A Psychoanalytic Perspective on Ayahuasca: Insight, Transitional Space, and Potential Side Effects

Eduardo Gastelumendi, MD


Abstract: This presentation will explore differences and continuities between psychoanalysis and the ayahuasca experience regarding both their nature and scope. These might be considered two of the few “royal roads” that lead to inner exploration, transformation, and growth. They rely mainly, but not only, on insights; whether in the form of meaningful and new true understandings that emerge in an intimate interpersonal relationship (as may happen in psychoanalysis) or under the form of emotionally intense and vivid visions and the grasping of truth (as in the ayahuasca experience). It will be noted that ayahuasca may produce negative side effects, such as the “inflation of the Ego” or interpreting visions as real instead of a metaphoric or “as-if” quality. The Winnicottian psychoanalytic concept of "transitional space," essential to developing the capacity to play, create and love, may help to clarify and better understand occasional problematic effects of ayahuasca.

Eduardo Gastelumendi is a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst working mainly as a clinician in private practice in Lima, Peru. He is Member and current Vice-president of the Peruvian Psychoanalytic Society, Member and former President of the Peruvian Psychiatric Association (1999-2000) and Member of the International Neuropsychiatric Association. He lectures at the Institute of the Peru Psychoanalytic Society. He is Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Revista de Neuro-Psiquiatria (founded in 1938 in Lima). He has participated in the Freud-Jung dialogues between the IPA (International Psychoanalytic Association) and the IAAP (International Association for Analytic Psychology) since 2006.


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