Electric Talk Therapy

“Crazy Horse said we live in the shadow of the real world,  and we really really do!”

– John Trudell

First, a few framing remarks:

1) This story is 100% true, told as faithfully as I can tell it.

2) I was set up for this completely unexpected experience by: 1) the horrible social and psychic realities of the Covid pandemic; and 2) intensive reading of Carl G. Jung’s work in November 2020, concerning dreams and accessing available unconscious resources to help deal with life’s challenges (The Red Book and Modern Man in Search of a Soul, specifically).

3) Unless otherwise stated, I don’t believe I actually heard or saw the central words or images here with my senses, but they are how my conscious mind “made sense” (reader, you be the judge if that’s what it did!) of what I experienced.[1]

The Setting

On Monday afternoon, December 7, 2020, I was being prepped for eye surgery at a suburban Detroit hospital. Before the anesthetic nerve block for my left eye, the anesthesiologist administered an IV drip of the sedative Propofol that briefly put me to sleep. Propofol has well known hallucinogenic properties. It’s the “electric” part. Bottom line of a pretty short story. I am now a very BIG fan of Propofol!

The Action

Returning to consciousness with my numbed left eye, the whole experience can be described really quickly: Like probably everybody who’s ever been knocked out, the first thought was something like “What just happened?”

In response to that question, here’s what I got: A big transparent box floating in space. By big I mean really big for a box, more like the size of a large room. And (sorry) it’s literally full of shit. A big-ass clear box full of shit, as we’d say here by The Strait!

The top of the box opens, tilting up on its one hinged side. And all that shit just got instantly and completely blown away! That’s it, the whole ‘interpretation’. Nothing subtle or obscure about it at all.


Unlike the above-noted attempts to ‘make sense’ of this experience, here’s what I can say with complete assurance about what I actually experienced: I felt so damn GOOD! I can’t even really convey the feeling, except to say imagine absolute, total contentment, peace of mind, general and universal power of love took over my whole being. I guess you probably get the picture. The nurses caring for me remarked on how much I enjoyed the sedative. Since I was giggling hysterically it was probably pretty hard to miss! Propofol is known to induce this kind of mellow aftermath, one of its advantages for pre-surgical sedation.

In my case, the psychic loading of the pandemic, the political economy of Trump, Biden, Black Lives Matter, and the whole damn ‘load’ (pun intended) of 2020, combined with my recent Jungian self-directed studies in the face of the dark winter of 2020-21 already coming down on us, apparently set me up for a healing catharsis of rather extraordinary power. Still rehabbing from the eye surgery 3 days later, there’s no doubt whatsoever in my mind (heart, soul or psyche) about the validity of Dr. Jung’s theories regarding access to unconscious psychic resources to deal with challenges in the waking world of our ordinary days. Like the late John Trudell said about Elvis, “I ought to know. I was in his army!

The ability of my psyche to simply box up and blow away all that shit. Well, that still makes me chuckle, feel good and look forward to kicking the ass of these evil motherfuckers oppressing us. We have power within us that we haven’t even tried to use yet. I’m trying to tell you I was there and it’s real.[2] Take it or leave it for what it’s worth, whether you think I’m nuts or (since everything in our dreams is really just some version of ourselves) I’m full of it. Fair enuff. But my box is transparent and cleared out. How about you?

My first thought was how beneficial this general type of treatment has been proven (usually using psilocybin, from what I’ve read…) for People suffering from severe depression due to terminal illnesses, and how my experience or discovery this week could provide a kind of template for helping folks with at least some cases of what our society calls ‘mental illness’. There are far too many examples to name them all. The tragic fact that gun violence seems to be going up almost everywhere in the country. The looming waves of evictions, hunger and poverty. The oppression magnified by the obscene inequalities and disparate racial impacts of our public health catastrophe. The overwhelming pressure and pain of the failed US response to the pandemic and its devastating social impacts. My very favorite Jung quote sums it up for me: “Those whom love does not unite, fear compels.”

With both love and fear involved, of course it would have to be handled very carefully by not only board-certified anesthesiologic administration and robust ethical and psychiatric procedures. Of course it wouldn’t be for everybody. My understanding is that Propofol was what killed Michael Jackson, and based on what I just experienced the unmonitored used of this drug on somebody as psychically traumatized and fragile as him would imho be pharmaceutical homicide.

But if suffering human beings can be redirected via empathetic one-to-one engagements, enabled to tell their stories and share their pain, nourished psychically with appropriate spiritual, psychological, motivational and stabilizing emotional rituals and information of the kinds used in successful talk therapy, then provided via psychoactive medicine with the immediate access to the underlying psychic resources that I just experienced, such treatments could do a lot of good for many People. I can feel it, and as Che put it, “at the risk of seeming ridiculous” I insist that this is a big-ass source of both real power and health![3] We ignore or neglect it to our own detriment. That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it!

Tom Stephens

December 10, 2020

1) Like in a dream where the images and actions of the dream content provoke questions and associations that can theoretically help us consciously engage and understand critical, latent information, generated by independently active, unconscious psychic processes. We can ask, e.g., ‘Why was the pitcher in the dream blue?’ or ‘What did your mother mean by those particular words in the dream?’, ‘What does the image of the (fill in the blank) in the dream make you think of?’, etc. This is the “talk therapy” part.

2) Jung tried to convey something like this sense of ‘I was there and this is what I learned’ with his own dreams and visions in the unfinished third section of The Red Book, “Scrutinies”. In 1957 he later wrote “My entire life consisted in elaborating what had burst forth from the unconscious and flooded me like an enigmatic stream and threatened to break me.

↑3) “At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love. It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality.” – Che Guevara