What is Freaking Out? An Examination...
Citation: loop4. "What is Freaking Out? An Examination...: An Experience with Cannabis (exp26083)". Erowid.org. Aug 13, 2003. erowid.org/exp/26083
I've noticed that sometimes people (including me) have a significantly different type of experience than just being stoned after smoking pot. It seems to occur either soon after use of a heavier psychedelic such as psilocybin or LSD or after abstaining from the habit for a while and then returning. It is unrelated to the amount smoked... it can happen from one or two hits.
I'll describe my own experiences first. The first time was about the sixth or seventh time I smoked pot... I had smoked a lot more than this previously and not had these effects, but this was the first time I'd smoked after a beautiful Mushroom experience that changed my life (in a very good way... I will never be sad again). I was on an ironic spring break vacation with some college friends in Daytona, a city of pure 'genious.' My friend C and I smoked from a water piece on the balcony. The weed was pretty low quality and tasted like shit. I started gagging from some water droplets that had come through the tube (it was a very cheap plastic affair, this piece). I triggered my gag reflex a little and felt like something came up in my throat, but it stayed down and i felt better. Neither of us felt like finishing the bowl, especially since our friends seemed kind of put off by us smoking pot. We went back in and C joined J and J in some sort of card game.
I was feeling a little disoriented and really disliked the game they were playing, feeling it was a waste of time. I also felt a little bit ousted for my new behaviour, i was still unsure of the validity of my justification for starting to do drugs (this problem disappeared after I realized the beneficial nature of my mushroom trip). Anyway, I was standing in the kitchen watching them play cards and swaying back and forth. Suddenly I realized I was swaying and decided to stop, but everything in the room continued to sway in a very nauseating way. I closed my eyes for a second and then opened them and it was like perspective had gone away and the third demension had disappeared. Everything was flattened like a cartoon, but extremely sharp the way things seem to people before they faint or when oxygen deprived... along the lines of an anxiety attack. Everything was 2-D, but i saw it clearly, so that there were no straight lines and everything was at horribly odd angles and the entire room was tilting. It was too much for me too take and I tried to shake it off but began to feel like I was going to vomit, so I walked to the toilet.
I realized I didn't really have to, but as I looked at the bowl I heard the sound of someone vomiting. I went back to the table and muttered 'did someone throw up,' knowing that no one did since they were still seated at the table with their cards. They looked at me and said I looked pale. I stood there a little longer. The bottoms of my jeans were folded under my heels and it felt as if my foot was giving away where they were pressing against it -- a feeling like my foot was melting around it, or it was cutting into me. Then I realized that C was functioning fine and playing cards, even though she had smoked the same as me and I panicked and thought something was wrong. I didn't want to admit it though, because I felt J and J would be justified in their disapproval. I was also extremely thirsty and my mouth tasted metallic. I remembered reading something about a metallic taste in the mouth associated with death and I panicked again. I got in bed and started to think that I was going to die. I felt I could feel my organs and see them failing. Then I remembered gagging outside and thought that something had gotten lodged in my windpipe and my brain was starving for oxygen (which makes no sense, I was still breathing fine).
My friends came over and said again that I looked pale. I didn't respond and just kept lying there hoping it would go away. After about ten or fifteen minutes it did and I felt normally stoned. I laughed off the previous experience, though I had really despaired at the thought of dying in Daytona, another idiot destroying himself for no good reason in the kingdom of fools. I thought I was better but realized we were all just as capable of destroying the fragile thing we have been given. Of course I was never in any real danger, it was all psychological, and I realized this as J and I left the room to explore the nether regions of the hotel. I had a great time exploring the various beer-can littered hallways and kept thinking I was on a boat.
Another freak out I had was, again, from a small amount of pot i smoked with my girlfriend in my car. After that we went and sat in the park. Everything was fine and i felt good and stoned since I had been smoking nearly every other day for months and had stopped for about a week beforehand. We were sitting at a picnic table in the dark and being quiet as we usually do when stoned (we both have hyperactive brains that turn introspective while stoned, though we analyze the hell out of it all afterwards). There was a tennis court in front of us and the fence leading away from our line of sight at a very small angle so that when a car came toward it, the lights illuminated it and made patterns of light and shadow on the chain links. When I looked at the pattern I immediately saw a Koala bear (though I said panda) chewing on eucalyptus. The image was repeated exactly on each section of the fence. I laughed and told M and she looked and said that she saw the same thing and corrected me, explaining that it was a Koala, not a Panda. Then the bugs were getting to her so we went back to my car.
Right before we left I looked at a large tree lit up by a park light and saw that the leaves were in the shape of a huge turtle facing downward with the head of an old man staring at me. It was a rather disturbing image and I looked away with a worried sort of laugh. Sitting in my car i felt that it was moving and then expanding and I had the same melting feeling in my limbs. There was no perspective flattening but there was some distortion of proportion. I began looking in the side mirror across from me and saw that it was a sort of screen that was playing images from my subconscious. I've read about this phenomenon occuring in schizophrenics... a sort of vision of uncontrollable thoughts being displayed faster than they can be comprehended.
I saw many things in the mirror, they were extremely clear and I could see how they were composed of the actual elements that were reflected in the mirror, yet the closer I looked the faster they became other images. They ran a gamut from trains with gaping, fanged mouths, to the faces of old men whose mouths moved at the same time as mine, which were unconsciously muttering everything I was seeing trying to ground myself with M. I had a strong desire to melt into her, feeling that would save me from this strange phenomenon, but the design of the car would not permit it. When I looked away from the mirror I was disconcerted and felt like I had sunk to the bottom of a hole that was very hard to climb out of. I looked forward and the pattern of light on the tree branch in front of my car became a huge wolf with its mouth open lunging at the car. I knew these were hallucinations so the subject of them didn't actually produce fear in me, but the fact that I was having them did.
I then looked at the branches farther ahead of the car and saw another forest growing up from one of the branches. This was bizarre and very persistent and I tried to see if M could see it, and she couldn't. I was worried because it was extremely realistic and wasn't going away. Finally some more friends showed up and we got out of the car. Once outside I pointed out the branch to everyone and we were all perplexed to see what looked like more trees growing vertically up out of this large branch. I wasn't crazy. I felt a lot better then and everything returned to normal (and stoned).
Now for analysis. I have talked to a lot of people and have heard many people talk about a flattening of perspective. They all describe it exactly the same as mine and I've even found other accounts on Erowid. It's happened to me several times, always the same way, always from pot. I have never been able to observe it for long, because it's very maddening and I feel violently compelled to keep my eyes closed till it stops, which is always fairly quickly. I find it interesting that in some accounts of freaking out on pot people describe things like gaining multiple dimensions or existing in multiple demensions simultaneously. This is the opposite of what I describe, I think. It seems like worthy phenomenon to pursue scientifically and philosophically. Another thing that I have found to be a widespread effect of freaking out is the visualization of internal organs. A friend of mine was very skeptical about drugs and when he smoked pot for the second time he had this happen. He felt very sick and crazy. When he told me about the organs I got excited and told him that the same thing had happened to me once. I have since heard others describe this.
I wonder if it is psychological or if it is actually an effect of Huxley's idea (not his originally, actually, can't remember the first name... but he popularized it) that the mind is a reducing valve and that while under the influence of psychedelics (a term coined in a letter addressed to him... it means 'showing the mind'), this valve is opened by various degrees to allow more information than is functionally useful during daily life to pass into the brain. I think that freaking out is what happens when one is in an extremely perceptive mood and is suddenly aware of very detailed streams of information usually not available to perception due to the opening of perceptual doors by drugs. The mind's purpose is to mold sensation into perception and the ego functions to form perception into meaning. The mind and ego are not equipped to process all of the information that the brain is capable of sensing and so when they step in to try to process increased ammounts they can malfunction and create delusions. The ego, in particular, can get very insignificant information such as the inner working of the body all mixed up with personal problems and issues. This is when the freakout occurs.
I'll end with quote from an incredible neurologist named Paul Bach-y-Rita who did experiments proving that each sensory organ could perform, to a certain extent, the function of the other sensory organs... eyes can hear, tongues can see, etc. 'You can do so much more with a sensory organ than what mother nature does with it.'
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