Re-opening the Body Schema to a Shared Temporality: A Phenomenological Investigation into the Therapeutic Potential of Psilocybin-Assisted Therapy for Depression
ABSTRACT: Psilocybin’s remarkable efficacy in treating depression poses important questions about how such therapy works. I explore this issue through a phenomenological study that shows how embodiment and temporality are central to the efficacy of psilocybin-assisted therapy. Thomas Fuchs has argued that the experience of depression involves a disordered implicit temporal structure that takes its shape through an explicit disturbance of shared time. This form of social asynchrony is experienced through what Fuchs refers to as a “corporealization” of the lived body. I add to this literature by drawing on Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s conception of the body schema, to show how corporealization is conditioned by the body schema’s capacity to be “open” or “closed” to the possibility of acquiring new habits that allow for the realization of new situations. Corporealization arises when the body schema’s closedness interferes with a subject’s socially shared temporality and capacity for engagement. I maintain that psilocybin-assisted therapy dishabituates depressed subjects from ways of being that habitually close the body schema, thereby re-opening the subject to the potential of inhabiting situations that change with the social flow of time that underlies intersubjective experience. I argue that the therapeutic potential of psilocybin is contingent on its capacity to induce experiences that afford subjects an opportunity to take up their situation differently – an opportunity often robbed from experience in depression.