Free Altered States of Consciousness Essay Sample

An altered state of consciousness is a brain state where one loses the sense of identity with one's body or with one's normal sense perceptions (Goleman, 2001). Altered states of consciousness many be grouped into three categories namely, physical, mental, and spiritual. These can be voluntary or involuntary. A person may enter an altered state of consciousness through such things as sensory deprivation or overload, neurochemical imbalance, fever, or trauma. One may also achieve an altered state by chanting, meditating, entering a trance state, or ingesting certain drugs.

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Most people enter an altered state of consciousness in dreaming (Tart, 200). When in dreams, a person does things him or her either could not or would not do in ordinary life. In such a state they is likelihood of commit a murder or have even an affair, since there is the absence of the normal sense of reasoning and morality is lifted during a dreaming state. Dreams also present the capability of doing activities that are regarded physically impossible to perform while in state of consciousness, such as breathing underwater or flying.

It's difficult to avoid getting into some altered states of consciousness for example it is not possible to avoid dreaming, even when people have little recollection of their dreams. There are many other altered states into which people may enter without choice (Tart, 2000). Some altered state of consciousness for example developing a seizure, and some forms of mental illnesses, particularly dissociate disorders may change perception of mind and body, and of their connection. People requiring medication that is opiate-based might experience an altered state of consciousness too.

Some prevailing view points on alteration of state of consciousness

Some people suggest that that an altered state of consciousness stimulate creativity and can lead to enhanced insight in the conscious state (Goleman, 2001). Many advocate inducing altered states of consciousness through various methods such as use of hallucinogens though this is a discredited method due to the side effects that follows.                                                                

There are also some psychologists who advocate altering the conscience knowingly at some times to promote better understanding of the self in the conscious state. When a person is under hypnosis, getting into an altered state of consciousness is normal. Such a person may get access to the unconscious brain or a better way of understanding some of the ways the conscious brain acts.

Experiments that led to use of drug to cure altered states of consciousness, followed the fear that an altered state of consciousness somehow represents witchcraft or association with paganism (Goleman, 2001).  This leads to some people to criticizing all such states, and intentional entry to them. However, it is not possible to avoid some of these altered states of consciousness such as dreaming, getting a high fever or possible diagnosis with mental illness. There is no evidence to show that an altered state is evil or based in paganism. However, these differences in conscious insight occur to all people, and most cultures have created distinctive interpretations of altered states.                                                                         


The different methods used to induce an altered state of consciousness present different effects. For example, drugs and other medications cause hallucinations. Some drugs such as marijuana are addictive and when used for a long period of time poses health dangers to the user. High fevers and prolonged starvation lead to change of mood, hallucinations and wiping out of consciousness.


Besides the negative effects these methods of inducing an altered state of consciousness may be useful. For example, sensory deprivation affects the consciousness and mental functioning. This has been used to breakdown persons in solitary confinement such as the prisoners (Kalat, 2007). Sensory reduction plays an important, role in existing methods of psychotherapy, relaxation therapy, and psychoanalysis. Such procedures require the patient to be calm thus this can be achieved by altering the state of consciousness.


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