Caring for the self: psychedelic experiences and the relationship between self-knowledge and health

Authors: Joshua Falcon*, Florida International University
Topics: Health and Medical, Digital Geographies, Cultural Geography
Keywords: care of the self, digital geographies, health geographies, psychedelics
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/11/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 40
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The group of psychoactive substances known today as the ‘classic psychedelics’ are seeing a resurgence of scientific interest given the revolutionary potential they exhibit in treating a wide array of mental illnesses. While clinical trials are beginning to pave the way for the medicalization of psychedelics, this trajectory presents dilemmas of its own such as issues of accessibility and legality, in addition to constraining the uses to which psychedelics can be used through an allopathic definition of health. Since it has been established that affinities exist between the therapeutic aspect of psychedelics and mystical experiences, which include among other elements, noetic insights, it warrants further investigation into the relationship between self-knowledge and health. This paper draws on Foucault’s works on Care of the Self and Technologies of the Self to investigate how autobiographical psychedelic experience reports drawn from online forums challenge standardized definitions of health by showing how feelings of psychological wellbeing are intimately linked with introspective moments of self-gnosis. By illustrating the value, insights, and effects individuals attribute to their own psychedelic experiences, this paper argues that self-knowledge and introspection may play a key role in psychological health and wellbeing. In addition, since online spaces have long served as a safe haven for marginalized communities, this paper also underscores the value of digital methods and virtual space for geographers of health studying at risk communities.

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