The issue of control lies at the very heart of addiction, depression and most other forms of spiritual or emotional suffering; rather than accepting and embracing life in its entirety, we often feel the need to control it by clinging on to certain experiences and averting others. Yet the tighter we hold on, the less we are able to flow with the ever-changing stream of experiences that life throws our way, and we end up getting stuck in a loop that never seems to progress. Ibogaine and other plant medicines can help us learn to let go and be vulnerable, which is what makes them such powerful facilitators of recovery.
Most of us pick up an unhealthy need for control during childhood. We learn that some of our characteristics, tendencies, emotions and needs are unsafe as they cause others to scorn or reject us. As a result, we start trying to hide, suppress and avoid parts of ourselves as a means of protection. In doing so, we disconnect from a piece of our soul and create an inner emptiness into which experience and life are not allowed to flow.
Plant medicines heal by helping us reconnect to this part of ourselves and open up once more to feeling. The Bwiti, for example, achieve this by using iboga as a means of understanding that they each carry within them the souls of their ancestors and the light of the spiritual realm. As such, they are the physical vessel through which this spirit is able to remain present in the material dimension. They are the means by which the divine experiences life.
This leads to a profound reframing of their own value and purpose. Suddenly they become free to experience life without needing to control it, as they understand that experience is sacred and gives purpose to all of existence. Life will continue to be both joyful and painful, yet the Bwiti know that they are accompanied by their ancestors through every experience, and that by allowing themselves to feel everything rather than suppress it they also keep the ancestors connected to life. By experiencing life they nourish their soul.
Like the Bwiti, Westerners who wish to heal their soul using ibogaine or other plant medicines must understand that the key to recovery is to open up that inner void and allow experience to rush back in and fill it. When things get difficult and we feel the urge to shut down, we have to remember that vulnerability to experience is what makes life meaningful and gives the whole universe its purpose. In doing so, we give ourselves the freedom to mess up, to hurt and to let go of control.
This is summed up perfectly by the great Carl Rogers, who said: “I believe it will have become evident why, for me, adjectives such as happy, contented, blissful and enjoyable do not seem quite appropriate to any general description of this process I have called the Good Life, even though the person in this process would experience each one of these at the appropriate times. But adjectives which seem more generally fitting are adjectives such as enriching, exciting, rewarding, challenging, meaningful.
This process of the Good Life is not, I am convinced, a life for the faint-fainthearted. It involves the stretching and growing of becoming more and more of one's potentialities. It involves the courage to be. It means launching oneself fully into the stream of life.”