One of the most profound and intriguing effects of psychedelics is the experience of ego dissolution. As someone who has journeyed through psychedelic states many times, I [Floris] am still humbled by the way these substances can temporarily dissolve our sense of having an individual self or identity.
Ego dissolution involves a compromised sense of self or “ego.” The boundaries between you and your surroundings seem to blur, and you no longer feel yourself to have the same discrete, separated identity. Your thoughts, emotions, and perceptions feel less tethered to any persistent concept of “I.”
This feeling of unity with people, objects, and the world around you is also known as oceanic boundlessness. Your normal sense of having an ego or being a separate self seems to vanish, replaced by a flowing state of oneness. This dissolution of the ego is considered a key characteristic of the psychedelic experience.
Here, I’ll recount my own adventures traversing these mystical ego-free states. While the experience can sometimes be unsettling, it also instils lasting changes in self-awareness and worldview. Journey with me through the inner terrain of ego dissolution.
My Experience of Ego Dissolution
My first vivid recalling of ego dissolution happened during an LSD trip in my early 20s. As the substance took hold, the first sign was a heightened awareness of senses – colours grew more vibrant, and sounds more resonant. Soon, the boundaries between myself and my surroundings began to blur.
Looking at a painting on the wall, I didn’t just observe the artwork – I felt immersed and absorbed into its swirling colours. My sense of having a subjective, detached vantage point dissolved away. The painting and I felt intimately connected.
Over the next hour, these feelings intensified. The delineation between external objects and inner thoughts faded as I gazed around the room. I did not feel myself to be a localized awareness residing behind my eyes or even inside my physical body.
Everything arose within a boundless consciousness that I realized myself to be identical with. My sense of individual identity evaporated like a drop merging into the ocean.
With this dissolution came an immense sense of unity – I felt profoundly connected to my friends, to nature, even inanimate objects. My emotions, too, felt decentralized – joy, sadness, curiosity seemed to arise everywhere at once, not localized to any “me.”
At times, it felt as though my ego had been utterly annihilated. There was no separateness anywhere – everything was a shimmering mosaic of energy and consciousness. The very notion of what it means to be a self or entity felt slippery and amorphous.
I found myself unable to describe this state in words. How could I cling to any one transient thought when my notion of being an individual thinker had disappeared? Yet I felt aware – silently observing the unfolding display of phenomenon arising in consciousness itself.
As the experience deepened, there were moments I felt untethered and groundless. My ego boundaries dissolved, so I lacked a familiar sense of structure and stability.
But I tried to meet this dissolving of self with openness rather than attachment. Each time I resisted the feeling or grasped for the security of “me,” distress arose. Yet surrendering to the process brought back calm.
There were flashes of mystical awe – transcending the self felt liberating, expansive. Without the constraints of my individual identity, anything seemed possible. I felt profound compassion towards others, less judged by artificial divides.
But maintaining this perspective proved impossible. As the drug wore off, the boundaries of self slowly re-emerged. I began to feel like a localized awareness again, inhabiting my body.
My sense of having unique thoughts, emotions, and preferences returned. The unitive state could not be sustained indefinitely once the ego re-cohered. Yet I emerged renewed, with a freshly humbled perspective.
The Aftereffects of Ego Dissolution
In the days and weeks after ego dissolution, I noticed subtle but meaningful changes in my self-concept and worldview. Though my familiar sense of identity returned, my perspective had been expanded.
I no longer took my discrete individual self as an absolute. Having witnessed firsthand the fluidity of consciousness, I could better accept selfhood as a temporary construct.
This allowed greater empathy, and less clinging to personal agendas or beliefs. Seeing how consciousness manifests as all of us, I felt more responsible for our collective well-being.
My outlook became more cosmic yet simultaneously more grounded. The separation between self and world came to feel less definite. Actions aimed at benefiting others benefited oneself, and vice versa.
Of course, the ego eventually rebuilt its walls of division. But the lived insight of our shared consciousness remained to help dismantle those barriers again.
My identity no longer felt so rigidly defined. Behaviours and beliefs too tightly tethered to ego aggrandizement no longer made sense. I questioned anything not aimed at unity.
The experience showed me we are far greater than this fleeting individual self. Yet to fully embody this knowledge remains an eternal challenge.
While ego dissolution can be both enlightening and unsettling, having an experienced sitter or coach on hand provides grounded guidance. Their calming presence and perspective helps you safely navigate challenging moments when your familiar ego boundaries dissolve. Rather than resisting, you can surrender, knowing you have support to integrate these mystical insights afterwards.
With courage and intention, psychedelics offer glimpses of selfhood free from limitation. By communing with this boundless consciousness, we find healing and renewed perspective to bring back to the world. Keeping one foot grounded in everyday reality while exploring these transcendent states is key to benefiting from the journey.