I did acid once a week for ten months; a summary of the journey is here, and analysis of permanent effects 3 years later is here.
This post is some attempts to describe the experience of tripping, and also specific instances while tripping.
I understand most people don’t have the same sort of reaction to LSD that I did, and though I use language like ‘we feel like’, I understand that not everyone actually does feel like.
On acid, thoughts work like a stitch in cloth.
If you look at a stitch from the top down, it looks like a straight, mostly unbroken line
The thread itself isn’t actually going in a straight line, but the visible portion looks tightly knit and functional.
Of course, the thread itself is going something like this:
I’ve never actually experienced the ‘looping’ phenomenon a lot of people experience, despite the above depiction. I mean it in the sense that a traditional ‘thought’ becomes fractured and interspersed with a lot of other processes at the same time. I’m not sure if those other processes are there always and acid just highlights them, or if acid straight-up puts them there.
But the lived experience is a constant forgetfulness and remembering; thoughts still seem to occur and complete themselves without my mind actually holding the beginning or the end of it.
I tripped a few months ago, needed to pee, and I wanted to think “I need to ask someone for help to go to the bathroom.” I experienced the formation of the thought over the period of about twenty minutes; the thought itself didn’t take up any more space than normal, it was just distributed over a longer period of time.
On acid, trying to remember what you were thinking about ranges from difficult to impossible. You cannot fight the course of the thread. Eventually you learn to give up and allow your mind to take you where it wants, because it will come back round eventually. This teaches you that the sensation of “trying to remember” is useless, and you learn to stop pursuing it.
This is my rationalization for why my memory is bad after taking so much acid. I tripped for so much so long that the muscle of memory atrophied. I feel like everything I need to know is still within me, but the command to access it is severely delayed.
I tripsat a man alone in my apartment on what turned out to be much stronger acid than we thought. He was twice my size, heavily muscled, and, as we found out, had a rather delusional reaction to acid. He hallucinated, had poor spacial awareness, and ran around, screaming and flailing his arms, breaking my furniture, and alerting my neighbors. I spent his peaking eight hours (the acid lasted way longer than normal) trying to sit on him, calm him, and being thrown like a ragdoll whenever he got excited. At one point he took my head between his hands, stared into my eyes, and said “I could snap your neck right now.”
He didn’t remember any of it afterwards but was of course super regretful.
Usually we process concepts with a near direct one-to-one correspondence to words. There is a concept, and there is a word that maps onto the concept. Normally the mapping is so tight that we sometimes end up feeling like the words are the concepts themselves. This is probably why rhetoric is so powerful.
On acid, this correspondence is reduced. Concepts occur wordlessly; they are experienced, like a tactile sensation in the brain. This is why thoughts on acid are so difficult to communicate – no matter how clear they are to ourselves, we lack the structure to communicate them, and the structure to recall them later. The the words for the concepts are reduced to seem a bit ’empty’. This makes communication feel much more like a game, or a dance – that you are toying with verbal sounds that aren’t bound to any one thing anymore – you can tie them to anything, and they become much more flexible.
When we normally imagine ‘inability to communicate,’ we imagine that we can speak the thoughts in our heads in some fashion, but that others don’t understand because of language barriers, or they have different contexts for our words, or they haven’t heard the long thought train that led up to it. Normally inability to communicate is something rooted in the poor understanding of the other person – but this is not the case on acid. On acid, the inability to root things in language occurs in your own mind, to yourself.
I feel like the processing I do now is much more similar to words-as-games rather than words-as-direct-mapping. This has its drawbacks: I believe it ties into my difficulty remembering things, as words are great for memory. It damages my ability to communicate with other people and I have trouble having an active handle on my train of thought – I get distracted more often, and I can’t hold as many multiple concrete details in my head at the same time.
On the positive side, I feel like my thinking is immensely more clear.
I was tripping on about 400ug. My friend Brian asked me to do some math, gradually increasing in difficulty. I could do any math that relied on one unit of memory – for example, 3×3 = 9. I didn’t manually calculate 3×3=9, it was already memorized.
I had difficulty doing math that relied on two units of memory – for example, 54+92. I knew 5+9, and I knew 4+2, but by the time I remembered one of them, I forgot the other.
I was incapable of doing any math that required three units of memory. 13×14 was impossible. I knew how I was supposed to do it, but the thought-loops prevented me from creating a unbroken line of thought. By the time I’d looped all the way back to my original train of thought, I’d forgotten the concrete detail I needed to remember.
Then my friend asked me to imagine a diamond, equal in length on all sides. He said – the top corner is blue, the left is green, the bottom is yellow, the right is purple. If you rotate the diamond one quarter counterclockwise, what color is on the top?
I had the answer faster than any of the other sober people listening. I’m not sure if I’m that good normally, but considering how hyped visual imagination is while tripping, I suspect the acid really helped. I’d be interested in further tests with visual problem solving and acid.
I’ve tripsat around 50ish people, and have noticed a trend where some men, generally quite polite while sober, will make uncharacteristic sexual advances to me while tripping. The advances mostly come in the form of silently caressing, holding, or groping me – pretty casually, as though we’re already sexually intimate. This puts me in an awkward position, because as their tripsitter, I feel responsible for facilitating a good experience, and rejecting someone on acid can be super unpleasant for them. I usually respond by pretending I have something to do somewhere else, or gently pulling away, if I can.
I know there’s a strong cultural taboo against unwanted sexual contact, but in this context I want to emphasize that I feel no judgement and I don’t mind. The contact wasn’t aggressive and I felt in control and free to leave. Plus they were on drugs.
I’m curious as to why this is a trend. I haven’t asked any of them about it yet. I don’t know what it’s all about. If any of you have experienced this I would like to know more.
I’ve found that, in general, tripping people tend to fall into one of two categories – either they construct beliefs, or they don’t. This seems to hold true across trips – people either belief-construct on all trips past a certain dose, or on none of them.
Belief construction is developing new and usually wrong beliefs while tripping – such as “that cat can hear my thoughts” or “I am communicating with an omnipotent being,” – which leave the person’s mind after the trip is over. I’d guess around 60% of people I’ve tripsat experienced this at least a little bit.
Normally when we ‘believe’ things, we have some sort of sensation that the thing we believe matches up with some sort of external reality. This is what we feel when we say things are ‘true,’ when we talk about ‘facts,’ or ‘insanity’. This sensation can permeate so deeply that we stop really registering that we feel it, like how a fish doesn’t feel water.
While tripping, this sensation is reduced or lost. Beliefs are still experienced, but without the feeling of matching up with ‘external reality.’ Once unbound by concerns about ‘truth’, beliefs start to feel like stories, and it becomes much easier for the mind to view beliefs purely for the benefits or comfort the stories provide. This can really highlight ways in which we lie to ourselves, because we lose the escape of ‘but it’s true’ to justify our self-deception. All we have left is “what are my incentives for believing this,” and the answers can be difficult. “You really believe this because you are desperate for love” or “because you like feeling superior” or “because you are afraid of being alone.”
All that’s left is “this is the way I have made it.”
An okcupid date
I don’t remember who proposed it, but I met him for the first time at my doorstep. Within ten minutes we both dropped acid and went to church. I sang all the songs joyfully, and at the post-sermon meet-and-greet I told everyone that I was god.
That was the reported dose, but in hindsight I think the tabs were stronger.
I spread out towels on my bed out of fear I might pee myself. I closed the door, turned off the music, ate the tabs, and laid down, alone and in silence.
The comeup came hard 20 minutes in. By 90 minutes time slowed so much that I could hear each individual rotation of the blades from the fan in the corner. I was writhing with overwhelming ecstasy, in my body and my mind.
By 120 minutes I could no longer see the room in front of me when I opened my eyes. I was no longer Aella; I had no experience of my identity, my beliefs, my expectations – I was an infinite series of conscious experiences, cruel and kind, suffering and prosperous. I was dreaming with my eyes open wide, with the knowledge that these weren’t new dreams, they were old ones, ones I’d had a thousand times before, and my presence here was a remembering, and in remembering was what existence was.
After a few hours I regained function enough to manage to hit play on a laptop I’d set up next to me. Time was so distorted that, while I recognized the music, I felt nothing from it; by the time one note had played, I’d forgotten the last one. It no longer functioned like music to me. This frightened me; I thought maybe I’d lost the ability to enjoy music, and the concern was enough to prompt me to skype call a friend and blabber nonsense to him until I finally regained my sense of self.
Fortunately I managed to get through the whole experience without peeing myself even once.