January 29, 2011
Fear, Terror & Marijuana
The word "fear" in the title of today's comment refers to the "uneasiness" I feel when I use marijuana.
Advocates of marijuana legalization seem never to mention that particular negative aspect of being high. Perhaps most people who use marijuana really do feel "mellow" or "laid back" or "relaxed" when high. But not me. For me, the uneasiness is always there, especially these past few years. When I was young, like in my twenties, that uneasiness could be extreme, having sometimes the aspect of psychotic-like paranoia. It was a feeling that I was being watched and scrutinized by other people with me, or, when alone, that I was being observed through one-way mirrors, remote cameras and little crevasses, and that my stupidity and emptiness and failure, and my worm like worthlessness and triviality were being observed by others who smiled and nodded among themselves.
There was, however, still positive aspects to being high: the paranoid fears were far more interesting than were the quotidian details of social reality; when I wasn't high, the memory of the paranoia made being high seem attractive. Also, there were the insights: in nearly all periods of my life, despite the sometimes unbearable uneasiness, marijuana has provoked unusual ways of looking at the elements of the world. Ideas for building the vaporizers I built were partly stimulated by marijuana; in the Eterra section I describe the sequence of thoughts that accompanied my first test of that unit and my effort to find a word suggesting "ultimate" and beginning with an "e."
Extreme paranoia is for me a thing of the past, but the uneasiness is nearly always at the perimeter of the high experience, and sometimes at the dead center of it. Perhaps the uneasiness is an aspect of the same mental/brain process that I used to think of as paranoia. I do not know.
Alcohol, to a large extent, deadens or dampens the uneasiness of being high without impinging on the flow of insights. Or so I think at this moment. Years ago, however, the combination of alcohol and marijuana sometimes caused feelings of having slipped into a state of permanent and irreversible psychosis.
I don't think I'm revealing too much by admitting to this type of experience with marijuana. Others have mentioned similar experiences. I'm mentioning it because it is not generally, publically mentioned.
As for the word "terror" in the title, partly it's there to be provocative, but only partly. When I experienced the paranoia when I was young, I would have used the word "terror" as a descriptor. These days, though, "uneasiness" is a sufficient descriptor.
The words "fear" and "terror" are used mostly these days as synonyms. But among my insights is that, long ago, the words "fear" and "terror" -- phobos and deimos -- might have been used in reference to distinctly different subjective experiences. "Fear," it seems to me, might have been most applicable in reference to the prospect of some pending dreadful experience, some future event, a wholly anticipated thing that exists largely as a thought; while "terror" might have referred to the state of mind that accompanies the action one takes in dealing with a "situation" within the present moment, without thought, on the basis of reflexes and instinct. "Fear," could be called rational and refers to something in the future, while "terror" refers to a state of mind wholly in the present and having nothing to do with thought and reason.
My sense of being high is that something like the terror state of mind, as I comprehend it, comes into effect, a kind of be-here-now state which, depending on how it's approached, can be pleasurable for some people, or not for others. Check out this extended comment on "Fear & Terror and the Orange Light." The words "terrorist" or "terrorism" seem to me possible misappropriations of the root word. But is that relevant to anything? I do not know.
The uneasiness has caused me to cut back on marijuana enough to make testing of my latest vaporizer designs something of a challenge. I guess I'll keep the Jack Daniels at hand until I move on to another project.