Welcome to "Learning as an Art" - My name is Jonathan Helander and this will be my absolutely 100% first blog post ever.
First I want to get myself & you acquainted with my blog. I am a psychonaut; that is I study the consciousness and subconsciousness of my every day life to an extreme degree, hence I feel the need to spread the word onto you, as well as save it for myself. I am fully committed to understanding how we think, why we think, and what exactly we think about. Of course, I am not a psychiatrist, nor does my educational background disguise myself as one - I am a chemist by training with a B.S. in Chemistry. Yet my true curiosity resides with the workings of the mind.
Here is some background to give you an idea of how I cam to be who I am which inevitably is the reason why you are reading this!
As a young child I was very fond of nature. I would play from dawn till dusk in the woods adjacent to my house. If I didn't have friends to play with I would create my own games, and as every young child exhibits a great imagination, I was no different. However, residing behind my normal childhood there was an increasingly growing urge to understand why I existed. "Why am I here" is one of the age-old questions most of face at one point or another. In my elementary school days, specifically 3rd through 6th grade, I became unsettled by painful emotions, sadness, and became slumped into what I would call a melancholy. I struggled nearly every night to get to bed as a sadness of pain crept over me, but as time went by I realized that being sad accomplished nothing about the wrongs that I had experienced, nor those that I was aware of across the globe and my pessimism vanished to pacifism. I became neither euphoric nor depressed, but attempted to gain an omnipotent view of my reality and existence!
Entering High school I became more concerned with my present life, philosophy and existential questions went to the back burner and soon I found myself incredibly interested in psychology and more or less unrelated, physics and biology. The teachers I had during my H.S. days were incredible, they opened my eyes to what I had never realized before - they broke down walls in my understanding and were able to thrust me into a phase of absolute learning. I became enthralled by chemistry, biology, and mathematics and set to understand some of the harder principles of physics like quantum mechanics and relativity. But, in my Junior year of high school I was introduced to psychedelics, specifically Psilocybin. It would be an event that would change my life for the better, but would take years for the realizations to crystallize into some type of meaningful form - but it was exactly this day that eventually lead to what I now am so proud of; my ability to understand psychology and sociology.
It is a clever saying that "Curiosity killed the cat", and that is one of the phrases that would enter my mind on a fateful night filled with pretty colors, dancing images, and profound revelations within my head. However, it was incredibly horrifying. Absolute terror coursed through my head for a solid six hours of time as I thought I was leaving reality never to return. "I will never be able to function again" was a common thought - and dread ebbed and flowed. The night progressed, and as I became more sober from the experience I realized I would be alright, and that everything was going to be just fine, but most of all the epiphanies were here to stay.
My experience did not end there. For the intense stress that the psychoactive had put on my mind would be carried over to use of THC and even caffeine (more on this later). No longer could I enjoy a morning coffee without entering a cyclical though process of whether or not I was truly sane or if reality even existed. Where exactly was my consciousness, and how could it be altered to such an extreme degree?
For nearly 2 years I dealt with weekly or even daily panic attacks, depression and anxiety. During my times of peace and happiness, however, I was able to understand that these feelings were separate from 'me'. An incredibly hard idea to describe, but paramount in my ability to come out of the event with a positive outlook: These attacks of anxiety were not actually created by my consciousness, but were fragments of my experience. Essentially my mind had created a defense mechanism (somewhat self-defeating!) on nearly any psychoactive substance. If my mind were to be altered by nearly anything, I would be placed back in the exact same head space that brought me such great terror and grief!
Not one to throw in the towel and simply ask a Doc for some medication, I began reading. A book that perhaps saved my functioning life was "The Brain that Changes Itself." Although not extremely analytical nor academic - the book enlightened me. The brain is essentially "plastic" - that is malleable - to events in our life. We have the ability to radically change our brain's chemistry and its neuronal connections. What was once thought of to be fearful can be made into euphoria (one of the harder changes to the mind, of course!) and vice-versa. I began to study my panic attacks and my anxiety and realized such a great deal of information about how I function I believe it to be helpful for others, which will ultimately be the reason for my blog posts.
I am now 22 years old, and enjoy my life immensely. I have expanded my creative abilities, increased my enjoyment of life, and ultimately found my true calling; the mind. Learning, knowledge, and creativity are the ultimate paths to greatness.