Please enjoy this transcript of our interview with Erick Godsey.
Erick Godsey is on the forefront of self-optimization through physical health, reframing our stories, responsible psychedelic use, mastery, and flow. In this episode, he talks with Paul about the psychedelic experience that almost broke his brain, how he defines “mastery”, the lies we’ve been told about psychiatric drugs, and how to truly recover from depression and anxiety.
The perspective shift that stopped Erick from going insane.
The responsibility of freedom.
What does “mastery” really mean?
Erick’s formula for opening a flow state.
Psychedelics as a catalyst for habit change.
Erick’s long and winding road to Onnit.
Learning to listen to the ancient God-like force inside you.
The truth about mental health and psychiatric drugs, from 50 years of research.
Healing depression and anxiety naturally.
0:00:00 Paul Austin: Welcome, Erick Godsey, to the Sporestore Podcast.
0:00:02 Erick Godsey: Thank you for having me, man.
0:00:04 PA: It’s good to be with you. You’ve been reading a lot lately, huh?
0:00:09 EG: I have. For the last 10 years. [laughter]
0:00:13 PA: Let’s start there. Best book you’ve read in the last 10 years.
0:00:17 EG: Prometheus Rising by Robert Anton Wilson.
0:00:21 PA: Reality tunnels.
0:00:22 EG: Yes.
0:00:23 PA: Tell us about reality tunnels.
0:00:25 EG: When I was like 21, I read Gödel, Escher, Bach. Are you familiar with that book?
0:00:30 PA: I have it, but it’s one of those books that you buy, and then I’m like…
0:00:33 EG: 100%.
0:00:33 PA: It’s that fucking thick? There’s no way.
0:00:36 EG: I got 80 pages in…
0:00:37 PA: I’ll wait for my sabbatical. Eventually.
0:00:39 EG: Exactly. That won’t ever come. You’ll see. And I got about 80 pages in, and I did five grams of mushrooms that weekend, and I almost lost my mind ’cause what that book introduces is this idea that consciousness is a self-referencing loop, and to my 21-year-old mind, I was convinced that I was gonna be the next Wittgenstein, and that I was gonna write the perfect book of philosophy that would explain life, because I was that naïve and that egoic, and reading Gödel, Escher, Bach, it killed that possibility for me, and I didn’t realize that possibility had died, and then I did the five grams of mushrooms, and I had this experience where I realized that no matter what logical cage I use, that it must reference itself to prove itself, and then I had this experience that’s hard to articulate, but it’s like I kept going a level above whatever I thought the thing would be, and then I realized, now that new level has a level above that, and it sounds so cliche…
0:01:46 PA: Turtles all the way down.
0:01:47 EG: Exactly, exactly. And I hadn’t read the book yet. And so I ended up running outside of my house barefoot for the next two hours while I was on these five grams of mushrooms just to get the anxiety and the fear out of my body, and I almost couldn’t speak to anybody for two or three weeks, because someone would say something like they’re hungry, and I would be like, “How do you know?” And I got to the point where I really almost broke my brain, and then I found this book by Robert Anton Wilson, and then I started to read it, just huge epiphany, that cage is a lens, and you can choose to just switch between lenses. And having that as an option to me. I can look at the world as a Republican, I can look at the world as a Democrat, I can look at the world as a scientist, I can look at the world… And I could just flip between channels instead of having an existential crisis for the fact that there was a TV. And it gave my mind a new level of flexibility that saved me from going insane.
0:03:00 PA: How do you look at the world then?
0:03:01 EG: My two favorite ways to look at the world is as a scientist and as a poet, and then to allow those two to playfully argue with each other. And then there’s a third perspective, which is just consciousness, and that’s my escape valve if the stuff between the poet and the researcher gets too intense, and I just need to take a break, and then I’ll just fucking, “Okay, it’s just… It’s all consciousness, and I can just be here and not be attached to anything,” but that almost feels like that’s pausing the game, and I eventually have to un-pause, and then go back in.
0:03:40 PA: Until you can totally pause it at your discretion. One of the first books I read in my early days of self-help, development, was Siddhartha.
0:03:52 EG: Yeah.
0:03:53 PA: By Herman Hesse, and I loved that tracking of a man’s life going from, I think, he was a Brahman to begging on the street to a wealthy merchant who had a child to sitting by the river side and canoeing. And so that sort of trajectory has always been something that has likely informed the way that I’ve even chosen to live and pursue or create my own reality tunnels.
0:04:20 EG: Likewise.
0:04:21 PA: And I think that’s the phenomenal opportunity that we’re living with 2020, is the choice, to choose is more here than it ever had… Ever has been before, and there’s a freedom that comes with that.
0:04:35 EG: And a paralyzation if you are not ready for the responsibility to own the freedom.
0:04:41 PA: Right. This is what Nietzsche always spoke about. This is what drives people mad.
0:04:44 EG: 100%. Yeah, that most of our ancestors, most of us come from a line of ancestors who were slaves in some way, and they didn’t know how to handle freedom. And a lot of us, we’re the first generations of having to learn what to do with freedom. My parents, in their own way, were slaves, and that word is probably charged right now, but they didn’t… I perceive them as not having choice. And both of them believed that they had to work jobs that they hated that promised them just enough money to worry about money everyday, but to have a home, and I’m the first one in my family that even senses that there’s an option.
0:05:38 PA: Do you wanna live like an aristocrat?
0:05:42 EG: I don’t even know how an aristocrat would live, but I know how I want to live is, I want to create a system where my cultivation of mastery in the things that give me flow and meaning produce enough money for me not to have to worry about money, and that I can raise a family, and then I remain having options. But my highest goal is, I don’t wanna go to the dopest party of people who don’t do anything dope, I wanna be free to work on the crafts that I want to become a master in everyday, and then give the next four to five hours to my family, and then relax.
0:06:29 PA: What’s mastery mean to you?
0:06:32 EG: For me specifically, mastery is learning and teaching the most adaptive human story. And so everything that is involved with doing that. So writing, speaking, researching, understanding human nature, understanding how to take care of my body, ’cause my body is the instrument that has to run.
0:06:50 PA: It’s the mitsu.
0:06:53 EG: 100%. But on a more general level, mastery is gaining competence towards something that gives… That fills your soul.
0:07:02 PA: There’s a quote in Robert Green’s book, which I assume you’re familiar with.
0:07:07 EG: It’s one of my Bibles.
0:07:09 PA: And I think it’s the opening part of the first chapter.
0:07:13 EG: That’s my favorite part of the book.
0:07:14 PA: Where he talks about how mastery’s always a process that’s going inwards, and that a lot of what we’re doing throughout life is an excavation of all of these sort of stories and beliefs that we’ve built up as a personality.
0:07:29 EG: Hopefully,’cause most people don’t even do the excavation.
0:07:33 PA: But yes, and there is… I think that’s where the freedom is, and that’s where the expansion is, and that’s what more and more… That’s what’s becoming democratized, if you will. This is sort of the promise of psychedelics and meditation and breathwork and flow states and whatever else, it’s that it allows you to sort of level up through that experience, because you feel the interconnectedness of how you relate to everything around you. So you go from being an ego that’s very isolated to this expansive source of energy.
0:08:13 EG: And an interesting thing about the ego is I feel like… It’s really interesting, and I’ve been getting back into a Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and human motivations, and one of the seemingly paradoxical ideas is that you must have an ego to gain mastery at any skill, but that once you gain a certain level of mastery, you hit flow, and flow evaporates the ego. And so the way to transcendence is through the ego, and that it’s taming the ego towards seeking mastery in something that produces flow that leads to self-transcendence for the time that you do the thing. It’s why I personally think art is what will heal almost any mental disorder.
0:09:08 PA: Go on. [chuckle]
0:09:11 EG: So in the same way that an acorn has an energy inside of it that knows how to make the oak tree, I think each of us come into the world, first off, through that intelligence. The thing that makes us in the womb is that intelligence. And Joseph Campbell has a quote, “The intelligence that created you in your mother’s womb, as it completed its creation, sealed within you a commitment, a Dharma, a call. And each of us have a specific way the soul in us wants to express, and the expression is art.” And that might be dancing, that might be singing, that might be pottery, that might be cultivating a family, that might be doing politics, that might be making businesses, but the fact is, every single person I’ve ever spoken to in any type of coaching context or friendship or whatever, and I bring up the idea that you have a whisper inside of you, that’s asking you to do things that you’re afraid to do, 100% of people know exactly what the fuck I’m talking about.
0:10:20 EG: That whisper, I feel like, is that energy’s commitment inside of you, calling you to do the arts, and as you cultivate mastery, producing whatever the art is that your whisper calls you to do, it leads to self-transcendence through flow state, and every mental disorder requires the identification to the ego. And when you’re in flow state, there is no identification with the ego. And what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the dude who created or founded the term flow found, is that it is the most rewarding and fulfilling human state that we can measure.
0:11:02 PA: How do you love to flow? What’s your sort of break-it-down formula for opening a flow state?
0:11:13 EG: Podcasting, reading. I’ve been reading for so long now that I have this whole fucking ritual around how I read. And writing. Sometimes writing will give you a flow state, sometimes it fucking won’t. Teaching for me always… Almost always induces flow state. Conversations almost always induce flow state. Sex, when it’s good, induces flow state. Basketball, when it’s good, induces flow state. I remember when I was like 20, I was playing a bunch of meat heads at a Gold’s gym playing basketball, and it was the most powerful my ego has ever felt because that flow state was in the context of competing, so the ego was still alive, but it was almost like it was high and it had no judgements, but it was like, “No one can stop me, I can do whatever I want, and I’m gonna prove it… ” and I just proved it to myself over and over for half an hour, and it was one of the most intoxicating feelings I’ve ever had, but… So basketball sometimes.
0:12:20 PA: It’s intoxicating.
0:12:20 EG: 100%. And this is a great point. The caveat to the art piece is you have to bring enough cultivating that the by-product of the intoxicating flow state produces something of use to the collective. So if my only flow state was basketball, and I was just in a Gold’s gym, I would actually call that closer to an addiction than a… Than art. Now, if I’m a LeBron James and I have millions of people on me, and then I use the by-product of my flow states to inspire young people to go work hard, that’s a different story. So one of the caveats is the products of the flow state are useful to the collective, and if so, then fucking go get high.
0:13:16 PA: The hippie cocktail?
0:13:18 EG: The best one.
0:13:19 PA: It’s the best one, for sure. Yeah, there’s this guy, James Oroc. Who wrote about 5-MeO-DMT, it was this book called The Tryptamine Palace. Fascinating guy. And he wrote a newsletter in spring 2011 for Maps, which was about how extreme sport athletes, these sort of not so often talked about secret was that they were all taking acid and microdosing on acid in particular, and that process would help with coordination and flow, essentially, because as we dampen the ego through potentially something like psychedelics or breathwork or whatever, we just don’t feel as separate from the world, so we’re just… We’re into it. And sports will do that, and meditation will do that, and obviously we know all the ways to get into flow. So many people can’t access it. So many people maybe have never accessed it. So many people are suffering from the lack of accessing it. And I think there’s a really interesting relationship, when we get into these flow states, they can be mystical. They can open us up to understandings and truth and awareness that we’ve never considered before, and it can often be chaotic, it can often break our brain. So after that happened with you, you got into Robert Anton Wilson. What’s been your path since then over the last eight years to come to deeper integration?
0:14:47 EG: Yeah. What’s interesting for me personally, finding the philosophy of pragmatism that was first invented by William James, that is the bedrock of the new psyche that I’ve created after I basically broke my old brain. And the essence of pragmatism is, we have not evolved to perceive objective truth, and there’s a lot of technical stuff that we could get into before that I think is super fascinating. What we perceive as usefulness, every idea is a tool, and to the degree that it’s true is to the degree that it’s useful, if implemented through action in your life. And that’s been the bedrock of my… Of how I integrate from any type of either flow state or a psychedelic experience, and sometimes those are the same thing.
0:15:48 EG: And so that led me to studying the science of habit change. And for me personally, when I have a psychedelic experience, I will write a trip report to myself, and that’s just a really beautiful way for me to seal that memory in, but then also to give it a story, ’cause I think psychedelic experiences are a lot like dreams. You actually create the story when you wake up. You actually don’t experience a dream as a story when you’re dreaming. What you experience is a couple of intense images with emotions, and then the moment you wake up, you’re already starting to weave it together, but that’s still meaningful. And I think it’s the same with psychedelic experiences, that the moment the ego comes back, the story making starts. And that’s not bad, it’s just… It is what human nature is. If we’re going to convey meaning, it’s embedded in story, and the moment your ego comes back, you start doing that. So I’ll write a trip report, and then my big thing is, what is one behavior change that I’m willing to implement as a testament to the experience that I’m going to embody the wisdom? And so an example might be like, I’ll stop eating X, or I’ll start to do Y. And because I understand habit change, it’s not, “I’m going to radically change every aspect of my life for the rest of my life,” and then I go really hard for five days and then I break. No.
0:17:08 PA: You’ve done that before.
0:17:09 EG: And I broke.
0:17:11 PA: Exactly.
0:17:11 EG: And then I didn’t go back. Yeah.
0:17:12 PA: We’ve experienced that. All of us. Yeah.
0:17:14 EG: And so for me, it’s to write a trip report, and then it’s to commit spiritually to one behavior change that is almost like a prayer to the experience until the next experience. And I tend not to go deep unless I feel genuinely called or, as a refresher, maybe once every four to six months.
0:17:39 PA: With psychedelics in particular?
0:17:40 EG: Yeah, yeah.
0:17:41 PA: You like to space out those peak experiences.
0:17:43 EG: Well, the truth is that my projection onto the Divine, the story that I have is that… Have I truly integrated the lessons of the first one? And the answer is almost always, never completely. And most people I know who do deeper doses more frequently than me, I personally don’t feel that they’re honoring the downloads that they get, and they haven’t done the full integration. And just so for me personally, I feel it’s disrespectful to whatever this force is in my own psyche that I get access to when I go deep if I haven’t done the work. And I know whether or not I’ve done the work. And so it tends to be four to six or more months.
0:18:27 PA: De-sensitizes your both your neural circuitry and also your soul circuitry, so to say, if you continue to dip back into that well, and it becomes much more hedonic than actually useful. And so we get back to usefulness. If you’re going in again and again, you’re actually losing a lot of the usefulness of that experience. And psychedelics are so useful in particular, because they expose the truth for what it is. They expose what is required for survival, but not only survival, for thriving. And that’s especially interesting in today’s world, because a lot of people feel like we’re at this point of existential crisis, where we’re having a crisis of existence. It’s hard to find meaning in the world. God is dead. What are these new churches? What are these new stories that we give meaning to? Building a tribe. That’s one part. You’ve been part of Aubrey Marcus‘ program. You’ve been a coach in the Mastermind that he put together.
0:19:18 EG: Yeah.
0:19:19 PA: Tell us a little bit about that. When we first met three years ago now, you were hosting your own podcast, and a lot of what you were into at that point was Jung. There was a lot of, I remember, Jungian things that you were getting into. And then a year and a half after that, I just remember you popping up, I think it was on Aubrey’s Instagram or whatever, I’m like, “Is that Godsey?” And so I started to look around and then I started working with Ben, who’s here, listening to the recording, and Ben was in the Mastermind program, he’s like, “You gotta… Godsey is dropping all this shit.” Specifically I think at that point is about the hero’s journey. So we did this whole entire exercise about what’s the hero’s journey that we’re leading people through. And I loved Campbell, I read his four parts, and the mythical books that he had about Oriental and Occidental mythology, and all of that sort of stuff. So it’s been fun to track, and seeing how you’re developing, and your philosophy and all that, and I’d love to just hear how the last couple years, especially if that’s inspiring and have influenced you.
0:20:15 EG: Yeah, man. When we did the podcast three years ago, I had recently gotten fired as a manager for a call center for an insurance company, and then the day I got fired from that job, because I basically found a way to do the eight hours in half an hour, and then they found out and they were like, “Fuck you.”
0:20:35 EG: And I was like, “My team still out-performed every other team, but, okay, deuces.” The day I got fired, I saw an ad on Facebook for Aubrey Marcus’ Go For Your Win course’, and I’d never bought an online course up till that point because my ego was like, “I’m not gonna pay somebody to teach me. I’ll fucking do it on my own,” but I bought it. And I was really active in the Facebook group that was a part of this community, and I just… My vibe to all my friends since I was 19 is, whatever I learned that day that is interesting, I’m gonna tell you about it.
0:21:11 EG: And the root of my teaching style actually came from the fact that all my roommates, and we would have six people over every night, we’d all get high in the garage, and then once we were adequately high, I would just tell them about something I learned in psychology, and I would just watch their faces. And of course, we’re all high, so everything sounds like it’s the fucking most amazing thing, but I started to do that in the Facebook group. I just started to answer questions, I started to offer, “Check out this book, check out this resource, here’s what I think about this thing, blah, blah, blah.” And there was a in-person graduation for that online course after 12 weeks, and so I met Aubrey at this thing, and he actually came up to me and he was like, “Are you Erick?” And I was like, “Yeah.” And he’s, “Thank you for all the value that you gave the community. It was fucking awesome.” In my head, I’m like, “I’m getting a motherfucking job here.”
0:22:02 EG: And so the moment I leave from that graduation, I DMed the two people who worked with him, asking if I could apply for a job, and they were like, “No,” and I applied for a job to be a copywriter for his first book. This is a really interesting arc here. I was so sure I was gonna get it. When I applied, I started having all these dreams about moving to Austin, meeting his tribe. My intuition was so loud that I was gonna get this job, so I moved to Austin before I even got hired. And after a three-month process, it took them a long fucking time to fucking get back to me, it came down to me and one other person. And I got an email, and it said, “We’re sorry, but thank you. Good luck.” And I was fucking crushed. I was like, “How could my intuition be this off? This doesn’t make any sense.” And so, I got drunk everyday for two or three days just to run away from it, and then after waking up on, I think, the third day, I was like, “Okay, I have to do this on my own.”
0:23:04 EG: And so that’s when I started with the podcast, and you were one of my first guests. So I was in this period where I had just been fired, I thought I was gonna get this amazing job, I didn’t get it, and I was like, “I fucking gotta do it on my own.” And you were maybe my sixth guest. And I did that for eight months, and I was a habit change coach, but I had no idea how to ask for the right amount of money, but the shit I was teaching fucking worked, but I still had all these stories about money. And by the end of that year, that I did the interview with you, I had moved back in with my mom, I was down to like maybe $200, and I had just started microdosing LSD. And on a whim, there is no logical sense here, but on a whim, I went and I checked the Onnit job listing thing, and they had some bullshit, the lowest level on the totem pole you can imagine, and I applied for it.
0:23:56 PA: A janitor. You applied to be a janitor.
0:24:00 EG: Basically, it was to answer customer service emails.
0:24:02 PA: Yeah.
0:24:03 EG: Not hating on anyone who fucking does that, but you gotta start somewhere. Anyways, so I apply to that thing, and then I go and I check the Facebook group just ’cause I was on my computer, and the hiring manager for that position had posted the application in the Facebook group for the Go For Your Win course, and I saw it the minute it got posted. And so I commented on it and I said, “I just applied for this. Best of luck to everybody else who applies,” and then I went to bed. I got up the next morning, I go and I check the post, 16 people from the course commented on my comment, saying, “Hire Erick,” and I eventually got the phone call, got hired, moved to Austin. The day before I had the interview with Aubrey, I had a dream that he baptized me in his pool. I didn’t tell him that at the interview.
0:24:55 PA: Sure. [laughter]
0:25:00 EG: But so I get hired, I start answering emails, and I’m reading Jung every morning. I was trying to read Jung’s Collected Works before I turned 30, and so I was reading it every day, and it’s a fucking massive… It’s a 100,000 Kindle pages. So I was doing that every morning. Whenever I had an opportunity, I was telling someone about something about psychology or about Jung. And the truth is that, with my stories, I impressed the women that Aubrey were close to, and that’s how Aubrey saw me, is that the women he was close to started to, “Fucking Godsey talked about this and this.” And he texted me one day, and he was like… He basically… He saw me for the first time after a couple of months. And then he came up to my desk, and shortly after that was like, “Hey, you’re smart.” And I was like, “Thank you?” And he had started reading my responses to people doing the emails, and so then after that happened, he gave me more responsibilities, and then he eventually asked me about wanting to come on the podcast, and I was like, “Yeah.”
0:26:07 EG: And the moment I went on the podcast, that’s when fucking things got crazy. And then, when he started the Fit for Service program, he just told me I was gonna be a coach. He didn’t ask me, he just told me. And my understanding was like, “You want me to be a coach to people who are older than me, who have 10 to 100 times more money than me, who… ” A part of me was like, “What the fuck am I gonna offer them?” And once it started, I realized, “Oh, I have something of value to offer these people.” And it’s turned into the the most rewarding work “thing” I’ve ever done, and it’s forced me to transform more rapidly than anything else in my life has forced me to transform. Interestingly, podcasting, really… I think the best self-development tool I ever got was a podcast. And I don’t know if this has happened for you, but it transformed the way that I speak, it transformed… I am now able to have a conversation with anybody, and that was not the case before the podcast. And I’ve learned how to listen. I’m doing a lot of talking on this one, but I’ve really learned how to listen to people, and most people are not used to really being heard.
0:27:32 EG: And so that was a huge skill, but then now coaching has… It’s 10 times more potent, because what I find is that, and it’s true for everybody, if you’re in a conversation with someone where you can truly listen and that they want to hear from you and you’re willing to share, the best part of you comes forward. And the more you do that, the small ego part of you is constantly watching that part that comes forward, and it’s like, “Oh, fuck. We know these things.” And so then, in my life, when I wanna play small, it’s almost like in order to not be a hypocrite to myself, I have to follow the advice that I give people, and that’s been one of the most potent… It’s been one of the most potent, “I can’t run away from things in my life,” aspects that’s ever arisen. And now, when I see people like Ben, instant brotherhood. We could not talk for six months, but the moment I see him again, it’s like my nervous system responds like, “You are one of the people in my tribe,” and I can feel my body relaxed and it heals.
0:28:44 PA: Connection. Thank you for sharing that.
0:28:48 EG: Thank you for asking.
0:28:50 PA: We have similar threads and we’re the same age. When’s your birthday?
0:28:54 EG: January 1st.
0:28:55 PA: Okay. January 1st?
0:28:57 EG: Yeah.
0:29:00 PA: 1991.
0:29:01 EG: Yeah.
0:29:02 PA: And like you, I find lecturing, teaching, educating, speaking, for me, the big level up was, I gave this talk in Amsterdam a few years ago about microdosing in front of about 600 people, and I had a girlfriend there, and I had a future business partner there, and it was… It was high stake, and that for me has always been the flow, public speaking. And being able to weave together ideas in there, and just merge with something new. Even the coach that I’m working with, he’s, “You gotta have people you can talk to.” It’s through talking through things and writing things, you’re probably the same, we learn so much from that emergent process. So for you, throughout your 20s, what have been three core lessons that have emerged that have helped you to feel ready for this moment that you’re currently at, and that you’re currently facing? And that could be… You could think of that on a pretty grand scale, shit’s getting worse, and you could think of the coaching skills. What are three lessons throughout your 20s that have sort of flowered? Those are sort of the principles that guide you.
0:30:22 EG: Yeah. The first one I got from Jung, and it’s essentially, there is an ancient God-like force inside of you that is watching your life right now, and it talks to you through the unconscious, and so that’s dreams, your intuition, that’s symbols, that’s visions, but there is an ancient God-like thing inside of you, and if you can learn how to listen to it, it will guide you in a way that it’s gonna feel like you’re a super hero. So that’s the first one. The second one is, speak and act your truth in love, and whatever happens as a response of that is the best possible thing that can happen. That’s truly one of the most important values that I have, that has proved to be one of the most useful hypotheses to run in the world that I’ve ever encountered.
0:31:24 PA: So kindness is useful.
0:31:28 EG: What’s interesting is something I’ve said to a partner before is, “I’m not afraid to hurt you if it’s my truth.” And so kindness doesn’t feel like the right thing. It feels like authenticity, but in the way that it’s, “I have a sword, and I will use the sword, but only when I have to, and only as much as I need to. But I will not spare you if it’s not the truth.” And so kindness doesn’t feel like it gets to that word, but like, “I’m gonna be in truth with you.”
0:32:01 PA: Well, sometimes you have to bear the edge.
0:32:04 EG: 100%.
0:32:04 PA: Right?
0:32:05 EG: Yeah.
0:32:06 PA: The energy is one of kindness.
0:32:08 EG: Right. It’s love. 100%.
0:32:10 PA: Love.
0:32:11 EG: 100%. Yeah. And then the third one is the most adaptive story is the hero’s journey. Now, I have to learn how to teach it.
0:32:22 PA: If you had to walk us through your own hero’s journey, which part are you currently at in your pursuit of professional success?
0:32:36 EG: So, because you offer the caveat, I’m able to answer the question, because one way to think about it is, it’s almost like your psyche is like a planetary system, and each of the orbs are the major clusters of energy in your life that you care about. That might be family, that might be work, that might be art, whatever, and each one’s going through its own hero’s journey, cycles at their own paces, and we are infinite in a very interesting way, but…
0:33:04 PA: It’s like the Ouroboros. It just… It keeps going, and it keeps going, and…
0:33:08 EG: Right. Right. Amen.
0:33:09 PA: That’s freedom, that’s power.
0:33:11 EG: It feels like, in my career, I am bringing home the medicine of my first full hero’s journey. It’s almost done. And I’m already starting to hear the whisper of the call of the next one, as this one is coming to an end. What’s interesting is, something like six years ago, I remember I got high, it was night time, it was a full moon, and I was walking through my suburb neighborhood, and I looked at the moon and I told the moon, “All I wanna do is help Aubrey share his philosophy,” and now I’m writing a book with him. And the book is about to be done in a couple of months. And in the process of writing the book, I have been seized by my soul, and it’s pointing me towards a new arena, and it’s like, “You have to go there alone.” My apprenticeship of serving someone feels like it’s about to come to an end, and now I’m being told by my soul, “You have to go without a shield, without someone else’s name as the shield, you have to go into a new arena.” And it feels like it’s mental health, it feels like it’s to start to be a voice to change the story of what mental health is and how we approach it.
0:34:28 PA: Yeah, you’ve been… That’s your kick. That’s been your kick, lately. We talked about a couple books there’re on it, Anatomy of an Epidemic, The Emperor’s New Drugs is another one, Lost Connections by Johann Hari, as well as his other book, which I’m…
0:34:44 EG: Chasing the Scream.
0:34:45 PA: Chasing the Scream. So can you talk us through a little bit of that material. Our podcast listeners are probably somewhat familiar about the mental health epidemic, and obviously, it’s getting worse and worse and worse, that’s tied to disconnection, that’s tied to not being able to feel feelings, etcetera. But what’s sort of the… What’s a good way… Where have your aha moments been? Where have, as you’ve been doing this research in the study, where have you gone, “Oh, that’s a major shift,” or like, “Oh, shit. I never looked at it that way before.” What’s sort of come into light for you through this process?
0:35:25 EG: The first one was finding that there was a Harvard psychologist who had published a book based off of research that he did that empirically showed that antidepressants, when you properly control for the placebo effect, its improvement on depression is so low that it’s not clinically effective. And there’s a bunch of technicalities that we can get into to justify that sentence, but it’s accurate. That had always been my intuition, but I didn’t know that it had been scientifically shown and then replicated over and over again, and that this was done 12 years ago. So that was like, “Whoa, what the fuck? Okay.” And so then that led me to begin reading Anatomy of an Epidemic, and that book completely changed the way that I understand how mental health is approached in our culture right now. It is in the scientific literature, it’s not hidden, that all psychiatric meds, none of them heal anything. And that’s what they were promised when they first came out. They were supposed to be the psychological equivalent of anti… Or antibiotics. That’s why they have the names. Yeah. Not only do they not cure, most studies struggle to find that these are more effective than placebo pills. So that’s interesting.
0:37:02 EG: But the thing that fucking blew my mind from reading that book, and the author painstakingly goes through study after study, that these psychiatric meds, they actually create a chemical change in the brain, they create a chemical imbalance that did not exist before. So one of the ahas was the chemical imbalance theory of mental illness, of depression, of schizophrenia, not true. Not even maybe. Not even kinda. It’s been thoroughly found to, every study that has been done to try to find evidence for it, has not found evidence for it, and I have a list of 20 quotes all from top researchers saying, “I’ve looked at all the studies for the last 20 years, the last 40 years, the last 50 years, there is no evidence for the chemical imbalance theory.” And now there’s even quotes from modern psychiatrists who claim that it was never something that they even believed. We’re so far beyond it now that the top people who are treating mental illness claim that it was never even a story, but the story was given to us by pharmaceutical companies, and the documentation for that is, again, it’s not hidden. It’s just we live in a culture where if it’s not on the news, 99% of people don’t know that it’s a fact out there. But these chemicals, these drugs actually create a chemical imbalance in the brain that then breaks the brain in a way, if you use it more than a month or two, that exacerbate the illness that they were claiming to fix.
0:38:43 EG: And that led me to investigating the DSM, which is the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual that psychiatry uses to diagnose mental illness. And doing the research on that is some of the most mind-blowing stuff I’ve ever read, because I didn’t know what the history of how they created the DSM was, and what the history is essentially, is the first two versions of that book, there’s five versions out, the first two versions of those books were all Freudian, and it was just… It wasn’t that it was a biological disease, it was like, “These are ways that the psyche can conflict with itself, that creates problems.” In the DSM-III that came out just a couple of years before Prozac came out, that was the big changer in this cultural story.
0:39:31 EG: The way that they created the DSM-III, which they were claiming was going to be a biological cause, like a book that is a biological diagnosis of mental illness, the way that they created it was not because there was a discovery that there’s a biological pathway of any of these disorders that the Freudians hypothesized. What they did is they created a group of 12 white men, who voted on what was a disorder. And it’s public knowledge, the dude who led creating the DSM-III, his last name is Spitzer, he admits in interviews there were no scientific discoveries for any biological cause for any of these mental illnesses. We did the best we could, we didn’t have almost any scientific evidence, so we voted.
0:40:26 EG: The DSM-III is the most famous psychiatric textbook that’s ever been created, and since then, it hasn’t moved away from the claim that this is a book that tracks biological diseases. But, still to this day, there is not a single biological test that you can take, for any of the mental disorders in the DSM, that shows you that you have a mental disorder, because there hasn’t been a single scientific discovery that has found a biological pathway for any of the mental illnesses. And the DSM is a philosophy book, that has lied and said it’s a medical book. And it is now the thing that molds our culture about how we treat mental illness. In order for a doctor to get paid by the insurance for treating you, they have to give you a DSM diagnosis.
0:41:22 EG: And then, the standard care is, I’m gonna use a checklist in this book, and if you meet the qualifications of the checklist, like for example, if you have five of these nine symptoms for more than two weeks, you’re depressed, and then I’m gonna give you antidepressants. And if these antidepressants don’t work, come back in a month and I’ll give you a new one. And if those don’t work, come back in a month, I’ll give you a new one. And if those don’t work, come back in a month, I’ll give you a new one. And if they do work, but you can’t sleep, I’ll give you pills, so you can fall asleep. And then, if that disrupts your sleep after a couple of months, and you’re starting to have episodes of mania, I’ll give you something for that.
0:42:00 EG: And the big aha there was, our entire mental health model is based off of a story that we are biological machines, and that we’ve discovered how to heal the biological imbalance. There is no biological imbalance that has yet been found by science, and we have not healed anything. What we have done is we’ve found that there are drugs that for some people, for a short amount of time, numb you. And then, the last most recent huge thing that I found that had me screaming in my house, I was reading books alone, and there’s no one else there, and I just started fucking like yelling, like the way that researchers have induced depression in rats, for the last 50 years, so they can study the effects of antidepressants, is there’s two ways. The first one is they will put rats inside of a glass cup that’s half full with water, where the rats can’t touch the bottom and they have to swim, and they will wait until the rats give up, because there’s no way to get out and they have to… There’s no other option. And eventually, after like 10 minutes, the rats just like shut down. That’s how they induce depression. And the other way is they will hang the rats from their tail and the rats will try to unlock their tail, but they can’t, and they’ll wait until the rats give up.
0:43:31 EG: The way they induce depression in mammals is not to breed them for a gene that makes them depressed, it’s not to inject them with a chemical that makes them depressed, it’s to put them in a hopeless situation. That is how we’ve induced depression in mice for the last 50 years. But what we’re told about our depression is that it’s a biology thing, whereas the answer has been in front of our faces for 50 years, but the researchers either… I’m going to assume incompetence, and not malice, they just fucking didn’t see it. You have to put an organism in a self-perceived hopeless situation, and then the results of that is to shut the fuck down. That’s depression.
0:44:18 PA: When that serotonin drop… So, I think… From what I understand, there are definitely biological mechanisms that are tied to neurochemical deficiencies, or serotonin oxytocin, and we also know that those are so context-dependent on the environment in which someone lives, that obviously if someone doesn’t feel motivation, if they don’t feel hope, then they are going to have much lower serotonin levels. But the key isn’t to try to fix that chemically…
0:44:46 EG: Check this out.
0:44:47 PA: Yeah.
0:44:48 EG: What the research shows is that depressed people do not have lower any chemical in a chronic measurable way than people who aren’t depressed. And there are specific studies that have looked at that exact hypothesis, and they find that basically one-third have too high of whatever chemical, one-third has too low, and one-third has just the right. It’s the natural variation between people, and so there isn’t a direct correlation to depression and having a low amount of serotonin in your brain, it’s simply not there. The reason they even put forth a hypothesis is because they hypothesized… Because the SSRIs work, heavy quotations, and we know the mechanism of how SSRIs function in the brain, we hypothesize that depression is the opposite. And then, for like 10 or 15 years after that hypothesis was put forward in 1967, there was like eight studies that were done, all of them found that even in depressed people, there isn’t a outside of the normal variation that happens in people’s brains, if you collect 100 people and you measure the balance of chemicals in the brain. There’s not evidence that people who are depressed have low amount of serotonin.
0:46:20 PA: So do psychedelics.
0:46:22 EG: Yeah.
0:46:22 PA: Right. So from what I understand, and I’d love to hear how this lands with you, a big part of the efficacy of psychedelics is activation of the 5-HT2A receptor. So Robin Carhart-Harris, who’s the lead scientist in Imperial, they published a paper in the last year or so that showed that the difference between the 5-HT1A receptor, which is what typical anti-depressants work on. That numbs, as we already talked about, but when you activate the 5-HT2A receptor that doesn’t numb, and actually is some sort of catharsis where it brings up the shadow, it brings up the repressed emotion, it brings up whatever you hadn’t been looking at. So, instead of numbing and separating from it, it actually comes into your awareness so that you can go through dealing with things. And so from what I understand, and that stuff… The activation of the 5-HT2A receptor, the serotonin, it’s tied to the pre-frontal cortex, it’s tied to adaptability, and that allows then, that adaptability, that neuroplasticity allows people then to integrate new behavioral change that helps them to feel more nourished and more healthy. Question being then, if it’s not anything to do with neurochemicals, so to say, or serotonin, or maybe it is, we can… I’m still a little bit… I’m still a little confused on that.
0:47:34 EG: For sure. Yeah.
0:47:35 PA: What, then, heals people so that they aren’t depressed anymore? What, then, helps them to not be anxious anymore? What, then, helps them to… What actually works for depression?
0:47:48 EG: Right. So there’s a couple of threads there. The first one is, I will admit my incompetence. I do not understand the neurochemistry of the brain well enough to have any strong opinion that isn’t just my regurgitation of the research. My intuition is that… What’s interesting is all the chemical imbalance hypothesis came from the fact that, by accident, the first three neurotransmitters that we learned how to measure was because they were the three that were… That bound to a dye that researchers used, and so they were the only three that we could even see.
0:48:30 PA: What were those? Serotonin?
0:48:32 EG: Dopamine and norepinephrine.
0:48:34 PA: The norepinephrine.
0:48:36 EG: So all of our chemical imbalance hypothesis came from the fact that these were the only three that we could see. And so the brain is an organism that you have something like 100 billion neurons that each have between 10 to 10,000 connections that lead to over 100 trillion possible ways things can unfold in the brain, and that’s more stars than are in the objective universe.
0:49:02 PA: It’s a lot of reality tunnels too.
0:49:04 EG: It’s a lot of reality tunnels. And my intuition is that what we’re doing with the brain is the same thing that we’ve seen happen with genes, is we’ve only learned how to see three of the 100,000 possible pieces of Legos, and we’re trying to trace the patterns of how these Legos unfold in this infinite Matrix, and we’re doing our best with what we can see, but I feel like we’re children stumbling in the most grand palace, trying to understand the architecture. And I think it’s more complex than being able to find a Lego piece and say, “We just need to put more of that Lego in here, or we just need to push on that Lego, and then we’ll have the experiences.”
0:49:53 EG: What I find is there is a biological component to mental illness, and it’s chronic inflammation. And you don’t need pills to fix chronic inflammation. And the same functional, evolutionarily cohesive diet and lifestyle that heals most chronic illness, most chronic biological illness, is one of the most effective ways that you can reduce your mental illnesses. Now, again, there’s a really interesting asterisk here that I’ll get to, but… So the first one is, the biological aspect is chronic inflammation, for sure. But then there’s the story-telling aspect, and people fundamentally need a story where they have hope. In order for you to have hope, you have to maybe change your story, you maybe have to learn how to cultivate competence and agency and effectiveness, and it’s one of the reasons why I think mastery is such an important part of helping people alchemize their mental illnesses.
0:50:56 EG: And the thing that psychedelics allow very strongly is a radical reorientation of the story that the person tells themselves about their lives that give them the sense of hope. And the way that can happen is infinite because it’s creative. But I think that the core thing about psychedelics is that they allow for an experience that we’re more than a biological machine. And when you have an intense experience that fundamentally changes the way that you perceive the world, that’s the thing that, I think, is healing. And then it’s almost like lightning hits a cloud and you see all this motherfucking light, and we’re trying to track one light ray, and being like, “Look, it’s that.” Whereas it’s more about the experience of witnessing the lightning. And people need to make their careers off of measuring the Lego blocks, that for… And I’m not dismissing that. There is amazing work that is happening there, but I think it comes down to what heals people is that they have a radical shift in their story about whether or not they have hope or not.
0:52:10 EG: Now, the third part that is really tricky here is, lots of people who have mental illness who have been taking psychiatric drugs for more than a couple of months, they now have real neurological changes in their brain that can’t be healed as easily as if they hadn’t started taking it. And so there’s a third group of people with mental illness that will need to see really competent psychiatrists who understand what was changed in their brain by the chemical, and that’s not just gonna be fixed with a low inflammation diet, and then cultivating a new story about your life, maybe.
0:52:55 PA: Maybe you need to throw in some EMDR, some Ketamine, or float tanks, or… And I think.
0:53:02 EG: I guess what I’m saying is, for that third group you need to be in close contact with a very competent…
0:53:07 PA: With a medical professional.
0:53:08 EG: Yes. 100%.
0:53:09 PA: Absolutely. And this is what we even talk about in our programs. We have a six-week program that we’re leading 50 people through right now. And some of them are on pharmaceuticals and so we were like, “Look, if you’re gonna start with microdosing and you’ve been on these medications for a while, you wanna definitely check with a psychiatrist, a medical professional, right? I think…
0:53:25 EG: Yeah.
0:53:25 PA: That’s so key with all of this is, unfortunately, there are tons of people who are on these medications.
0:53:32 EG: Something like one in four.
0:53:34 PA: It’s fucking nuts, dude. It’s so…
0:53:36 EG: It might be one in five, yeah.
0:53:38 PA: Nuts.
0:53:38 EG: And by the way, all of them, when they were first created they were supposed to only be used for short periods of time, no more than two months.
0:53:48 PA: Just like opiates.
0:53:49 EG: Right.
0:53:50 PA: That didn’t work out so well.
0:53:51 EG: No…
0:53:51 PA: Both are addictive.
0:53:54 EG: Yeah. And what’s interesting… So the thing about SSRIs is they can claim legally that they’re not addictive, but it’s because the FDA changed the qualification for what it means to be addictive from having a chemical dependency to you need more and more of it. And because you don’t need more and more of it to meet the need it’s not technically addictive. But that same logic would apply to if you smoke a pack a day, but you don’t go more than pack a day, that you’re not addicted. SSRIs have withdrawal symptoms. They create chemical dependencies in a huge percentage of people. They are addictive.
0:54:30 PA: Anti-anxiety medications as well. That’s the next crisis.
0:54:33 EG: They’re terrible, yeah.
0:54:34 PA: That’s… The benzo crisis is coming for you motherfuckers, watch the fuck out. You thought opiates were bad just wait.
0:54:40 EG: It’s here.
0:54:40 PA: It’s here. And Jordan Peterson was really the first prominent person who I think went through that publicly and…
0:54:46 EG: 100%.
0:54:47 PA: Lived to tell the tale. What happened there?
0:54:51 EG: With him or what do benzo withdrawals do?
0:54:54 PA: Both. Maybe start with the example of his story like…
0:54:57 EG: Yeah, my understanding is that as he was starting to be forced into the public eye because of the videos that he made at his university he had an allergic reaction to food that led to him not being able to sleep for almost three weeks. And his doctor gave him a benzo and it seemed to work. It seemed to take care of whatever the neurological dysfunction was that was in the brain. Now, the caveat here is he’s been taking anti-depressants on and off since he was a young man. And what I’ve learned from these books is that, actually creates a chemical imbalance that might make all this stuff much more particular and harmful. But he took the benzos, they helped. And because the benzos don’t create like a physiological effect where you like… It’s not like you smoked weed or drunk alcohol, that he claims.
0:55:52 EG: And I think he knows that when it’s him with him that he’s got more stern words for himself, but he claims that he just kind of forgot that he was taking them. And he took ’em for a couple of years. And then I believe once his wife almost died from terminal cancer, but it seems that she’s okay now, his anxiety got even worse. And so his doctor upped his dose, and then he started to experience akathisia. I believe I’m saying that right. Or akathisia. But it’s one of the most uncomfortable side effects that come from… All the psychiatric drugs can create this effect. And it essentially feels like your entire body is being shocked for hours. And this is the effect… Akathisia, I think I’m saying that, right… That is correlated with why people withdrawing from SSRIs are five times more likely to kill themselves.
0:56:50 EG: It’s hypothesized that this is the effect that leads to the wild murders of like, a wife will kill her husband and her… Because you’re so agitated in your body and you almost can’t process… Like… Jordan said that it was the worst experience he’s ever had. And he’s been trying to find something that was more painful than the deepest parts of depression. He says that this is not even close. So he realized once he started to look at the research that these were effects of the benzos. And so he tried to get off the benzos. And he went cold turkey which is… It’s mind-blowing to me that the most famous psychologist in the world didn’t know not to do that. But he didn’t know not to do that. And if he doesn’t know not to do that we’re not properly educating people when we’re giving them these super powerful drugs.
0:57:45 EG: But he went cold turkey and then he started to fucking fall apart. And so then he started to see a bunch of psychiatrists. He went to five different psychiatrists in the US, and they all… Their recommendation to him is you have to get back on the benzos, you just take the benzos. Your symptoms are too high but if we give you the benzos back it’ll make them go away. And this is one of the most interesting things about what I learned from the research. Once you start taking the anti-depressants or the anti-anxiety or the antipsychotics for more than a couple of months, the withdrawal symptoms will look like the re-emergence of the symptoms that you had that got you on it, but they’re not. They are actual chemical dependency withdrawal symptoms. And so most doctors think that because they give them the pill again and the symptoms go away within a day it’s working.
0:58:41 EG: But it’s literally like if you were addicted to meth and you started having withdrawals and you thought that what healed it was to give you meth again. It’s the same process. So all these psychiatrists were like, “We have to put you back on the benzos.” And he was like, “No.” So he had to go to fucking Moscow to get treated… Maybe it wasn’t Moscow but it somewhere in Russia. And they ended up having to put him into a coma for nine days ’cause if the withdrawal symptoms are so intense, that’s what they do. And then after he came out of the coma, he was so delirious that he doesn’t even have memory of the eight days he was in this delirium. And then he slowly started to come out of the delirium, and he spent the last five or six months dealing with the effects having not taken it in five months.
0:59:30 EG: Some of them are so… The half-life is so long that you have withdrawal symptoms in some cases for up to two years after you get off of them. And he’s just now starting to emerge out of it. And what’s wild is, this is someone… He’s one of the… He’s the top 0.1% of people who understands psychology. And he has basically infinite money and connections and he barely got through this, like he almost died, and it’s something like one in nine prescriptions that are written at all are benzos. There’s millions of people on benzos right now and they don’t have the same resources. And it’s like, we have a problem.
1:00:21 PA: We have a big problem.
1:00:24 EG: But on the flip side, the poet is like, “We have an opportunity.”
1:00:27 PA: There you go, I like that.
1:00:29 EG: Yeah.
1:00:29 PA: I like that. Let’s end on a positive note.
1:00:32 EG: Yeah.
1:00:32 EG: So the thing that sets my soul on fire is…
1:00:37 PA: There we go, I like this.
1:00:40 EG: I truly believe that everyone has what Yong would call that ancient, like 4 million year old God inside of them. Every single human on this planet is the descendant of an unbroken line of fucking badass humans who solved every problem they needed to solve in order to reproduce. And the intelligence is encoded in our body. It’s in our DNA. It is in us and there’s this mind inside of us that’s behind the ego that is a amalgamation of all the intelligent ancestors that go behind us, which, it’s millions of years. That intelligence is inside of us. That intelligence is calling us to produce some type of art that we know is our art and maybe half of a percent of the people on this planet are manifesting that thing.
1:01:38 EG: If we can get it to even 2% or 3%, it will radically change the fucking world and there are so many opportunities where if someone goes in as a leader with a story, and they’re willing to be heroic, and they wake up 100 people and 10 of those people wake up 100 people. There’s so much motherfucking opportunity to improve the collective, because this shit is getting exposed and I believe that the most effective way for that force to come into the world is for you to bring it through you, and then let the rest take care of itself and I’m seeing a lot of people start to do it.
1:02:27 PA: It’s like the next Renaissance, I always love the parallel, like the printing press and the Internet, the printing press brought with Da Vinci and Michaelangelo and the Renaissance of literacy, the Internet is bringing…
1:02:36 EG: Exactly.
1:02:37 PA: With the renaissance of connection and we’re still adapting and figuring out how to best work with it, but it’s here and ultimately us, we are optimists. You see a light at the end of the tunnel even amidst some of the desolate…
1:02:52 EG: Yeah. An the poet in me is saying, “Fuck being an optimist, be an alchemist.” So an optimist is the glass is half full, the pessimist is the glass is half empty. The alchemist is “I’m gonna drink this fucking water and go make art.”
1:03:06 PA: Motherfucker.
1:03:07 EG: You know what I’m saying?
1:03:08 PA: Yeah. Erick Godsey, making art with your water, turn the water to wine.
1:03:14 EG: Become the wine.
1:03:15 PA: That’s what Jesus… Ooh, the blood of Christ.
1:03:18 EG: Yeah, I truly believe that one of the greatest sentences that Robert Anton Wilson ever said is, “The holy grail, the Philosopher’s Stone is the thing you’re riding around in.” You’re the alchemist. And it’s… I don’t think it’s poetry. I think it’s motherfucking literal.
1:03:41 PA: Beautiful. Alright if you wanna find out more about your work, what you’ve been up to, website, social…
1:03:47 EG: Yeah.
1:03:48 PA: Phone number.
1:03:49 EG: Aye.
1:03:49 PA: Anything you wanna… Anything that you wanna share.
1:03:52 EG: The website and the Instagram are E-R-I-C-K G-O-D-S-E-Y.
1:03:58 PA: Beautiful. Thank you Erick.
1:04:00 EG: Thank you for having me on, man.
1:04:02 PA: This is fun. This is great. It was really great, it was an honor to do this with you.
1:04:05 EG: Thank you, truly.
Please enjoy this transcript of our interview with Erick Godsey.