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|On Being Stoned, by Charles Tart|
On Being Stoned
Charles T. Tart, Ph. D.
Chapter 18. Identity
EACH OF US feels he is a unique person, an integrated whole, with long-and short-term values, likes, dislikes, and goals, and a unique set of memories, which constitute our personal history. Above and beyond these components, there is a certain sense of what we might call "I-ness," an immediate feeling quality added to experience that makes it my experience. Important changes can occur in this feeling of identity during marijuana intoxication.
Openness"I feel more childlike, more open to experience of all kinds, more filled with wonder and awe at the nature of things" is one of the most characteristic effects of marijuana intoxication (5%, 4%, 22%, 39%, 29%). Females experience it more frequently than males (p <.05). It begins to occur at Moderate to Strong levels (11%, 27%, 39%, 13%, 3%). This is in marked contrast to the infrequent effect "I feel isolated from things around me... " discussed in Chapter 12. Isolation occurs far less frequently (p <<.0005) and at higher levels (p <.0005) than openness, as shown in Figure 18-1.
Loss of SeparatenessTwo experiences represent an even greater dropping of the feeling of separation from others and the world.
"I have been so absorbed in looking at or contemplating an object or person that I felt as if I were that object or person; i.e., temporarily the split between it-and-me or they-and-me was transcended" is an infrequent effect (31%, 30%, 29%, 7%, 2%), which begins to occur, among those who could rate it, at Very Strong to Maximal levels (1%, 4%, 13%, 21%, 21%). The Meditators have experienced this more frequently (p < .01, overall). The young and the College-educated need to be more intoxicated to experience this merging (p <.05 in each case).
"I lose all sense of self of being a separate ego, and feel at one with the world" is a common effect (19%, 25%, 31%, 21%, 3%), again more so with the Meditators (p <.01). It begins to occur at Strong to Very Strong levels (1%, 8%, 23%, 20%, 17%).
An effect quite different from diminution of the ego sense and at-oneness with the world is the enhancement of the feeling of uniqueness, differentness. "I feel completely unique; there is no one like me; I feel as if I am much better than ordinary people when stoned" is an infrequent effect (25%, 25%, 29%, 10%, 7%). It generally begins to occur at the Strong levels (7%, 15%, 22%, 19%, 5%).
The relationships between these three phenomena are shown in Figure 18-2. Feeling at one with the world occurs more frequently than merging with the contemplated object or person (p < .01), but the latter phenomenon and feeling unique occur about equally. Merging and feeling at one with the world occur at about equally high levels of intoxication, and both are at significantly higher levels than feeling unique (p <.0005 and p <.001, respectively).
Alteration of IdentityA common experience is "I feel very powerful, capable, and intelligent when stoned" (16%, 11%, 49%, 16%, 7%), more so with Heavy Total users (p <.05, overall). This generally begins to occur at the Strong level of intoxication (7%, 18%, 35%, 16%, 3%), with Heavy Total users and Daily users experiencing this at lower levels (p <.01, p <.05, overall, respectively).
A much more dramatic change is represented by: "Some events become archetypal, part of the basic way Man has always done things. That is, instead of me (John Doe, ego) doing something, it is just Man Doing What Man Has Always Done. That is, my actions become part of the pattern that man has always been part of instead of me, a particular individual, carrying out a particular act at a particular moment in space/time." This is a common effect (23%, 19%, 38%, 16%, 3%), experienced more frequently by Users of Psychedelics (p <.05). It begins to occur at Strong and Very Strong levels (4%, 5%, 25%, 25%, 10%), with Males having to be more intoxicated than Females for this experience (p <.05).
This effect is highly valued by many users; they feel they can temporarily transcend the limitations of their ego, their hangups (neurotic problems), and their culture, and can participate in a more fundamental, natural way of existence. This effect is related to some of those discussed in Chapter 19 on Spiritual Experiences.
"My personality changes a lot temporarily while I'm stoned, so that in many important ways I am a different person for that time" is an infrequent effect (23%, 32%, 25%, 13%, 3%), which may begin to occur at the Strong to Very Strong levels (1%, 11%, 20%, 21%, 13%). The Occasional users experience it less frequently than the Weekly or Daily users (p <.05, overall). A related, infrequent effect, the feeling that the location of consciousness has moved within the body, has been presented in Chapter 11.
ADDITIONAL EFFECTS"I become very introspective, trying to see who I am, what I'm doing" (Usually, Fairly).
"I feel as though myself and one other person (usually my lover) form a sort of island around which all other action flows" (Usually, Fairly).
"I feel as though I and/or the group I am with are the only people in the world" (Very Often, Very Strongly).
"I feel 'more like myself,' the quintessence of me" (Sometimes, Strongly).
"My whole self seems to be standing inside my skull, leaning forward and looking out through the eye-holes" (Sometimes, Very Strongly).
"When stoned I get very introspective and see the 'real' me" (Very Often, Maximum).
LEVELS OF INTOXICATION FOR IDENTITYThe various effects on identity of marijuana intoxication are arranged by level in Figure 18-3. The overall ordering is highly significant (p << 0005).
Beginning in the Moderate to Strong range, the user becomes more childlike, open to experience, interested in all sorts of things that might ordinarily be regarded as unimportant. As he reaches the Strong level, the user often begins to feel more powerful, capable, intelligent, and may feel especially unique and special, a kind of ego enhancement. As he moves up toward the very high levels of intoxication, however, the sense of ego often fades, and the user often finds his experiences and actions less unique or individual and more archetypal, with a feeling of at-one-ness with the universe frequently replacing the ordinary sense of separation. Near Maximal levels this may sometimes include the feeling of merging with others.
MODULATING FACTORSThe relatively linear effects of various background variables are summarized in Table 18-1. As might be expected, Meditators have more frequent experiences of transcending the limitations of the individual ego.
SUMMARYMarijuana intoxication characteristically produces a childlike openness to experience and a sense of wonder and awe, in contrast to the usual businesslike manner in which we classify events and people strictly in terms of their importance to us. At moderate levels of intoxication this may also be accompanied by feelings of ego enhancement, of feeling powerful, capable, unique. At the high levels of intoxication, however, the sense of separateness, of being an individual ego, is often replaced by feelings of oneness with the world, of actions and experiences becoming archetypal, and occasionally, of merging with people or objects. These high level effects are greatly valued by users and are one of the important reasons why they consider marijuana intoxication a "higher" state of consciousness.