CULTURE

Self-Doubt: When Cannabis Makes Us Reconsider Our Life Choices

Are those negative, weed-induced vibes trying to tell us something?
Are those negative, weed-induced vibes trying to tell us something? /

Being stoned comes with a wealth of side effects -- some of which are just part of the fun, while others have been known to get smeared all over a person's psyche, causing them to gawk out the window every thirty seconds to see if the cops are coming up the stairs. 

Perhaps the least discussed byproduct of the bud, however, is its uncanny ability to send the user into a maddening state of introspection. Yep, weed can often inspire the high-minded to start questioning their life choices, setting them on a path of self-doubt, self-loathing, and self-destruction.

Listen, it happens to the best of us. One minute you're out in the big bad world, moving, shaking, kicking ass and taking names and the next, you're stoned, suffering from imposter syndrome, and reconsidering every move you've ever made since you were old enough to call the shots.

Jeez, thanks a lot, weed!

Life is hard enough without a cloud of smoke infiltrating our brains, acting like the overpaid life coach we never asked for or wanted. Or worse still, the THC-infused equivalent of nagging, unsupportive parents telling us repeatedly that we'll never succeed in our chosen career path and how we're much better off working a menial 9-to-5 with retirement benefits. 

Marijuana, for all of its medicinal advantages and simple pleasures, can be a real son of a bitch sometimes. Although it positively affects some users' mental health, it can also drag them down a rabbit hole of negativity. And if there's a morsel of anti-faith within, rest assured pot will go deep to find it.

Some of The Bluntness readers we talked to about their experience with high introspection confirm that it can be a devil of a problem. Heather, a 32-year-old mother of two and small business owner from Carbondale, Illinois, told us she’s been going through it – big time! She explained that ever since weed went legal in the Land of Lincoln, she’s been using it to help her sleep at night. 

While the plant initially helped Heather get more rest, something changed in recent months. Now, as she explains, her stoned head keeps spinning when she should be winding down for the night.

"I was sleeping really well," she said, "and then one night I got high, and all these negative emotions came to the surface and kept me awake. I felt like a failure as a mom and a businesswoman."

Heather's stoned-out battles with her bully of a self-conscious happened night after night until she finally opted not to partake. "As soon as I stopped using it before bed, I was fine," she said. "I mean, I went back to not sleeping very well, but at least I wasn't dealing with such harsh emotions."

Studies suggest that weed can improve or cripple a person's mental health. None of them, though, focus on imposter syndrome, a mental health condition in which a person doubts their talent, skill, or position, making them believe they're a fraud. Research shows that around 70 percent of the population suffers from it, which is funny considering how many people are on social media trying to convince the world that they're confident, put together and super-freaking-talented. 

Just know that a lot of that confidence is a sham.

Unless they are true narcissistic, soul-sucking psychopaths, there's doubt behind the eyes of the self-assured. And if they use marijuana – 16 percent of Americans do regularly -- there's a possibility that similarly to Heather, the imposter syndrome is exaggerated during those quiet moments alone.

Cannabis as a Tough, Yet Helpful Guide?

Not everyone, however, considers it a downside when weed starts revealing pieces of themselves that they'd rather not face. Terrance, a 42-year-old from San Diego, California, thinks cannabis provides a person with what they need to progress at a spiritual level. And sometimes, that gift makes us uncomfortable. "Weed brings joy to those who need it, and it makes some see things about themselves that they may have pushed down deep inside," he said.

By his own admission, Terrance's experiences with high introspection haven't always been pleasant.

"There have been times in my life when I've disregarded responsibility in pursuit of lies," he explained. "Cannabis has shown me several times that I'm not where I'm supposed to be. It has been a guide."

The Weird Nuances of Weed

So, what is it about marijuana that seems to accentuate imposter syndrome in some people while providing guidance for others?

Dr. Jordan Tishler, professor at Harvard Medical School, President of the Association of Cannabinoid Specialists, and CEO/CMO at the patient-focused clinical practice inhaleMD, admits that he's never treated a patient who's complained about imposter syndrome. 

Yet, his impression is that cannabis alone isn't the culprit in this condition. But similar to how some users credit cannabis for triggering "creativity," the alternative is that some others may experience a skewed perspective. "That could lead to the imposter syndrome exacerbation," he said.

Unfortunately, there's no way of determining who will have a positive reaction or a negative one. Dr. Tishler went on to explain that the distinguishing factor may be attributed to mindset and setting. 

"This is what I believe is making the difference," Dr. Tishler asserts. "In other words, if you're pre-disposed to imposter syndrome (Heather, this could be you), cannabis can provoke it. Instead of thinking of cannabis as causing a particular reaction, I believe it amplifies the underlying situation."

As for Terrance's theory about cannabis uncovering reality, Dr. Tishler claims there’s something to that. 

“It seems to act a bit like a “truth serum” in that in this altered state our ego seems less able to delude us and we see things, internal and external, in a clearer (and not always pleasant) light,” he said.

Some people are accepting of this, others not so much. “I want my weed back, but I can’t deal with that,” Heather said. 

Review Your Dosage Levels

According to Dr. Tishler, those who suffer from magnified states of imposter syndrome under the influence of cannabis may be simply overdoing it. "I'd recommend reviewing the dose," he said. 

"Many patients who have received little to no guidance on dosing from their cannabis clinician, and also those who have been self-medicating, use way too much cannabis. This can lead to all sorts of problems." 

If lowering the dose doesn't work – an indication that cannabis isn't the cause of the condition – the doctor also suggests that the user address the real problem.

"Depending on the situation, this might entail mindfulness practices like meditation and yoga, or more focused treatments like psychotherapy," he said. 

"While cannabis can be a very helpful medication, like most other medications and therapies, the most successful regimen combines a number of medical and non-medical approaches."

Time to Lose the Self-Doubt!

Now get out there and fake it until you make it. Be the ball. Wag the dog. Die trying. 

Understand that everyone else is experiencing self-effacement, the same as you. The only alternative to dealing with imposter syndrome is quit, or worse yet never try. And you damn sure don’t want to do that. 

High, sober or a nice mix of the two, go do your best. 

And when self-doubt starts to rattle your cage, know you’re not alone. The rest of us don’t have a clue what we’re doing either. Just throw up a middle finger and keep on truckin’. After all, what else are you going to do?

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