On the podcast today we have neuroscientist and psychiatrist Dr. Dave Rabin. Dr. Rabin has been involved in numerous projects that focus on treating patients with treatment resistance mental health conditions particularly through the use of psychedelic therapies. Dr. Raven aims to develop safe and effective psychedelic treatments for a range of mental health conditions including depression, anxiety, PTSD, and addiction.
Another notable project is his work with the Apollo device a wearable technology designed to help individuals manage stress and improve restful sleep. Dr. Rabin and his team conducted clinical studies that showed the Apollo device was effective in reducing stress related symptoms and high stress professions such as the military, police officers, and healthcare workers
He’s a cofounder and chief medical officer of the psychedelic medicine company, Sanara health, and serves as a medical and scientific advisor to several other companies in the psychedelic medicine space. If you have been curious about how these treatments work in a highly measured and conservative setting you will love this conversation with Dr. Rabin. Enjoy
– Breakthrough Research on MDMA’s Role in Treating PTSD
– How Technology, Eastern & Western Medicines Align
– Post-Pandemic Mental Health Crisis and The Neef for Relief
– Understanding How Psychedelics Treat Mental Health Conditions
– Expert Guidance for Safe Psychedelic Therapy
Listen to the episode here:
- A Neuroscientist and Psychiatrist [00:05:48]
- Unpacking Your Trauma [00:11:19]
- Study on Psychedelics [00:18:27]
- The Psychedelic Approach [00:21:54]
- Reframing Trauma [00:29:18]
- Epigenetics and Psychedelics [00:38:04]
- The Apollo Neuroscience [00:46:16]
- Self-healing [01:01:42]
- Integration and Compassionate Inquiry [01:09:55]
- Challenges in Resource Allocation [01:15:31]
- Getting the Support [01:22:59]
- Gratitude [01:30:29]
- Denying our Emotions [01:37:26]
- The Name “Apollo” [01:43:43]
- Lessons to Live By [01:51:30]
#199 Healing Trauma with Psychedelic Therapy: Insights from Neuroscientist Dr. Dave Rabin | Measuring the Impact of Chronic Stress, What Psychedelic Treatments Have Shown Us & Co-Founding the First Wearable That Actively Improves Sleep
Welcome to the Gabby Reece Show where we break down the complex worlds of health, fitness, family, business, and relationships with the world’s leading experts. I’m here to simplify these topics and give you practical takeaways that you can start using today. We all know that living a healthy balanced life isn’t always easy. Let’s try working on managing life a little better and have some fun along the way. After all, life is one big experiment and we’re all doing our best.
“We are facing a critical time in humanity where if we don’t figure out how to heal more effectively, more efficiently, and empower each human being on the face of this earth to self-heal, which is what all the Eastern tribal disciplines have always described healing is about, but what even Hippocrates said, “Healing comes from within the ones seeking to be healed.” It’s not from the outside, not from the medicine, and not from the doctor. It comes from within each of us.”
“If we don’t empower people to do that relatively soon, we’re not only going to run out of money to pay for everybody’s healthcare but we are going to destroy ourselves and make a planet that’s inhospitable for us. A famous saying that I’m sure you know is, “Hurt people hurt people.” On the contrary, healed people heal people.”
“What the most exciting neuroscience and research are telling us from the work of psychedelics and the work we’re doing with Apollo is you can change your future. By being more present, you can change your future. That is incredibly empowering. At the same time, it requires the repair of these fractures. We cannot heal with a fractured itself. We have to bandage it and we have to bring the edges together of the wound. We have to put traction on the bone. When we repair a broken bone, you don’t just put a cast on right away. You make sure it fits together first and then you put the cast on so it heals properly without as much of a scar.”
“It’s no different for emotional wounds. If we don’t take care of emotional wounds, for example, we don’t teach people how to grieve loss, what happens? You store that loss and you resist it and that causes a tremendous amount of suffering and prolonged pain. By teaching people some of these skills and helping support each other through the process, which is not something you require me for, that’s something any human being can do for any other human being by being present and listening non-judgmentally to them, you don’t need to go to medical school for that part, that helps repair the fracture. Once you repair the fracture, you realize, “I feel more whole,” and that’s the integration work.”
My guest is not only a psychiatrist but also a neuroscientist, Dr. Dave Rabin. He’s done a ton of work with treatment resistance patients, people that nothing was working. He’s done a ton of epigenetic studies with controlled psychedelic treatments. When I say controlled, I mean this is a systematic and conservative approach. People hear the word psychedelics and they think, “They’re bypassing and it’s loosey-goosey.” It’s quite the contrary.
He even talks about and reminds me that if you and I take a yoga class or go into a heavy breathing session, this can be a psychedelic perspective. It’s mind-changing and what I appreciate about Dr. Davis is he’s like, “I can’t heal people, they have to heal themselves. Can we put them in an environment that they have that opportunity, that they get that space, and that their brain, their nervous system, and the amygdala gets to calm down?” A lot of people are walking around now with chronic stress. He talks about ways to do that.
He invented a technological piece called the Apollo. I’ve been wearing it and my sleep did improve. It’s interesting because they’re using sound technology to help give your nervous system a hug. His passion for helping people and helping people get that safe feeling, that safety, because what we learn is, biologically, that’s what we want and that we’re lacking is feeling safe. He’s willing to look at all the ways correctly and measured to do that.
The other thing I appreciate is let’s say you say, “I’m not willing to do a controlled experience,” or, “I don’t want to wear a wearable.” We have many other things in the conversation that we talk about, important reminders about ways that we can help ourselves, calm ourselves down, get that safety feeling in the moment, and also feel good enough so that we can get back to our own empathy for ourselves and for each other. I hope you enjoy my conversation with Dr. Dave Rabin.
Dr. Dave Rabin, thank you for coming to my home. I’m grateful to have you here. You’re a neuroscientist and a psychiatrist. I could barely get through college. Were you first thinking one and then the other? How does it go that you decide that you’re going to do both?
First off, thank you so much for having me. It’s such a pleasure to be here with you. My journey originally started when I always wanted to study consciousness and the way we think about stuff. I had vivid dreams as a kid and I would ask my people and my parents about them and they gave me the same factory answer, like, “These dreams are not real. Don’t worry about it.”
What things showed up in your dreams?
Even things as simple as I’d be having a conversation with someone like my brother. I’d be 6 years old and he was two years younger than me. We’d be talking about something, our friend from school. I’d be hanging out with that person later and I’d reference the conversation and they would’ve no idea what I was talking about. I would instantly have the recognition, “You were never there. That was in my dream.”
As I got older, the stressors of life. You start to have mixes of good, bad, and sometimes nightmares, and I’d bring it up to my parents. It’s like a normal and compassionate answer to say to your kids, “The nightmares can’t hurt you. They’re not real.” It also is not the full story because when you keep having those experiences and they feel real, it makes you question what is real. That inserted that into my brain, that question, from a young age.
At maybe 6, 7, and 8 years old, I was thinking about, “What does the word “real” mean?” We always wanted to study consciousness and neuroscience research and how we find meaning in things. In high school, my dad tried to be a good mentor to me and was like, “What do you want to do with your life, son?” I was like, “I want to study consciousness and dreams. I love this stuff.” He’s like, “You’ll never make any money doing that. You’ll never have job security. You’ll have to apply for grants for the rest of your life. It’s going to be a hard life.” I’m like, “I had never thought about that.”
My parents are both physicians and researchers and not in that field but they said, “You could become a doctor and then you’ll be able to care for people and do research, which qualifies you for both.” Even in my early high school years, that was the path that I saw as being interesting, being a caregiver but also a researcher and starting to explore the frontiers of human functioning and human performance optimization. What makes us excel and what makes us sick? Why do the same things do both sometimes?
[bctt tweet=”We cannot heal a fractured self. We have to bandage it, and we have to bring the edges together of the wound.”]
When I was in medical school, I had some great research mentors because I was doing research with people while I was in med school and in college. One of them offered me an opportunity to stay and do a PhD with her, Dr. Sally Temple, who is one of the most badass scientists in the field of neuro stem cell research and learning. She is one of the people who, in the ‘70s or ‘80s, was courageous enough to publish a single authorship publication in nature when all the other authors took their name off that the adult brain has dividing stem cells in it, which we never knew before. That inspired me. She won a MacArthur Award. I was like, “I feel like there’s a sign here. She’s offering me to work with her.”
PhD is a little unpredictable. It doesn’t have certainty like med school where you know you just have to pass and you get your MD at the end. It’s like, “This could be a long path, there’s no certain end.” I took the step and then I ended up extending my med school a little bit for four years and did my neuroscience PhD. It was good that I did that because, in that timeframe, there were about 30 critical psychedelic medicine publications that came out. I was going to be a surgeon and then I was going to be a neurologist. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do but I knew I wasn’t fully satisfied by those options and my friend was like, “Dave, you should consider psychiatry. You’d be a good psychiatrist.” I was like, “Nah.”
What does that mean? Besides having a high IQ and a genuine curiosity and maybe even compassion, it feels like you have compassion for people, what is it in your personality that was like, “You should go into psychiatry.”
I’ve always loved connecting with people authentically and getting to the good stuff of what’s like underneath the surface of who we are as people and exploring and unearthing that vulnerability. Vulnerability seemed a source of healing for us. When we can open up to each other, that’s when the magic happens in changing our lives because we can be open to change and be connected.
When we connect, we notice immediately the similarities between each other, and that’s healing in and of itself. That was a big part of it. My friends who were the closest to me got that. They noticed that when we were hanging out that I was present with them and that sometimes they’d feel better after we had conversations. That wasn’t the case with a lot of people in medical school that were our colleagues.
It’s interesting because, for some, it’s always directed towards the data or the science, and it’s hard for a lot of those types of people to look underneath and around or feel. Do you have a technique to offload or protect yourself in the process of dealing with people and people’s feelings or the discoveries or the unpacking of traumas and things like that? I wonder if it’s natural for you or if you have techniques.
Some stuff does come naturally to us as human beings but there are many techniques. There’s no one right way to do it. There are a lot of different ways to do it. We talked about this in our training, the Embodied Life’s Ketamine-Assisted therapy training that we were doing at Topanga Commune, which was incredible. A big focus is what we call spiritual emotional hygiene, which is not just for being a therapist, it’s for going out in the world and interacting with anybody.
If I was going to summarize it into as brief a synopsis as I could for this because it’s a big topic, the most simple things to know is to start with old stuff, a couple of tenets of Buddhism and a couple of tenets of ancient Greek mythology from what are the three tenets that are inscribed on the temple of Apollo at Delphi, which is one of the oldest modern Western temples in Western culture. Those three tenets are, one, know thyself. Know what’s me and what’s not me. Know when I’m feeling something that I can identify if it’s coming from me or if that’s coming from someone or something else.
If it’s coming from me, I can attach to it and work with it. If it’s coming from someone else, I might want to let that run off my back. I might want to let it pass by and not attach to it. That’s usually the better thing to do. It’s not about us, it’s about somebody or something else. The second tenet is nothing to excess. Don’t be gluttonous. The third tenet is certainty brings ruin and surety brings ruin. Do not have hubris. Be modest in the face of what you don’t know.
Those three things are great ancient guides and they’re older than modern Buddhism that help us to understand how to be careful with our energy and other people’s energy and how to live a good life. Buddhism has some interesting and one in particular, which is an attachment to stuff, in general, is the fastest path to suffering.
If we allow ourselves to experience without attaching to our identity, be without making it about who we are, we can experience stuff that and maybe evaluate it later. We get more out of the experience and it becomes less hard. It invites ease into our lives. We’re more present with our friends, family, clients, and our work, everything. We’re not so stuck on all this incoming stuff that can be overwhelming for us.
Especially when we have roles. You’re the scientist, you’re the doctor, I’m the patient, I’m the boss, or whatever the roles are. It’s interesting when you can be in it. I am curious when I meet people like you. You have to know what you know and then have the ability somehow to be open to it all being wrong or not researching or investigating with a bias if you can help it.
At this place in my life, and this is maybe a selfish question, I do want to know myself or my own truth but somehow also simultaneously not be locked into that. That’s an interesting place to try to live. As somebody who probably has to do that all the time, that’s what I appreciate about real science where, or it’s like, “This is what I think or feel but now I have to also almost forget all that and be open to all of the unknown.” Do you do that naturally?
It’s a learned behavior. All of it is learned behavior. When we think about it naturally, it’s like, are you born a professional volleyball player or do you have to practice a lot?
Maybe lean towards tendencies that make you better at that, let’s say.
A lot of it also has to do with our mentors, the people who nurture us growing up, and the role models. When we’re little kids, we’re like sponges so we suck that in. If we are growing up around people who spend every moment of their lives fearing the unknown, we’re going to fear the unknown too because that’s what we’re seeing around us, those are our role models. We talk about gratitude a lot, it’s a great way to change the way you feel about things, which is understanding that the process of life is not about certainty because there is no certainty.
Everything in life is changing around us all the time. The sooner that we can be grateful for the uncertainty and grateful for the unknown, the sooner that the unknown opens up to us as beauty, majesty, and richness. That is what makes life exciting and fun. If we knew everything all the time, life would get boring, it would be the same and not diverse. I challenge my clients to ask themselves a simple question when we start working together, which is, “Is it possible that what we were taught about ourselves and what we know ourselves to be isn’t the complete story?”
Most of us can ask that question and without much judgment say, “It’s possible.” If we can admit that it’s possible, we can also admit that the unknown has a lot to offer us. We have a lot to learn from the process of self-discovery. A lot of people come to me and they’re like, “What’s the meaning of life, Dr. Dave?” I’m like, “I can’t tell you what the meaning of your life is but I can tell you that, as a human being, one of the things that are interesting about being human is that we have the ability to self-discover ourselves.” That, in a lot of ways, is the meaning of life.
We discover the meaning by being in the process and present with the process even though it’s hard sometimes, it’s not always joyful, and sometimes it hurts. Being present with that process is what allows us to self-discover and that’s when we find meaning. If we close ourselves off to that unknown, the meaning becomes elusive and confusing sometimes, and life itself then becomes confusing.
I feel like the way the world is set up so that we can work from 9:00 to 5:00 and get stuff done and get dinner on the table is almost antithetical to that discovery or openness process. It doesn’t feel like a lot of room for a lot of self-inquiry or whimsical because we live in this world of, “You got to be here. You got to be there.” That’s an interesting thing for people to have that opportunity to do it differently. The papers that came out, what years was this? These 30 or some-odd important papers on psychedelics?
I was reviewing them for the first time in 2012. Twenty years before that was when the real high-quality science started to come out showing that in top-tier scientific journals, unequivocally, there is something to these medicines that is unique and that they work for certain people in a way that nothing else we’ve ever seen works and to the point where they might be opening us up to a paradigm shift in the way we treat health conditions, particularly mental health.
This is important. I was raised in the Caribbean so I had a lot of loose-cannon adults around me. My reaction to that was lock and load and linear. Let’s say I was born with natural personality traits that I went full throttle with them. I wasn’t particularly experimental at all with any drugs. I smoked a little weed. I never drank alcohol. In my late 40s, Michael Pollan’s book helped me because it seemed like a conversation and it wasn’t so science that I couldn’t get my head around it, How to Change Your Mind.
I started paying attention and simultaneously, I felt like my brain was getting hard a little bit. I could feel it and I could feel words escaping. I also have three daughters and I went through something with my middle daughter that introduced me to Byron Katie. I know Katie and this whole notion of self-inquiry. There was a perfect storm where it was fascinating to me that psychedelics, once I had a little bit of an understanding, seemed so much more safe and interesting to me.
I’m open to Chinese medicine and I take supplements. I would rather do that all day long than go to the doctor’s office and be given prescription medication. It was an interesting thing where there’s been this shift that it’s not for those wild people, whatever the hell that means. You said the word medicine. Setting the table for this conversation, these are things from nature and they were used forever not to trip out. Yes, maybe to have it as some enlightenment. You talk about almost a different part of your perception that already exists. It’s something that’s already there, maybe we can’t see it.
I appreciated the opportunity to think about it differently. Our parents were the hippies so they were going hard. I appreciated this opportunity to find another way to get rid of offload and see it differently, whatever that is, using something that’s natural but also in this measured way. What you’re saying is these treatments are highly measured. You guys are doing this in a systematic way. This isn’t like, “How do you feel? Take this.” I want to start by laying it down for people that this is your approach.
The psychedelic approach, to your point, isn’t a drug-required approach. We talk a lot about focusing on psychedelic drugs. When you’re on the beach and you’re in the throes of an intense game and you’re also pushing yourself to the limit of your physical performance, do you feel different up here and in here?
Sure. We were talking about the flow state earlier.
That’s a psychedelic state.
I was sitting with Patrick and we were talking about it and I go, “It’s similar to flow where it’s your intuition and you’re not analyzing or doubting.” You talk a lot about performance and you’re in it. The best is when it slows down and you know what to do. Even if it doesn’t go your way, you can handle it. That’s what life is.
Psychedelic means mind-revealing or mind-expanding. It doesn’t mean hippies doing drugs and getting high in the park. It means mind-expanding, which is unfortunate that it’s such a stigmatized word because it’s a beautiful word. It was d it was coined by Humphry Osmond and Aldous Huxley back in the day as the best way at that time to describe what these medicines were doing. Prior to that, we were calling them psychotomimetics, which is to mimic psychosis, which isn’t quite accurate, although you can see why that might be the case. The primary psychedelic people were using back then was LSD at high doses.
That word is a beautiful word because it’s about mind expansion. To use the metaphor of a car, if you imagine our bodies and our minds are one thing, they’re not separate. The mind and the body are one thing, another thing that’s a common misconception in medicine. You have the ability to effectively look under the hood sometimes and see what’s going on down there. Psychedelic medicines, like flow states or other meditation, yoga, extreme sports, all of these are tools and techniques to get their breathing right.
This is important too. You’re saying that you can get to these states and that’s without even the psychedelics, it exists. It’s important for people to remember that.
That’s what we teach in the training. The medicine is not required but it is a helpful tool that molecularly gives us what we call a bottom-up experiential learning opportunity where you can feel what it feels like to be present in flow, safe, and in touch and connected to yourself and everything around you in a way that maybe you don’t remember what it feels like. Maybe the last time you felt that way, you were 2 years old and the world was a different place for you.
I think about working with people in wellness and you say, “We talk about the food. You talk about movement and all this.” You start to realize when you spend a little more time with people, their brain chemistry isn’t even going to let them get there.
With just national techniques.
Also, saying, “Eating like this or whatever.” They’re locked in a place. I think about the treatments that you’re involved with. There’s talk therapy, which is great. That’s all more about doing an overview of your life. When you’re talking about people with real trauma and you’re talking about PTSD, you’re talking about people with chronic stress. Everybody has stress. You’re talking about chronic stress. Maybe it’s also an opportunity. I call it jumping the track. How do we jump the track a little bit? Is this part of the reason that this interested you? Knowing that we can do this but then sometimes we’re going to hit maybe some limitations.
We hit limitations, unfortunately, probably over 60% or maybe even 70% of people with post-traumatic stress disorder as one example, long term. Only 30% of those people treated with the standard Western treatments sustain remission long-term. 70% are still symptomatic. That’s a poor statistic in our space. It doesn’t just make our patients unhappy, it makes us unhappy because we went into this field to help people, and then our treatments don’t work well.
What happened to me, at some point, is it forces you to ask the question, especially if you’re research-oriented at all, “Do we have this right? Is our understanding of trauma right and mental health right if our treatments are only working 50% of the time or less at best? Maybe there’s something else going on here. Maybe we need better tools.” To the point, psychedelic medicines are not a panacea. They’re not going to help everybody. They’re not for everyone. They have to be administered in a safe environment.
When administered in a safe, thoughtful, and highly curated environment with trained professionals, whether that’s an actual lineage-trained shaman or whether it’s somebody like me, you can unlock your access to your potential by reshaping the meaning that you have about yourself. It’s not necessarily what we were taught as kids. We’re all taught to think about ourselves in a certain way. We’re given the words. We’re taught language by our parents and by the people around us. They give us the meaning for how to describe ourselves in the world. That meaning might not be the way we know ourselves to be.
As we learn to discover ourselves, the psychedelic states, flow states, and the medicines especially used in that safe context help us to create a safe space to find the actual meaning of ourselves, “What does it mean to be me?” It’s not, “What was I taught what it means to be me?” Going back to that original question, in a non-judgmental way, is it possible that’s not the full story? Maybe I need to find my own language how to describe myself.
Even the way maybe things happen. We sometimes view things when we’re little and it gets burned on us. Let’s say someone said, “My parents left me,” and they were adopted by an incredible couple and this person had a great life but they always had this yearning or it felt like, “I wasn’t good enough.” You realize, “Maybe your parents did you a favor and left you these badass people that loved you and made you safe.”
Maybe also with things like this, when you talk about what people feel is a traumatic situation, they get the opportunity to relook at it. What if a soldier or someone who’s had maybe a sexual trauma, how does this type of experience allow them? The thing is it’s over and the mind is what keeps it alive. Maybe you can give me an example of a way that someone’s able to go in safely and find a different reframe around something that is pretty jarring.
The short answer is that the actual mechanism of how it works or the process is not different with the medicine on board as it is when we do it in the office without psychedelic medicine. It’s the same process but the psychedelic medicine, in a similar way, bringing in what Apollo does also, helps amplify a sense of safety chemically speaking. Apollo does it through touch. Handholding does it through touch. Soothing music does it through our ears.
As we do things in the environment, that amplifies our sense of safety in our brains. All of them turn out all these things, including psychedelic medicines like MDMA, or are all acting on the same parts of the brain as soothing music and soothing touch. They release similar neurotransmitter cascades in our brains. We feel safe enough to go back and reevaluate memories that are too uncomfortable or too painful normally to address.
We can ask the question, “What did that thing that happened to me that was painful mean about me? Is it possible that it’s not my fault that happened?” What we see all the time is people have something tragic and challenging happen to them and their support system makes them feel like it was their fault, which happens all too often. There’s no support afterward.
It’s a nice shame to add on top of something.
That gets internalized on top of it. Why would you ever go back and reevaluate that if there’s so much guilt and shame associated with it? Why would you ever do that?
What happens to the person? It’s the nervous system. What’s happening? They lock into this belief and then they’re hammering their nervous system and it’s creating chronic stress.
I love talking about this.
I’m trying to learn and understand. Everyone reading this has something. When we also can get even an understanding of what’s happening. You talk about your fault. It’s like, “This happens. You had this reaction. Now this thing is locked in.”
What I will say is nothing is that locked in. Everything that’s learned can be unlearned if you intend to unlearn it. We also learn things unintentionally through experience that was not well thought through like when we’re exposed to trauma or stress or things that we didn’t plan for, which happens all the time. What’s happening in the body and the brain that is interesting is that we have this fear center in our brains that we fondly think of as the fear center called the amygdala. It’s this old part of our brains that goes back to ancient reptiles and that’s why it’s called the reptilian brain.
What it’s doing though, more than detecting fear, is it detects contrast, it detects newness, difference, unfamiliarity, and uncertainty. Why? Evolutionarily, that’s what caused us to potentially end our line, that uncertainty, newness, an unfamiliarity, those things are triggering our brains to say, “You need to pay way more attention to what’s going on right now because you might end here or your friends or family might end here. Your community might be compromised.” That’s a huge problem. That is important to be activated if we’re running out of air, water, food, and shelter, or if we’re losing our community support.
In those cases, we want that part of our brain to be activated. That diverts all available resources like blood, which carries oxygen and nutrients to our organ systems and then it takes away our waste from those organ systems to skeletal muscles, heart, lungs, motor cortex, and amygdala. It takes those resources from somewhere because we only have so many resources. They come from our reproductive system, our digestive system, our immune system, our sleep and recovery systems, and all the stuff that is not supposed to be functioning when we’re running from a lion.
At the moment that we’re experiencing a potential survival threat, that’s a good thing. We evolved and hardwired that system over hundreds of millions of years. It’s not unique to us. It’s not even unique to mammals. For hundreds of millions of years, this system has been hardwired into us to respond to threats to keep us alive. We can’t change it. We can’t break it. It’s not a rule we can break, it’s important to know that. However, we can bend it by learning how to control it once we understand that the system is in place, we can modulate it a little bit.
One of the ways that are taught in Eastern traditions and tribal traditions is breath and touch. One of the most interesting examples of those two, in particular, that I love is that almost instantaneously with the breath, it’s 60 to 90 seconds with touch, it’s almost instant. When you are touched by someone you love and trust like a mother holding a crying baby, we’re all big babies, it sends a safety signal to our emotional brain that tells the amygdala that’s blinking off, “There’s newness, uncertainty, and unfamiliarity. Pay attention.” It’s what we call anxiety.
It tells that part of the brain, “You don’t need to go off right now. You’re safe. I wouldn’t allow you to pay attention to the soothing feeling if you were running from a lion.” That’s a subconscious process. It’s completely beneath our awareness but it’s there. It’s the same thing that happens when we deep breathe. If you’re running from a lion, you’re not going to be able to stop and pay attention to the feeling of the air coming into your nose, mouth, and lungs.
Where flow comes in is its balance between the fight or flight sympathetic stress response and the parasympathetic rest and recovery response. We meet somewhere in the middle, in the gray area, which is where we have the benefits of fight or flight being high acuity, high focus, high energy, adrenaline, and things like that. Those resources become available but we’re also in complete cognitive control. We have empathy. We have access to the creative parts of our brains. We have access to the recovery parts of our bodies and brains. It’s practicing achieving that balance between those two sides of the body that is absolutely critical.
[bctt tweet=”If we can admit that it’s possible, then we can also admit that the unknown has a lot to offer us.”]
If we’re stressed every day or for many moments of every day, we’re resource-depleting our entire recovery nervous system but we still are asking it to work. We’re saying, “Digest my food. Help me reproduce. Help me fight off illness. Help me sleep.” That part of those parts of our bodies is getting no blood and no waste removal. No food, no oxygen, and no garbage pickup. What is going to happen to those organ systems? Distress and then disease.
The thing I appreciate about what you’re doing is because of technology and everyone has talked about it till they’re blue in the face and now they’re talking about AI, it’s like, “We all know it’s not going anywhere.” What I appreciate is that you’re going along, you’re in these practices, and then you think, “Maybe there’s a way that I can do this signal to the brain to say, ‘You’re okay.’” Where do you get the thought that you can bring technology in the Apollo, in a wearable, on your wrist or ankle, or a clip? Forgive me, it’s sound versus electric.
It’s sound waves, which is what came before.
Are you sleeping? Do you get one of these dreams? Does it seem like a natural solution to something? Where do you get this idea?
Do you mean did it come to me in a dream?
That’s a funny question. In some ways, parts of it did.
You did the largest epigenetic study of psychedelics. Am I clarifying that correctly?
The largest is not exactly a large fair because there aren’t any other studies but we did one of the first.
I’m always number one in a race of one. Take it when you can get it. Don’t be like, “There haven’t been others.” I want to clarify that it’s the epigenetic study of psychedelics.
It was just published in February.
It’s like having a kid, isn’t it?
It is. It took five years.
You still smile a lot too.
It was published so it’s smile-worthy.
When you publish something like that, are you nervous?
Sometimes. This study idea that was published in February did come to me in a dream. I came from a stem cell lab and that was Sally’s lab where I did my PhD. In stem cells, epigenetics are everything. When all our stem cells and all of the cells in our body, if people don’t remember Biology 101, which I don’t expect anybody to remember, every cell of our body has the same DNA, it’s pretty miraculous, our hair, our skin, and brain cells. The only cells that don’t are eggs and sperm. That poses an interesting problem.
If all the cells have the same software code in them, how does one cell know to be skin and one cell know to be the brain? There’s another layer of code on the DNA that says, “If I’m a stem cell and I’m going to become the skin, I’m going to have this layer of code turn down brain proteins and turn up skin proteins. If I know I’m going to be the brain, I say turn up brain proteins and turn down skin proteins.” That’s epigenetic, which is a layer that’s called on the DNA. That is different in every single cell of our whole body for the most part.
There’s been a lot of theories. This is not a new theory. It started back probably as early as the turn of the 20th century. In the early 1900s, doctors were noticing that people who had severe trauma, survivors of famine, and survivors of severe stuff, and their children had an increased likelihood of illness and their children’s children. Nobody knew why but it was observed and recorded. Years later, Dr. Rachel Yehuda, who runs the Department of Trauma and psychedelic research at Sinai now, came from Yale.
She asked a hard question because this was confusing, which was, “What’s going on in these people with PTSD on the epigenetic level?” From looking at population-based studies with Holocaust survivors and also doing other studies that came about in populations and then that turned into mouse studies and animal studies, they showed that, believe it or not, traumatic experiences, which are challenging experiences perceived as threats, one or multiple experiences get recorded in that epigenetic code.
As we were talking about with Laird earlier, that gets passed down over, in animal models, at least four generations. In humans, it could be ten-plus because we don’t get the benefit of safety ever in our lives on an extended basis. We always have challenges and threats. That was interesting because up until that point, a lot of people thought that mental illness was heavily genetic and not epigenetic. Epigenetics is different than genetics because that’s the code that reflects the influence of the environment on us and it’s stored in that code.
We thought if trauma one or multiple negative experiences have perceived as threatening for which we don’t have adequate preparation or support, which is our modern definition of trauma that we’re proposing, if that causes these epigenetic changes to cortisol receptor genes, which does because Rachel showed it and now it’s been proven multiple times. MDMA-assisted therapy, which is three doses of medicine with 42 hours of psychotherapy over 12 weeks is clinically reversing these PTSD symptoms in people who’ve had PTSD that’s treatment-resistant for 17.6 years on average.
The gross majority of them are getting better not just short-term but long-term with 3 doses of medicine and 12 weeks of psychotherapy. Clinically, they’re getting better. Nothing was helping these people. We thought if traumatic events can cause these experiences, maybe MDMA-assisted therapy is almost like reversing that because we see it clinically.
We did that study and that was a combination of trying to understand from the traditional ayahuasca tribal perspective of how their perception of how medicine impacts DNA, which they have their own stories about, that are not in the same language as what we described but they’re still talking about the same thing and studying tribal medicine and then bringing that back to some of the Western approaches.
We started the study in 2017. Ultimately, that was published in February showing that, without a doubt, this reversal is happening. MDMA-assisted therapy is acting like a reverse trauma by molecularly amplifying the safety pathway in the brain, not in the moment when the medicine s active but in the long haul. It’s reversing those cortisol methylation changes that trauma causes. The amount of change in those genes is directly correlated to the amount of clinical outcome.
There’s a linear relationship that seems to be surrounding the story of safety. Before we knew the results of that study, that theory is what led to the development of Apollo. I did my MDMA training in 2016 with maps. Watching that training and watching what the patients were going through made me realize quickly that safety is critical because it was reinforcing what we learned in our traditional Western psychotherapy training and the doctor training of building what’s called a physician-patient alliance. Where we’re on a team to help you heal. I’m not your healer. I am your guide to help you heal yourself.
You’re setting up the environment.
I’m curating a safe space for you to heal and then you heal yourself not me. I’m greasing the wheels.
It would be too complicated for you to be able to do that for every person.
It’s not even possible. The closest we get to that is surgery but even when we do surgery, you still have to take care of yourself afterward or you’re going to get an infection, and you could get ill after surgery. There’s a lot of stuff that can still go wrong after we have a surgical procedure. There’s a lot of self-healing that has to still occur.
From studying all of that and understanding MDMA and how that works and the mechanism, which nobody was ever interested in before or not that many people were interested in, we started to wonder that is it possible that MDMA is amplifying the safety of the psychotherapy environment and that’s why people are getting these dramatic responses, which was also consistent with what the patients were saying. They said the therapy is 80% and the medicine is 20%, even though that’s also contrary to popular opinion. Can we produce technology that taps into that same pathway.
We looked at everything that induces safety in the body and touch rose to the surface because touch induces soothing touch and loving touch. It induces the release of all those neurotransmitters that MDMA releases. That became the path and we started evaluating that. As we started making more prototypes and doing more testing in the lab and trials at the University of Pittsburgh and in the real world, we started to see those changes.
You’re a scientist and now you have to be an entrepreneur who’s doing a technical device. That’s a big leap I would think because you’re trying to capture something and say, “I need it to do this.” First of all, how do you convince people to let you start the process? There are a lot of studies and such but how do you know, “We’re moving in the right direction with the Apollo.”
First off, the most important thing to say is that there’s no way that I did this alone and it’s impossible to do these things alone. I was blessed that my wife had a complementary skillset set to me and still does of being knowledgeable about economics, finance, and the industry effectively, and what we call technology transfer.
How do you take a technology that’s nascent, new, and just discovered, maybe even it’s just an idea but it’s a good idea, how do you take that and make it something that is implemented into the society that people want to use? Even if you make a great invention and people won’t use it, what good does it do? I started out at the University of Pittsburgh with an idea.
Me and my professor and colleague, Dr. Greg Siegel, had this idea that came from military research on brain-computer interfaces. You implant a chip in the brain in somebody who has an amputation or something like that and then you train that person to control a mechanical limb with their brain their brain power, which is so incredible. Those studies have progressed but it requires brain surgery for that to happen. Greg and I had this interesting idea and we thought, “Could you do brain-computer work topically through the skin without requiring a brain implant?” Brain implants are risky.
I like how you say that with an uplit in your voice.
People don’t understand what it’s like. Also, people are desperate for solutions. If you’re struggling, you’ll take anything you can get. It’s also up to us as the clinical community to try to first do no harm and come up with other solutions for people that are less risky. To us, it seemed obvious, let’s focus on less risky solutions. Maybe we can do this to the skin. Greg and I got invited to the University of Pittsburgh to do entrepreneurship presentations. We’re scientists.
That must have been amazing.
It was awful in the beginning.
That’s what I mean. You want to talk about like EBITDA and your ROI and you’re like, “What?”
I can tell you that was one of the first times in my recent life that I felt like a complete and total failure because I was spreading grants, I was getting grants, and I was treating people who were getting good results, and I felt like I was doing great. The university entrepreneurship folks at the Innovation Institute were like, “Come and present this as a business idea and get some funding for your research project.” They’re like, “This will be a piece of cake. Yeah. Take no time.” I’m like, “Sure. I’ll try it.” I’m still working as a physician and researcher full-time and I’m going to these after-hours entrepreneurship seminars.
Getting hammered by questions.
Hammered and failing every time because it’s not an NIH grant, it’s a different realm. I was getting my feet wet and I was like, “I’m out of my element.” I thought I could just quit or I could go ask my wife what she would do. The idea had so much potential. The idea was so rich and it’s so much potential and I didn’t want to let it go that easily but I also was not going to make myself suffer to do something that was not viable.
After getting hugs from Kathryn, what did she say?
She was helpful and she looked at the idea, we talked it over, and I told her what the university was asking for us, and she’s like, “That’s all they want? You can get $10,000 grand.” I’m like, “That’s all they want. They want a pitch deck. I don’t know what a pitch deck is. Can you help?”
You’re lucky you didn’t know what a pitch deck was.
I make science lectures.I had no idea what I was doing. She’s like, “I can help you with this if your team will want me to.” She came into a couple of meetings and we came in second place with her help. Within a few weeks of her working with us, we make $8,000 and then that helped us run our first double-blind randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial.
How do you start? You know it’s sound because that shows up the highest over electrical. How do you start to hone in on what you think is going to work?
That’s a bigger story. To bring it together concisely and effectively, I was seeing patients at the time. We were taught to prescribe frequently. This is a big thing that came up in our Embodied Life training, when you look at what’s happening to the patients we’re prescribing SSRI medications to Prozac and Zoloft, I’m going to talk about post-traumatic stress disorder for a moment because it’s easier to focus on one thing.
When we give those people SSRIs, which are the only FDA-approved treatments currently and we give them benzodiazepines, which are not indicated and we give them other medicines for sleep and things like that like Ambien, they numb us to our own feelings. It decreases engagement in psychotherapy. I’m like, “Why aren’t any of my patients engaged? They’re all numb. They can’t even engage with their own feelings anymore.”
It wasn’t that much of a surprise to me why they weren’t getting better because it violated the psychotherapeutic model.We were being taught both. I’m like, “These are not compatible.” It’s not that you can’t use them together but, long term, they’re not compatible. It’s like a Band-Aid on your broken leg. Your leg is still broken. We’re not getting to the root. I started asking people, “What helps you feel better?”
You started asking your patients.
“If this isn’t helping you, what do you do?” They’re like, “We listen to music. We hold our pets. We hug our family. We try to spend time with our families.” Everybody had these similar answers.
They had been developing little techniques on their own to try to navigate it.
I went back to the literature and I’m like, “Is there any basis for this?” I reviewed everything I could find. It was clear, number one, all of those things were validated in literature to help including biofeedback, which is the science of breath work, which is like a 50-year-old’s science specialty that’s incredibly valuable but also underrated. From looking at biofeedback literature, it was clear that breathing at a certain rate within as little as five minutes can reduce your symptoms, improve your mood, and help you generally feel better even if you’re ill. That was encouraging.
I started to look into that and what I realized is that when you do a biofeedback exercise, your heart rate variability goes way up. I was like, “That’s interesting. I’ve never even heard of HRV. What is HRV? We don’t teach this in medical school.” I started to look at research and say, “People with PTSD, what is their HRV? Have any studies been done?” It turns out that people with PTSD have low HRV, some of the lowest. HRV is one of the most reliable markers now of resilience to stress and recovery in the body but trauma invariably decreases it.
Biofeedback increases it and their symptoms get better. Who would’ve thought meditation also increases it, so does yoga, so does soothing touch, so does soothing music, and every vagal nerve and recovery technique, sleep, breathing, and all these things boost heart rate variability. We were thinking, “If people are already doing this stuff and it works and then we can have a biomarker, can we try to attain that state using either electricity or vibration or sound? Sound had been done but could we put this in a wearable effectively and give people something they can take out of the office?”
They don’t need me and they don’t need a drug. They can go out of the office and have a tool that could potentially activate the same system. HRV was the key. That was how we ended up figuring out in our clinical trials because we measured HRV and cognitive performance and subjective stress and a bunch of other biometrics as an outcome in the lab. We showed that the Apollo vibrations reliably improve heart rate variability even under stress. That had never been shown before.
When you improve HRV under stress, effectively puts somebody in a situation where they feel like they’re running out of time on a standardized test in a lab but they’re completely wired up. The tendency of people is to run but they can’t because they have to stay in it so they get uncomfortable. Yet, with only these specific rhythms of vibration that came from biofeedback literature, we realized that you could reverse the stress response. That improved presence, improved flow, and it improved cognitive performance by up to 25%, meaning 25% more questions right on a test, which is an amphetamine level of effect and it improved HRV all in tandem, all together.
There are a lot of prongs to this device. We’ll get into the sleep component because that seems to be the king for you guys, talking about sleep. I’ll be honest, I’m not a great sleeper.
You’re one of many.
What is it? 9 out of 10 Americans struggle with sleep. 30% have been diagnosed with sleep disorders.
Half of the Americans who struggle with sleep are medicating or self-medicating or taking a prescription medication for sleep.
It’s one of those things where you talk about safety and then maybe if you’re raised a certain way. We live in a way that is not conducive for sleep. We’re over-caffeinated, the way we eat then, and we’re on our screens.
[bctt tweet=”Other medicines for sleep and things like Ambien numb us to our own feelings.”]
Do you know what’s interesting? When I learned about the Apollo, I thought about this for a second. Sometimes I’m a person who’s like, “Turn off the electricity and go outside.” I joke a lot of times that Laird is a highly sophisticated caveman. He has both elements happening all the time, philosophical, and well-read. The sun is going down, we should start preparing for sleep. I realize that we live in a different world and the world has changed quite a bit, especially since 2008 or 2007 given all the developments that we have technologically.
This is almost an unnecessary response to the world that we are living in. There’s no way around it. I appreciate the fact rather than bucket and say, “People should put their stuff down and get to bed and do all these things.” You’ve said this quite a bit in a lot of the things I’ve read, we are not living in our natural selves naturally. This seems like almost an opportunity to say, “If you’re going to do that, let’s see if we can help you and help you rest.”
I went away and then I had an opportunity to wear the device for several days in a row and my sleep was better. I will say that I experienced personally, a deeper and more restful sleep. I never wake up groggy because I never go down if that makes sense. In a few days, I was like, “I feel a little groggy,” which meant I probably got deeper rest. I did notice and it was easy to use. More isn’t more, I was like, “You don’t have to turn it up.”
You have several programs. I used it after my workout, for recovery. I did use the focus and then I was keen on the idea of sleeping and unwinding. I had to almost come to peace with the fact that maybe we need things like the Apollo in our world because maybe there’s no going back. We see people more stressed out than ever. It’s this weird other thing too where maybe it’s an opportunity weirdly and the conversation around the psychedelics simultaneously is that we’ve had enough genuinely a pretty safe time.
Let’s say Vietnam War was one of the last wars. In the eighties 80s, you had Iraq. We have had more time, which has also made us more nutty. Everybody is triggered and trauma by everything. We haven’t had a lot of real threats. What it has done for me is I thought, “This is why we can have the conversation about psychedelics again.” If everyone’s so flipped out, maybe we’re going to get this chance to go back and use this natural medicine to help whatever we’re going to be managing now from here on out. I feel like it’s this dual thing of, “We’re going to have wearables like the Apollo.”
Now you’re getting to say, “This is also an option for you with these psychedelics.” People are struggling. My generation is you suck it up. What did I do? My reaction was high performance. Some people drink and they’re alcoholics. Now everyone is like, “I’m triggered.” It’s like, “All I said was the word purple and you’re triggered.”
What’s great if we look at the upside is now I could use treatments like you guys have done research now. Measured research and maps are doing it. It’s this interesting mixed bag of like, “This is amazing that we have this opportunity to heal.” I wish I had known about it before I had children, I’ll be honest with you. I know for a fact I passed on. I have three daughters and I can see some, I’m like, “That’s not your problem. That was one of my problems.”
That’s insightful of you.
You’re sitting here talking about the opportunity to break or switch those epigenetics.
Break the cycle.
We broke the cycle in the best ways that we could here but this idea of changing on a DNA level and not passing on your crap to the next mm-hmm. Think how lucky you’re gonna be if you choose to have children. You guys are way ahead of the program. Your kids will come out and be like, “Sunshine and roses.” They can make whatever their own things will be but they don’t have to get the loads and the loads from all the groups before. I was thinking about that. The same thing that makes us need the Apollo now is the same reason why we are talking about psychedelics.
It’s a convergence. There’s a convergence happening between Eastern medicine, tribal medicine, Western medicine, technology, and plants. Everything is coming together because we are facing a critical time in humanity where if we don’t figure out how to heal more effectively, more efficiently, and empower each human being on the face of this earth to self-heal, which is what all the Eastern tribal disciplines have always described healing is about.
Even Hippocrates said, “Healing comes from within the one seeking to be healed, not from the outside, not from the medicine, and not from the doctor. It comes from within each of us.” If we don’t empower people to do that relatively soon, we’re not only going to run out of money to pay for everybody’s healthcare but we are going to destroy ourselves and make a planet that’s inhospitable for us. A famous saying which I’m sure you know is, “Hurt people hurt people.” On the contrary, “Healed people heal people.”
We all have the capacity for both and we all have both. We all have parts of us that are hurting and we have parts of us that are healed. There’s an incredible opportunity that is rising to the surface and the pandemic drove it home. We are stressed. We are overwhelmed and overstimulated and we were not taught effectively the tools like what you were talking about earlier like how to channel rage and frustration and anxiety into extreme athletic performance, which is healing in and of itself. Most of us aren’t taught how to do that anymore.
We’re not taught how to breathe. We’re not taught how to meditate in school. We’re not taught how to do any of these things and how to think properly about how to sift through what is meaningful to us and what’s true and useful to us and what’s not. Why would you expect a child to be able to understand how to concentrate for an extended period of time on something that bores the crap out of them if we’ve never taught them how to do it? We’re not born with that ability. It takes practice.
We’re born with the ability to practice focus and concentration but we’re not born with the ability to spend a whole bunch of time focusing on something that bores us for a long period of time. We’re not born with the ability to deal with incredible amounts of incoming overstimulation. We have to remember to practice.
We have to remember that there are skillsets out there like mindfulness, which is not weird, woo-woo, or whatever people like to call. It’s being present with your feelings, being present with what’s coming in, and not judging it. Mindful presentness is allowing yourself to feel your feelings without judgment. We are feeling machines.
The meaning maker upstairs is the brain is always trying to get everything in its box, it’s all of that. One thing you said that I appreciated was you talked about if we can do that, then our capacity for empathy increases greatly.
That’s one of our most healing skills.
Many of the things that make us aggravated are the whole things that we make up in ourselves about everything and everyone around us and what’s happening to us. It’s not happening to us. Maybe you could talk about the healthier or the better we feel that then we have that opportunity to be empathetic because otherwise, we don’t. We are in maybe victim mentality or we’re too stressed out.
It’s quite simple. I say quite simple as in I never learned this in school and I wish I had but I learned it afterward from working with people who are suffering from illness. When you work with people directly, it gets thrown in your face that people don’t feel safe, that’s it. People don’t feel safe. They don’t feel safe to feel their own feelings because oftentimes we’re told when we’re kids, “Don’t express that emotion. That’s not acceptable. Don’t feel sad. Suck it up. Don’t express anger. Other people don’t like that. You’re scaring them.” Things like that. Women are taught to be not masculine and overly feminine. We have different descriptions and things about that. Men are taught to be insensitive jerks that are focused on, for the most part, masculine dominant traits. Being sensitive means you’re not man enough.
I have said this many times on this show. I’ve met a lot of hyper-masculine men and what they all have in common is uber amounts of sensitivity. Their capacity for protection and care and helpfulness is on the opposite spectrum of this hyper-masculinity too. It’s interesting that they don’t teach young men, “Have your feelings. It’s okay if you need to throw rocks off the side of the mountain because you have testosterone and it feels good to hit a little target across the way. Who knows?” It’s not an either-or. You’re saying that maybe because we don’t have good guides, we don’t have any more ceremonies of coming of age. We don’t have these things or taught where they are appropriate. We’re like a hodgepodge of hysteria a little bit.
To some extent. We also haven’t learned. If we’re not taught coping strategies, healthy adaptation strategies like meditation, and breathing, and how important that is, how to control our attention, for instance, one of the most critically important skills we have. If we’re not taught that young, it’s harder to learn it when you’re older.
It can be learned at any time but it’s trickier because we entrain things tightly in our brains and practice makes mastery. It’s important to teach this stuff to kids young. If we don’t, we figure it out on our own based on what we experience around us. That’s from what we see our parents do, what we see our friends do, and what we see people do on tv, in the neighborhood community, the presidents, or whatever.
Did you have to bring that into it?
They’re role models for a lot of people. Even though they’re not necessarily the best role models, they’re in positions of power. It’s enraging to me the idea that we have people that we are setting up as role models in society that aren’t responsible role models. They don’t understand the most important thing about being a role model, the people emulate you. If you are going to be a source of inspiration people can emulate, you better think carefully about what you do.
You got to hold the line too. I’ve experienced this, honestly, the most as a coach and a parent. I have a grown daughter and when she was a young adult, she was acting, in my mind, not great. I don’t want to talk to her. A little voice would come up and be like, “You’re the adult.” You call and you go, “I love you and I hope you’re great.”
People also have to understand that sometimes not every feeling has to be exactly how we feel deep in every cell of our body but we’re trying to live a certain way and we’re trying to move in this direction. What’s the behavior that’s going to reinforce representing that? There is a delineation. I’m curious, let’s say someone is older and they do go through maybe psychedelic treatment. Are there conversations around new practices to implement for this type of perspective and living?
Absolutely. That’s the core of our conversations. We started from the first moment when we meet, which is what we call preparation. Sometimes it’s brought into the actual treatment session but it’s especially brought in afterward, which is called integration. It’s making it whole. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Gabor Maté.
I love him.
Incredible work. He works with some tough people like me and he’s also an addiction physician and a trauma physician. He developed this incredible technique called Compassionate Inquiry. Going back to what you were saying earlier, it’s all about feeling safe enough to self-inquire. If we’re taught when we’re kids that there’s something wrong with us for feeling the way we feel, why would we feel safe enough to dive into that? It’s wrong. It seems uncomfortable, unpleasant, and not accepted.
As we go on believing that about ourselves that it’s not okay to feel the way we feel and we keep feeling it, we start to think, “What’s wrong with me? I’m feeling this way even though I’m not supposed to feel this way.” That is destructive to us because it creates a fractured self and that’s what Gabor Maté talks about. Your fractured self is like, “There are certain parts of me that are not acceptable to the world, which means that they’re wrong, which means that there are certain parts of me that are wrong. I’m not allowed to feel, which means I repress and I shun them and I shame them.”
That can happen as young as 1 year old. By us trying to express whatever emotion and having someone come up to us and say, “You’re not allowed to express that,” or reprimanding or disciplining us in a way that’s not compassionate. Once you fracture your sense of self, which has happened to almost every human being at some point in our young lives.
I’ve met a few that you’re like, “I wonder what that would feel like.” They feel pretty good and whole, but not many.
A lot of people have coped with it because you can adapt to this. The overarching message that I want to make sure everybody takes away from this is, what the most exciting neuroscience and research are telling us from the work of psychedelics and the work we’re doing with Apollo is you can change your future. By being more present, you can change your future, and that is incredibly empowering. At the same time, it requires the repair of these fractures.
We cannot heal with a fractured self. We have to bandage it and we have to bring the edges together of the wound. We have to put traction on the bone. We make sure that when we repair a broken bone, we don’t put a cast on right away, you make sure it fits together first, and then you put the cast on so it heals properly without as much of a scar. It’s no different for emotional wounds.
If we don’t take care of emotional wounds, if we don’t, for example, teach people how to grieve loss, what happens? You store that loss and you resist it and that causes a tremendous amount of suffering and prolonged pain. Teaching people some of these skills and helping support each other through the process is not something you require me for, that’s something any human being can do for any other human being by being present and listening non-judgmentally to them. You don’t need to go to medical school for that part. That helps repair the fracture.
Once you repair the fracture, you realize, “I feel more whole.” That’s the integration work. The preparation work is, “Maybe there’s some stuff that fractured you.” You’re coming to me for a reason, let’s talk about that. Let’s unearth the stuff that’s going on underneath that brought you here. We then create a safe relationship where that fracture is representative of a distrust in self. That’s the biggest damage that trauma does to us when we’re not supported afterward, the fracture of that trauma creates self-distrust. If I distrust myself for 5, 10, 20, 30, or 40 years, I might not remember what it feels like to trust.
This not only shows up emotionally but you talk about if you can get this healed in performance where it isn’t that constant self-doubt and questioning, which is all part of being a human being on some level.
The human condition.
You’ve learned how to live with it and go, “There she or he is and that’s good. That keeps me on my toes. It makes me ask questions.” That’s the other thing. I’m interested in what motivates people. Some people want to be healed. Some people are like, “I want to perform better.” Whatever it takes, it’s understanding that it’s all connected. It’s the same reason still why you want to get to sleep. It’s all part of the whole. What if you have a couple and one couple takes this on and one part of the couple is like, “I’m reluctant.” I find that must be an interesting dynamic to help the person who’s gone through the treatments and maybe navigate when they get back into that dynamic.
It can be challenging. It’s not always challenging.
Do you get blamed for divorces?
It’s not usually a lot of blame but it does happen. The goal is to step away from blame and step into self-accountability and responsibility. Usually, what’s going to happen is going to happen. When we resist what is, we create suffering, going back to the Buddhist stuff. This isn’t new. What is is?
It’s hard to take, isn’t it? When you say should, you’ve left reality.
Except in one case that I found.
I should have been there.
You’re leaving reality there. There’s a different one. There’s one that comes to people with ketamine experiences in particular that is wise and it is, “Everything is as it should be.” That’s what I call the only effective use of that word that’s appropriate, “Everything is as it should be.” Once we start to accept that, all of a sudden, we don’t resist what is. Think about it as resource allocation. You’re an athlete and you get resource allocation. You know how to dedicate your resources in a certain way so that you can prioritize performance when you need to.
This is a resource allocation problem. If we only have 100% of our attention to spend focusing on anything or attention or energy or whatever you want to call it, we only have 100% of it at any moment to focus on anything we’re doing. If we spend, as an example, 50% of that time, attention, and energy focusing on not accepting things as they are because we wish or want them to be some other way, we are giving away 50% of our power.
You talk a lot about paying attention to what you can control and not putting that energy into what you cannot control.
It’s this exact conversation.
You have people all the time who think, “I probably could bend that my way.” I’ve met those people.
You can but you can’t change the past.
That’s no joke. It’s not even here anymore.
That’s what I mean but people still think they can. People still are like, “How could that have happened to me?” We start to ask these questions, “Did that happen? Is that what happened? Let’s reevaluate. What could I have done better?” Of course, some of these questions are important because we want to learn from our mistakes. It’s important to learn from mistakes but there’s a lot of shame, guilt, failure, and mistakes.
If we focus on the regrets, for instance, we all have them. If we acknowledge them and say, “I understand that I have this sentiment toward this regret of what I could have done better and there’s some guilt and shame around that.” There’s a process by which we can acknowledge it, not just dismiss it but acknowledge and say, “I see that regret. I see that guilt and shame. I’m present with it. It’s not true and useful to me right now and I’ve learned what I can from it.”
[bctt tweet=”Psychedelic means mind-revealing or mind-expanding. It doesn’t mean hippies doing drugs and getting high in the park.”]
We can grieve the loss and we can allow it to pass and then we bring ourselves back to the present and then we can express gratitude for grieving the loss and what we’ve learned from it rather than thinking, “What the hell is wrong with me that I didn’t do better?” Those thoughts are what pull us back into the past, “I should have done things differently.”
They paralyze you. Not only did it take time and space but they take energy away from the redirection of the other.
To your point, we can’t control it. If we only have 100% of our attention to pay to anything on any given day and we spend 50% of that thinking about changing the past or regrets from the past that we can’t control, we will feel out of control 50% of the time or more. That is the modern definition of anxiety. It’s not good or bad. It’s feeling out of control. It’s feeling uncertain. It’s that amygdala going off saying, “There’s uncertainty here. You’re not necessarily safe if there’s uncertainty here so let’s stay on guard.”
The antidote is all of the techniques that remind us that we’re in control at any moment. There are six techniques, there are four that you can do at any moment and any time. There are six total. There are intentional breath, intentional movement, intentional listening or singing, producing or listening set to sound, and intentional touch.
The other two that are not that you can do at any moment but that are important are intentional nourishment, choosing thoughtfully what we put into our bodies to feed ourselves, and sleep. Those are the six pillars of control and we can do the first four critical because, in any moment, we can move, we can choose to breathe, we can choose to touch ourselves, or give touch or receive a touch from another, and we can sing or listen.
If we practice doing those things and focusing our attention on those things instead of focusing on things we can’t control, we feel in control more of the time. Surprise, then we feel safe. Our tunnel vision from feeling out of control all of a sudden widens and all of a sudden, you’re like, “Look at all these opportunities I had I didn’t even realize were there.”
At first, you feel trapped. No more trapped by changing your perspective. This is why Apollo is interesting and why these techniques are interesting because Apollo is the first wearable touch therapy that uses touch as an output that you can control at any moment. That restores your autonomy and your sovereignty and your agency at any moment.
Everything, I’ve figured out as a practice. We can have all the information in the world. You were talking about how Apollo can give you the power to put you in these states of mind. The other day, it was the end of the day, it was close to 5:00, and right after 5:00, “What’s for dinner?” I don’t care who you are. If you’re the person who that falls on, you start going, “What’s for dinner?” We had a meeting.
I did put it on focus because I felt like, “Could I be focused without having to ramp up?” As soon as dinner was done, I did a longer protocol for sleep, I did two hours. You have shorter blocks. I appreciate that you have kind of this different menu. We do have different things. I’ve used the recovery right after the workout and things like that.
If someone is reading this and maybe they’re going to do a little more research before if they felt like it was necessary or something they could benefit doing, a controlled psychedelic treatment. For that stuff, what would be the best places for them to find the best people? Maps is a good tool. For you, what groups do you like? It’s easy for you because you’re in it. If someone is sitting in Kansas and thinks, “This is something maybe I would like to explore,” what would be at least a starting point?
It’s tricky. There are not a lot of providers out there who are trained to do this work well and there is not a lot of training for licensed providers. That’s exactly why we were offering this Embodied Life Training with Lauren Taus, who’s an expert clinician and therapist at Topanga Commune. These trainings are few and far between. Most of the people nationwide who offer psychedelic medicine are not licensed providers and they have not been through any training other than their own experiences, which is a little bit dangerous.
Is the question to ask, are you a licensed provider or is there a bigger question that’s more important than that?
I’ll give you a couple of organizations to start. To the point, this is what inspired us to develop Apollo because, number one, it’s hard to get access to safe psychedelic care. It’s hard to get access to the pathway to healing that is agreed upon for mental health because no one is agreeing right now. There are a lot of different options but there’s not a lot of consistency around what is the best path for any given person.
Psychedelics are not accessible to everyone. They can work well for certain people with certain illnesses like PTSD and depression in particular. Anxiety is still on the fence if that’s your primary issue. We have to be a little bit cautious. It’s hard to find providers. Ketamine Psychotherapy Associates have a list of providers that you can look at and they have a whole big list under referrals that’s great. That was started by Dr. Phil Wolfson, who is one of the leaders in the ketamine-assisted therapy movement, and one of the people who founded ketamine-assisted therapy.
He’s the author of The Ketamine Papers, which is the most famous book on ketamine therapy, and the evidence for why it works for mental illness. Another website that’s great is Psychedelic.support which was started by Allison Feduccia and her partner. We published a paper together, which is summarizing effectively an evidence-based proposal for the gold standard best practices for psychedelic-assisted therapy.
People can understand that there is scientific evidence for how to do this. You can look at it any way you want across the board. It doesn’t matter whether you’re looking at the use of SSRI antidepressants or antipsychotics or psychedelics, psychotherapy makes them work better. We should not be administering these techniques without the proper psychotherapy and container.
The best advice I can give anybody who wants to engage in these practices is to find a good therapist whom you can trust and whom you can build a trusting relationship with. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what your diagnosis is and it doesn’t matter if you even have a diagnosis at all. What matters is that we are traumatized as human beings.
Don’t you think we could change that conversation too and make that part of what being a human being is? I’ve said this many times too where it’s like, “This is also a part of it.” People are like, “I don’t feel happy.” We are these organic beings and our world was meant to be harsh and scary at times and savage. Look at the critters and the way they walk around. Maybe even when we get part of the healing, also getting a relationship with when you’re like, “This is brutal.” When that shows up, it can be helpful.
We need to destigmatize that. We need to make sure that people understand that having had challenges that we perceived as threatening that we call trauma does not make you less of a human being. It doesn’t make you a victim and it doesn’t make you somebody who can’t trust yourself. That is ultimately where we’re at right now and that’s what we’re trying to heal. That’s the reason why the most important thing to have is a good therapist. Ideally, they’re licensed. The licensure level doesn’t necessarily matter. I like psychologists because they have a wide breadth and depth of expertise.
In general, I’ve worked with a lot of great social workers and a lot of great marriage and family therapists. Regardless, the main thing is that if you think about trauma, you want to break it down simply. If we think about what trauma does to us and that trauma makes us distrust ourselves, which means we’re distrusting our intuition, meaning we don’t necessarily remember what it feels like to truly trust what’s coming from in here.
When we build a trusting relationship with a therapist or a healthcare provider, that trusting relationship helps us remember. A trusting relationship is, in and of itself, psychedelic, it’s mind-expanding. That helps us to remember the feeling of trust, which we might have forgotten. If we can remember what it feels like to trust somebody else with our deepest and darkest secrets, we can remember what it feels like to trust ourselves.
We have a target. We have a bullseye to aim for. If you don’t know where you’re aiming, where are you going to go? There has to be a target and people need targets. People are goal-directed individuals. If you don’t give them a target, they will be aimless and will struggle. All animals are like that. Unlike other animals, we have a choice and they don’t. They’re surviving and doing their thing. We have the choice to say, “I’m going to make a decision that puts my survival in jeopardy or I could do something else.”
It’s called scrolling. Talk about aimless. You’re like, “I did even have a target and then somehow I scrolled it away.”
“Somehow I opened my phone and now I’ve forgotten what I was going to do.”
The other thing is everything is easier and easier and more convenient. This is only going to make everybody more stressed out.
To some extent.
There’s more room.
There’s more stimulation and there’s more stuff.
It’s like, “I don’t even have to go out to get my food. I don’t have to interact with another human who eats and shows up.” It’s all that too. I watch my kids and some of them can talk to their friends on the phone. When they talk on the phone, I’m like, “All day long, go for it.” They’re communicating. It’s important. The Apollo is a safe option.
You did mention the four pillars, self-gratitude, self-forgiveness, self-compassion, and self-love. This comes from a South American tribal medicine. This felt important to mention. Whether we’re going to do a journey or we’re going to see a therapist or going to wear an Apollo, it was an important reminder to people. Be grateful for yourself and forgive yourself.
Direct some of that energy that we give so readily to other people back inward even though we’re taught that maybe that’s indulgent or that we’re not supposed to give that to ourselves or give it only to everyone else.
Try being a mother. I say, “I am selfish with certain real estate because if I’m going to be here for all of you, I’m going to protect this real estate even if it’s as big as this paper.” It’s the only way you can get it done. It’s not taking that negative twist off of, “I’m going to figure out what’s going to make me feel good and what’s right and good for me.”
Those practices come from the Shipibo tribal culture, which is considered to be, for the most part, one of the oldest medical community traditions of South America in Peru, the medicine people. Studying their traditions, it’s interesting because when you ask the shamans, “What are you treating when you do your medicine work?” They say, “We’re treating trauma.” Isn’t that wild?
We think we’re so smart.
They already know. They don’t need technology, they’ve already figured it out. On top of that, when you look at the drawings of what they see in their psychedelic experiences with the plants, they are interwoven snakes in a double helix. That’s what’s changing. That’s what they believe they’re influencing. What’s that? For us, it’s DNA.
Jeremy NArby, the famous anthropologist, wrote Cosmic Serpent, which is one of my favorite books. He went down to the Amazon and studied this topic and did a Western and Eastern tribal comparison across hundreds of indigenous cultures.They all use the same symbology. They’ve never talked. They’ve never exchanged information. There’s something going on underneath the surface that’s interesting and a lot of it has to do with safety. How do we cultivate that sense of trust and safety in ourselves?
There’s a similar example in lots of other cultures. I’m not going to honor this completely because I don’t speak their language but in my interpretation of it and how I was taught, these are the four pillars of self-trust,which is repairing trauma. If trauma fractures trust in ourselves, by practicing the four pillars, we repair that trust. We repair that trust by showing ourselves gratitude for simple things. The more you express gratitude for yourself, believe it or not, the more things you find to be grateful for.
What does that do? It makes you feel graceful and gracious. It improves the grace in every moment of our lives. That helps us to find opportunities to forgive ourselves for the mistakes that we’ve made in the past. It then helps us realize that we’re always going to make mistakes cuz we’re fallible human beings so we better be compassionate for ourselves and not be impatient and rush. If we are impatient and rush, we’re going to make more mistakes and then we’re going to have more to forgive ourselves for.
We got to be patient, which is the practice of self-compassion. All of that culminates in unconditional self-love, which is knowing deep down that we are worthy of love.These are not techniques that you can just master and be done with. They’re the techniques that guide our lifelong journey of creating the foundation of trust and then sustaining and maintaining it over time. You can do them as simply as writing those words down. You don’t have to do anything else to start.
This is what we do with all of our clients because they’re busy people and they have a lot to do. We’re like, “Keep these in your mind. First thing in the morning, write those four words down, self-gratitude, self-forgiveness, self-compassion, and self-love in order every morning and the last thing before you go to bed.” I’ll give you one of my favorite examples. When you’re feeling angry later that day and normally you might say, “I’m not allowed to feel this way,” or, “I’m not supposed to feel this way.” You start to judge yourself for feeling angry or judge the feeling itself.
Perhaps if you remember self-gratitude, you can turn it on its head and say, “What if I was grateful for this anger?” What you realize is that if you are grateful for your anger, that anger has a tremendous amount of power. Anger is a source of a tremendous amount of our essence and our efficacy to get things done.
By expressing gratitude for it and understanding that there’s a lot of power in anger, we figure out how to get it out in constructive ways like sports, physical pursuits, or any number of other things that we can do. It’s channeling or sublimating what we consider to be a negative or unpleasant and uncomfortable emotion into something that is productive and helpful and constructive.
That is also a skill that requires practice but gratitude is what channels it.If we judge ourselves for it, we stifle the process of channeling into productive outcomes and constructive outcomes, and that’s resistance. If we accept it and we express gratitude for it, it transforms what was once something that we ran from or were upset by to something that is a source of power.
It’s a tool. You’re explaining 75% of the way I got my day done. I’m not kidding. I’m bullying my way through my whole day all totally in love but I’m bullying my way through using that. It’s not a passive emotion. It is a charged emotion. It’s keeping that lid on it so that it doesn’t get misdirected because it’s almost like a heavy-duty charge. Your partner comes in or a kid and you have to switch out of that quickly because it’s a no-go.
What happens when you don’t let it out?
It comes out for real. It’s fear-generating and anger for protection that I didn’t get to vent this charge. Honestly, I’m probably a lazy person. Humans, in some way, have laziness. It’s a way to use it to generate and go. I have a lot of go in my life. It was a way to say, “Here we go,” and where to keep going. It’s having a relationship with it and not looking at it as anger that we know like what you’re saying. It’s not like, “Someone is angry at me.” It’s anger that’s like you’re ferocious to lean into everything you’ve got to get done.
You nailed it. If we don’t work with it and if we don’t acknowledge it and we repress it, what happens? It turns inward on us and then it leaks and seeps out in all these weird and unpredictable ways. We’re irritable and we’re nasty and we’re too quick with people.
I’m going to fight in the parking lot over a parking space. I’m definitely in a marital spot.
You’re yelling at people on the road or angry at work and then that is what causes all this damage in our lives because we are expressing something that’s powerful in a way that is not respectful. It’s not respectful to us by denying our own emotions and preventing ourselves from feeling. We are dishonoring ourselves.
I try to remind people. I’m not over-generalizing but with females especially, you can still not be nice and be good. It’s getting the differentiation. Anger can be good, it may not be nice, whatever that means. It took me a long time to get to peace with that and to accept that. Of course, I’m going to help somebody and tell the truth and do the right thing but I don’t have to make everybody feel like I’m bringing them flowers and cake for everything. It’s getting a relationship with that.
Especially when they don’t deserve it. Not everybody deserves flowers and cake all the time.
[bctt tweet=”The process of life is not about certainty. There is no certainty because everything in life is changing around us all the time.”]
It’s not even like we’re at work. Laird says to me sometimes because he’s truthful with people and I’m like, “Oh.” He’s like, “This is loving.” It’s also being honest and open and it’s even the same thing with this directness or anger, which is like, “This is loving because I’m showing you who I am.” We’re taught to feel uncomfortable with that or ashamed of it or what have you.
Whatever we’re taught about it, we are certainly taught to overthink it rather than feel it.
Do you think that’s okay in the end?
We question and we self-doubt. One of the things that have been resonating with me lately from the work we do is psychedelic medicines and thing tools like Apollo, soothing touch, somatic techniques, and movement, they unlock our ability to feel again and to feel safe enough to feel feelings. That is how we heal ourselves. It’s like grieving a loss. It’s painful sometimes. When you take the time to do it, usually, the unpleasantness doesn’t last long. It gets addressed and then it fizzles out and goes away. When we hang onto it and resist it, it can last for our entire lives.
How do we make sure to know and constantly remind ourselves that our awareness of these feelings is a superpower? It unlocks potential. It is the key. You put it in the door and unlock your potential to make different choices, to see different opportunities, to be a better person, and to be a better version of yourself. Everything that we’re talking about, psychedelics, the Apollo, and these techniques, they’re all tools that help get us there quicker and make it a little more comfortable, palatable. It comes down to, in a lot of ways, allowing ourselves to feel and connect with that non-judgmentally before we start thinking. Thinking is important. We got to think.
I go back to something that was from Aristotle, it’s way back. You probably know the Cogito, ergo sum. This is back when we were trying to figure out what it mean to be human. It’s Latin for, “I think, therefore I am.” That set the foundation of human thought. That changed everything. It was a way for us to understand ourselves at the time but it was also a way for us to separate ourselves from nature because we think. Most of the other things in nature we don’t think thinks.
Activate that ego and we’re on the road.
There’s a big fallacy there, which puts thinking first. It associates the understanding of thinking with our identity, which is not all we are. It also dehumanizes the rest of the world, which is also alive and conscious and part of our life and it has to be. We wouldn’t be here without it. We’re all part of the continuous life experience together.
What I would offer as an alternative if we’re going to talk about remodeling or reshaping the way we describe ourselves and our lives is why not say, “Amo ergo sum,” “I love, therefore I am.” That’s inclusive of everything because everything is made of love. Everything is love. Love is the universal human language, not just for humans but for everything on the earth. It’s non-exclusive but it also puts love as a feeling before thinking. Much more of what we are is love than cognitive thought.
Thought is important. Critical thinking is important. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a man of science so critical thinking and hypothesizing and questioning are my favorite things to do. That’s what leads to discovery. Now that I’ve learned what I’ve learned, it only comes after self-inquiry, “What am I feeling right now? What is that? What is that trying to tell me without judging it?” If I’m thinking too much, I’m feeling it, and I’m like, “Is it okay to feel that way?” I’m missing the point of the feeling.
It’s our beautiful guide too. Dr. Dave, I want to finish up with a couple of things. Why did you call the device Apollo?
That’s a good story. There were a lot of names for this technology before it was called Apollo.
We’re going to call it decrease your fine lines. Make yourself more beautiful.
There are a lot of names. Originally, at the university, we had code names for it. It was Codename Purr because it feels like a purring cat on your body. Wearable hugs and things like that. We called it Emoto originally, it was the first name that I came up with. Dr. Emoto was a famous Japanese professor who has done some controversial work. One of the interesting things that he found was the water source energy and somatics and if you put vibration into water.
The pictures and such. I love you, I hate you, rock and roll versus classical. Beautiful photos.
It’s incredible. A lot of that came from his work. This is vibration plus emotion so we called it Emoto. That reminded too many people of Italian motorcycle companies. We were sitting at dinner one night in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where we founded the technology, where the company’s still headquartered. We were trying to figure out for weeks a different name that made more sense and we went through everything we could possibly think of, which is a lot of names, hundreds.
Could you get into a fight with your wife over this stuff?
I work with my husband and I thought about it because you guys work closely together. I was like, “I wonder how they do it.” I know you’re a healthy guy and smart but stuff is happening. I could see it, like, “What name did you say?” I could see you guys at some dinner or something.
I like the other names we had. We had other names that I was comfortable with and other people were like, “You can’t have that name.” I personally liked Emoto. I thought that was a cool name. I thought that was something that would stick. I was the only one on that name so it was hard. That was a sticking point originally. You got to pick your battles. There’s a lot more stuff we need to spend our time doing than fighting over names. Ultimately, you always figured it out if you take time and you’re patient with the process.
We’re sitting at dinner at a Thai restaurant in Pittsburgh, one of our favorite places with one of our good friends, Alex, who was our roommate at the time. He’s a creative guy but not in the space at all that we were working in. We were like, “Let’s have a bottle of wine and eat some Thai food and let’s come up with some names. Let’s shoot it out there. Let’s put it out into the ether and see what.”
We went through hundreds of names at this dinner and the last one, out of the blue, Alex was sitting there and he’s like, “What about Apollo?” We were like, “What about Apollo?” We started thinking about it. We went and looked it up. Apollo is not patentable or trademarkable because there are so many different companies and theaters and things that use that name.
We realized that we could do Apollo neuroscience or something like that where it’s Apollo plus something else. That made it in the realm of usability. What was interesting was that when you look up the origins of that name, I mentioned earlier that’s a temple of Apollo, a Delphi was worshiping Apollo the God. Apollo of the God was the God that gave the gift of medicine and the gift of music to humanity. What is the technology? It’s wearable music that heals your body by calming your nervous system and providing balance.
What is caduceus? The staff with the two snakes? It’s balanced around the two halves of the nervous system. The snakes are the two halves, and the balance is the middle. That’s interesting. As we started to dive deeper into the meaning, it was way closer than we ever thought. We started to think about it. I learned about the Temple of Apollo Delphi and what was inscribed on the top of it. There are over 600 tenets of how to live a good life but there are three that are inscribed on the top, know thyself, surety brings ruin, and nothing to excess.
Know thyself stuck with me because I was like, “That sounds so simple and yet it is one of the most difficult things to do for all of us.” I was like, “What is this technology doing? How does it restore balance?” It reminds us that we’re safe in our own bodies. It reminds us that we can self-inquire. If we feel safe in our own bodies, then we can dive in. If we can dive in, we can get to know ourselves. All of that came together and that became the name.
Are these available only online? Where are they?
They’re available on our website at ApolloNeuro.com. For fun, you can go to Wearable Hugs also because I saved that domain.
They gave that to you as a nod to you.
Yeah. They’re like, “You can have that one.” That’s my favorite. You could also come to meet us at events. We’re at a whole bunch of psychedelic and medicine events.
Tell me all the places people can find you and everything you’re doing.
My personal website is DrDave.io, you could find my clinical work there and also lots more about me and the work we’re doing than we talked about on the Apollo website. I also have a podcast. I hate to think of it as a podcast because it’s more of a radio show that we record live. I love live radio and the opportunity to interact with people live. We record it live on Clubhouse almost every Thursday. If you follow me on Clubhouse, @DrDaveRabin, you can join our conversations with leading experts in the psychedelic field.
That show is called The Psychedelic Report, which is your single source of truth for the psychedelic news, which we haven’t had because everybody is talking about different stuff. We came together and said, “We’re going to produce something that gives people the actual information that we know to be evidence-based and true about psychedelic space.” If there’s one place, people can go for that. That’s been a fun project.
I also work for a nonprofit that I direct called Board of Medicine. It’s a nonprofit medical board of world-round experts that is focused on trying to drive home a respectful use of medicine. That’s something that our society has struggled with even in the medical community where we over-prescribe opioids and benzodiazepines and a lot of SSRIs and a lot of drugs cause harm long term without thinking and remembering that to first do no harm to our clients.
BoardOfMedicine.org is where you can find information about that, which is catered to clinicians and people in the medical space or who want to get into the medical space and get access to evidence-based trainings for complementary and alternative medicines from cannabis to psychedelics to supplements to natural treatments that help and technology as well.
Last few questions, just off the top of your head, you said the most valuable thing you learned going through being an entrepreneur. Most of us are not going to be scientists. For a lot of people, especially in this day and age, they have to do it themselves. Was there something that showed up for you that was an important lesson?
There are so many lessons.
Is it about how we navigate failure?
That’s a good one.
What about the idea of, “Do I have a good idea?”
Testing good ideas.
Go to all the naysayers and see.
I don’t know how many people know this but in the science world, the medical world, when we take technology from the lab to the community, bench to bedside, on average, if you include drugs and technology, it’s seventeen years to get our best stuff from the lab into the community. That’s way too long. We need it now. These developments that are working, we need them now.
My wife has an emerging technology background and I learned a tremendous amount from her, which is, number one, surround yourself with the best people who know more than you. Do not settle for the people that you surround yourself with. These are the people who are going to steer your future. Make sure those people, you can look up to and trust as mentors effectively. It’s not scary to have those people know more than you about certain things.
We can’t know everything. We need to build those trusting relationships and step out of our comfort zone a little bit to do that. Kathryn’s input into the science and business part was helpful. In science, we think, “Let’s test it in the lab. If we test it in the lab and it works, it’s going to work in the real world and people are going to use it.” That is a fallacy. That is very much not true. There are thousands of discoveries.
You learned quite a lot by getting it out there.
We did real-world testing after the lab on thousands of people.
I even like that you partnered with Oura on that. They were open and you got to track and do some things around heart rate variability and sleep and things like that.
What was cool is taking research out of the lab. For scientists, it’s uncomfortable but it widens the window of opportunity. All of a sudden, you realize, “We built this technology for focus, for people with PTSD. We gave this to 3,000 people in the real world and they’re using it for focus but what are they using it for more than focus? Sleep.” We didn’t know that in the lab because we didn’t originally do a sleep study.
We learned that from our community and then we went back and we were going to do a sleep lab study but then the pandemic hit and all the sleep labs closed right before we were about to kick off. We emailed all of our users and said, “Would you be willing to share your Oura ring data with us?” 350 people said, “Absolutely,” overnight.
Now we have over 1,500 people and we’ve shown that from tracking those people compared to their baseline data before they ever received an Apollo, which is roughly six months before ever receiving an Apollo to then another year average after receiving an Apollo, we were able to get data. You would have to spend millions of dollars to get in the lab and we probably spent under $50,000 to do this study and we got data that is realistic. It’s like data that comes from real people’s lives. When you go into a sleep lab, people don’t realize that’s not the way you sleep at home.
You’re away from your house.
You’re in a different bed.
That’s way less comfortable and you’re connected to wires. We don’t like to sleep with wires.
That’s a better way. It’s more authentic to measure what people are going through.
That was helpful because we learned stuff by stepping into our discomfort and tolerating that and saying, “Let’s figure out what’s going to happen.” A lot of the work we do is about learning to tolerate discomfort and not running from it but stepping into it. We learned that people sleep better by adding this technology to their lives.
Regardless of all the other variability, adding this to your life, no matter how much you use it, people are sleeping better and it’s statistically significant. If you use it the way we recommend, we saw that data goes up to 30 minutes more sleep a night that’s concentrating deep in REM sleep. It’s huge. That’s how much you get from doing regular exercise. Why wouldn’t you add something like this to your life?
It’s very easy. I know how to use technology but I’m not incredibly savvy. I loaded it and it’s easy. It was easy to start. It wasn’t a ton of steps. A fun conversation with Amy about your mom writing a book. I thought that was cute. I was like, “He comes from an interesting family.” Lessons being a partner that you didn’t know before you entered into a marriage, relationships are relationships, whatever title, I could care less, that you didn’t know and now you do that has been helpful.
I’ll give you one lesson and it’s going to sound simple but I can tell you my entire career has been about listening to people and that’s all it’s about. It’s being present and listening to people, not hearing them and waiting to say your piece but non-judgmentally and presently listening to people. Making eye-to-eye contact, not looking at your phone, not thinking about what you’re going to eat for dinner later, not any of that, just regular old human non-judgmental listening. That is the single biggest thing that will make a difference in any relationship you have, especially partnership relationships. It’s a constant struggle.
I’m older than you and I’m in a longer relationship so I’m going to bolt on for the readers. There’s also something called active ignoring and I’m going to tell you what this is. I agree with you on listening, and listening and not fixing, listening and not defending, listening and not justifying, just listening. There is sometimes too that your partner might be talking about something you don’t care about at all. By the way, they do it for you too. You really are listening but you’re not. Sometimes it’s too much input. You start adding dogs and kids and everything.
I had a friend who was newly married and she’s like, “He talks about so many things I’m not interested in.” I go, “He listens to all the stuff about you that he’s not interested in.” You’re interested in him or you’re interested in her. I agree on listening and then a little bolt onto that is active ignoring. When you’re a 3-year-old and can talk about this pen for 45 minutes and you go, “Wow. Uh-huh.” You got to do it. It is funny.
We’re not all going to be interested in the same stuff. That’s the way it is. We all have our own interests and passions and sometimes those overlap nicely and sometimes they don’t. I can still show you that I hear and see you.
That’s all we want, to be seen, and maybe a little appreciation.
Seeing and hearing are appreciation in and of themselves. That’s what people pay me for, believe it or not. It’s a little sad. It’s something we can all provide to each other for free. The upside of it is that we can teach each other to do it if we remember that we all are born with the ability to non-judgmentally listen to each other and have empathy because there’s a stripe in all of our brains that is responsible for empathy. There’s not a single human being on the face of the earth pretty much unless you have frontotemporal dementia that does not have that stripe. We all have it.
We have the ability to non-judgmentally listen to each other. It does take a little bit of practice but that is, above and beyond, probably one of the single biggest gifts that any human can give to anyone else. It is appreciation because it’s showing, “I value you enough to give you my presence and give you my time.” That is one of the things. If you want to break it down, what is going to save humanity? It’s a connection by non-judgmentally being present and listening to each other. That’s what acknowledges each other’s humanity.
Dr. Dave Rabin, thank you for coming here, for your time, and for this incredible work you’re doing. This idea, in any way that we can support our fellow humans, it’s important and it reminds people that it is a bumpy ride and that’s natural. What are the tools that are out there right now to help us? Thank you for coming over.
It’s my pleasure. Thank you so much for having me.
Thank you so much for reading this episode. Stay tuned for a bonus episode where I go deeper into one of the topics that resonated with me. If you have any questions for my guest or even myself, please send them to @GabbyReece on Instagram. If you feel inspired, please hit the follow button, and leave a rating and a comment. It not only helps me, it helps the show grow and reach new readers.
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About Dr. Dave Rabin
Dr. Dave Rabin, MD, PhD, is a neuroscientist, board-certified psychiatrist, health tech entrepreneur & inventor who has been studying the impact of chronic stress in humans for over 15 years. He is the co-founder & chief innovation officer at Apollo Neuroscience, which has developed the first scientifically-validated wearable technology that actively improves sleep, relaxation, focus, and calm, using a novel touch therapy that signals safety to the brain. Dr. Rabin is the Executive Director of The Board of Medicine & the Medical Director of the Apollo Clinic. In addition to focusing on integration therapy, plant and natural medicines, couples therapy, and medicine-assisted psychotherapy, Dr. Rabin specializes in treatment-resistant mental illnesses including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), psychosomatic disorders, personality disorders, chronic pain disorders, insomnia, and substance use disorders using minimal and non-invasive treatment strategies.
Dr. Rabin has always been fascinated by consciousness and our inherent ability to heal ourselves from injury and illness. His research focuses on the clinical translation of non-invasive therapies for patients with treatment-resistant illnesses like PTSD and substance use disorders. In addition to his clinical psychiatry practice, Dr. Rabin is currently conducting research on the epigenetic regulation of trauma responses and recovery to elucidate the mechanism of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy and the neurobiology of belief. Dr. Rabin received his MD in medicine and PhD in neuroscience from Albany Medical College and specialized in psychiatry with a distinction in research at Western Psychiatric Institute & Clinic at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.