Memory suppression

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Memory suppression (also known as ego suppression, ego dissolution, ego loss or ego death) is defined as an inhibition of a person's ability to maintain a functional short and long-term memory.[1][2][3] This occurs in a manner that is directly proportional to the dosage consumed, and often begins with the degradation of one's short-term memory.

Memory suppression is a process which may be broken down into the 4 basic levels described below:

  1. Partial short-term memory suppression - At the lowest level, this effect is a partial and potentially inconsistent failure of a person's short-term memory. It can cause effects such as a general difficulty staying focused, an increase in distractibility, and a general tendency to forget what one is thinking or saying.
  2. Complete short-term memory suppression - At this level, this effect is the complete failure of a person's short-term memory. It can be described as the experience of being completely incapable of remembering any specific details regarding the present situation and the events leading up to it for more than a few seconds. This state of mind can often result in thought loops, confusion, disorientation, and a loss of control, especially for the inexperienced. At this level, it can also become impossible to follow both conversations and the plot of most forms of media.
  3. Partial long-term memory suppression - At this level, this effect is the partial, often intermittent failure of a person's long-term memory in addition to the complete failure of their short-term memory. It can be described as the experience of an increased difficulty recalling basic concepts and autobiographical information from one's long-term memory. Compounded with the complete suppression of short term memory, it creates an altered state where even basic tasks become challenging or impossible as one cannot mentally access past memories of how to complete them.

    For example, one may take a longer time to recall the identity of close friends or temporarily forget how to perform basic tasks. This state may create the sensation of experiencing something for the first time. At this stage, a reduction of certain learned personality traits, awareness of cultural norms, and linguistic recall may accompany the suppression of long-term memory.

  4. Complete long-term memory suppression - At the highest level, this effect is the complete and persistent failure of both a person's long and short-term memory. It can be described as the experience of becoming completely incapable of remembering even the most basic fundamental concepts stored within the person's long-term memory. This includes everything from their name, hometown, past memories, the awareness of being on drugs, what drugs even are, what human beings are, what life is, that time exists, what anything is, or that anything exists.

    Memory suppression of this level blocks all mental associations, attached meaning, acquired preferences, and value judgements one may have towards the external world. Sufficiently intense memory loss is also associated with the loss of a sense of self, in which one is no longer aware of their own existence. In this state, the user is unable to recall all learned conceptual knowledge about themselves and the external world, and no longer experiences the sensation of being a separate observer in an external world. This experience is commonly referred to as "ego death".

Memory suppression is often accompanied by other coinciding effects such as thought loops, personal bias suppression, amnesia, and delusions. It is most commonly induced under the influence of moderate dosages of hallucinogenic compounds, such as psychedelics, dissociatives, and deliriants.[4]

It is worth noting that although memory suppression is vaguely similar in its effects to amnesia, it differs in that it directly suppresses one's usage of their long or short term memory without inhibiting the person's ability to recall what happened during this experience afterward. In contrast, amnesia does not directly affect the usage of one's short or long-term memory during its experience but instead renders a person incapable of recalling events after it has worn off. A person experiencing memory suppression cannot access their existing memory, while a person with drug-induced amnesia cannot properly store new memories. As such, a person experiencing amnesia may not obviously appear to be doing so, as they can often carry on normal conversations and perform complex tasks. This is not the case with memory suppression.

Ego dissolution

The most significant aspect of complete long-term memory suppression (level 4) is the way in which it suppresses the ability to recall and comprehend conceptual information associated with one's sense of self-hood and identity. The experience of this is colloquially known as ego death and its occurrence is well documented throughout the modern psychonaut subculture. However, it is worth noting that this informal term of "ego death" or "ego dissolution" is also commonly used to refer to states of high level unity and interconnectedness.[1][5]

Complete memory suppression can result in the profound experience that despite remaining fully conscious, there is no longer an “I” experiencing one's sensory input; there is just the sensory input as it is and by itself. This suppresses the otherwise nearly constant sensation in waking life of being a separate observer interacting with an external world. Although ego death does not necessarily shut down awareness of all mental processes, it does remove the feeling of being the thinker or cause of one's mental processes. It often results in the feeling of processing concepts from a neutral perspective completely untainted by past memories, prior experiences, contexts, and biases.

Ego death often synergizes with other coinciding effects such as personal bias suppression, unity and interconnectedness, spirituality enhancement, and delusions.[1][3] These accompanying effects further elevate the subjective intensity and transpersonal significance of ego death experiences.[2]

Psychoactive substances

Compounds within our psychoactive substance index which may cause this effect include:

... further results

Experience reports

Anecdotal reports which describe this effect within our experience index include:

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See also

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Lebedev, Alexander V.; Lövdén, Martin; Rosenthal, Gidon; Feilding, Amanda; Nutt, David J.; Carhart-Harris, Robin L. (2015). "Finding the self by losing the self: Neural correlates of ego-dissolution under psilocybin". Human Brain Mapping. 36 (8): 3137–3153. doi:10.1002/hbm.22833. ISSN 1065-9471. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Carhart-Harris, Robin L.; Muthukumaraswamy, Suresh; Roseman, Leor; Kaelen, Mendel; Droog, Wouter; Murphy, Kevin; Tagliazucchi, Enzo; Schenberg, Eduardo E.; Nest, Timothy; Orban, Csaba; Leech, Robert; Williams, Luke T.; Williams, Tim M.; Bolstridge, Mark; Sessa, Ben; McGonigle, John; Sereno, Martin I.; Nichols, David; Hellyer, Peter J.; Hobden, Peter; Evans, John; Singh, Krish D.; Wise, Richard G.; Curran, H. Valerie; Feilding, Amanda; Nutt, David J. (2016). "Neural correlates of the LSD experience revealed by multimodal neuroimaging". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 113 (17): 4853–4858. doi:10.1073/pnas.1518377113. ISSN 0027-8424. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Carhart-Harris, Robin L.; Leech, Robert; Hellyer, Peter J.; Shanahan, Murray; Feilding, Amanda; Tagliazucchi, Enzo; Chialvo, Dante R.; Nutt, David (2014). "The entropic brain: a theory of conscious states informed by neuroimaging research with psychedelic drugs". Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. 8. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2014.00020. ISSN 1662-5161. 
  4. Vollenweider, Franz X; Geyer, Mark A (2001). "A systems model of altered consciousness: integrating natural and drug-induced psychoses". Brain Research Bulletin. 56 (5): 495–507. doi:10.1016/S0361-9230(01)00646-3. ISSN 0361-9230. 
  5. Nour, Matthew M.; Evans, Lisa; Nutt, David; Carhart-Harris, Robin L. (2016). "Ego-Dissolution and Psychedelics: Validation of the Ego-Dissolution Inventory (EDI)". Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. 10. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2016.00269. ISSN 1662-5161.