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25. Initiation into pain and suffering to find self love

One month after my ibogaine treatment, I remain convinced that it was one of the best experiences of my life. On the outside, I don’t think anyone would say that I’ve changed. However, internally, I can attest to processing emotions in a more mature and healthier way, which has had a domino effect, improving many areas of my life. My motivation for undergoing the treatment was to heal, or at least get closer to healing, my past childhood trauma of neglect and sexual abuse, which likely led to my suffering from complex post-traumatic stress disorder. I haven’t been diagnosed by a mental health professional, partly because I am extremely mistrustful and have a hard time asking for help – a symptom of my condition.

In the past, I discovered that psychoactive plants were one of the most powerful catalysts for my healing. I am deeply grateful for what the sacred medicines allowed me to experience. Psychoactive plants seem to be the kind of help I can accept and trust, as long as I treat them with reverence and do the homework they ask of me.

Iboga called me for the last four years, but it always seemed an impossible undertaking, and the involvement of other people turned me away.

Then, I came across After some correspondence and an online video call, I felt safe and in capable hands.

My specific interest in iboga was because ibogaine, its psychoactive component, comes from its root. That's what I was after: the roots of my suffering. My intentions reflected this: "Dear iboga, please help me heal. Help me heal the roots of my suffering." These were the lines I recited under the supervision and guidance of a trained professional and experienced shaman just before ingesting the medicine, and I internally repeated them until the medicine took effect.

The experience was unlike any psychedelic journey I had ever undertaken. Ibogaine took its time; it was a 24-hour full-on experience during which I could neither sleep nor eat, and walking without assistance was impossible.

Ibogaine was very straightforward. My intention to seek help with healing the roots of my suffering was met as soon as the medicine began to work.

My first and central vision was as follows:

A chasm opened in the ground, revealing a tunnel that plunged deep down. I followed this tunnel all the way to the bottom, a depth I had never reached before. Indeed, this tunnel led me to the deepest roots of my being. At the end of the tunnel, upon reaching the ground, stood an unspeakably scary gate, emanating danger. The gate was adorned in the most terrifying manner: monstrous teeth protruding from its frame, blood seeping from beneath the doors, warning signs made of bones, decaying carcasses, and screams emanating from skulls.

It was clear: This gate was the entrance to the house of pain; the most dangerous place of all. The only sensible action would have been to flee from this place of suffering. But escaping suffering wasn't why I came. I wanted to understand the roots of suffering and how to heal them.

Thus, I repeated my intention: "Dear iboga, please help me heal. Help me heal the roots of my suffering." Iboga responded by rotating my view, showing me what was beyond that gate. Behind the horrifying façade was a small room where a child was hiding. The child sat on a chair, turned away from the entrance, drawing on a sheet of paper at a desk.

This child was my inner child, sheltered in the safest place at the heart's bottom. The frightful exterior served to scare away all evil. Observing the child, I learned about suffering. When threatened, an organism has the defense mechanism of literally swallowing the child away. The organism can conceal the child at its very core so it can't be reached by malevolence. The inner child, in this context, symbolizes the soul—the pure, innocent goodness of our hearts with the capacity to love and be loved. When the threat passes, the child is allowed to emerge and play with others. However, if the threat is constant, the child must remain concealed due to a lack of safety. A hidden inner child represents a severe deficit, as the organism can't return to homeostasis without the child's loving power. Anything hidden or covered invokes shame and guilt. Thus, healing involves reconnecting with the inner child and assisting its return to the surface so that love can guide life again.

Iboga revealed a second piece of the puzzle when the shaman encouraged me to ask the plant to show me my fear. Once again, iboga's response was direct. It revealed the hidden child's fear: loneliness.

I was taken back to my childhood, to a night when I awoke alone at home, convinced that my parents had finally abandoned me without a word. I recalled crying so hard that my abdominal muscles ached for days. I felt that pain in my stomach—the pain of the child, a discomfort that had been with me for thirty years.

Experiencing that pain, I learned my final lesson about suffering: All suffering stems from a lack of love. The absence of love is the root of all pain. Therefore, the fear of loneliness is actually a fear of not being loved, or more precisely, the shame of being unworthy of love. My trauma was the result of growing up in a loveless world. Then it became clear what was needed for healing.

As I empathized with the child's pain, it trusted that I understood its suffering. With a newfound comprehension of its fear of loneliness, I could alleviate it. I assured the child that I would never leave it alone, saying, "I will always be here for you. I love you. I love you forever." And I truly meant it.

That child was me, and I was now able to be the parent I never had.

Only after fully acknowledging the suffering was I prepared to heal. Only after expressing love for my inner child was I ready to feel loved. The love I felt for myself filled what I had been missing. By loving myself, healing became possible.

Love is the only power that can heal pain. With the emotional processing of adding love to pain, the suffering can begin to ease.Finding the hidden child and acknowledging its pain were the main visions of the first 24 hours. The second day, aptly called the "grey days" due to exhaustion and overwhelming sadness, was a continuation of feeling the extreme pain of the abandoned child.

On the third day, intense feelings of love became more frequent. Brief visions of human and animal babies, filled with overwhelming love, surfaced. It was the love that a mother should feel for her child—the love my mother never made me feel. Visions of my mother as a child helped me connect with her inner child in a loving light. Deep within her, there is still a child locked away.

The afterglow of the ibogaine experience was fascinating. Initially, the motion trails, an effect of ibogaine, created disorientation and dizziness that hindered walking. But in the following days, these trails provided a heightened clarity in my thought processes. I could observe events, pause to reassess, and choose alternative responses to habitual behaviors. It was as though iboga offered a fork in my path, allowing me to take a different route from the usual way. This was exceptionally beneficial for enacting behavioral changes and redesigning mental patterns.

In the days and weeks that followed, I felt the presence of iboga lingering mostly in my dreams. I experienced three terrible panic attacks during the night. Thankfully, last week, I had one of the best dreams I can remember: I reacted in a healthy and appropriate manner upon waking within the dream to someone sexually assaulting me. My response to the assault gave me a sense of empowerment and the ability to protect myself, a crucial feeling for allowing my inner child to emerge and introduce love into my life. In similar past dreams, I would snap and resort to extreme violence. But in this dream, my reaction was appropriate, just as an adult should respond.

My healing is evident in the small things. Before the treatment, my girlfriend's compulsive finger-cracking, which used to enrage me, still annoys me but without causing pain or eliciting a defensive reaction.

Many things that previously provoked irritation and anxiety now feel manageable due to improved emotional processing. It's as if a positive internal voice has been strengthened, helping to quell the negative ones. It's not that suffering disappeared from my life. It's just that I got better at dealing with pain in a healthy way. I think that's what growing up means.

In summary, I am thankful to for making this cosmic experience possible for me. An ibogaine treatment is a root experience – a deep and hardcore journey, not for the faint of heart. But if you feel the call of iboga, can help you answer.

By Henry from Vietnam, March 2024

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