Aren’t back-handed compliments wonderful?
The other day Elaine said to me, “You haven’t got any middle age spread at all, you should be ashamed of yourself”
Well, having established that by “middle age spread” she didn’t mean fish paste or something, I decided to consider it complimentary none the less, until my brain caught up with the middle age part of the sentence and started banging on the wall to complain about the offensive language.
Really, none of us want to see ourselves as old, getting old, or even halfway-to-being-dead, which is essentially what “middle age” means after all.
But I don’t think this is necessarily a vanity issue, I think it’s more likely to be due to our constant internal monologue with ourselves.
And the reason for this is because the vast majority of these silent, trans-synaptic conversations we have in the privacy of our own heads aren’t held with the (in my case) 47 year old version of ourselves, but with version 1.0, that 15-20 year old who we were when our hopes and fears, our obsessions and prejudices moulded our personality into who we are today.
Just think about it, every time you have a rant to yourself about the idiotic behaviour of other drivers, every tantrum that fumes inside your cranium, every ridiculous little story you make up to amuse yourself when you’re bored at work, all these exchanges take place in the unmistakable tones of righteous teenage rage, or the sort of childish terms you wouldn’t dream of using in the company of your mates.
I reckon the most likely explanation for this is that our brains are coming to the end of the sequence of developmental changes that are usually complete by the time we reach our early twenties, (until recently it was thought that this process had finished by our mid-teens) and that period of personality development is like the default setting for our inner selves.
That’s my theory anyway.
This leads me to wonder if this is also the reason that most people who indulge in the recreational use of certain naturally occurring (yet largely illegal) substances, generally tend to do so earlier in life rather than later.
After all, the more progressive scientific thinking is that psychoactive experiences can give access to hitherto unexplored areas of conciseness, and at what better time to plumb those depths of the psyche than when we are still developing that inner voice, and when we still listen to what it tells us.
Because, cliché or not, you dorealise some truly amazing things whilst under the influence of certain hallucinogens, and although they may seem trivial in the cold, squinty light of morning, they stay with you in one form or another, stored away in the apocalyptically untidy teenage bedroom of your subconscious.
It has been long accepted that we have areas of our grey matter that remain a mystery to us, (although the much-quoted statistic about only using a third of our brain is nonsense) but it will be abundantly clear to anyone who has ever partaken of “Magic” mushrooms that there is certainly a portion of it reserved for doing things that it just can’t do the rest of the time.
And now there is plenty of evidence to suggest that these mystical fungi (or rather their psychoactive ingredient, psilocybin) may also hold the key to treating many medical and psychological conditions.
There have of course been studies carried out before on the use of hallucinogenic drugs to treat mental disorders, most notably the infamous Oakridge psychiatric facility’s program of “experimental” treatments on drug addicts, in which men were given huge doses of LSD and then stripped naked and locked up together for prolonged periods. (Oakridge is currently being sued for inhuman treatment of patients under their care)
Things have moved on somewhat however, and a recent series of tests at Johns Hopkins University involved 18 healthy volunteers with an average age of 46 being given varying doses of psilocybin whilst in comfortable, controlled surroundings.
They were accompanied by trained staff who acted as “monitors” and were asked to lie in a comfy position, listen to classical music on headphones, and let their minds drift naturally.
In the study (published in Journal of psychopharmacology) they found that, over a year after the tests, 94% of participants still considered it to be in their top five “meaningful experiences”, while 39% claimed it was still their all time number one.
What’s more, families and friends reported a marked increase in empathy, cheerfulness, and ability to relax in daily life, amongst all the volunteers.
Doctors are hoping to utilize these properties of the drug to help alleviate anxiety in patients suffering from terminal illnesses, and to treat conditions ranging from depression and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) to drug addiction and psychosis.
Not the first time a dying patient has had the benefit of “going out on a high” so to speak, Aldous Huxley famously penned a last request, (he was unable to speak in his final days) that his wife administer a gigantic shot of LSD on his deathbed.
She wrote about it in her book This Timeless Moment and you can download a free pdf copy of it here.
Unfortunately, hopes for the introduction of such therapies in the UK have taken a turn for the worse recently as a court ruling has declared that the use of banned (natural, freely available) recreational drugs are not permitted in clinical trials or the resulting medication that may be developed from them.
A campaign to have this decision re-evaluated is being lead by perennial thorn in the sides of successive government anti-drug lobbies, Professor David Nutt.
Meanwhile, should you still hunger for more knowledge (or can you only thirst for knowledge?) here’s another view on the medical properties of shrooms, from someone who’s obviously a a Fun Guy to be with!
Oh come on, you didn’t think I’d be able to resist that one do you?
***BLAH BLAH BLAH…. NOT BIG, NOT CLEVER… BLAH BLAH BLAH….. DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME….. BLAH BLAH…. JUST SAY NO… BLAH BLAH***
[There, that should cover it]