Inebriation and Authenticity (abridged and updated)

How will we understand the “I” in the statements “I wasn’t myself that night” and “I don’t feel like myself right now”? If “that night” and “right now” are incommensurable with an ongoing conscious identity, is a differing embodied experience “inauthentic” for not bearing out that identity? Is the identity an inauthentic simulacra, a merely theoretical, disembodied self? These statements mark an embodiment as exceptional. Perhaps the “I” demanded and produced through surveillance and discipline (Foucault, 1977) is temporarily inaccessible. Making application occasionally, but facing inspection constantly, we are called upon to represent a publicly acceptable self or risk violent exclusion (Spade, 2011), an implicitly passive, representable self (Haraway, 1992): never partial, always static, a self which remains the same across contexts organisational, emotional, temporal and geographic. Self-craft and self-maintenance do not come equally easily to all, nor are all at all times both positioned and inclined to “pass” as acceptable. One may articulate identities to compensate for an insufficient self-concept; an-other might reject them in preference of a dynamism and fluidity threatened by the process of identification. (Butler, 1993) Many engage with this (dis)continuity through consciousness alteration. This paper concerns itself with the use and effects of techniques of inebriation in the context of a disciplined and at times rebellious self.

Full essay available as PDF here with proper formatting: https://michaelvipperman.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/inebriation-and-authenticity-abridged.pdf

Or below in text, copy-pasta’d from word processor with atrocious formatting artifacts retained to motivate you to open the PDF instead. It’s much better that way.
 

Inebriation and Authenticity

The implications of consciousness alteration for the identification of self-concept; an analysis in the anthropology of affect

Abridged

————————————-

By Michael Vipperman

(with the help of many brilliant friends and an extensive pharmacopoeia)

December, 2011

Abridged: August, 2013

————————————-

For CIIS

Originally for Prof. Naisargi N. Dave

Anthropology of the Intimate, ANT462, University of Toronto

Part I: Making Sense of Inebriation

How will we understand the “I” in the statements “I wasn’t myself that night” and “I don’t feel like myself right now”? If “that night” and “right now” are incommensurable with an ongoing conscious identity, is a differing embodied experience “inauthentic” for not bearing out that identity? Is the identity an inauthentic simulacra, a merely theoretical, disembodied self? These statements mark an embodiment as exceptional. Perhaps the “I” demanded and produced through surveillance and discipline (Foucault, 1977) is temporarily inaccessible. Making application occasionally, but facing inspection constantly, we are called upon to represent a publicly acceptable self or risk violent exclusion (Spade, 2011), an implicitly passive, representable self (Haraway, 1992): never partial, always static, a self which remains the same across contexts organisational, emotional, temporal and geographic. Self-craft and self-maintenance do not come equally easily to all, nor are all at all times both positioned and inclined to “pass” as acceptable. One may articulate identities to compensate for an insufficient self-concept; an-other might reject them in preference of a dynamism and fluidity threatened by the process of identification. (Butler, 1993) Many engage with this (dis)continuity through consciousness alteration. This paper concerns itself with the use and effects of techniques of inebriation in the context of a disciplined and at times rebellious self.

Theoretical context: what do I mean byInebriation?

I understandthreedistinctbutdynamic /non-exclusive reasons why we seek change:inebriation,enhancementandpsychedelia.1 (Vipperman, 2012) Whereasenhancementisgearedtowardsomeformofimprovement(in Performance, Pleasure or Immersion),andwhereaspsychedeliaisgearedtoward awareness(ofinterconnectiveCommunion,ego-dissolving Mystery,ordidactic Discovery),inebriationisalterationforitsownsake(forVariation, Negation orDisinhibition).Aninstanceofconsciousnessalterationmaybemotivatedby a desire as complexasto create.Insofarasthisentailsadesireto create moreeffectively,itsorientedto Performance (enhancement);insofarasitentailsadesireforthe novel,itsorientedtoVariation(inebriation);insofarasitentailsadesireto understand what can be created,itsorientedto Discovery (psychedelia). Inebriationcanbethesoledesire:gettingfuckedup,nottogain or improve,merelytoalter.2 In this paper, I seek to address instancesofconsciousnessalterationofwhichinebriationisanimportantfeature, even as other features may also be important, touching on other motivations where they bear relevance.

As well asgoal and method,inebriationis also aqualityofexperience. We considerourlevelofinebriationtobetheextenttowhich we feelaltered,notsober, oronsomething.Thisisrelatedtosafetymechanisms,inthatthefeelingofinebriationtendstocorrelatewithimpairment, 3 and thetwoareoften treated as interchangeable: to befuckedup” may mean to be “outofit.Becausethis implies a normal sobrietycompared with whichalterationismeaningful,it likewise pertains to the perceptionofauthenticityoritsabsence. Whereas inebriationandauthenticityare affective and ephemeral, “impairment” is task-relative and is therefore sometimes readily quantifiable. Dissociation eludes detection;aspectsof expressed personality may be assessed without access to the inner orientationtowardtheseaspects. Does thecurrent extent to which one acts extroverted “feel natural,” or does it feel unfamiliar/artificial? Inebriationattenuatesorexaggerates affect, altering our relationtoauthenticity, such that we feelperhapsmoreourselves,perhapsless,oftenbutnotnecessarily in the ways we had intended.


Attenuation

Sometimes,thegoalofinebriationistofeelless.Thiscould assuage perceived unreality,allowingforareturntoauthenticity, or it could make tolerable the inevitable. Negation as an inebriative technique hasbeenindicatedforsomeandcontraindicatedforothersforthousandsofyears (see: Proverbs 31:4-7).4 It should come as no surprise that the same techniques which allow some to not feel some aspect of themselves may also lead some to not feel like themselves. Just as affect can be temporarily attenuated, so can inebriation be usedtoattenuateresponsibilityafterthefact, à la the form: “I was drunk, so it doesntcount” orIdontevenreallyrememberit.” The expectation that a drug may inhibit memory formation may thus be welcome even in contexts of pleasure/play.

For those who cannot while themselves admit to or act upon all of their desires, the presumedattenuation of affect can facilitate thenavigationofcontradictory identity structures; it is thus possibletodowhat one “reallywantswithoutreallyhavingdoneit.Alcoholhasareputationforbringingoutthetrueself” through disinhibition; theLatinmottoinvinoveritas5 parallels the Gematric6 equivalency of the Hebrew words for “wine” and “truth.” Compareto the FrankZappa lyric:ImreallyjustaphonybutforgivemecauseImstoned.7 Through policies which strive against integration, prohibition creates an outside to the sought but never realisable (Povinelli, 2006) totalising space of the normal; of structural necessity become regions into which discipline must fail to fully penetrate. In these autonomous gaps (Bey, 1985), we may be ourselves. Geographic regions may be marked for this purpose (Clairmont, 2007): “what happens in __ stays in __.”8 States of consciousness, if similarly marked, can attenuate vigilance, empowering an honesty predicatedonnon-representativity; reductioninthe perception ofauthenticity may thus provide new space for authentic expression. The more fucked up we are, the less perfect we must be, the more fluid we are free to be; bybeinglessintensively,wecan, extensively,bemore.

Exaggeration

In Emily Martin’s ethnography of manic depression, she noted that whereas their doctors saw their highs and lows as equally problematic – pathological/irrational deviations from an imagined ideal balance – her respondents neither identified with their depressive states, nor defined either in opposition to a middle ground, and instead, mourning flagging energy and expressivity, desired a return to their, (hypo)manic, “real selves.” (Martin, 2007) This is typical of inebriative experiences which involve an affective exaggeration. One may say that one feels “like myself, but more so,” or that one has discovered how to be authentic, engaging fully with the present moment rather than holding back from it. Our inhibitions aren’t “us,” we may feel.

On such a drug as MDMA, moodelevation,stimulation and augmented perceptions may contribute to affectivelyprofoundstates. Such states may be delighted in and valued, or found to be unpleasant, manifesting as an anxietyor anabjectpleasure,thefeelingofbeing altered takenasunnatural, artificial, alien or inauthentic.9 Expressivity may be foregrounded, previously repressed materials flowing forth with unprecedented ease. As itmayseem that one’s degree of extroversion isinherent to one’s personality, employingatechniqueofinebriationtoallow exceptional expression may runcounterto claims of conscious continuity: a personalityalteredbydrugingestionseeminglikeitoughttobelessauthentic,notmore. If intimate moments during a high were withpeople we wouldntnormallyeventalkto, and surely not in that way, no authentic monad can have producedthoseinteractions: a seemingly foreign body (the drug, among others) participated in their production.Yet,inthenotionof variable self-expression, we assume a Selfnotmerelyboundupinsuchparticularsasthecapacityforexpression, a Self not fully represented and accounted for in even the most totalising of disciplinary regimes,a Self we may approach duringthealteredstate.Personality traits (such as extroversion/introversion) are thus no ultimate ground for identity. Further,thereasons one might not otherwise have had an intimate encounter might be prefigured by socialexpectations(caste,status, gender role, etc) more than a discrete “I.” These too can be mitigated or transcended through the inappropriate/d (Haraway, 1992) slippages of the inebriated.Neitherpersonalitynorsocialisationconstituteanimmutableself,andbothcanberadicallyalteredwhilefeelingevermoreauthentic. You can be more than you can know.

Navigation

Techniques of inebriation complicate our perception of authenticity. Both attenuation and exaggeration can lead to more authenticity in one sense and less in another. Through the multiplication off intensity (Massumi, 2002), affectively charged experiences are rendered more memorable than those which lack this charge, or from which it is deprived by the intercession of an attenuative technique. By upregulating or downregulating intensity via techniques of inebriation, we may exert influence over what will be remembered, what will feel authentic, and what will not, can not, or must not.

Part II: Non-Sense Through Inebriation

Nocategory scheme is perfect(Rosch,1978).Denominationdominatestheanominal,asif some people arebutexperimentalnoiseinotherwiseconsistentdata.(Sapolsky,2010) Out beyond the margins of acceptability, liminal, lie outliers, the incommensurable and uncontained(Massumi,2002). “Insane,” “freak,” “on drugs” andqueer” have all been used as pejoratives to limitthevarietiesofsubjectivityfor which a hostile system mustaccount.Youdontfitinmysystem” is employed not to mean “mysystemis incomplete,” but that “you must not exist.(Schiebinger,1993).WaragainstNativeswasneveraseffectiveasdefiningthem away (Harris,2008). In isolation and exclusion grow promising inappropriate/d monsters (Haraway, 1992); in the cracks, the multiplicitous excluded elude control. Freaksandqueers,weird-kidsandoutcasts,institutionalised,DSM-definedmindsandconsumersofsubalternsacraments(Sandquist,2008)allshareout-groupexperience.(Tajfel,1974)Howisitthatsomanyofmyfriendsarenotsubalterninonlyoneway,butmanyatonce?Pagan,queer,kinky,polyamorous,anarchistsorotherpoliticalheretics,mentallyillorabnormal,usersofdrugssomeofwhicharemerelynot-illegal-yet(Wallaceetal,2007)… theCanadianstate has needed no more justification to ban a substancethanthatpeoplelikemyfriends use it.10Isthiswhatmedicinecallscomorbidity?Thesetermsrecapitulateourdiscomfortwith this pathologisingpraxis:oppositionalsystemsmakemorbidityofeverythingdifferent.Whattheycallcomorbiditycallsforsolidarity.

Becoming inebriated entails the rejection of coercive category imposition. By interfering with the consistent continuity of consciousness, superficial identities based on easily mutable characteristics are exposed as such. Reality can thus be “playtested:” what falls away when you change your mind, and what remains regardless of any alteration? This process of psychic triangulation allows us to nuance our sense of authenticity: is this feeling essentially “me,” or is familiarity the only reason I identify with it? This can be read as inherently political. By actively transforming his consciousness, an otherwise “normal” boy (Adams, 1997) – privileged, unmarked, etc – might expand the range of subjectivities with which he can empathise, and may even stumble across something strange enough to situate him within the subaltern, revealing contradictions of a hegemonic system (Friedland and Alford, 1991) hitherto taken for granted. Having now viscerally experienced incommensurability (Farmer, 1997), he may be motivated to interrogate his preconceptions or seek out alternative forms of understanding. To occasion subaltern experience is to undermine normativity, to tear open previously invisible frameworks and theories which, though exclusionary in nature (and therefore inadequate), need not be challenged by any for whose experience they remain tenable (Gilovich, 1991). Unless you know what it means to be a freak, how can you understand the urgency connected to queer feelings, or grasp why cis/heteronormativity inspires such intense affect among those it excludes? (Ahmed, 2004) Why something must be done about it? Enter the concept of the “experimental psychosis.”

Psychologists working at mental health institutions in the 1950s were among the first scientists to indicate the use of classic psychedelics11, which they called psychotomimetic. Despite their therapeutic and transformative potential (Griffiths et al, 2006; Grof 2008), the original indication was not for the mentally-ill, but for their doctors. The theory was that experiences occasioned by LSD and mescaline resemble reversible psychopathologies, and so giving these drugs to psychologists could provide insight into the otherwise impenetrable experiences of the institutionalised insane. (Grof, 2008) While we ought to reject the notion that taking a drug could allow us to “get inside the mind of the schizophrenic,” the unspeakable (Slattery and Ascott, 2011) nature of powerful psychedelic experiences is all that is necessary if the goal is empathy with stigmatised minds. In this respect it was not the revelatory nature of the drugs they were after, but their strangeness: inebriation more than psychedelia, though both were involved.

Many users of psychedelic drugs have complainedthat themostfrustratingthingabout their experience was how littleof what was revealed in their visions and reveries couldbe made verbal.Thisisnotunliketheexperienceofthementally-ill,perpetuallyunabletoeffectivelycommunicate,treatedasirrational(Martin,2007)andhencenotworthlisteningto.InthewordsofBobDylan,howdoesitfeeltobesuchafreak?12Inebriationisoneheuristicforansweringthatquestion.Myhypotheticalnormalboy,seekingonlytogetfuckedup,mayundergothesameprocessaspsychologists striving toemphasisewiththeinstitutionalisedinsane: he may enter uncharted territory, and perhaps cometoknowhowitfeelstobeafreak.

People on drugs sometimes have a “freaky experience:” either “feeling freaky,” or “freaking out.” The forms of affect these descriptors gesture at are not commensurable with “sober” affect or consensus rational understanding, and only in that way are they commensurable with each other. “Feeling freaky” has positive, creative connotations, whereas “freaking out” suggests terror, hinting at the glistening possibility of permanent madness. We have stepped outside of normal categories, opening up the possibility of the radically novel: in the case of a creative experience, new forms of expressivity emerge which may even be wonderfully productive according to the logics of the prior framework (Berardi, 2009), but could have never emerged inside it; in the case of a terrifying freaky experience, the new forms of perception and affect are felt as violations and threaten permanent destabilisation and destruction, often literally. It’s not uncommon to become convinced that death is immanent, in process, or has already occurred: “so this is what it’s like to be dead.” This experience of destruction may be extended to the entire world, perhaps with vivid visions of cataclysmic devastation: nuclear holocaust or hell on earth.

A person freaking out in such an extreme way – viscerally, tactilely, visually and conceptually experiencing destruction – sometimes reaches a turning point which resolves into an experience equally intense, but of absolute beauty, love beyond description and cosmic union. These “death-rebirth” experiences often hinge upon the act of “letting go” or surrendering (Grof, 2008), and having gone through such a process reliably leads to permanent benefits13 (Griffiths et al, 2008; MacLean et al, 2011). A terminal patient may “no longer fear death,” because that fear has been faced and transcended, the very categories of “life” and “death” shattered, a glimpse of the transpersonal having obviated the need for corporeal continuity. (Grob, 2008)

Profoundly intense experiences can serve to blast through the ego, overwhelming defence mechanisms, shattering barriers and distinctions. Who are you when you are not yourself? Become so inebriated that not just some but all of your identities collapse, and all that’s left is Nothing. In some mystical metaphysics, Nothing is seen as the true grounding of authenticity: absolute, free of all attachments, beyond the grasp of both illusions and context. This model inverts and repudiates a prosaic, empirical/imperial notion of authenticity. What we believe to be real is but the consistent product of our conceptualisations; contact with truth requires the total annihilation of naïve misperceptions. Fear of inebriation can thus be interpreted as obsession with control and category maintenance, and the impulse toward “self destructive” behaviour conceptualised as a – perhaps dangerously misdirected – yearning for authenticity in the face of abject experience.

Concluding Remarks

Inebriation complicates the perception of authenticity, problematising the distinction between “self” and “not self.” Do “I” include my personality? my history? my network situatedness? my ideas? my dietary and substance use choices? As I become inebriated, each of these may rise to centrality, or seem illusory and fall away. Strategic exaggerations or attenuations of affect can either reinforce continuity of experience by “levelling out,” or break up that continuity and foster a “multiple levels approach” (Meyer and Jepperson, 2010) for self-concept, exposing ironies, undermining habits and allowing for the emergence of novelty. Taken to extremes, this expansion and contraction of identification can dissolve the oppositional “self” altogether; as soon as we viscerally understand that nothing we identify with is primary or immutable, new vistas of dynamic, forever changing possibility unfurl. If making sense of reality fails, we can always try non-sense instead.

How long do we want to ignore the possibility for ourselves to enjoy the fullest collaboration with the world as a harmonious system of contained conflicts, based on the realisation that the only realIis the whole endless process? – Sunjye, Toronto area shaman and artist

Works Cited:

Adams, Mary Louise, 1997. The Trouble With Normal. University of Toronto Press

Ahmed, Sarah. 2004. “Queer Feelings.” In Cultural Politics of Emotion. 144-167.

Berardi, Fraco. 2009. The Soul at Work: From Alienation to Autonomy. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Bey, Hakim. 1985. The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism. Autonomedia.

Butler, Judith. 1993. “Imitation and Gender Subordination.” In The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader, edited by Henry Abelove et al. New York: Routledge. 307-320.

Cerulo, Karen. 2006. Never Saw it Coming: Cultural Challenges to Envisioning the Worst. University of Chicago Press

Clairmont, Donald. 2007. “Africville”, International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, 2nd edition. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

Dave, Naisargi N. 2011. “Indian and Lesbian and What Came Next: Affect, Commensuration, and Queer Emergences.” American Ethnologist 38(4).

Farmer, Paul. 1997. “On Suffering and Structural Violence: A View from Below.” In Social Suffering, Arthur Kleinman, Veena Das, and Margaret Lock, eds. Berkeley: University of California Press. Pp. 261-284.

Foucault, Michel. 1977. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison.

FriedlandandAlford,1991.BringingSocietyBackin:Symbols,Practices,andInstitutionalContradictions.InTheNewInstitutionalisminOrganizationalAnalysis.UniversityofChicagoPress.232-263

Gilovich, Thomas. 1991. How we know what isn’t so: The fallibility of human reason in everyday life. New York: The Free Press.

Griffiths, R.R., Richards, W.A., McCann, U. & Jesse, R. 2006. “Psilocybin can occasion mystical-type experiences having substantial and sustained personal meaning and spiritual significance”, Psychopharmacology, 187:,268-283.

Griffiths, R.R., Richards, W.A., Johnson, M.W., McCann, U. & Jesse, R. 2008. “Mystical-type experiences occasioned by psilocybin mediate the attribution of personal meaning and spiritual significance 14 months later”, Psychopharmacology 22(6) (2008) 621–632

Grob, C.S. 2008. “The use of psilocybin in patients with advanced cancer and existential anxiety” in Winkelman, M., and Roberts, T. (Eds.) Psychedelic Medicine: New Evidence for Hallucinogens as Treatments. Westport, CT, Praeger/Greenwood pp 205-216

Grof, Stanislav. 2008. LSD Psychotherapy. MAPS.

Haraway, Donna. 1992. “The Promises of Monsters: A Regenerative Politics for Inappropriate/d Others” Cultural Studies. Routeledge, New York. Pp 295-337

Harris, Douglas C. 2008. Landing Native Fisheries. UBC Press, Vancouver.

MacLean, Katherine A; Johnson, Matthew W and Griffiths, Roland R. 2011. “Mystical experiences occasioned by the hallucinogen psilocybin lead to increases in the personality domain of openness.” Psychopharmacology. doi: 10.1177/0269881111420188

Massumi, Brian. 2002. “The Autonomy of Affect.” In his Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation. Durham: Duke University Press. Pp. 23-45.

Martin, Emily. 2007. Bipolar Expeditions: Mania and Depression in American Culture. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Meyer,JohnandJepperson,Ronald.2010.MultiplelevelsofanalysisandthelimitsofmethodologicalindividualismsSociologicalTheory.doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9558.2010.01387.x

Povinelli, Elizabeth. 2006. The Empire of Love: Toward a Theory of Intimacy, Genealogy and Carnality. Duke University Press, Durham and London.

Rosch, Eleanor. 1978. Cognition and Categorization. Hillsdale New Jersey: Erlbaum Associates

Sandquist, Ron. 2009. “Entheogens: the Criminal Sacrament.” Presented at the Pacific Sociological Conference

Sapolsky,Robert.2010.ChaosandReductionism,lecture21incourseHumanBehaviouralBiology.Stanford.Availableonline:www.youtube.com/watch?v=_njf8jwEGRo

Schiebinger, Londa L. 1993. Natures Body: Gender in the Making of Modern Science. Boston: Beacon.

Sewell RA, Poling J, Sofuoglu M. “The Effect of Cannabis Compared with Alcohol on Driving”. American Journal on Addictions 2009; 18: 1-9

Slattery, Diana R and Ascott, Roy. 2011. “Communicating the Unspeakable: Linguistic Phenomena in the Psychedelic Sphere” University of Plymouth

Spade, Dean. 2011. Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics and the Limits of Law. South End Press, Brooklyn, NY.

Tajfel, Henri. 1974. “Social identity and intergroup behaviour.” Social Science Information 13. 65-93.

Vipperman, Michael. 2012. Why Do We Use Drugs? (or in other ways alter our consciousness) https://michaelvipperman.wordpress.com/2012/08/12/why-do-we-use-drugs/

Wallace, John M. Jr., Ryoki Yamaguchi, Jerald G. Bachman, Patrick M. O’Malley, John E. Schulenberg, Lloyd D. Johnston. 2007. “Religiosity and Adolescent Substance Use: The Role of Individual and Contextual Influences.” Social Problems. 54:308-327.

1 Techniques of consciousness alteration include far more than drug use, but drugs tend to provide ready and useful examples, and thus will often be rested upon in this paper.

2 The result may pertain to other categories. Variation & Discovery are strongly interrelated, as in going and coming. Disinhibition & Performance, and Communion & Immersion, are similarly linked.

3 In driving simulator tests, THC was shown to impair performance at normally automated tasks, but not at complex tasks upon which drivers are focused, while alcohol impaired complex tasks but not normally automated ones. Subjects under the influence of THC felt more inebriated and compensate with risk-adverse strategies, whereas subjects under the influence of alcohol overestimated their abilities and became more risk-prone. The intense feeling of inebriation therefore acts as a safety mechanism used to self-assess impairment, but it does not do so accurately or consistently. Highly inebriating drugs are not necessarily highly impairing, and vice versa. (Sewell, et al, 2009)

4“It is not for not for kings to drink wine, not for rulers to crave beer, lest they drink and forget what has been decreed, and deprive all the oppressed of their rights.Let beer be for those who are perishing, wine for those who are in anguish! Let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more” (NIV)

5 In vino veritas: in wine, truth

6 Gematria is a system of numerological equivalencies

7 Song lyric from “Who Needs the Peace Corps” by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, 1968.

8This, itself, is an inebriative technique on a macro level; not all consciousness alteration is done by individuals.

9 On MDMA and especially on conventional amphetamines, users sometimes complain that they feel great but “artificial,” with waves of generalised, rushy pleasure that may not be intuitively appropriate to the context

10Someobscuredrugsbannedinrecentmemorynotforsafetybutbecauseofwhousesthem:AMT,2C-Band5-MeO-DiPT. Others which maybebannedsooninclude4-AcO-DMTand2C-E

11By “classic psychdelics” I mean anything similar to LSD, psilocin, etc, not atypical psychedelics such as iboga

12SonglyricfromBalladofaThinManbyBobDylan,1965

13MacLean et al observed a 4 point increase in the “Big 5” category of Openness after a single mystical experience

Inebriation and Authenticity

The implications of consciousness alteration for the identification of self-concept; an analysis in the anthropology of affect

Abridged

————————————-

By Michael Vipperman

(with the help of many brilliant friends and an extensive pharmacopoeia)

December, 2011

Abridged: August, 2013

————————————-

For CIIS

Originally for Prof. Naisargi N. Dave

Anthropology of the Intimate, ANT462, University of Toronto

Part I: Making Sense of Inebriation

How will we understand the “I” in the statements “I wasn’t myself that night” and “I don’t feel like myself right now”? If “that night” and “right now” are incommensurable with an ongoing conscious identity, is a differing embodied experience “inauthentic” for not bearing out that identity? Is the identity an inauthentic simulacra, a merely theoretical, disembodied self? These statements mark an embodiment as exceptional. Perhaps the “I” demanded and produced through surveillance and discipline (Foucault, 1977) is temporarily inaccessible. Making application occasionally, but facing inspection constantly, we are called upon to represent a publicly acceptable self or risk violent exclusion (Spade, 2011), an implicitly passive, representable self (Haraway, 1992): never partial, always static, a self which remains the same across contexts organisational, emotional, temporal and geographic. Self-craft and self-maintenance do not come equally easily to all, nor are all at all times both positioned and inclined to “pass” as acceptable. One may articulate identities to compensate for an insufficient self-concept; an-other might reject them in preference of a dynamism and fluidity threatened by the process of identification. (Butler, 1993) Many engage with this (dis)continuity through consciousness alteration. This paper concerns itself with the use and effects of techniques of inebriation in the context of a disciplined and at times rebellious self.

Theoretical context: what do I mean byInebriation?

I understandthreedistinctbutdynamic /non-exclusive reasons why we seek change:inebriation,enhancementandpsychedelia.1 (Vipperman, 2012) Whereasenhancementisgearedtowardsomeformofimprovement(in Performance, Pleasure or Immersion),andwhereaspsychedeliaisgearedtoward awareness(ofinterconnectiveCommunion,ego-dissolving Mystery,ordidactic Discovery),inebriationisalterationforitsownsake(forVariation, Negation orDisinhibition).Aninstanceofconsciousnessalterationmaybemotivatedby a desire as complexasto create.Insofarasthisentailsadesireto create moreeffectively,itsorientedto Performance (enhancement);insofarasitentailsadesireforthe novel,itsorientedtoVariation(inebriation);insofarasitentailsadesireto understand what can be created,itsorientedto Discovery (psychedelia). Inebriationcanbethesoledesire:gettingfuckedup,nottogain or improve,merelytoalter.2 In this paper, I seek to address instancesofconsciousnessalterationofwhichinebriationisanimportantfeature, even as other features may also be important, touching on other motivations where they bear relevance.

As well asgoal and method,inebriationis also aqualityofexperience. We considerourlevelofinebriationtobetheextenttowhich we feelaltered,notsober, oronsomething.Thisisrelatedtosafetymechanisms,inthatthefeelingofinebriationtendstocorrelatewithimpairment, 3 and thetwoareoften treated as interchangeable: to befuckedup” may mean to be “outofit.Becausethis implies a normal sobrietycompared with whichalterationismeaningful,it likewise pertains to the perceptionofauthenticityoritsabsence. Whereas inebriationandauthenticityare affective and ephemeral, “impairment” is task-relative and is therefore sometimes readily quantifiable. Dissociation eludes detection;aspectsof expressed personality may be assessed without access to the inner orientationtowardtheseaspects. Does thecurrent extent to which one acts extroverted “feel natural,” or does it feel unfamiliar/artificial? Inebriationattenuatesorexaggerates affect, altering our relationtoauthenticity, such that we feelperhapsmoreourselves,perhapsless,oftenbutnotnecessarily in the ways we had intended.


Attenuation

Sometimes,thegoalofinebriationistofeelless.Thiscould assuage perceived unreality,allowingforareturntoauthenticity, or it could make tolerable the inevitable. Negation as an inebriative technique hasbeenindicatedforsomeandcontraindicatedforothersforthousandsofyears (see: Proverbs 31:4-7).4 It should come as no surprise that the same techniques which allow some to not feel some aspect of themselves may also lead some to not feel like themselves. Just as affect can be temporarily attenuated, so can inebriation be usedtoattenuateresponsibilityafterthefact, à la the form: “I was drunk, so it doesntcount” orIdontevenreallyrememberit.” The expectation that a drug may inhibit memory formation may thus be welcome even in contexts of pleasure/play.

For those who cannot while themselves admit to or act upon all of their desires, the presumedattenuation of affect can facilitate thenavigationofcontradictory identity structures; it is thus possibletodowhat one “reallywantswithoutreallyhavingdoneit.Alcoholhasareputationforbringingoutthetrueself” through disinhibition; theLatinmottoinvinoveritas5 parallels the Gematric6 equivalency of the Hebrew words for “wine” and “truth.” Compareto the FrankZappa lyric:ImreallyjustaphonybutforgivemecauseImstoned.7 Through policies which strive against integration, prohibition creates an outside to the sought but never realisable (Povinelli, 2006) totalising space of the normal; of structural necessity become regions into which discipline must fail to fully penetrate. In these autonomous gaps (Bey, 1985), we may be ourselves. Geographic regions may be marked for this purpose (Clairmont, 2007): “what happens in __ stays in __.”8 States of consciousness, if similarly marked, can attenuate vigilance, empowering an honesty predicatedonnon-representativity; reductioninthe perception ofauthenticity may thus provide new space for authentic expression. The more fucked up we are, the less perfect we must be, the more fluid we are free to be; bybeinglessintensively,wecan, extensively,bemore.

Exaggeration

In Emily Martin’s ethnography of manic depression, she noted that whereas their doctors saw their highs and lows as equally problematic – pathological/irrational deviations from an imagined ideal balance – her respondents neither identified with their depressive states, nor defined either in opposition to a middle ground, and instead, mourning flagging energy and expressivity, desired a return to their, (hypo)manic, “real selves.” (Martin, 2007) This is typical of inebriative experiences which involve an affective exaggeration. One may say that one feels “like myself, but more so,” or that one has discovered how to be authentic, engaging fully with the present moment rather than holding back from it. Our inhibitions aren’t “us,” we may feel.

On such a drug as MDMA, moodelevation,stimulation and augmented perceptions may contribute to affectivelyprofoundstates. Such states may be delighted in and valued, or found to be unpleasant, manifesting as an anxietyor anabjectpleasure,thefeelingofbeing altered takenasunnatural, artificial, alien or inauthentic.9 Expressivity may be foregrounded, previously repressed materials flowing forth with unprecedented ease. As itmayseem that one’s degree of extroversion isinherent to one’s personality, employingatechniqueofinebriationtoallow exceptional expression may runcounterto claims of conscious continuity: a personalityalteredbydrugingestionseeminglikeitoughttobelessauthentic,notmore. If intimate moments during a high were withpeople we wouldntnormallyeventalkto, and surely not in that way, no authentic monad can have producedthoseinteractions: a seemingly foreign body (the drug, among others) participated in their production.Yet,inthenotionof variable self-expression, we assume a Selfnotmerelyboundupinsuchparticularsasthecapacityforexpression, a Self not fully represented and accounted for in even the most totalising of disciplinary regimes,a Self we may approach duringthealteredstate.Personality traits (such as extroversion/introversion) are thus no ultimate ground for identity. Further,thereasons one might not otherwise have had an intimate encounter might be prefigured by socialexpectations(caste,status, gender role, etc) more than a discrete “I.” These too can be mitigated or transcended through the inappropriate/d (Haraway, 1992) slippages of the inebriated.Neitherpersonalitynorsocialisationconstituteanimmutableself,andbothcanberadicallyalteredwhilefeelingevermoreauthentic. You can be more than you can know.

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Techniques of inebriation complicate our perception of authenticity. Both attenuation and exaggeration can lead to more authenticity in one sense and less in another. Through the multiplication off intensity (Massumi, 2002), affectively charged experiences are rendered more memorable than those which lack this charge, or from which it is deprived by the intercession of an attenuative technique. By upregulating or downregulating intensity via techniques of inebriation, we may exert influence over what will be remembered, what will feel authentic, and what will not, can not, or must not.

Part II: Non-Sense Through Inebriation

Nocategory scheme is perfect(Rosch,1978).Denominationdominatestheanominal,asif some people arebutexperimentalnoiseinotherwiseconsistentdata.(Sapolsky,2010) Out beyond the margins of acceptability, liminal, lie outliers, the incommensurable and uncontained(Massumi,2002). “Insane,” “freak,” “on drugs” andqueer” have all been used as pejoratives to limitthevarietiesofsubjectivityfor which a hostile system mustaccount.Youdontfitinmysystem” is employed not to mean “mysystemis incomplete,” but that “you must not exist.(Schiebinger,1993).WaragainstNativeswasneveraseffectiveasdefiningthem away (Harris,2008). In isolation and exclusion grow promising inappropriate/d monsters (Haraway, 1992); in the cracks, the multiplicitous excluded elude control. Freaksandqueers,weird-kidsandoutcasts,institutionalised,DSM-definedmindsandconsumersofsubalternsacraments(Sandquist,2008)allshareout-groupexperience.(Tajfel,1974)Howisitthatsomanyofmyfriendsarenotsubalterninonlyoneway,butmanyatonce?Pagan,queer,kinky,polyamorous,anarchistsorotherpoliticalheretics,mentallyillorabnormal,usersofdrugssomeofwhicharemerelynot-illegal-yet(Wallaceetal,2007)… theCanadianstate has needed no more justification to ban a substancethanthatpeoplelikemyfriends use it.10Isthiswhatmedicinecallscomorbidity?Thesetermsrecapitulateourdiscomfortwith this pathologisingpraxis:oppositionalsystemsmakemorbidityofeverythingdifferent.Whattheycallcomorbiditycallsforsolidarity.

Becoming inebriated entails the rejection of coercive category imposition. By interfering with the consistent continuity of consciousness, superficial identities based on easily mutable characteristics are exposed as such. Reality can thus be “playtested:” what falls away when you change your mind, and what remains regardless of any alteration? This process of psychic triangulation allows us to nuance our sense of authenticity: is this feeling essentially “me,” or is familiarity the only reason I identify with it? This can be read as inherently political. By actively transforming his consciousness, an otherwise “normal” boy (Adams, 1997) – privileged, unmarked, etc – might expand the range of subjectivities with which he can empathise, and may even stumble across something strange enough to situate him within the subaltern, revealing contradictions of a hegemonic system (Friedland and Alford, 1991) hitherto taken for granted. Having now viscerally experienced incommensurability (Farmer, 1997), he may be motivated to interrogate his preconceptions or seek out alternative forms of understanding. To occasion subaltern experience is to undermine normativity, to tear open previously invisible frameworks and theories which, though exclusionary in nature (and therefore inadequate), need not be challenged by any for whose experience they remain tenable (Gilovich, 1991). Unless you know what it means to be a freak, how can you understand the urgency connected to queer feelings, or grasp why cis/heteronormativity inspires such intense affect among those it excludes? (Ahmed, 2004) Why something must be done about it? Enter the concept of the “experimental psychosis.”

Psychologists working at mental health institutions in the 1950s were among the first scientists to indicate the use of classic psychedelics11, which they called psychotomimetic. Despite their therapeutic and transformative potential (Griffiths et al, 2006; Grof 2008), the original indication was not for the mentally-ill, but for their doctors. The theory was that experiences occasioned by LSD and mescaline resemble reversible psychopathologies, and so giving these drugs to psychologists could provide insight into the otherwise impenetrable experiences of the institutionalised insane. (Grof, 2008) While we ought to reject the notion that taking a drug could allow us to “get inside the mind of the schizophrenic,” the unspeakable (Slattery and Ascott, 2011) nature of powerful psychedelic experiences is all that is necessary if the goal is empathy with stigmatised minds. In this respect it was not the revelatory nature of the drugs they were after, but their strangeness: inebriation more than psychedelia, though both were involved.

Many users of psychedelic drugs have complainedthat themostfrustratingthingabout their experience was how littleof what was revealed in their visions and reveries couldbe made verbal.Thisisnotunliketheexperienceofthementally-ill,perpetuallyunabletoeffectivelycommunicate,treatedasirrational(Martin,2007)andhencenotworthlisteningto.InthewordsofBobDylan,howdoesitfeeltobesuchafreak?12Inebriationisoneheuristicforansweringthatquestion.Myhypotheticalnormalboy,seekingonlytogetfuckedup,mayundergothesameprocessaspsychologists striving toemphasisewiththeinstitutionalisedinsane: he may enter uncharted territory, and perhaps cometoknowhowitfeelstobeafreak.

People on drugs sometimes have a “freaky experience:” either “feeling freaky,” or “freaking out.” The forms of affect these descriptors gesture at are not commensurable with “sober” affect or consensus rational understanding, and only in that way are they commensurable with each other. “Feeling freaky” has positive, creative connotations, whereas “freaking out” suggests terror, hinting at the glistening possibility of permanent madness. We have stepped outside of normal categories, opening up the possibility of the radically novel: in the case of a creative experience, new forms of expressivity emerge which may even be wonderfully productive according to the logics of the prior framework (Berardi, 2009), but could have never emerged inside it; in the case of a terrifying freaky experience, the new forms of perception and affect are felt as violations and threaten permanent destabilisation and destruction, often literally. It’s not uncommon to become convinced that death is immanent, in process, or has already occurred: “so this is what it’s like to be dead.” This experience of destruction may be extended to the entire world, perhaps with vivid visions of cataclysmic devastation: nuclear holocaust or hell on earth.

A person freaking out in such an extreme way – viscerally, tactilely, visually and conceptually experiencing destruction – sometimes reaches a turning point which resolves into an experience equally intense, but of absolute beauty, love beyond description and cosmic union. These “death-rebirth” experiences often hinge upon the act of “letting go” or surrendering (Grof, 2008), and having gone through such a process reliably leads to permanent benefits13 (Griffiths et al, 2008; MacLean et al, 2011). A terminal patient may “no longer fear death,” because that fear has been faced and transcended, the very categories of “life” and “death” shattered, a glimpse of the transpersonal having obviated the need for corporeal continuity. (Grob, 2008)

Profoundly intense experiences can serve to blast through the ego, overwhelming defence mechanisms, shattering barriers and distinctions. Who are you when you are not yourself? Become so inebriated that not just some but all of your identities collapse, and all that’s left is Nothing. In some mystical metaphysics, Nothing is seen as the true grounding of authenticity: absolute, free of all attachments, beyond the grasp of both illusions and context. This model inverts and repudiates a prosaic, empirical/imperial notion of authenticity. What we believe to be real is but the consistent product of our conceptualisations; contact with truth requires the total annihilation of naïve misperceptions. Fear of inebriation can thus be interpreted as obsession with control and category maintenance, and the impulse toward “self destructive” behaviour conceptualised as a – perhaps dangerously misdirected – yearning for authenticity in the face of abject experience.

Concluding Remarks

Inebriation complicates the perception of authenticity, problematising the distinction between “self” and “not self.” Do “I” include my personality? my history? my network situatedness? my ideas? my dietary and substance use choices? As I become inebriated, each of these may rise to centrality, or seem illusory and fall away. Strategic exaggerations or attenuations of affect can either reinforce continuity of experience by “levelling out,” or break up that continuity and foster a “multiple levels approach” (Meyer and Jepperson, 2010) for self-concept, exposing ironies, undermining habits and allowing for the emergence of novelty. Taken to extremes, this expansion and contraction of identification can dissolve the oppositional “self” altogether; as soon as we viscerally understand that nothing we identify with is primary or immutable, new vistas of dynamic, forever changing possibility unfurl. If making sense of reality fails, we can always try non-sense instead.

How long do we want to ignore the possibility for ourselves to enjoy the fullest collaboration with the world as a harmonious system of contained conflicts, based on the realisation that the only realIis the whole endless process? – Sunjye, Toronto area shaman and artist

Works Cited:

Adams, Mary Louise, 1997. The Trouble With Normal. University of Toronto Press

Ahmed, Sarah. 2004. “Queer Feelings.” In Cultural Politics of Emotion. 144-167.

Berardi, Fraco. 2009. The Soul at Work: From Alienation to Autonomy. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Bey, Hakim. 1985. The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism. Autonomedia.

Butler, Judith. 1993. “Imitation and Gender Subordination.” In The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader, edited by Henry Abelove et al. New York: Routledge. 307-320.

Cerulo, Karen. 2006. Never Saw it Coming: Cultural Challenges to Envisioning the Worst. University of Chicago Press

Clairmont, Donald. 2007. “Africville”, International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, 2nd edition. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

Dave, Naisargi N. 2011. “Indian and Lesbian and What Came Next: Affect, Commensuration, and Queer Emergences.” American Ethnologist 38(4).

Farmer, Paul. 1997. “On Suffering and Structural Violence: A View from Below.” In Social Suffering, Arthur Kleinman, Veena Das, and Margaret Lock, eds. Berkeley: University of California Press. Pp. 261-284.

Foucault, Michel. 1977. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison.

FriedlandandAlford,1991.BringingSocietyBackin:Symbols,Practices,andInstitutionalContradictions.InTheNewInstitutionalisminOrganizationalAnalysis.UniversityofChicagoPress.232-263

Gilovich, Thomas. 1991. How we know what isn’t so: The fallibility of human reason in everyday life. New York: The Free Press.

Griffiths, R.R., Richards, W.A., McCann, U. & Jesse, R. 2006. “Psilocybin can occasion mystical-type experiences having substantial and sustained personal meaning and spiritual significance”, Psychopharmacology, 187:,268-283.

Griffiths, R.R., Richards, W.A., Johnson, M.W., McCann, U. & Jesse, R. 2008. “Mystical-type experiences occasioned by psilocybin mediate the attribution of personal meaning and spiritual significance 14 months later”, Psychopharmacology 22(6) (2008) 621–632

Grob, C.S. 2008. “The use of psilocybin in patients with advanced cancer and existential anxiety” in Winkelman, M., and Roberts, T. (Eds.) Psychedelic Medicine: New Evidence for Hallucinogens as Treatments. Westport, CT, Praeger/Greenwood pp 205-216

Grof, Stanislav. 2008. LSD Psychotherapy. MAPS.

Haraway, Donna. 1992. “The Promises of Monsters: A Regenerative Politics for Inappropriate/d Others” Cultural Studies. Routeledge, New York. Pp 295-337

Harris, Douglas C. 2008. Landing Native Fisheries. UBC Press, Vancouver.

MacLean, Katherine A; Johnson, Matthew W and Griffiths, Roland R. 2011. “Mystical experiences occasioned by the hallucinogen psilocybin lead to increases in the personality domain of openness.” Psychopharmacology. doi: 10.1177/0269881111420188

Massumi, Brian. 2002. “The Autonomy of Affect.” In his Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation. Durham: Duke University Press. Pp. 23-45.

Martin, Emily. 2007. Bipolar Expeditions: Mania and Depression in American Culture. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Meyer,JohnandJepperson,Ronald.2010.MultiplelevelsofanalysisandthelimitsofmethodologicalindividualismsSociologicalTheory.doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9558.2010.01387.x

Povinelli, Elizabeth. 2006. The Empire of Love: Toward a Theory of Intimacy, Genealogy and Carnality. Duke University Press, Durham and London.

Rosch, Eleanor. 1978. Cognition and Categorization. Hillsdale New Jersey: Erlbaum Associates

Sandquist, Ron. 2009. “Entheogens: the Criminal Sacrament.” Presented at the Pacific Sociological Conference

Sapolsky,Robert.2010.ChaosandReductionism,lecture21incourseHumanBehaviouralBiology.Stanford.Availableonline:www.youtube.com/watch?v=_njf8jwEGRo

Schiebinger, Londa L. 1993. Natures Body: Gender in the Making of Modern Science. Boston: Beacon.

Sewell RA, Poling J, Sofuoglu M. “The Effect of Cannabis Compared with Alcohol on Driving”. American Journal on Addictions 2009; 18: 1-9

Slattery, Diana R and Ascott, Roy. 2011. “Communicating the Unspeakable: Linguistic Phenomena in the Psychedelic Sphere” University of Plymouth

Spade, Dean. 2011. Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics and the Limits of Law. South End Press, Brooklyn, NY.

Tajfel, Henri. 1974. “Social identity and intergroup behaviour.” Social Science Information 13. 65-93.

Vipperman, Michael. 2012. Why Do We Use Drugs? (or in other ways alter our consciousness) https://michaelvipperman.wordpress.com/2012/08/12/why-do-we-use-drugs/

Wallace, John M. Jr., Ryoki Yamaguchi, Jerald G. Bachman, Patrick M. O’Malley, John E. Schulenberg, Lloyd D. Johnston. 2007. “Religiosity and Adolescent Substance Use: The Role of Individual and Contextual Influences.” Social Problems. 54:308-327.

1 Techniques of consciousness alteration include far more than drug use, but drugs tend to provide ready and useful examples, and thus will often be rested upon in this paper.

2 The result may pertain to other categories. Variation & Discovery are strongly interrelated, as in going and coming. Disinhibition & Performance, and Communion & Immersion, are similarly linked.

3 In driving simulator tests, THC was shown to impair performance at normally automated tasks, but not at complex tasks upon which drivers are focused, while alcohol impaired complex tasks but not normally automated ones. Subjects under the influence of THC felt more inebriated and compensate with risk-adverse strategies, whereas subjects under the influence of alcohol overestimated their abilities and became more risk-prone. The intense feeling of inebriation therefore acts as a safety mechanism used to self-assess impairment, but it does not do so accurately or consistently. Highly inebriating drugs are not necessarily highly impairing, and vice versa. (Sewell, et al, 2009)

4“It is not for not for kings to drink wine, not for rulers to crave beer, lest they drink and forget what has been decreed, and deprive all the oppressed of their rights.Let beer be for those who are perishing, wine for those who are in anguish! Let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more” (NIV)

5 In vino veritas: in wine, truth

6 Gematria is a system of numerological equivalencies

7 Song lyric from “Who Needs the Peace Corps” by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, 1968.

8This, itself, is an inebriative technique on a macro level; not all consciousness alteration is done by individuals.

9 On MDMA and especially on conventional amphetamines, users sometimes complain that they feel great but “artificial,” with waves of generalised, rushy pleasure that may not be intuitively appropriate to the context

10Someobscuredrugsbannedinrecentmemorynotforsafetybutbecauseofwhousesthem:AMT,2C-Band5-MeO-DiPT. Others which maybebannedsooninclude4-AcO-DMTand2C-E

11By “classic psychdelics” I mean anything similar to LSD, psilocin, etc, not atypical psychedelics such as iboga

12SonglyricfromBalladofaThinManbyBobDylan,1965

13MacLean et al observed a 4 point increase in the “Big 5” category of Openness after a single mystical experience

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