Chemistry of Connection, Culture and Psychedelics – Dr. Julie Holland – HPP 95
Interpersonal connection is essential for optimal mental and physical health, and even more challenged inside the social isolation brought on by this global pandemic. We don’t often think of ourselves as walking chemistry sets. But, when we view the body under this lens, we can discover powerful insights into our connections with ourselves and others, and how to optimize them.
In today’s episode, we welcome author, psychiatrist/psychopharmacologist, Julie Holland, MD to the show. Julie has been studying and writing about the chemistry of connections and psychedelics and their healing uses for years, as well as working with MAPS on several MDMA studies. She shares her insights into how as a culture, we can heal from societal trauma and what we need to consider for our patients in these tough times when there is greater amounts of social isolation and loss of connection.
The importance of touch – 05:48
“I think a lot of us do intrinsically know that people want to be held and need to be held, and a lot of behavior, whether it’s promiscuous sex, or something more sublimating, like compulsive shopping or something, it really can come down to this trying to scratch an itch. And the itch really is wanting to feel like someone is caring for you and has got your back, literally”
The chemistry of mental health – 08:52
“So we get pleasure early on from being held by our parents and nursing, and a lot of that, the pharmacology and the sort of neural chemistry that undergirds that is really the endocannabinoid system, the endorphin system, and oxytocin. And of course, when you’re talking about satiety and feeling good, you have to include serotonin. And when you’re talking about something that feels so good, you want to do it again and again, you’re talking about dopamine”
The desire for connection- 14:02
“But if you have a sort of deprived childhood where you’re not making attachments, where either you’re not attaching to your caretaker or your caretaker is not attaching to you, what you’re going to end up with in terms of chemistry is a bit of a deficit in your body’s capacity to soothe itself—I mean, that is sort of what happens when you don’t get really solid attachment in childhood”
MDMA and hyper intuition – 22:24
“And I think with MDMA and the enhanced oxytocin, and then the quieted amygdala, you are in this ultra-receptive, open-hearted, ultra Yin state. And I do believe strongly that we have the capacity to intuit other people’s emotions. I mean, certainly the more oxytocin on board, the more you’re going to intuit emotions”
Healing intergenerational trauma with psychedelics – 25:26
“I think that experiences with MDMA and ayahuasca and psilocybin, LSD, ibogaine, cannabis, ketamine, these things that allow a shift in perspective, a little crack in the armor, an open-hearted feeling, and you start to sort of care what other people are going through in you and you come to the correct conclusion that separation is really an illusion”
Psychedelics, culture and group work – 33:32
“I am no expert in intergenerational trauma, and I’m not too sure what I’m going to say about it. But I just know intuitively, that tools like MDMA, and ayahuasca and psilocybin can help sort of open our hearts and minds to the reality of intergenerational trauma and to be able to hold space for it and talk about it and process it. I really think there’s tremendous promise in group work; we haven’t seen the tip of the iceberg in group work”
Full Episode Transcript
Dr. Julie Holland, Keith Kurlander, Dr. Will Van Derveer
Dr. Julie Holland 00:00
The reason why hugging feels good, and the reason why closeness and connection and bonding feel good. Well, a few reasons, one is if it didn’t feel good, you would die. Basically, if you don’t want to be held and nurtured and you don’t have a good baby face that makes somebody want to hold and nurture you, you’re not going to make it.
Keith Kurlander 00:24
Thank you for joining us for The Higher Practice Podcast. I’m Keith Kurlander with Dr. Will Van Derveer. And this is the podcast where we explore what it takes to achieve optimal mental health. Welcome back, today’s episode is pretty fun for me. I’m kind of a social connection geek. So if you are, this will be fun for you. This is really exploring the science of connection, relationship, the need for connection, desire for connection, we take a good dive today into the chemistry behind why we need connection, how we can get imbalanced in our neurochemistry or body’s chemistry around our social needs. What drives impulses around those desires? How do those impulses maybe become addictive for connection? How do they become suppressed and we lose the need for connection? We also are going to dive a little more into some talks of psychedelic drugs, particularly MDMA. So it’s a pretty fun episode if you’re somebody that’s focused a lot of time thinking about what is a healthy connection and what’s behind that? What’s the science behind it while we as human beings are not achieving the type of connections we want, or the impact of feeling lonely on our bodies and our brains and our minds. So a lot of different fun stuff. So I’m going to introduce our guest, Dr. Julie Holland. She’s a doctor and a psychiatrist specializing in psychopharmacology. She has a private practice in New York City. She majored in the biological basis of behavior, the University of Pennsylvania and received her MD in 1992 from Temple University School of Medicine. At Mount Sinai Medical Center, she completed a residency program in psychiatry where she created a research project that treated schizophrenics with the new medication. In 1994, she received the outstanding resident award from the National Institute of Mental Health, from 96 until 2005, she worked weekends running Bellevue hospitals psychiatry emergency room, and she penned an autobiography of this time, weekends at Bellevue nine years on the night shift at the psych ER. She’s also the author of good chemistry and moody bitches, and she’s the editor of ecstasy, the complete guide, a comprehensive look at the risk and benefits of MDMA, and the pop book Complete Guide to Cannabis. And she also provides expert testimony and forensic consultation on a range of drug related behavior and phenomenon with a focus on PCP MDMA. Let’s welcome Julie Holland to the show.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 03:20
Welcome to the show, Julie. It’s great to see you again.
Dr. Julie Holland 03:23
Thanks for having me.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 03:25
I’ve really enjoyed getting into your latest book, good chemistry really resonated with me, as a psychiatrist, I’ve often thought about like, what, how would I actually define it? It’s kind of a game I play in my mind, boiling down mental suffering or mental illness into one sentence. And what often comes up for me is like a loss of connection, or rupture in various things that should be connected in various ways, and so your book with the kind of concentric circles have connection to self, partner, family, community, earth and, Cosmos just made a lot of sense to me.
Dr. Julie Holland 04:04
Thanks. Yeah, the book structure, it’s that the book had a lot of different titles, it went through a lot of iterations, I actually had nine separate book proposals back and forth with my agent, and then tremendous painful back and forth with my publisher was really hard. But the one thing that was constant through it all, was that structure it just, and I had other people get in touch with me being like, I was thinking about this structure too. And I was like, it’s I think it’s really, it just makes sense. And I’m sure there are others like, I think psychotherapy is based on that structure, that you really have to start with yourself and connect to yourself. But you’re talking a little bit about things like mental illness or mental wellness, and I think the first disconnection that really screws us up is just disconnecting from the present moment. I mean, as soon as we get on our phones, and we’re in another world, we’re sort of out of our bodies. We’re not paying attention to our posture or how we’re feeling or whether we’re hungry or and we have all This past year just gone, gone to that place more than ever. I felt sort of bad when the book came out because I was really preaching against connecting via screens and like if this is all before COVID, right, I wrote this book before COVID. And I’m like, skin to skin, eye contact, pheromones, oxytocin, cuddling, orgasm nursing, you know, and then it’s like a walk, stop, you wear a mask, go back inside, don’t be outside. So I was worried. I was really worried that it was going to be a date. But it turns out that because we’re all so jacked into our screens more than ever, that the book still really kind of works, because I do rail against that as much as I am also, on my phone and on my laptop all the time, So.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 05:48
Yeah, well, it seems like it could go either way where it could be a problem. But I think it’s very timely, actually, given the heightened kind of, for me anyway, like withdrawal symptoms of actually being around friends and family. And being in three dimensions, Keith and I had a meeting with a person who we work very closely with who we had not met in person since a year and a half ago. And we’ve only met her once before in person, so it’s just a very bizarre life a few minutes from here.
Dr. Julie Holland 06:17
Dr. Will Van Derveer 06:18
So but that skin to skin is super, super important, in my world.
Dr. Julie Holland 06:24
Yeah, that brings up actually a huge sort of can of worms, which is You and I are psychiatrists. We know that our patients, even before the pandemic, were touch-starved, a lot of people, they really need to be held. And I understand that as a psychiatrist, we’re not supposed to hold them physically, and we have to create a holding environment. But the truth is, a lot of times what my patients really needed was to be hugged or stroked, or soothed. And I know that there is a big prescription against psychiatrists touching their patients, I mean, to the point where at Bellevue, when we were admitting somebody to the psych ward, we would call the medicine residents to do physical exams, because the psychiatrists weren’t putting hands on patients. I mean, it was absurd, but that’s really what we did. So it’s really taboo for us to touch our patients, but we are more touch starved than ever, and some of my patients really need that more than anything else. So it does create a bit of a conundrum, and I understand when I was assigning the people to write chapters for the ecstasy book. I had originally assigned the psychiatrist, I won’t mention his name, to good psychiatrists, he was one of the early people to work with ketamine and work with MDMA. And then some of the other authors that I had assigned chapters to get in touch with me and said, we’re not going to be in this book, if he’s in this book. You might not know this, but it turned out this history of pretty serious transgressions with clients. And so I told him, he couldn’t be in the book. And it was canceled. Culture was not a thing back in the 90s, when I was putting this book together. But these issues sort of, what I jokingly referred to as shamans behaving badly. We want to be healers, we want to help, we want to hold and soothe, but there’s a very clear line that we’re really not supposed to go past. And I didn’t mean to get into this incredibly touchy area right off the bat, but just when I started talking about how I feel like my patients need a hug. And maybe I’m in a privileged situation, because I’m a woman, and I can probably get away with a lot more tactile support with my patients when it’s less of an issue. But I think a lot of us do intrinsically know that, that people want to be held and need to be held, and a lot of behavior, whether it’s promiscuous sex, or something more sublimating, like compulsive shopping or something, it really can come down to this trying to scratch an itch. And the itch really is wanting to feel like someone is caring for you and has got your back, literally.
Keith Kurlander 08:52
I love your title, by the way, the book Good Chemistry, it’s a really compelling title. And also, I wonder if we can actually zoom out a little into a chemistry lens, and look a little bit about when we talk about mental health and wellbeing and spiritual health, and just getting a little into the chemistry of how that can go awry, and what we need for balanced chemistry. And we can link it back to what touch provides and other components, but maybe you can kind of give us an overview here of the chemistry of wellness, psychologically.
Dr. Julie Holland 09:30
There’s obviously a lot of pieces to this, and I would start by saying everybody really has their own proprietary blend of the chemicals that work for them, right? And some of us sort of rev high and we need to be soothed and some of us are sluggish and we need to be inspired, but what I try to explain in good chemistry is that the reason why hugging feels good and the reason why closeness and connection and bonding feel good. Well, a few reasons, one is if it didn’t feel good, you would die. Basically, if you don’t want to be held and nurtured and you don’t have a good babyface that makes somebody want to hold and nurture you, you’re not going to make it. So we get pleasure early on from being held by our parents and nursing, and a lot of that, the pharmacology and sort of neural chemistry that undergirds that is really the endocannabinoid system, the endorphin system, and oxytocin. And I know that people also, of course, when you’re talking about satiety and feeling good, you have to include serotonin. And when you’re talking about something that feels so good, you want to do it again. And again, you’re talking about dopamine. So the more you talk, the richer the soup of the pharmacology of what makes you feel good. one of the things I explained in chemistry is about what the opposite of fighter flight is, right? We all know, fighter flight, sympathetic nervous system. This is adrenaline and cortisol, and this was always sold to me. So many times, I learned that fighter flight was like the key to survival. And that’s true for a very small percentage of the time, right? If you’re being chased by a saber toothed Tiger or something, you better be able to run away or in other situations, you need to be able to attack, but 95% of the time, what you really need to do is stay and cooperate and collaborate, and sleep and eat and have sex and procreate and raise kids and all of that can’t happen in fight or flight, it only happens and the parasympathetic under the umbrella of parasympathetic. And as much as adrenaline and cortisol run sympathetically, oxytocin really is what runs the parasympathetic. But underneath oxytocin are endocannabinoids, and endorphins and serotonin and dopamine. And one of the things that I learned that was really excited about when I was researching good chemistry is how important the crosstalk between these neurotransmitter systems is, it’s not really so binary, and also that there is dimerization of the receptors, right, so that the receptors make dimers, they make receptor pairs that behave differently than the receptors alone. So like, for instance, the psychedelic receptor, I mean, nobody calls it the psychedelic receptor, but the five hit to a receptor, which is tickled by every classical, psychedelic and plenty of other drugs that people enjoy. The five ht to a makes a dimer with the oxytocin receptor, when it is hyper stimulated, the cannabinoid receptor CB one makes a dimer with five ht to a when it’s hyper stimulated. So this is one of the reasons why I feel strongly that cannabis can be considered a psychedelic I obviously, it’s not a classical, psychedelic, but high dose THC does eventually activate the five ht to a and anybody who’s sort of eaten too much of a pot brownie or smoked too much hashish or something had these experiences have a lot of the same sort of comments that somebody who was taking a classical psychedelic might have in terms of increased meaning, seeing things with new eyes, having sort of a loosening of associations, and this feeling of connection, connection to self connection to others, feeling sort of open hearted, I am a cannabis user. And there are times when I go out in nature, and I feel very connected to nature, partly because I’ve had some cannabis or maybe looking at the stars and feeling very connected with the cosmos, which is the way somebody might feel with a psychedelic, but you can get that to a smaller and more manageable extent with cannabinoids, so that’s a long answer about what sort of chemistry undergirds connection. The only other thing I will say is because we are categorized the human species is categorized as obligatorily gregarious, we have to get along or we’re not going to make it. So we all have developed our own proprietary blend of feel good chemicals that we get when we’re doing a good job connecting and socializing and bonding, that it makes us feel good, and it’s supposed to make us feel good. Otherwise, we’re not going to survive.
Keith Kurlander 14:02
Can you say a little more about the chemistry around the urge for connection and also what can kind of go awry for some people around the cycle of connection and how that happens in terms of people who can’t get satiated in terms of Yeah, shut the urge down completely, and they don’t even see a connection? They go into isolation for long periods of time, just kind of like speaking to a little bit about how the urge for connection develops in the body? And then how does that also sometimes get people into these places that they don’t really want to be?
Dr. Julie Holland 14:35
Well, there’s a saying that I think was Gabor Mate, but I’m not positive. And I always want somebody to like, correct me if I’m wrong, but there’s a saying in the addiction community, which is that you can never get enough of something that almost works. And you will try to make up in quantity, that you’re not getting in quality and a lot of us in our childhoods, even if we were attended to well most of the time, there was always going to be some episodes where you didn’t get your needs met, where you were rejected in a state of need. They say, even if you were born with a silver spoon in your mouth at some point, it’s like a distracted caretaker bonking your face with a spoon, because they’re paying attention. Something else like, trauma is relative, right. And if you have a really easy time of it, and then something terrible happens, that’s still your trauma, even though to somebody else, they were like, on my best day, I would be, my worst day, whatever, it’s all relative. But if you have a sort of deprived childhood, where you’re not making attachments, where you’re not, either you’re not attaching to your caretaker, your caretaker is not attaching to you, what you’re going to end up with in terms of chemistry is a bit of a deficit in your body’s capacity to soothe itself, you’re going to have this sort of ruffled feathers angst, I need something I don’t know quite what it is, I’ve got an itch, and I have to figure out how to scratch it. I mean, that is sort of what happens when you don’t get a really solid attachment in childhood. And it sets like a tone or a threshold for what it’s going to take for you to feel good, and so some people learn to soothe themselves a, I don’t know, I was a thumbsucker. I think I learned to soothe myself orally, when I was very young, I was a thumbsucker, then I bit my nails. Then I started smoking cigarettes when I was like 10, which is ridiculous to me, but I did. And then I was drinking or whatever I mean, or then I was eating or I was hiding, eating but it was clear to me that this was how I soothe myself orally. And maybe I wasn’t nursed long enough. or I mean, what happened in my situation is that I wasn’t that long. And I was switched from breast to cup because they rejected a bottle, whatever, this is the story. But everybody has got these stories of how they were awarded sort of attended to babies as children, whether the attachment was secure or insecure, has a lot to do with where your sort of chemistry set point is going to be? How resilient are you to stress? How easily Can you soothe yourself? Can you do it on your own with your breath or just calming thoughts? Do you reach for something to eat or smoke and inject because you’re upset? Obviously, little babies are injecting themselves with drugs, but they do all sorts of things to try to soothe themselves, or to try to get somebody else to pay attention to them. And so the other thing that you see in older people who have insecure attachment is they will often make bigger and bigger sort of fusses, to get somebody to love them and pick them up and say I’m taking care of you. However, nobody likes a fussy baby, nobody likes a fussy adult, they make bigger and bigger people back away, they don’t want to deal with it, it’s this maladaptive response to stress. So I think all of us in the last year have been seeing our own maladaptive responses to stress and other people’s and what’s at stake, on the other hand, I think a lot of people are sort of figuring out what’s important, what actually, what feeds my soul, what nourishes me, what feels authentic to me. And maybe we should be getting rid of some of this other stuff that’s extraneous, and stressing us out unnecessarily.
Keith Kurlander 18:15
Well, thank you for all that that was really helpful. And I mean, just from a more kind of philosophical level on the chemistry, like is the human condition trying to balance chemistry in some way in order to get to a set point that, like when you’re describing, like some people who have been raised a certain way, and it’s their setpoint is kind of in this place, where didn’t get enough. And is it that like, human behavior is trying to achieve some kind of balance point into chemistry that’s driving it, but it’s not actually going to do it?
Dr. Julie Holland 18:49
Well, I absolutely do think that everybody has their own set point, just like everybody has their own proprietary blend of what makes their chemistry good or bad. And I remind my husband quite a bit actually, like, you and I have different tolerances for intimacy. Everybody has, what three feet or six feet or whatever, something their comfort with something they’re not somebody starts getting too close to personally asking too many questions. Maybe too clingy or too needy, whatever these issues are for you. And you feel like you need to pull away, and a lot of times we know and couples, right? One person, there’s like a pursuer, there’s like a clinger and somebody who’s moving away and getting pursued. And that can shift polarity, because the bottom line is that this person needs this much space and this person wants this much space. And so there’s a lot of back and forth and I could and I very well may I mean, my husband and I are really talking about writing a book together about all of this and trying to maintain equilibrium, right. I mean, as an individual, you have to maintain your own resilience and equilibrium. You get stressed and then you calm down, you get cortisol, then you get the endocannabinoid system. sympathetic comes in. Then the parasympathetic says chill out and You also get this between people, right? There’s a regulation that happens between two people where I can either put my partner in fight or flight or I can put my partner and tend and befriend, right? I can rile them up or I can calm them down, and the longer you’re together, the more ammo you have for either way that you could do it. I mean, I think a lot of couples, they bicker, they fight, they toss barbs, they know how to rile each other up. And it keeps a certain facade and fight they make up and there’s a lot of energy, and then there are other people, my parents, I think, are a good example. Like, they’ve really figured out how to keep each other parasympathetic, and how to give to the other person and sort of give to the middle, and if you give to the relationship, there’s enough for both people. My mom talks about being sort of open hearted and giving, not giving up, not giving in just giving to that person, what you feel like they need. But I also think that with couples, you sometimes give the person what you need, because you’re showing them by example, this is how I want you to behave, so I’m going to give this thing to you. But they don’t want that it’s a gift to the magic, you’ve done this great. I’m giving you this thing, and I’m showing you how to be a giving person but you’re not giving them what they want, you’re giving what you want to give. So that again, all of this is sort of a long way to talk about how difficult it is to be in a dyad. But that the rules for connecting to self apply to connecting to others, and it’s the stupid thing about putting your own oxygen mask on before you help the other person that you’ve got to get yourself calm and in parasympathetic, before you engage. Like, if a baby’s crying, the best thing you can do is take a minute to like, fully Calm yourself and then pick the baby up. Because the baby feels that you’re calm, and they stay calm, and everybody’s happy. And it’s the same thing really, with a partner or with a client or patient or anything. Like if you are calm. If you are confident and you know what you’re doing, then they will also be calm, and they will be competent, and it feeds off each other, you get a patient who is very anxious, you start to get more anxious, it cycles. It’s the same thing with couples, and I would also say it’s the same thing in communities that you can sort of set the tone for tend and befriend and not attack and run away.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 22:24
One of the things that’s coming up for me as I listen to you talking about attending to one another and staying connected to ourselves while we’re attending to the other person, when I was practicing MDMA assisted psychotherapy; and I think you were the medical monitor on at least one of the studies I worked on with maps. It was kind of uncanny how sometimes a participant with eye shades and music on would say something to me or my co therapist, there was a question like, Will, are you feeling something right now? Or Will, are you okay, right now? And it was like, Whoa, what’s going on here? And I wondered, because usually there was something going on, when they asked the question. And it just, it took me down this rabbit hole of well, with that heightened oxytocin and the MDMA on board. And all of the things that go with that, is there sort of like this hyper intuition that happens?
Dr. Julie Holland 23:26
I definitely think so, and I mean, the way I think about it is it’s almost like an enhanced Yin state. Most of us I imagine the three of us at least, and probably people are listening. We have a lot of Yang energy, you know, we’ve got to do lists and things we have to get done, we’ve got meetings. And I mean, maybe we’re not going nuts with all of it. But there’s a lot of Yang energy, it takes up a lot of our time, it seems important. We don’t spend a lot of time taking in being a receiver and a receptacle, but we do have that capacity. And I think with MDMA, and they enhance oxytocin, and then the quiet amygdala, you are in this ultra-receptive, open hearted, ultra Yin state. And I do believe strongly that we have the capacity to Intuit other people’s emotions, I mean, certainly the more oxytocin on board, the more you’re going to Intuit emotions, like we sort of know this from those stupid studies where you read the emotions through the eyes and things like that. But I do think that, one thing that we haven’t done yet because we’re so busy, I say we but you know, the psychedelic community at large. One of the things we’ve haven’t sort of focused on now they did a little bit in the past we’ll get to it in the future is looking at things like extrasensory perception, and I’m gonna sound so stupid here, but I really think there’s something between interspecies communication that with DMT, or five Meo DMT, or Ayahuasca or MDMA, I’ve had enough people say to me that they really feel like They are having communication nonverbal, but significant communication with other people who aren’t people, other other things, and animals that are not the human animal. So I think this kind of stuff looking at the impact of psychedelics on precognition on ESP, I don’t know about telekinesis so I have a little trouble accepting that I do. I just have this idea of enhanced intuition, of course.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 25:26
Speaking of other psychedelics, I’m wondering if we could just for a moment, set aside the things that, the practicalities, let’s say of psychedelics, the context, the accessibility, the set of setting, the all of the things, the ways of holding it responsibly, and so forth. If we could imagine a future, maybe not that far out, maybe five years, 10 years out where we have access inside of, at least inside of a medical set and setting for psilocybin, MDMA, maybe even LSD, cannabis, how far do you think psychedelics can actually take us as a culture and the things that we need to face and you don’t want to address together?
Dr. Julie Holland 26:15
Well, there’s a lot there, right? I mean, I talk about childhood trauma, a little bit and good chemistry. And I also talk about our nation’s childhood trauma, basically, like the early phase of the founding of the United States, America is built on genocide and slavery. And those are like tremendous childhood wounds from our national psyche, and a lot of these things are sort of coming home to roots now, and it’s becoming very clear that all this repressed trauma that wasn’t really dealt with is coming up in the sort of the way that the pus finally comes to the top of an abscess and the only way to really treat an abscess is you get a slice that thing open and get all the pus out and it works. And you got to heal it from the inside out, or the abscess doesn’t heal and it really is this sort of the last few years I felt like we were kind of soaking in pus it was just so obvious that these early childhood wounds in our country had completely festered. But one of the things that honestly gives me hope, is the perspective that you can get from a psychedelic experience. We know from looking at research that people who have psilocybin experiences are more likely to be environmentally conscious and environmentally active than people who haven’t had psilocybin experiences and we know that people who have had psilocybin experiences are more likely sorry, less likely to be committing domestic partner violence, less likely to be recidivists if they happen to have a prison history. So there are pretty clear examples that there can be societal good from exposure to psychedelics, and just I’m fascinated by Harriet De Wits recent work with MDMA looking at I don’t want to say political affiliations, because it’s not that it’s deeper than that, but it’s sort of it really is this issue of, are you going to be somebody who just gets their own needs met and doesn’t really care what anybody else is going through what their needs are? Or are you the kind of person who’s going to sort of make sure that everybody is getting some of their needs met, because that’s what’s more fair, what seems fair, and I think that experiences with MDMA and ayahuasca and psilocybin, LSD, Ibogaine, Cannabis, ketamine, these things that allow a shift in perspective, a little crack in the armor, an open hearted feeling, and you start to sort of care what other people are going through in you and you come to the correct, I would say, conclusion that, separation is really an illusion. And we are all connected, whether we like it or not, and we’re all sharing the planet Earth and you’re going to sing some sort of Kumbaya song that sounded like at least one research subject, and that Harriet doing MDMA study was really questioning their own convictions about white supremacy. And so then what’s really crucial is the integration, right? Let’s say you come to these huge realizations, like, Oh, my God, I was wrong, I’m doing it wrong. But when you get back into your life, I’ve definitely been thinking a lot more about how psychedelics can potentially not just heal us as individuals, we’ve seen, at least with MDMA, that it can really help to heal scars that build up within a relationship. And I really do think there’s a place especially for things like psilocybin and Ayahuasca, for helping us sort of heal our relationship with our communities with the planet. We have a lot of trauma here in the United States of America, I think that I don’t know if I got into this already. But this idea that like our nation has childhood wounding, right, our nation has like deep, horrible, odious, the genocide of the native populations and then the slavery and the abuse that we heaped on many immigrants. So We have our own history of trauma as a nation that we really need to process and like, how are we going to process this, but I think it’s one of the great things about MDMA and other psychedelics is that they allow you to process really big, horrible traumas that have happened. So I do sort of see a place somehow, for psychedelics, and helping to heal the sort of national rift that is developing. The other thing that I’m just learning about which I love is this concept of languishing, that if you look at depression on one end of the spectrum, and then really thriving, on the other end, what’s in the middle, right, some of us aren’t clinically depressed, but we’re sure as hell not thriving and there’s a sort of middle ground of languishing where there’s not a lot of meaning. There’s not a lot of joy, there’s a lot of drudgery, I think a lot of us are sort of in that spot. And one of the, the antidotes for languishing, is flow, being in flow, being sort of sucked into a moment and losing yourself. And what facilitates flow, lots of things, including micro dosing and macro dosing. And so again, I think there’s a potential other indication for psychedelics which isn’t in processing trauma, but which is just in getting us back on the right course in our lives, what we’re doing is sort of feeding our soul. I work with so many patients who their jobs are sort of sucking their soul out of either because of what they’re doing, or who they’re working with. It’s taking away the joy and the meaning that could be inherent in if you’re really doing work that sings to you or speaks to you. Mind sings to me, but some people do their work and just speak to them. But if you’re really engaged, and you love what you’re doing, and when you think what you’re doing is important, it changes the whole quality of your life. And so I do think here again, there’s a place for cannabis, MDMA, psychedelics, and helping us to figure out what gives us joy. What makes your soul sing? Where should you really be putting your time and energy instead of your dead end job, or this doggy dog career that has no meaning for you.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 32:00
It reminds me of Bob Jessie’s comment about the betterment of Well, people that Michael Pollan kind of brought forward in this concept of psychedelic wildness clubs, where you know, on your birthday or something, you could go and have an experience that kind of renews that spark that I think you’re talking about.
Dr. Julie Holland 32:18
It is really, somebody described it as like resetting their clocks or something, but it is sort of like giving it to you, or like even cleaning your glasses when they start to get smudgy. Anything that sort of refreshes your perspective, or just turns you around a little bit and says, what, okay, now that you’re all turned around, which way do you really want to go? A lot of us are sort of lost. And we really have, I mean, I was just reading Jamie Wheal’s new book, which is all about the crisis of meaning, basically. And where do we find meaning? I’ll tell you one place that I have absolutely found meaning over and over again, when I’ve gotten to that well, is psychedelics, they help infuse things with meaning and they help you feel I always sort of have this idea of like, this is a metaphor I use a lot, but it’s because I like it when you’re playing a video game, which I don’t play. But sometimes, if you just had a macro of the whole playing field, you would realize that you’re spending all this time going around in a circle of one part of the field. And if you just turn your guy around and head out, there’s a whole wide world to explore in the game. And I think that psychedelics can give people a macro, and be like, you could be over here, here but see how you’re just spinning your wheels. And you’re stuck in here. There’s a whole other map out here that you can see, so sometimes it’s nice to have that perspective of the bigger picture.
Keith Kurlander 33:32
Yeah, well if we just hang on and go back to something that you mentioned, that’s really important to me, it’s just this idea of intergenerational trauma, the idea of the trauma from history that we haven’t worked through as a community, nationally, globally. So historical trauma that’s getting passed down and passed down from generation to generation. And can you say a little more about how if we really start to try and address this sort of human condition where we’re passing down trauma, not dealing with old wounds, like how would we use psychedelics to deal with that in communities? But what we do we actually, like, use psychedelics in a way where we would be addressing that issue, just like in the intent of the actual psychedelic journey, are you just thinking more that just the psychedelic assisted therapies will naturally start to address those things?
Dr. Julie Holland 34:29
Well, I do think that the more any of us can look inward and really do some deep work. I mean, that helps everybody, anybody who’s doing work on themselves. There’s a little bit of a ripple outward, but I think it’s possible to me that you can really do group work around intergenerational trauma that you could do family work around intergenerational trauma. We’re having like a webcast about psychedelics and Judaism and sort of Jewish intergenerational trauma and I am a Jew so I understand why they put me on the speaker’s panel. But I am no expert in intergenerational trauma, and I’m not too sure what I’m going to say about it. But I just know intuitively, that tools like MDMA, and ayahuasca and psilocybin can help sort of open our hearts and minds to the reality of intergenerational trauma and to be able to hold space for it and talk about it and process it. I really think there’s tremendous promise in group work, we haven’t seen the tip of the iceberg in group work. But a lot of the early work with MDMA was really done in groups, couples, individuals and groups, and tremendous things happen in groups. So yeah, I mean, I’ve experienced group work only as far as I attended raves in Philadelphia, New York City in the 90s. That was my group work, but I was pretty impressed by what it could do, so I’m an eternal optimist. And I think that you have to name it to tame it right, the first thing is just for everybody to start talking about things like intergenerational trauma, historical trauma. Now, this issue that’s coming out with Rachel Yehuda and her colleague whose name I can’t remember, but it’s another woman. I like to try to remember the women’s names. They’re working on moral injury, right, this idea that maybe you don’t have PTSD from being in the war, but you have a certain sort of soul sickness, because you did things that you didn’t ever think you would do, or you saw other people do things that you thought were horrendous, and your ethics have been injured, you have a moral injury, you’d have a physical injury. I think that we could make the case to anybody who watched the nine minute videotape of George Floyd being murdered, not anybody, but I would hope most people experienced a moral injury, that they’re outraged at this kind of thing could happen. It makes you sick, it makes you upset, you didn’t think that you were going to die, but you still got traumatized by seeing it happen. So I think the if you’re a little fuzzy on the criteria, PTSD, I feel like everybody in the United States of America and probably around the world between COVID and climate, catastrophe, and all the terrible things that are happening, we’re all getting sort of injured, psychically, whether we have a moral injury or whether we’re really in fear for our lives because of COVID. But it’s been a very traumatizing period of time, I think anybody would agree that that’s where we’re at. And we’ve got this sort of extra scrim of racial trauma here in the United States, but I imagine that they have racial trauma in lots of places.
Keith Kurlander 37:26
Yeah. Is there anything you want people to know about you, your book or anything going to mention here?
Dr. Julie Holland 37:32
Gosh, I don’t know, but what can I say? My most recent book came out in June, it’s called Good Chemistry. The one before that is a book about women and how they’re sort of over medicated over pathologized over diagnose, that’s called Moody Bitches. I have two nonprofit books, one about MDMA called ecstasy, the complete guide and one about cannabis called the pot book. And then maybe my favorite is my memoir about my time when I was running the psychiatric emergency room of Bellevue, and that’s called weekend’s of Bellevue. So if you want to learn more about things, and stay tuned, it’s a great exciting time to be a psychiatrist. Obviously, things are really booming in the cannabis space and in the psychedelic space with MDMA, it’s a really interesting time. Not only are we in tremendous need, I think in psychiatry and the field of psychiatry, we need better tools. And those better tools are coming, and I would say it’s just in time, we’ve got more need than ever, and we’ve got better tools than ever. But there is this sort of period right now where it’s not fully on board, it’s not legal. I guess I would like to maybe give a shout out to the people who are doing underground work, because I see you, and I appreciate that you’re in this crazy Limbo position right now, and to some degree, you are really doing the Lord’s work. I think a lot of us are really concerned about the interaction of prescription antidepressants, or worse prescription mood stabilizers or antipsychotics, and what those sorts of medicines, I think this is the next sort of hurdle we have to get over is the drug interactions, right? The interactions between the prescription medicine and things like MDMA, psilocybin, Ayahuasca, because there are clearly medicines you cannot be on, there are situations where the meds are incompatible. It’s one of the reasons why people are using ketamine right now fairly easily is that it does mix well with other meds. But I think this is going to be a big issue moving forward, anybody can be an expert on that and it will be helpful to the rest of us.
Keith Kurlander 39:32
Great. Well, we end the podcast with the same question for every guest, which is if there was a billboard with a paragraph on it, and every human would see it once in their lifetime. What would you tell them in like five to seven sentences?
Dr. Julie Holland 39:46
Well, you know, I actually had this great poem pulled up last time we were talking that I wanted to read and if you give me a second, I will try to find it. It’s just I don’t even know where to look right now because it’s so weird, just hold that thought for a second, because I didn’t have time ahead of time. But I saw the questions before, and I found this. This is a poem that I know pretty well, but I want to read it, but now because I’m having trouble forgetting, it’s not here on my list, alright, I’m not gonna be able to find it in time. Anyway, the gist of the poem is to stop going to church to be holy, what you really need to be holy is to go out into the community and help people who are in need. And that’s the biggest priority, and that when you give of yourself, and when you help other people, you get fed, you get nourished, and that’s really where people need to focus. So I’m sorry, that’s not a soundbite. But it’s still my message that is kind of like a 12 step thing to when people say, I don’t know what to do, what should I do? And the stock answer is be of service. I still think that you can get a lot from giving, we’re in sort of a taiki mode. And all the conspicuous consumption isn’t getting us where we want to be, and you really need to reverse and stop taking in and start giving to really feed yourself.
Keith Kurlander 41:13
Well, thanks for being on the show.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 41:14
Yeah. wonderful to have you.
Dr. Julie Holland 41:17
Thank you for having me anytime.
Keith Kurlander 41:22
To connect some dots here, if you haven’t been really up to date on our psychedelic therapy training. It was a great talk with Dr. Holland about psychedelics at the end there and really kind of exploring how she sees psychedelics, the possibility of how they can help in the mental health space and really culture, the larger issues we’re facing in our culture, intergenerational trauma, ways we treat each other and that kind of stuff. So obviously, we’re very strong components in the integrative psychiatry Institute of using psychedelics responsibly, and the different psychedelics that are in research right now. And of course, using ketamine responsibly, she’s not in a research setting anymore, and is able to be accessed from a patient perspective right now, the medical center. So if you’re unaware of our psychedelic therapy training, then your therapists listen to this. We’ve got this incredible training, we took a lot of time to develop, there’s a lot of therapists right now that are wanting to get trained in psychedelic therapy. So we’ve got a year long program, we’re going to be doing all kinds of experiential learning online. There’s the option of coming into Boulder, Colorado, to do an in person retreat with us. So really excited to help get people trained up right now, in psychedelic assisted therapy. It’s truly the next wave of psychotherapy modalities, it’s here, it’s arriving right now. So it’s a great time, if you’re interested in working with these medicines more and getting more training that you can check out our training. You can go to psychiatry, institute.com/psychedelic psychiatryinstitute.com/psychedelic We look forward to connecting with you again on the next episode of the higher practice podcast where we explore what it takes to achieve optimal mental health.