Upgrading Your “Game Interface” for Life

Could a psychedelic ego death bring you back to life?
Tripping on mushrooms can make you feel at one with everything. Could that help heal mental illness?

For the first time, she saw her true self — and came to terms with her mortality. “This is who I am. This is how I was born. This is my skin, my fingers, my hands,” says Turner, a 24-yearold in New Jersey who works in patient services and freelances for media outlets. “At some point, this shuts down, but that doesn’t mean that I’m no longer me. I am a spirit. This (body) is a shell, but my spirit is in this shell.” The experience left Turner feeling a sense of unity with everything, which she attributes to what’s known as “ego death.”

A damaged sense of self could also lie at the root of addiction, he adds, in which people might see the self as a failure that just can’t seem to quit. Meanwhile, those with anxiety disorders might deem the self ill equipped to handle certain situations. In generalized anxiety disorder, there’s a fear that harm to the self could lurk around every corner. “It’s all about that interface between me and the rest of the world,” Johnson says.

Because ego death can allow people to “reset” their sense of self in this way, it makes intuitive sense to Johnson that it could be a central facet of the mystical experience thought to underlie the therapeutic potential of psychedelics. Ego death can help you realize you’re more than how you normally define yourself, that you can see your problems from a different perspective, and that you have control over your sense of self, he says — and that’s powerful.

Although your odds of a mystical experience — and the ego death that can come up with it — increases with higher doses of psychedelics, Johnson says it can totally happen without psychedelics, or any drugs at all. He tells me you can experience it through fasting, prayer, meditation, near-death experiences, or simply out of the blue.

As for Turner, she’s still awash in the afterglow of her trip. Now, she can see all the ways in which her ego held her back — emotionally, mentally, and even physically. “I finally feel like I’m living in my spirit, and not in a shell,” she tells me.

Your soul and body are similar to what a player experiences playing a character in a video game. So your soul as the player is seeing what your body as the character is perceiving based upon how it perceives its world and itself, just like a video game interface that gives you information to make choices during gameplay.

The key thing everyone needs to realize is that the “level” you are at in this “game” of life actually defines how you perceive your world and yourself. Thus as you “level up”, your perception of your world and yourself actually changes, thus making it feel like a whole new game. In this way, life as a game is actually like a metagame with a different game at each level to meet your changing needs.

Unfortunately for some of us, who haven’t gotten the “expansion pack” with the newer “levels” yet, they can’t see and comprehend the newer “phased” content yet, so life will probably seem pretty confusing to them right now until they to level up and things start to make sense.

And interestingly enough, one way of levelling up oneself is by psychologically “slaying oneself” as Joseph Campbell talks about in the Hero’s Journey (ie Luke Skywalker slaying Darth Vader but seeing his own face behind Vader’s mask).

As I noted before, this is effectively going through a grieving process for your old sense of self (ie denial, anger, etc) and eventually accepting the death of a self they no longer works as a constructed idea in our present reality. By doing so, you open yourself up to a larger sense of Self which is more in tune and aligned with your soul, thus leading you to begin a quest by questioning your life as a whole.

A simpler way I’ve described this before is as social innovation on a personal scale. “The social innovation achieved by applying creativity to oneself is being oneself. It is a stripping away to reveal and discover the wonder and potential of something already there at the vulnerable core of oneself.”

That vulnerable core is effectively the authentic and real you. You as a soul. The player within us all. The player who isn’t afraid to truly “play” at a level we’ve never imagined before.

By Nollind Whachell

Questing to translate Joseph Campbell's Hero’s Journey into The Player’s Handbook for The Adventure of Your Life, thus making vertical (leadership) development an accessible, epic framework for everyone.

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