Unpacking Our Inner Traumas with Psychedelic Experiences
Thanks to Descarte, modern medicine has constructed an arbitrary barrier between the mind and the body. They say it’s all in your head, but is it really? We are not segmented beings, our bodies carry us through all the experiences in our lives — the pleasures and the traumas. Trauma leaves an imprint on the body! Can psychedelics help us access and integrate the mind and body?
Unpacking Our Inner Traumas with Psychedelic Experiences
Bruce Sanguin - 0:00:05
The impact of childhood trauma is precisely that no one let us be who we are, and so we lived into their expectations. In order to survive failures of love, we asked the question, who do you need me to be? "I'll be nice, I'll be good. I'll be quiet, I'll be loud. I'll be entertaining. I'll be charming. I'll be less, I'll be more. Just give me the signals and I'll just tune right into that because I can't survive without your love." In the process, we build a survival self or a trauma self or an ego or just our personality; but at some point, if we're lucky, we wake up to the truth that we haven't been living our own life.
Sherry Walling - 0:00:51
Thanks to Descartes, modern medicine has constructed an arbitrary barrier between the mind and the body. They say, "It's all in your head." But is it really? We are not segmented beings and our bodies carry us through all the experiences of our lives, the pleasures, and the traumas. Increasingly a body of research indicates the trauma leaves an imprint on the body that it is stored in our cells, often embedded so deep that we don't even realize it's there.
Sherry Walling - 0:01:15
In recent years, psychedelic-assisted therapies have shown tremendous promise to treat PTSD and other chronic conditions that are rooted in trauma. In today's episode, we are seeking to understand the power of psychedelics to heal our mind, body, and spirit. Welcome to MIND CURIOUS, a podcast for those looking to explore the potential of psychedelic compounds. In this show, we'll dive deep and test our understanding of what consciousness is while talking to experts in the field who are no strangers to tapping into the curiosities of the mind. I'm your host, Dr. Sherry Walling, let's dive in. I also want to add one common-sense reminder.
Sherry Walling - 0:01:58
This podcast does not constitute medical advice. The perspectives of the guests are theirs alone and they don't represent me, my opinions, or those of Mind Cure Health. If you are in need of treatment or mental health support, please consult a clinician or a physician. My first guest is Kelly Street, a yoga teacher and therapist in training. She's working with the Psychedelic Somatic Institute to practice a form of medication- assisted therapy that integrates body awareness and talk therapy. In my conversation with Kelly, you're going to hear some themes that come up repeatedly throughout this episode from the limitations of traditional therapy and yoga in healing our deepest traumas to the emergence of emotions that have been locked down in our bodies since childhood.
Sherry Walling - 0:02:39
I'm curious for you Kelly, how you have brought the body into a healing journey, what that has looked like for you?
Kelly Street - 0:03:02
Yeah, and journey is really the best word for it. Up to this point, I still feel like there are miles and miles ahead but I can look over my shoulder and I can see the miles that I've come and really it started for me with yoga and breathing and just being in my body. For years and years, I practiced yoga. I became a yoga teacher. I started working with my own body and movement and seeing how it felt and then the progress kind of plateaued and stopped and I was introduced to Internal Family Systems therapy, which has some body incorporation and there was still something a little bit missing for me. So, then when I found psychedelic therapy and working with ketamine and ketamine in a somatic way, it was just this whole new level, this whole new world opened up to healing and noticing that all of this tension that I'd held in my body and all of these blockages that I had and all of this pain that I would have in different areas, I started to understand why and I started to actually work with that pain.
Sherry Walling - 0:04:14
Let's go back to yoga please, because I want to talk about each piece of that journey, but what did yoga add to your life that maybe you were longing for? You talked about breath and sort of experiencing your body in a new way. How do we get so detached from our bodies that we need these wakeups? What was that like for you?
Kelly Street - 0:04:38
Yeah, I mean, I think for me, I know my body felt like a scary place for a long time to be and experiencing trauma and all of the things that happened to me over my life, all of those things just really-- it felt like a hard place to live. And so for me, yoga was not like other workout methods. It was something where I was able to come in and to slow down and to center-- really just to breathe into parts of my body that I hadn't visited before, that I didn't want to deal with. And one of the things that has become really, really meaningful for me is that for years and years in my yoga practice doing any sort of a backbend or a heart opening exercise would send me into an immediate panic attack. Just couldn't breathe, it was so scary to go there, and eventually, through all of this work that I've continued to do, I now can go into those poses and experience them without the panic.
Sherry Walling - 0:05:49
Without that deep discomfort around how vulnerable your body is, your throat, your heart center, the center of your body is in those positions. You know, I think sometimes about being a traveler, somebody who loves to go on trips, and you kind of walk into spaces sometimes and you just realize, "Wow, something happened here." So, like Normandy in France, I visited when I was maybe 20 and I think it was my first really visceral experience of like the extent of death and loss that happened in that very place many, many years earlier, and so the place has a memory, right? The place has a sense and you walk differently there. I'm so impacted by the fact that that's how our bodies are, right?
Sherry Walling - 0:06:37
Our bodies are just like map of our own history and there are all of these places tucked away in our bodies that hold a story that we may not be able to access and it has a feeling. So, for you, being in that back bent, heart open, and like throat and chest exposed position feels like it's some Normandy for you, some battle was fought there, some scary thing happened and your body holds the story.
Kelly Street - 0:07:07
Yeah, absolutely, that's a beautiful way to put it. I love that.
Sherry Walling - 0:07:11
And I think one of the challenges, of course, in therapy or in many of the healing journeys that are readily more traditionally accepted or more traditionally practiced as modern Western American people is that we don't have great access to those battlegrounds to how to get there, how to walk there gently, how to dwell there and maybe we don't know exactly what's happening with you in that yoga practice but by showing up and breathing and trying over and over and getting a little closer and a little closer, it broke loose. So what was the plateau for you? Or it sounds like you had all of this wonderful healing experience through yoga and you came to a place where you wanted to push further or grow more.
Kelly Street - 0:07:57
Yeah, I, like so many people, happened to come across an article written by a man who had an experience with psychedelic therapy and he talked about how he suddenly felt a lot of movement in his body and he sort of shook for the whole experience and it was just-- I read that article and I had this deep knowing that this was what I needed, that this was something that could help me, something that could bring me into feeling safe in my body again and so I figured that I would try it and I found ketamine therapy and specifically ketamine therapy that was focused on a somatic experience. So, it brought about a focus on the body and not just on the mind or not just sort of traveling away and that felt a little bit more like something that would lock in an experience for me.
Sherry Walling - 0:08:52
So, what's that felt like in your body to participate in ketamine-supported ketamine-assisted psychotherapy and have a very physical experience happening while you're sitting with a therapist and working through a story or a memory in your life?
Kelly Street - 0:09:08
First and foremost, it is a wild and it is weird and it is a little bit crazy and I think people come out of each session-- because I've been talking with other people who are doing this work and you come out of it and you go, "Well, that was weird." And because it's just the stories that are locked inside of our bodies, they sometimes come out and present themselves in ways that you wouldn't normally process something if you were just in a talk therapy situation, which I think is part of the magic of it, is that you're able to then not be embarrassed or to not hold back and to just complete the action your body needed to complete or to shake something out or scream. I had a really-- probably one of my most meaningful experiences, I just screamed and it was...
Sherry Walling - 00:10:09
Like no holding back, full body, full volume.
Kelly Street - 0:10:14
Yes, my entire body clenched from my fingers to my neck, to my toes, everything, and I screamed for the little girl inside of me that was terrified and needed to get that out and then it was done and I could let go of that.
Sherry Walling - 0:10:31
But it felt different in your body after releasing that, that little girl scream, did you? Was there a place that felt different? Do you carry yourself differently? What shifted around?
Kelly Street - 0:10:45
I felt a power that I had never felt before and a joy. I mean you wouldn't think that a terrifying scream would feel joyful. But I also had a part of me that was just rooting for that little girl to get that scream out and went, "Oh, finally." And so that was-- the other part of it was the relaxation and the security in knowing that I had done it. I had screamed when I needed to scream and I had taken care of myself in that moment.
Sherry Walling - 0:11:24
When Kelly first learned about psychedelic therapy,
Kelly Street - 0:11:26
she knew instantly that she needed to try it.
Sherry Walling - 0:11:30
Not so for Dr. Jeff Sawyer, founder and CEO of the Remedy Clinic in Minnesota. Jeff wanted to be a physician ever since his family doctor supported him through a bad case of the mumps. But when he completed his medical training, he discovered that primary care providers have to churn through patients 15 minutes at a time without giving them the attention that they deserved. Jeff wanted to do things differently, and his career steadily became more focused on a deeper level of healing. Today, as a psychiatrist, Jeff practices ketamine-assisted therapy, which you may recall Kelly describing as wild, weird, and a little bit crazy.
Sherry Walling - 0:12:06
This treatment uses small doses of the anesthetic drug ketamine to treat conditions like chronic depression, PTSD, and more. Jeff has had extensive training in primary care in mind-body medicine, but it wasn't until he began training to work with ketamine that he was converted by the profound impact of psychedelic-assisted therapy.
Jeff Sawyer - 0:12:30
I can use myself as a perfect example of how all of that training and not just training, right? So, it's not just training that I did professionally, it's all this personal work that I did in meditation, in yoga and mind-body medicine skills, and mindfulness meditation. For me, personally, that only took me so far, and you know, traditional psychotherapy, et cetera, et cetera. It's always been clear to me that even though I'm well trained in all these things and use these skills and know them and use them personally and use them with patients, that there were still a big disconnect between me and my body, and I saw that in patients time and again. Patients who would come in and they were yogis or yoginis. They were expert meditators. They were, you know, you name it.
Jeff Sawyer - 0:13:17
They did everything the right way, right? They had all the skills and yet still all these unresolved issues in terms of mood or pain or trauma or whatever it was. So, there was something missing clearly, and for me, so there was a search for me both personally in terms of how do I get that in the next level for me personally and have that also inform my ability to better help patients but also for patients, you know. Why is it that all this stuff that we have, the best stuff we have, isn't enough, right? And so when I stumbled upon all the research around assisted psychotherapy, particularly at the work that you and I trained in the PSI work, the Psychedelic Somatic Interactional Psychotherapy, it was like, "Wow!" I mean this really sounds like it's the access to go to the next level of really getting to these somatic pieces of trauma that are the fuel for ongoing depression and relational difficulties and what have you.
Jeff Sawyer - 0:14:16
So, you know, I read about it, I heard about it and I talked to Saj Razvi who developed this particular style of psychotherapy or school of psychotherapy. I had been actually looking for a type of somatically oriented therapy that would fit what I was both looking for personally but also as I wanted to bring more to providing ketamine treatment. That was what I wanted to do. I didn't want a traditional sitter model that just had people do ketamine and then integrate after the fact what they discovered about themselves. That seemed a little too fantasy-like and unbelievable but this work really, to me, seemed to bridge the gap of actually facilitating and again what I liked about it is that the work is not about the substance itself.
Jeff Sawyer - 0:15:04
It's not all about take a high dose of ketamine and have a meet God experience or high dose of psilocybin or whatever. It's really using the medication as a facilitator of the therapy. What I've seen and in all of reading through their work and experiencing it and reading some of their outcome data and then going through the training, is that it does seem to camp into a place that I've never been able to personally tap into before. You know, I've never, and again, I've seen this in patients. All of this work, meditation, yoga. I've never really manifested anything in my body from any of that.
Jeff Sawyer - 0:15:45
Can I get to a place of feeling grounded and having better self regulatory skills and less stress doing all those things? Absolutely. Has anything ever manifested through my body in that? No. And when I saw the PSI work initially and saw a video of the patient going through it, it was intense and very moving to see that and I actually cried at the end of it and then the first thoughts I had were, "That's really cute, but that won't happen to me." I mean it was like I didn't believe that a, that happened to that guy. I'm just kind of-- I'm a skeptic at heart and I looked in and said, "This guy is just very dramatic and that's never going to happen to me," and I was shocked when stuff started coming up in my body through this work.
Jeff Sawyer - 0:16:26
It was like, just incredible and you know, it's like one session built on the next and not like it was the be all and end all. Like it cured me in eight sessions, but it definitely felt like a foothold that I never had before in the beginning of the set for sure, which hopefully, the training and ongoing work will take me to.
Sherry Walling - 0:16:51
And one of these sort of difficult stories within both psychiatry from the medication perspective or psychotherapy from the mind perspective is that it's so hard to help people access their bodies, right? Again, meditation, yoga, we've got these tools, but there's this belief that I think most of us can sort of sign on to that our traumas and our pains are stored somewhere in our body, right? Bessel van der Kolk's work and others who have really articulated this beautifully. But man, how to get there? How to find that place in the body where that trauma is held whether it's in a shoulder or a knee or left toe, trying to figure out how to unlock those places, and I think that's what this ketamine-assisted psychotherapy model is really good at, helping to bring those pieces together.
Jeff Sawyer - 0:17:45
I mean, there are so many layers to this and there's the piece of where it's stored and releasing it, but there's also the recognition for me again personally as well as for patients that so much of this trauma influences behavior, relationships, reactivity that people just don't know where it's coming from. It's like, "Why do I keep reacting this way? Why do I keep choosing this type of relationship or person?" "I get it. I understand it." And again, I can talk about me personally or how patients perceive this. "I'm intelligent. I'm well trained, I've done a lot of therapy, how is this possible that this keeps playing itself out over and over again?" And it's that connection between what's stored somatically and how you're kind of stuck in that fight or flight response in perpetuity unless you can access that and process it through as well as again, I think the uniqueness of the PSI work is that it is not just about treating depression or trauma but there is the ability because it is a fully fledged psychotherapeutic model to work through attachment issues, relational issues, transference issues, you know all things that would be part of more typical standard psychotherapy but, unfortunately, again in this day and age, a lot of that is kind of lost but again, in a way, that's more effective and efficient.
Jeff Sawyer - 0:19:03
So, it's very enticing to me, again, personally, for the issues I've dealt with in my own family of origin and chaos and trauma as well as the hordes of patients that I've treated who have similar stuff that nothing we've offered them has really been able to tap into that.
Sherry Walling - 0:19:24
Do you have a different sense of your body after having done this work? Like a different relationship with your body?
Jeff Sawyer - 0:19:33
I can't say I've done enough of the work to really say, you know, that's been totally transformed. I think what's transformed is my sense that I can start to tap into that, let it go and be much more connected to and in my body, so to speak. And I think one of the most frustrating things I've had in my life-- I'm an athlete and you know, I've always been athletic. Played high school sports. I've always played competitive sports and been athletic and done athletic trainings and even when I couldn't play competitive sports, I would play pickup basketball until I was in my mid 50s.
Jeff Sawyer - 0:20:05
I couldn't give that up. But I saw myself as an athlete and someone who was in my body, right? Coordinated, skilled, all that. But there was this-- I always knew that there was this level of tension and I'm not even recognizing how tense I was always. You know, it's like I go in or I'd have some issue.
Jeff Sawyer - 0:20:21
I remember I had chronic migraines for years, although frankly, I haven't had those in the last probably 7-8 years because of other things I'm doing to help with that, but I went in to see a more integrative, holistic, oriented neurologist and he was checking out my head and neck muscles and shoulders and it's like I was one of those people where shoulders were up to your ears and he's saying, "Relax your shoulders." Like, "I am relaxed", and he did pull on my head and scalp and push down my shoulders and they get down. I said, "Oh." And this is after doing years of yoga and things. It's the water I swim in, right?
Jeff Sawyer - 0:20:54
Can't see it. And so you know, again, doing yoga and all these things and yet still this big disconnect, which I knew and I couldn't figure out how do I traverse that, right? But this access to actually knowing there is crazy stuff stored in my body. That's kind of scary to have it come out although again, if it's not coming out, where is it? It's in you, right?
Sherry Walling - 00:21:18
Scarier to have it come out or to hold it?
Jeff Sawyer - 0:21:17
Patients are always worried about that. I don't want to have that stuff come out. It's like, well, that's not just living in you, right? And it's having an impact in terms of mood and relationships and reactivity and all that. So, seeing something that can actually access that and let it go was like, "Wow", and that I could actually start to let go of some of this and tap into it was revealing, an eye-opening, and I think really exciting.
Sherry Walling - 0:21:42
Jeff had to experience psychedelic therapy himself to fully appreciate how it could change the lives of his patients and that seems to be a common thread in this space. Just ask Bruce Sanguin, a former pastor, turned psychedelic integration therapist. In his most recent book, Dismantled, Bruce describes how he reckoned with his deeply embedded physical childhood trauma on his own spiritual journey. So your book, Dismantled, I know you've written a few books but Dismantled is the one that I came across in which you tell some of your journey in how you've shifted vocationally and psychedelics played a central role in your healing journey. And I think one of the things that I so appreciate about the way that you wrote the book is just the intimacy and the intensity with which you talk about your own healing experience and the relational experience that you had with your therapist going through some of this process.
Bruce Sanguin - 0:22:37
You know there are two kinds of streams that I took. One was with ayahuasca and I had 50 or 60 experiences with ayahuasca. And there, the emphasis is quite a bit on self-sufficiency. So you're kind of left alone with everything and frankly, there were times when I needed more support and then I went into psychotherapy using-- with my therapist and mentor, Andrew Feldmar, who I'm incredibly grateful for, using a combination of MDMA and LSD. And there, I think, is where I experienced-- had the corrective experience of being with someone who was just with me with zero ambition for me. Zero expectations.
Sherry Walling - 0:23:29
Why was that so powerful for you?
Bruce Sanguin - 0:23:32
It was powerful because the impact of childhood trauma is precisely that no one let us be who we are and so we lived into their expectations. In order to survive failures of love, we asked the question, who do you need me to be? I'll be nice, I'll be good, I'll be quiet, I'll be loud, I'll be entertaining, I'll be charming, I'll be less, I'll be more, just give me the signals and I'll just tune right into that because I can't survive without your love. In the process, we build a survival self or a trauma self or an ego or just our personality but at some point, if we're lucky, we wake up to the truth that we haven't been living our own life. And like for me, it happened when I was 55.
Bruce Sanguin - 0:24:17
Thank Jesus. For all this time, I haven't been living my own life and it's very sobering and there's grief and it's like, what the hell have I been doing? What kind of hypnotic trance inducted me into this other life and then I saw how I structured my personality to be nice, to be good, to be pleasing, and to be smart. So, I saw how I was performing life rather than living it and the healing process involves trading in the performance of life or the performance of good for the practice of true.
Sherry Walling - 0:24:58
And why psychedelics? Why do you think it's so hard for us to get there purely in a relational way?
Bruce Sanguin - 0:25:04
Well, let's put-- I mean, you know, being a psych--
Sherry Walling - 0:25:07
It's possible, sure.
Bruce Sanguin - 0:25:11
You know that and it takes a lot of time but it takes a lot of time with psychedelics too. Like I'll just speak from my own experience, Sherry. I went to the jungles of Mexico to ostensibly be an integration therapist. So, I was going to show up and during the day, people would come to me and I would help them do their integration of the experience. But I found out about an hour before the ceremony that the shaman said, "No, you'll be drinking every night with us, and then during the day, you'll be also doing the integration work." Well, I got slammed. Night after night, after night, I was taken to the same place of profound sorrow that I've been living with unconsciously my whole life.
Bruce Sanguin - 0:25:49
And it took me back, the medicine took me back in all of her, it's intelligence. Because of the power of denial, I had to break through the part of me that was defended against feelingness and defended against believing that this could be possible. That there was so much lovelessness, so much lack of kindness, lack of tenderness, so much hurt enacted that I repressed this so deeply that there was no getting at it. It's especially difficult if you're successful. I've written books. I've been this minister for 30-- like people came to me, I was the guy.
Sherry Walling - 0:26:40
You were put together.
Bruce Sanguin - 0:26:42
I was put together, right? And ayahuasca's job was just to disassemble me. It was just taking me apart piece by piece until I was just dropped into this state of I was a 2-year old, crawling around in the jungle, uttering a mantra, "I'm a motherless child, I'm a motherless child." It was a terrible, terrible thing.
Sherry Walling - 0:27:03
I mean at what point did you want to pack up and go home and be like forget this?
Bruce Sanguin - 0:27:07
Every single day.
Sherry Walling - 0:27:10
Okay. What kept you there?
Bruce Sanguin - 0:27:11
Yeah, that's a really good question. I think it's because ultimately, I trusted that something was at work that was for me and this gets into the conversation about spirituality but there is some kind of intelligence that was working that was for me and not against me, and so I kept surrendering into it. But just a little back to finish your question, I think it's so difficult to get to these places of repressed feelings and memories because of the power of denial. We put in place a defense mechanism that was equal to the amount of heartbreak that we experienced and we told ourselves because it was true then, "I won't survive this if I feel it." So, we carry that memory of that belief, that core belief or conclusion we came to about realities, "I can't feel what's there and survive," with us into our psychotherapy, into our medicine work, and that's why it's so challenging.
Bruce Sanguin - 0:28:18
We put it in place to survive and the memory is that if we go back into this, we're going to be destroyed. It's not true, but we don't know it's not true.
Sherry Walling - 0:28:30
And it's so deeply interwoven into ourselves that you almost can't look at it as a separate thought?
Bruce Sanguin - 0:28:38
Yeah, exactly right. That's a really important point you make, Sherry, is that when I was in the jungle crawling around, it's not like there was a self watching me. I was identified with it. The feelings had me. I didn't have the feelings. There was just me as the feeling, and that's true as a child.
Bruce Sanguin - 0:28:57
You are your feelings. There's no separate I. So, to go back into it is like the fears that you're going to contract back into that place where you're of absolute abandonment.
Sherry Walling - 0:29:12
Yeah. How did you begin to be reconstructed, if I could use that term? I don't know if that's the right term.
Bruce Sanguin - 0:29:20
I think the pivotal moment was to begin with during an ayahuasca experience where I was in agony again. This seems to be my story. The agony is the resistance to do it, right? So, I was agonizing myself. The shaman worked it on me. He came up and he's doing the shipibo chants.
Bruce Sanguin - 0:29:36
I went back to my mat and then there was this breakthrough and what happened is I fell in love with myself. Like I saw how truly beautiful I am. I mean, I don't mean to be narcissistic. Everyone in that room is beautiful. Like we come into this world with sort of an original beauty and radiance that if it's not seen, it's heartbreaking and unfortunately, very few people it seems are capable of actually seeing the radiance and amplifying it.
Bruce Sanguin - 0:30:12
Instead, if they've been traumatized themselves, they dim the wattage.
Sherry Walling - 0:30:22
Bruce Sanguin - 0:30:24
They protect themselves. The anxiety is like, "If I let this radiance out, it's too much for me. It's going to remind me of my own trauma and what happened to me when I was a child, so it's better yet to just level the playing field, keep the wattage down," and in that process, we break our children's hearts. And so I was lying on the mat and I just got that and it was the first time in my life like I remember saying to myself, "Oh, this is what they mean by self-compassion." I didn't like-- I sort of got the concept and I say, "I get self-compassion, it's like..." but here it was, I was loving my shoulder where I was injured, I was loving my knees. I was speaking to my heart and giving thanks and my lungs and my bowels and the cells of my body and I was just so grateful for despite how I had treated them how they just kept going and so it was a real pivot for me that I've never fallen back into self-loathing.
Sherry Walling - 0:31:36
It's so striking to me the way you describe that as such an embodied process. I mean on one hand, you're talking about a way of feeling about yourself but it's so specific to shoulder, toes, cells, and it's such an embodied love as opposed to the spiritual or the psychological, right? It really lands in your body.
Bruce Sanguin - 0:32:01
Yeah, thanks for picking that up because it's like I shifted from sort of being a separate self to being in relationship with every part of me. So, it was a relational shift where I broke out of isolation into relationship with my hands and to my toes that I had broken playing volleyball and to my left knee that was destroyed from basketball. So, yeah, it was very much a survey of my entire body and bringing tenderness.
Sherry Walling - 0:32:41
Bruce beautifully articulated a really unique experience about medicine involved healing processes. Psychedelics heal us on a physical cellular level in a different way than relationship oriented psychotherapy does. There's something else that stood out to me in Bruce's story. Before he reached that full relationship with every part of his body, Bruce described his shift away from the separate self. This language reminds me of dissociation, which is a common part of trauma. But returning to my original conversation with Jeff, it turns out that dissociation actually plays an important role in the ketamine infusion therapy.
Sherry Walling - 0:33:16
One of the things that I find so interesting about the possibility for psychedelics is to begin to access dissociation or begin to help people come back from dissociation, which you know is one of those terms that in the psychotherapy world, at least in the places where I've trained, that's, you know, sort of regarded as this big red flag like, "Oh, if someone's got a lot of dissociation going on, really be careful. They probably can't do a lot of intense trauma work, or, you know, "handle them with kid gloves, because you might lose them in some way." And I think this way of thinking about dissociation on the continuum of fight or flight of a trauma-related anxiety edge states.
Jeff Sawyer - 0:34:10
That's what really hooked me about the PSI work because I heard a podcast that Saj Razvi had done back in November of 2019, and he was being interviewed by a psychiatrist in Colorado and they were talking about chronic dissociation. I'm like, "Okay, interesting", but when they talked about these people with chronic depression and equated that with this chronic low-grade association and the psychiatrist was listening as Saj speak and said something in the effect of, "Oh, you mean like The Walking Dead?" And it just did hit me between the eyes that, "Hey!
Jeff Sawyer - 0:34:48
You know, some of the chronic low-grade depression I've dealt with all my life is not depression, it's that," and that all of these patients that we're treating for you know this treatment-resistant depression, which is this lifelong low-grade depression, it's low-grade dissociation and that just was like a lightning bolt. Like, "Oh my God!" How we've been misidentifying, mislabeling, and mistreating this both again for patients and for me myself. So that was really eye-opening that there's a new way to access them. You know dissociation is kind of a bad word in mental health, like it's something to avoid, right? And it's ironic because on the one hand, we see it that way from what we've learned in our training that dissociation is a bad thing.
Jeff Sawyer - 0:35:31
On the other hand, we're now using dissociation as a therapeutic tool and it's a paradox like, "Wait a minute, you want to avoid it, it's a bad thing like dissociative identity disorder and all that, and yet we're invoking it in the treatments that were using." But like anything else, you harness it and use it the right way and it's useful. Even with ketamine, when we started to use ketamine for infusions for severe depression, dissociation was kind of a thing that we wanted to avoid. So, if the dose got too high and people got dissociated, we saw that as a side effect, we backed off. We treated it with other medications because it was considered bad. But over these last 12 years, what we found is that dissociation with ketamine is actually the sweet spot and actually the therapeutic piece of it and so we now try and titrate infusions if we're doing IV infusions to having people dissociate for at least 15 minutes of the 40-minute infusion because that seems to be the therapeutic piece.
Jeff Sawyer - 0:36:27
So, it's a reframing of what dissociation is and whether it's bad or whether it's actually valuable, and how to harness it. Again, I think that psychedelics bring us to a completely different lens for how to view the world of mental health or wellness than we've had before.
Sherry Walling - 0:36:47
So, we've talked about how psychedelics influenced the mind and the body, but what about the spirit? For Bruce, faith has always been an important part of his life. Before he became a psychotherapist, he worked as a pastor, but during his experience with ayahuasca, he gained a new perspective about his religious belief. How does the pastor part of you, the clergyman, play in these spaces? I know that's not your vocation anymore, but I'm curious how you sort of weave together this formal training as a psychotherapist, the psychedelic world, your past spiritual, and current spiritual understandings?
Bruce Sanguin - 0:37:28
Yeah. Well, it's interesting, like post psychedelic healing journey, and I'm still in it, but one of the things I often realize is that I wish I had known this while I was in the church because what happens is that because the teachings of Jesus and the teachings about Jesus are so ingrained in me, during the ceremonies, what would happen was like, for example, the cross would come up as an image and all of a sudden I'd do a whole riff on it in the psychedelic space, and the meaning changed and I meant like literally "Jesus."
Sherry Walling - 0:38:05
Having a different conversation with Jesus.
Bruce Sanguin - 0:38:08
Different conversation with Jesus where I realized-- well, here's one example of like a riff. It's like the cross of Jesus. You know, Jesus died for our sins and you know all that and what I got, whether it's true or not, I don't know, but what I got was that Jesus wasn't dying, and the reason I got this is that I was in a kind of bliss state in a room with 25 other ayahuasca people that who were journeying and they were puking and they were screaming and they were like they were all-- and I realize these are all warriors and they're participating in the redemption of the violence in their ancestral lineage. And so they're basically saying it stops here. I will do this work not just for myself but for my ancestors, and for any future ancestors, it ends with me. So, I really got-- it's a profound act of social justice.
Bruce Sanguin - 0:39:01
It's not navel-gazing. It's not even primarily about the person who's undergoing the experience. So, then I said, "Well, this is maybe what Jesus was doing on the cross. He wasn't dying for everybody's sins. He was suffering that which was his to suffer to end the ancestral violence of his lineage." And if the gospel story is anything, it's not about believing anything.
Bruce Sanguin, - 0:39:27
It's a story of initiation into a path.
Bruce Sanguin - 0:39:30
So we have to undergo what Jesus underwent if we're true followers, and that means going to the cross, which means participating in the redemption of the violence in our ancestral lineage.
Sherry Walling - 0:39:51
The ancestral violence Bruce talked about is sometimes also referred to as intergenerational transmission of trauma. Trauma lives on in our somatic memory waiting to be unleashed on our loved ones who will carry it in their bodies. But with the introduction of psychedelics to the Western medical world, we have a real shot at going deeper in our healing and breaking that cycle of intergenerational transmission. I want to thank my guests, Kelly Street, Jeff Sawyer, and Bruce Sanguin for appearing on the show today. We'll have links to get in touch with them in the show notes, and if you're interested in further research on this topic, I recommend looking into the work of Bessel van der Kolk and Saj Razvi. Mind Cure Health is working to expand the resources available to those who wish to pursue healing in this way.
Sherry Walling - 0:40:36
If you haven't done so, check out our newly relaunched website, mindcure.com.