Dreaming and Psychedelic Consciousness

The comparison between dreaming and the states of consciousness we may enter if we consume psychedelic substances (such as LSD, psilocybin, or DMT) has been made for many, many years. Recently, two papers have been published detailing the similarities between the two. This is a very basic summary of both papers.

In Kraehenmann’s (2017) paper, 4 main similarities between dreaming and psychedelic consciousness are drawn. Both often have:

  1. vivid hallucinatory content, often including visual content;
  2. strong emotions;
  3. a decrease in logical modes of thinking, and an increase in associative, creative types of thinking; and
  4. changes to the sense of self, such as depersonalisation.

The importance of these similarities for psychedelic being used in therapeutic contexts is also highlighted.


In my 2019 paper with psychedelics researchers Robin Carhart-Harris, Enzo Tagliazucchi, and Chris Timmerman, we noted some other similarities:

  • the return of suppressed emotional memories / thoughts (cf. “dream rebound”);
  • the potential for spiritual, impactful, awe-inspiring experiences;
  • the comparison with psychosis.

In addition, we noted that some new work in this field has led to some interesting new findings, especially in terms of DMT and its relationship with dreaming, the neurobiological similarities between dreaming and psychedelic consciousness, and narrative similarities in dream reports and reports of psychedelic experiences.

We also made the argument that these similarities are essential to understand, because both dreams and psychedelics have a long history of being thought to be important for processing emotional experiences and memories, and may be instrumental in recovering from emotional disorders like depression and anxiety.

You can read the paper in full here.


References

Kraehenmann, R. (2017). Dreams and psychedelics: Neurophenomenological comparison and therapeutic implications. Current Neuropharmacology, 15, 1032-1042.

Malinowski, J., Tagliazucchi, E., Timmerman, C., & Carhart-Harris, R. (2019).  To sleep, perchance to trip: Is dreaming a nightly psychedelic experience? In N. Wyrd (Ed.), Psychedelicacies: More Food for Thought from Breaking Convention, pp.156-174.

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