Something that psychotic breaks teach is that you are never really yourself, even when you’re sane. Before you have a psychotic break, you consider yourself a rational creature with free will that is making decisions based on some process you control. After the psychotic break, you realize just how little autonomy you ever had.
You can see this sense of self in very explicit form by individuals who worship “science” or “logic”. These people see themselves as capable of discerning objective truths better than the people who disagree with them, and in the self-appraisal is the assumption of complete internal rationality. To people who think they have free will and are not merely a product of their genes and experiences and environment, there is a sort of foolish pride that causes closed-mindedness to the possibility of irrationality or madness that blends in with those that appear to be “self-conscious”.
When you have a psychotic break, all the illusion of free will gets stripped away once your psychotic break ends. You realize that you are merely the sum of a lot of variables being processed by various internal processes, and when those internal processes become screwed up in some way, you are still the same physical person that was “rational” and “sane”, but you are not rational and sane anymore. You start seeing the world in a way that only makes sense while you are in the midst of a psychotic break, and the completely insane way in which you are seeing it seems perfectly sane to you. In fact, you start viewing everybody else who has a more functional internal process as the people with the problem, not you.
Although your personality changes as well as your behavior and thought process, your external body remains as it was before your psychotic break unless you cause it some permanent damage via self-mutilation or dangerous behavior that results in serious injury. The thing that changes during your mental problem is whatever is piloting your physical form, and that thing – your brain – changes in a way that is beyond “your” control.
After the psychotic break is over and you have recovered “control” of your faculties, an awareness of your lack of control begins to dawn on you in ways that people who have not gone insane and recovered can really appreciate. You are not outside of the system of life; you are not really any different than an animal that does not ask philosophical questions, you just have the illusion of self-awareness rather than any self-awareness. This revelation may seem like its own self-awareness, but this too is beyond your control and is simply the result of your experiences, genes, and environment leading you to this conclusion.
While this realization of a lack of fundamental control and understanding of the lack of true free will may seem like a negative thing, it is really not. Through this shift in consciousness, an individual becomes much more aware of their own fragility, and this causes them to become much more deliberate in how they conduct and situate themselves environmentally. Through the understanding of lack of control, an individual can gain more control over how they involuntarily react by ordering external variables in a manner in which is vastly superior to those who do not have this understanding. While most normal mediocre people imagine themselves to be protagonists in some movie, individuals who understand the myth of the self are able to understand that we are no different than mold that follows strict input->process internally->output rules.
To the vast majority of humans who experience shame and remorse, a psychotic break is no-doubt a humiliating experience. While insane, you do things that make you look foolish and say things to people that are ridiculous, but you only realize this after the fact. Because of this shame and remorse, it is not surprising to me that people who go through psychotic breaks can often end up broken and depressed when they recover, as they are constantly under attack by their own instincts which tell them that what they did was something they should feel bad about. As such, it makes sense why lots of people who have had a psychotic break never examine their experience in the manner in which this essay does, and thus never arrive at these conclusions.
For those who manage to get over the embarrassment of temporary insanity and can actually understand what happened, the whole experience is quite liberating. There is an ability to disconnect actions from your “self” as well as the “self” of others. In addition, you begin to realize that the impressive things you have done are not worth taking pride in, but the embarrassing things you have done are also not worth feeling bad about. There is a sort of humility that comes from having your agency and pseudo-rational consciousness (that everybody thinks is rationality) violently stripped away from you without your consent, and this humility is not really something you can buy or learn without the violent and unpleasant violation of your sense of self.
Some people who read this essay will undoubtedly insist that what I have described can be learned through the usage of psychedelics such as LSD, Mushrooms or even more intense drugs like DMT. This is not really the case. If you look at when psychedelics were most prevalent, the 1960s and the “summer of love”, you will not see any real awareness that resulted from it. The majority of people who engaged in widespread psychedelics either ended up as mentally stunted hippies or disgustingly self-entitled boomers who essentially ruined whatever country they were in and fomented generational animosity that is the unhealthy result of solipsistic pride and the lack of understanding of generational responsibilities. Some of the most pretentious and idiotic people are those who take psychedelics, as they push psychedelics on people in a tone-deaf and functionally retarded manner that indicates they have not been made smarter for their experience, but rather turned into mystical idiots who have no idea what they’re doing or why they’re doing it.
While it’s self-evidently true that psychedelics provide a unique perspective, this unique perspective does not teach reality in the way a psychotic break can. The sense of self and ego seems to be reinforced rather than broken down, and people go from fairly normal unaccomplished individuals to egotistical unaccomplished individuals who now think they have access to some “spiritual truth” that the world is all about love or empathy or some fundamentally human delusion that stems from the misunderstanding that humans have genuine free will and thus a special mission from God, a delusion that is forcefully ripped away in the process of a psychotic break and then revealed after the psychotic break has concluded if the individual who suffered the lapse in sanity is able to examine the whole experience in enough depth.
Psychedelics are a red herring towards enlightenment, and this makes sense once you realize that most people who take psychedelics enjoy what they experience. The process of self-improvement and self-awareness is not a euphoric one that makes you feel good and happy, it is a constant struggle filled with pain that you learn to enjoy for its results rather than the phenomena in the process. Physical exercise is an unpleasant process, and even though some learn to enjoy the unpleasant process (because they correctly link the unpleasant process to the pleasant results), there is no reason to assume that mental or spiritual improvement is any different.
As stated before, the fruits of the psychedelic revolution of the 1960s have been a bunch of entitled and moronic old people who ruined their societies in a constant game of shallow pleasure-seeking. Psychedelics did not expand consciousness then, and it is idiotic to assume that they will expand consciousness now. Sure, they may help with people who are experiencing depression or anxiety, but most likely that is because they fundamentally break parts of the brain that are causing the depression or anxiety for logical reasons. If your car has a bunch of warning lights on, the solution isn’t to break the dashboard and pretend the problems are fixed, but rather to fix the problems that are causing the warning lights to warn you. If you’re depressed or anxious, you should start changing your life habits (what you’re eating, how much you’re sleeping, what media you consume, what people you are around, where you live, your job) rather than modifying your brain to stop warning you that what you’re doing is harming you and making you miserable.
Psychotic breaks are not fun or healthy -- and they can cause serious legal and social problems for you. They are unpleasant and painful in ways that really can’t be understood unless you have experienced them. Still, it is hard to not see them as fundamentally transformative in the manner that psychedelic pushers claim their drugs to be. Having a disturbed psychotic break is not going to make you a more loving or peaceful person on a fundamental level, because those things are ego related and naïvely stupid, but it will shift how you perceive things in a manner closer to how reality functions, which is that humanity is a type of mold that imagines itself not to be mold because our brains are overdeveloped.