauma
Everyone has experienced some kind of trauma in their lives. While the severity of issues is based purely on experience and ability to process, it is impossible to suggest that someone has lived a life without some kind of injury. As people, we tend to attribute our past traumas with current, largely unrelated, situations. This is especially true for those suffering PTSD or who have not been able to adequately confront these past issues.
Having unrealistic expectations, or strict definitions of your expectations makes it difficult for either partner to meet shared goals. Understanding that there are often nebulous and collaborative ways to meet goals can help generate a more inclusive and trusting environment. Being able to more readily compromise to meet shared goals creates a flexible environment that allows others to achieve.
A Polar Island
One mental health professional went as far to call these ingrained defenses “Polar islands” explaining that neither partner is able to go to the other’s “island” and see their issues from that person’s perspective. Making it feel impossible to employ empathy or relax one’s own perceptions. Which is where microdosing psilocybin can come to help.
Many anecdotal reports suggest that microdosing helps to improve mood, focus, openness, and motivation. Which can all be wonderful things both in the workplace and at home, possibly creating a better space for open and earnest communication. Much of the research regarding treating relationship issues with psychedelics is focused on large dose studies. Ones in which the participants take enough psilocybin to “trip” or hallucinate. Which may not be a comfortable idea for some, or some have trouble finding the right amount and source for magic mushrooms. Canada, even with more lax regulation, still has trouble outfitting people and scientists with the appropriate materials, as hallucinogenic mushrooms are still considered illegal for recreation.
However, microdosing can stretch a stash farther and it can be a bit more simple to find a shroom dispensary that will sell microdoses, as opposed to dried mushrooms themselves. Microdosing psilocybin is also something that can fit much more easily into everyday schedules. Particularly with the flexibility offered by most microdosing guides.
The Cognitive “Reset”
While most research regarding microdosing is anecdotal at best, there have been numerous studies performed on high dose responses to psilocybin, however you may want to pause before you go out and buy shrooms. Canada residing experts suggest that anyone considering using mushrooms as a mental health aid check with their healthcare practitioner first, particularly because the long-term and chronic use of microdosing is under studied. Despite the compound being chemically safe.
It’s that in mind, researchers have found that psilocybin containing mushrooms may offer users two very important changes to brain activity: what they call a “cognitive reset” and the “dissolution of ego”. Both of these instances can help fight the mental blocks that we all have when it comes to open and earnest communication, confronting past traumas, and openly listening without judgement.
Using fMRI brain scans, a type of magnetic imaging study, Imperial College London showed that psilocybin affected two areas of the brain- notably the amygdala and the default-mode network. In the amygdala, less activity was noted following ingestion of psilocybin. This area of the brain largely regulates processing of intense emotions, like fear and anxiety. As it became less active, participants were more readily able to confront intense emotion from a more objective standpoint.
The default-mode network refers to the area of collaboration between many different regions of the brain, which became more stable following psilocybin. Working somewhat like a “brain defrag”. Allowing for more cohesive communication between neural regions.
While psilocybin has been reported to be incredibly useful for shifting bad habits to create new neuronal paradigms, it isn’t always a comfortable experience. Some researchers attribute this to psilocybin’s effect on the glutamate channels in the brain, resulting in “ego-dissolution”. Again, using fMRI scans, scientists were able to measure the levels of glutamate in the hippocampus and cortex- areas which are thought to influence self-esteem and ego.
What they found were increased levels of glutamate in one area, and decreased levels in the other. Whether it was the hippocampus or the cortex that saw the increase, the other saw levels drop. This inverse relationship seemed to be linked to participants’ experience of ego during their trip. With higher cortical levels, participants noted having a negative experience of ego dissolution, higher levels of Hippocampal glutamate correlated with positive reports. This “dissolution of ego” is thought to allow users to disconnect their historical information and personal experiences from a sense of identity. Allowing them an “objective” viewpoint when considering their life. Which can allow people to better confront past traumas or hardships, without the accompanying feelings of guilt or shame. Which can help guide people to better resolution. Giving everyone a better chance at quelling psychological distress- which means that we can more readily discuss ourselves and thoughts openly, without judgement.
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