I was trying to motivate myself to write about some new cheater fuckupedness. Maybe “It Happened to Me: I Was the Fat Mistress”? Where the author credits cheating for helping her accept her plus-size sexiness?
“Unlike all those times in the past where I would cringe and try to make myself smaller, the knowledge that I had a secret lover helped me to keep my head up and take on the cruelty aimed at me.”
Admittedly, that’s pretty dreadful. But if you did this blog, and saw my mail, you’d find yourself with a bad case of narcissism poisoning. I can only read so much dreck. The blog posts about how getting pregnant with another man’s child while married brought her closer to God. Or how exquisite and fulfilling it is to have an affair (but of course she’s terribly sorry for any bad feelings out there).
I mean, GAH. How much more can the Universal Bullshit Translator take?
So it was a nice corrective yesterday to read this terrific article in the New Yorker by Michael Pollan, (I’m a big fan of both the New Yorker and Michael Pollan), “The Trip Treatment.” It’s an absolutely fascinating account of how researchers are taking another look at psychedelic drugs and doing clinical trials with cancer patients in end-of-life care.
People given the psychedelics report, with quite a startling bit of consistency, mystical experiences of feeling closer to a collective conscious. While awake and vividly aware, they describe a dissolving of the self.
Now, it sounds trippy and hippy dippy to say things like “God is love” and “We are all one” after a magic mushroom trip, yet that’s what people in these trials are reporting. These experiences have alleviated their existential dread and made them feel happier and more at peace.
And it’s a one-time thing too. Unlike opiates or what have you, it’s not a numbing or a high. Instead, the experience of a mystical loss of self seems to reset something and folks are changed for it.
In the article, Pollan explores the brain science behind the psychedelics. Researchers have found with MRI scans that when someone is having a mystical experience (they’ve also tested this on meditating monks, as well as people on psychedelic drugs) the “default-mode network” of the brain slows down.
The default-mode network apparently is the conductor of our “selves.” Our ego.
The sovereign ego can become a despot. This is perhaps most evident in depression, when the self turns on itself and uncontrollable introspection gradually shades out reality. In “The Entropic Brain,” a paper published last year in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Carhart-Harris cites research indicating that this debilitating state, sometimes called “heavy self-consciousness,” may be the result of a “hyperactive” default-mode network. The lab recently received government funding to conduct a clinical study using psychedelics to treat depression.
Carhart-Harris believes that people suffering from other mental disorders characterized by excessively rigid patterns of thinking, such as addiction and obsessive-compulsive disorder, could benefit from psychedelics, which “disrupt stereotyped patterns of thought and behavior.” In his view, all these disorders are, in a sense, ailments of the ego. He also thinks that this disruption could promote more creative thinking. It may be that some brains could benefit from a little less order.
Oh Michael, you had me at “ailments of the ego.”
That was my A-ha moment. Because I have long suspected that narcissism is one of the greatest “ailments of the ego” out there, as is addiction.
Now, of course, I’m not a neuroscientist, I’m a chump. I’m just giving you my perspective as someone who reads hundreds of comments and letters a day about infidelity. It’s flippant to say cheaters are “sick in the head.” But in a sense, they are. I believe that narcissism is a sickness and a societal contagion.
What is consistent in the Stupid Shit Cheaters Say, or in the HuffPo narratives of “cheating made me a better person” is the supremacy of the ego, of one’s self, a complete and utter disconnect from others — their pain, their suffering from the egoist’s choices, their experiences.
I’ve also come to the conclusion that addiction is a form of narcissism as well. That’s my opinion. We all have pain, we all want the occasional escape from the burden of our responsibilities, but an addict puts their pain above everyone else’s and puts the burden on others. It’s okay to for ME to get high. Who will have to pay my rent or work my job or raise my children? Figure it out. Not me. Addicts whether they are drug, or alcohol, or sex addicts, choose relationships with THINGS over people. Opiates, booze, hookers. Bottles don’t have needs. Drugs don’t require my empathy. Hookers don’t ask me to pick the kids up from child care.
So isn’t it weird and enlightening to think that the closer path to God, or the Universe, or whatever you believe in, is the sublimation of the self? Of being OPEN? To others, to the world, to a great consciousness? That when you turn this Monster Ego off what you get instead is powerful feelings of empathy and love for all of mankind?
I don’t have any conclusions here, like feed cheaters magic mushrooms. (That’s all we need — sloppy, emotional Dead Head cheaters dancing to “Sugar Magnolia”…) I just think it’s interesting what happens when you flip off the “self” switch.