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How Ecstasy Can Take You on the Healing Path ... Even for a Former Nun

Ralph Metzner re-examines uses and potentials of MDMA "Through the Gateway of the Heart."

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She wrote:

“There seemed to be some quality of the Adam that broke down the repressive/defensive network and took me back into the experience of the attack that was too much for my psyche to bear. Over a period of eight to twelve months I was able to re-experience fragments of the attack, thereby recreating and de-sensitizing me to the experience.”

The other account, by a school teacher, is titled “To Speak of What Was too Painful to Remember,” and she writes about realizing that a rape that had occurred eight years ago, had been,

“... hidden in the back of my mind… and all the little details that I had wanted to ignore were eating at me like a cancer…The suffering became more intense, but I still wanted to talk about it and I felt that I could deal with the pain, that this was a start to try to defeat this cancer.”

The potential value of using MDMA in the treatment of PTSD can hardly be overestimated, considering that there are some 350,000 veterans from US wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, who are suffering from this and who only receive palliative support, if any,  from the usual prescriptions of SSRIs offered by the over-burdened Veterans health care system.

One of the people I (RM) worked with in MDMA-supported psychotherapy in the early 1980s was a Vietnam War veteran, who was able to release an enormous amount of war-related trauma in one intensive session, and subsequently turned his life completely around, becoming a dedicated peace activist and co-founder of the group Veterans for Peace, giving talks with fellow veterans on the realities of war to groups of high-school students (Ed Ellis & Ralph Metzner, From Traumatized Vet to Peacemaker Activist . MAPS Bulletin, Vol XXI, No. 1, 2011).

MDMA, Intimacy and Sexuality

Torsten Passie, MD, a research psychiatrist at the University of Hanover medical school in Germany, has done studies on the neurohormones released in the MDMA state and how this relates to the subjective effects. He states, on the basis of his studies, that MDMA deactivates the amygdala (the seat of fear-rage emotional reactivity) and reciprocally activates prefrontal brain circuits (which underlie calm thinking). This is the neurophysiological counterpart to the empathic understanding of self and others, reported by the patients. There is also a massive release of serotonin, the neurotransmitter associated with a non-depressive, non-fearful attitude. Passie’s research is described in a monograph published in 2012 by the Multi-disciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies (MAPS): Healing with Entactogens: Therapist and Patient Perspectives on MDMA-Assisted Group Psychotherapy by Torsten Passie, M.D.

To my mind the most provocative of his findings is that MDMA results in a massive release of prolactin, the hormone associated with breast-feeding, as well as oxytocin, sometimes called the “cuddle hormone.” Both of these hormones are released during non-sexual post-orgasmic intimacy. As Dr. Passie points out, this release of non-sexual intimacy hormones correlates perfectly with the often-remarked subjective experience of MDMA-users— that they feel intimate with others, wanting to touch and be physically close, but not sexually aroused.

The experience of sensory and sensual intimacy without sexual activity or even desire is expressed in this book in the account titled “Desire Transcended by Being Fulfilled.” In this account the subject, a 48-year old male, reported an experiment of having a massage  at the Esalen retreat center, on two occasions – once without MDMA and once with. The man reported that the second massage

“seemed longer and slower, and my body responses much deeper and more total. I felt blissful. I recalled my wanting and desiring the masseuse, from the first session, and realized I did not have that craving or desire now; instead I felt as if  we were making love! The desire was transcended by being fulfilled, virtually (p.125)."