Citation: Will. "Empathy and Insight: An Experience with Mushrooms & Cannabis (exp53658)". Erowid.org. Jan 5, 2007. erowid.org/exp/53658
Mushrooms had been on my personal to-do list for quite some time.
A little background on my drug use: The only drugs I had done up until this point were (sometimes) a copious amount of ganja and a couple instances of salvia.
A little background on myself: I'm a very 'psychology' individual. This is important because during a shroom trip one tends to think about the things that one finds important. I spend a lot of my time thinking about people, cognition, social behavior, psychology, and so on. It's important to say this because each person has their own way of perceiving and thinking about the world, and so every drug trip has to be understood through the lens of those experiencing it. So most of my major insights are related to psychology, social interaction, and some philosophy. I’m also a very introspective person, I understand my own thought patterns quite well, and I approached the trip with a very curious and analytical perspective.
Everybody who has ever done a shroom trip has unsolicited advice for those who haven't. My friends were no different. I had become so conflicted from the varying reports that I had delayed doing shrooms for awhile, not knowing how to go about it.
The trip itself occurred sort of haphazardly. We were supposed to do them the following day, but since we were just sitting around smoking weed anyway, someone decided to bust out the shrooms. Well. Even though I had 'decided' that I was going to do them, I was really apprehensive when they were handed to me. I finally just ate them.
Being a first timer, I did NOT know what to expect. For me there were several major waves of effect. There were not clear boundaries between these waves, it was sort of that one eventually became the next. Each wave had a distinctive (though not unique) set of symptoms. The reason I separate them is that’s how it works on shrooms: out of nowhere, I have a moment where I’ll realize that I'm suddenly tripping even harder than what I'm used to. That realization can bring excitement, happiness, and/or nervousness. This, for me, happened three times.
**First wave:** (0-20 min)
-higher contrast vision
-slight discomfort/pressure in my stomach
-Sitting around in a bedroom
The only indication that anything was taking effect was that my vision started to seem brighter, with higher contrast. We were in a third floor room looking out on some trees. I was looking at the trees, and all of a sudden I was aware that the leaves seemed to be brighter and sharper than usual. I could better see the overall movement of leaves in the wind, and was fascinated by them.
A little after that, my stomach started feeling odd. Not quite pain, but slightly uncomfortable. This would last all day. This first wave didn’t last too long, but I remember sitting around and talking with my friends. I started to feel a little giggly, the way one gets sometimes when smoking pot.
**Second wave:** (20-40 min)
-same as before, also
-undirected mental focus (short attention span)
-still sitting around
This wave was midway between the mellow first wave and the balls-trippin’ third wave.
I had picked up a magazine that had an interesting article. I decided that I wanted to read this article. So I started reading. And found that… I could NOT read! I mean, I saw the words. And I understood what they meant. But I was so easily distracted that I ended up re-reading the first paragraph about 10 times before giving up.
This is about when my mind started to get amazingly active. Normally I can sort of “reign in” my mind to do something I want. “Alright, stop daydreaming, I gotta do this,” I might say to myself. I was totally unable to do this. I could not engage in any goal-directed behavior that lasted longer than like 1 minute.
My mental activity was related to my sudden impulsivity. I was just taking in my environment (the third floor room), and would immediately get up and go towards something interesting. Only to immediately think about something else. I was also narrating this entire thing to my shrooming friends, which they thought was both amusing and annoying.
At this point, my shroom-experienced friend came in and told us that we should go actively do something. “You need to plan activities and do them, you’ll be glad you did,” he told us. As interesting as everything was starting to be, this made complete sense. So we decided to go… to the supermarket to buy oranges, lol. Cause that’s what you buy when you’re on drugs, ganja at least.
-same as before, also
-some social anxiety
-tingling skin sensations
-mind on overdrive
-patience and empathy boosted
-going to the supermarket
-taking a small hike to a lookout point, sitting there for over an hour
This represented my peak, and I stayed at this plateau for ~2 hours.
I hit the third wave at some point in the car on the way to the supermarket. In the words of my friends, I was “trippin’ balls.” My mind was like a child at Disneyland. There was so much to see and think about, I could not contain myself. My mental activity was totally unbridled. Any notion, any whim my mind had was immediately indulged completely. It’s like being on a mental roller coaster in the sense that you’re just along for a ride, only with extreme effort can you direct your thoughts.
A result of this is that I spent a lot of my time caught in thought loops. I'd think about a topic, and try to draw some conclusion. However, because my mind was so active, the original thought would spark other mental threads that I'd go down. Until I stopped to handle the original thought, it would stay unresolved and keep coming up.
What allowed me to realize that I was finally TRULY tripping was when we were in the car riding to the supermarket. On the last stretch of street before we arrived there, I re-remembered that we were going to the supermarket FOUR TIMES, and flipped out again each time! I think I said, “Omigod, you guys. We’re fucking going to Safeway. I CANNOT handle this. This is insane.” They were like, “yeah no shit.”
When we arrived at the supermarket, the entire 1-minute walk from the parking lot to the entrance, I was repeating to myself: “Oh shit. Oh shit. Oh shit.” I tried to mentally rehearse to myself what it is to act normally in a supermarket. I had to remind myself what I was supposed to be doing. “Duh, getting oranges.” So we go to the fresh produce area. Two things became apparent:
1. There were tons of people everywhere
2. There are at least eight different kinds of oranges in the world, and I didn’t know shit about any of them.
My friends, despite tripping even harder than me, were totally on the same page. We were standing there awkwardly, me sort of trying to decide on some oranges. People around us were shopping in an alien flurry of activity, and we just… could not keep it real. We busted out laughing so hard! I don’t even know at what! The whole thing just seemed so silly, we couldn’t control ourselves. Not only were we laughing uncontrollably, but we were all very anxious about being in such a heavily populated area. We had to run and hide in one of the aisles.
We got to one of the aisles and hung out for a sec. I had to keep asking myself, “what do people normally do here anyway?” “Shop, stupid!” was my mind’s answer. So I spent a couple minutes pretending to look at the shelves while wondering why the entire supermarket hadn’t yet figured out that we were on drugs. We were all really feeling out of place, very anxious, very much threatened by the notion that someone would somehow know that we were on shrooms, and bad things would happen.
Then there was a moment it all changed for me.
I was standing in the aisle, sort of lazily watching a market employee stock some shelves. He turned to look at me, and I had what I can only describe as a perceptual shift. I imagined myself as this man, perceiving my shroom-self. What did he think? “There’s a young man with his friends. They’re giggling, so they must be having a good time. Fuck, I hate stocking shelves.”
That was the profound realization: NOBODY GIVES A SHIT. Nobody cares. I could’ve gotten on the mic and said “we have some shroomers in aisle twelves, I repeat, shroomers on aisle twelve.” And aside from some momentary curiosity, nobody would do anything.
This was literally liberating for me. I was able to conceive of others as having their own issues that, by and large, did NOT include me. It was my new sense of empathy, shroom-imparted, that allowed me to make this connection. And at that moment I decided, “they don’t give a shit, so why should I? I’m just going to enjoy myself.” My anxiety immediately disappeared, leaving only the empathy and my thoughts. I was filled with a profound desire to make meaningful connections with other people. I can only describe it as love.
After the supermarket, we drove up into the hills to a path we knew and took a short hike to a lookout point. This was a perfect choice of activity for us. The view was spectacular. I could see the entire city, and the bay beyond that. I had some mild visual hallucinations as I watched the patterns in the waves and in the grass.
The point was extremely introspective for me. I was found myself wrestling with a host of identity-related issues. Who am I? What is really important in life? I can only describe it as this: I examined the things that I think, my beliefs and values, and broke everything down to its most basic level. I’d take a topic, and, like a child, just keep asking why until there’s nothing left.
Here are a few of the most profound pieces of insight I received from shrooms:
1. We as people assign importance to things. Sounds basic, but it’s easy to forget. I found myself asking why I thought a lot of things were important, and the only answer was that, at some point, I decided they were.
2. I was really super-talkative up to a point, and then I applied my new empathy to my friends. They were all on even higher doses of shrooms, saying nothing, enjoying their mental states. I asked my friends, “What could I possibly say to you when five amazing thoughts happen in the span of a sentence? What could I possibly convey that would be of any meaning? My words cannot hope to compete with the things in your head.” They agreed.
3. This realization followed from the last. I was trying to convey what was going on in my mind to my friends, and found myself at a loss, despite being a very verbal person. I realized that “words are just approximations of ideas, emotions, and activities.”
4. Americans are really closed off towards each other. We have a solitary culture, we really do. I asked myself, when was the last time I met someone new and talked to them pleasantly for 10 minutes? I couldn’t answer it. What do Americans do in an elevator? Shut up, face forward, no talking. It’s like mutually-agreed-upon misery. I think that our elevator behavior is representative of our entire outlook when it comes to people.
5. Human life is truly special. I was thinking about evolution. Humans, or homo sapiens, are just one answer to the fundamental question of survival. Our answer is “increased brain size and manual dexterity.” It could have just as easily been “body size,” like the wildebeast, or “camouflage,” like the chameleon.
These are the sort of things one thinks about on shrooms.
I want to briefly elaborate on the empathy. For me this was the most profound effect. I found that I was very attuned to everyone around me. I was having a conversation with our sober chaperone, and he said something that I questioned. Even though I did not intend it that way, he interpreted my questioning as an attack on him. I could see it in his face, and his body language, I just knew. I stopped him. I said “hey man, I’m not questioning you. I’m just trying to understand your beliefs. Go ahead, talk, I want to listen.” I could see and feel him relax, and this made me happy. We had a great conversation.
As I was coming down from shrooms, my mental overactivity started to slow down, leaving the empathy and body high. This was one of the most rewarding parts. I had some of the best and most deep conversations during this period.
My shroom trip was overwhelmingly a positive one. I found a new love for my fellow man, and was just smacked silly with insight.
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