Altered States of Consciousness

Altered States Of Consciousness

Prior to elaborating the concept of altered states of consciousness, it is necessary to establish what consciousness comprises of. If you are reading this article and have control over all your senses, you are conscious. Complete unconsciousness is when you completely lose control over your body, and are numb to your surrounding environment.

Altered states of consciousness have been subjected to a lot of cynicism from researchers all round the world. With that being said, there is sufficient evidence available to suggest that complete denial of this phenomenon is also not possible. The term was originally coined by Carlos Castenda who defined it as an induced variation in one’s state of mind, which is most of the time temporary in nature.

Altered states of consciousness can be achieved voluntarily or involuntarily. Achieving voluntary states of altered consciousness can be through meditation, chanting, trance or psychedelic drugs.
At times, one can experience altered state of consciousness due to an illness. During very high fevers, sick people can experience hallucinations, dreamy or are unable to act in a normal way.  Similarly, illnesses that cause sleep loss or oxygen deprivation cause a significant loss of consciousness.

Examples of altered states of consciousness:

It is easy to understand different types of altered states of consciousness through examples as this is way, it is much easier to explain the varying extent of the phenomenon. Let us start with mild state to more severe ones.

A very mild altered state that every one of us gets to experience is dreaming. We know that we are not saying or doing that, in real, what we seem to be doing during a dream. We can get up from sleep, scream or shiver if something horrible happens or murmur about the dream scenario. This goes on to show that how real dreams seem when one is going through the experience itself.  This example is relatable to almost everybody and thus, clears the concept of altered state of consciousness.

Hypnosis is another form of altered state. Though it has been used for magic and comedy shows, hypnosis has also been extensively used by psychologists. They have used it to manage and control emotions and attitudes of their patients. Controlled hypnosis leads to developing positive attributes in the patients. The change or the altered state isn’t always noticeable but it causes one to perceive things in a different manner.

During an accident or a trauma that directly affects your brain, one can lose complete consciousness for some time, depending upon the intensity. The reason being that injury causes a change in blood flow through your brain and affects the way your brain encompasses the situation.

Altered state of consciousness achieved through drugs can vary depending upon the nature and quantity of the consumed drug. All drugs affect your body in a different manner. Drugs like marijuana and cannabis slightly change the way you perceive and think about stuff. They also have a limited influence on your sight and speech. While drugs like LSD and crystal meth, have long lasting physical and psychological effects on your body.