This essay is the foundational document for EQNMT. It lays out the reasons for our existence.
It is constructed using Ray Dalio's framework for "getting anything that you want," namely:
Defining our GOALS: Our Mission.
Identifying the PROBLEMS preventing us from achieving our mission.
Diagnosing the ROOT CAUSES of the problems.
Outlining our PLAN that addresses the root causes: EQNMT's Business Model
EXECUTING: Links to our service offerings and detailed explanations therein.
1. OUR MISSION
EQNMT’s mission is to accelerate the elimination of unnecessary suffering by scaling the delivery of the most effective wellness methodologies known to science.
“Well-being is a skill that can be learned.” Dr. Richie Davidson, about his research on long-time meditators.
Equanimity is defined as "mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation." Life is difficult. We do not believe in Utopia. Nor do we believe that it is necessarily desirable. However, as human beings we tend to make life a lot more difficult than it needs to be. This is what we mean by “unnecessary”, the propensity to add more suffering to the pain that is inevitable in life.
Our external circumstances are a manifestation of our internal world. Most conflict is self-conflict. We have more than enough resources for everyone's basic needs and yet, there are still people starving and many other horrors continue unabated. This is driven by the illusion that the meaning and fulfillment we are looking for can be found "out there". We delude ourselves into thinking that more money, more power, more sex, more... will fill the hole of discontent we all carry in our hearts. And this is what drives the dysfunction in a world where there is objectively enough for everyone.
We believe that change is to be found at the level of the individual. Thus, if we can help people understand that meaning and fulfillment starts from within, that beautiful state of mind can manifest, and many of the world's problems can be solved. We fix the world by first fixing ourselves. Or as Jordan Peterson would put it "clean your damn room".
2. THE PROBLEM:
The Mental and Physical Health Crisis:
100 million Americans are obese. US life expectancy has dropped from 78.8 to 76.1 in the past few years and suicide rates have increased by 23% over the last 20 years. 22.1 million people have substance abuse disorders, 48 million have anxiety disorders and 21 million people have major depressive disorders. This US is the most prosperous country in the history of the world, so what is going on?
3. THE ROOT CAUSES:
Cheap Dopamine, Loneliness, The Meaning Crisis, and Lack of effective Health Care Institutions to combat these challenges.
The mental and physical health crisis is largely a problem of abundance. The book Dopamine Nation, by Stanford Psychiatrist Anna Lembke lays out one of the root causes of the problem, beautifully: Too much easy access to cheap dopamine. From online porn to on-demand marijuana delivery and social media scrolling, the list is endless. Over-consumption of these goods leads to addiction, which in turn leads to depression, anxiety, and dysphoria. It’s a downward spiral. The ease of access to cheap dopamine prevents us from doing the basic activities we need to maintain and practice equanimity.
In 2021, 58% of Americans reported being lonely. Zoom and social media are artificial, inadequate replacements for what human beings really need: high-quality personal and in-person relationships. The Harvard Study on Adult Development has been tracking the lives of two groups of men from 1938 to present day. The goal of the study is to "to find the answers to what makes a happy and meaningful life." The most important finding is this: "Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period." Loneliness is making us miserable and sick.
The Meaning Crisis
“The Meaning Crisis is at the root of modern crises of mental health"... "We are drowning in bullshit – literally “meaninglessness”. We feel disconnected from ourselves, each other, the world, and a viable future"
- Dr. John Vervaeke, Associate Professor, University of Toronto.
Church memberships in the United States have declined from 70% of the population in 2000 to 47% in 2020. This is understandable. Religion needs an upgrade. The dominant monotheistic religions are far too dogmatic and anti-science for a modern society to relate to. However, we must be careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water. We believe that rational spirituality is critical to our health. Human beings need to feel as if we are a part of something greater than ourselves. This can take many forms like purpose driven work or being part of a community who share similar values.
Legacy Institutions are inadequate to address the Root Causes
We know what to do but we don't do what we know. Dopamine available at the push of a button, makes it extremely difficult for people to develop habits that are critical to finding equanimity, namely: A healthy diet, regular exercise, quality sleep, meaningful work, and enriching relationships. This is not an exhaustive list but getting these things right is foundational to good health. It is simple but it is not easy.
New institutions are needed to help buffer us from the onslaught of modern society and assist us in executing the repetition needed to develop habits that are foundational to good health. This, fundamentally, is EQNMT's approach.
The HealthCare Industry is a Sick Care Industry
Legacy healthcare institutions are designed to care for us when we are already sick and not to prevent illness or optimize our health. And for good reason. For most of human history we were just trying to survive. Health care infrastructure was built to attend to those who were most in need. It has made tremendous progress in treating almost every type of physical ailment. However, it is not optimally designed or equipped to attend to the health care needs of a modern and wealthy society.
There are two major areas where legacy healthcare offerings need an upgrade:
1. The first is that, these institutions need to move our healthcare from reactive to proactive, seeking to prevent illness from manifesting in the first place.
2. The second is that health care needs to treat the whole person, taking our physical and mental health into account in the prevention and treatment of disease. There is no such thing as the ‘mind - body’ connection, it is all one system.
The Health and Fitness Industry
There are ~115,000 health and fitness clubs in America and the internet has near perfect information on what diets and exercise routines we should follow to lose weight. Yet 74% of the US population is overweight or obese.
Gyms are essentially equipment rental companies. They do not exist to optimize the health of their clients. Even if one can afford personal trainers and dieticians, their focus is typically on information and instruction to treat symptoms. Like the healthcare industry, almost no health and fitness institutions exist that treat the whole person. Which recognizes that, to optimize our health we must understand that our mental, physical, social and spiritual worlds are interconnected.
For sustainable change we need to address the underlying causes of unhealthy behaviors. We then need to assist in the repetition of healthy activities to habitualize these behaviors so we are not relying on will power to maintain our health.
As with broader health and wellness offerings, traditional therapy typically focuses only on one area of our health - our mental world - and negates our physical. In addition, a lot of it is information-driven and this does not help us do what we know we should. The other issue is that many therapists are just not that good. There is a massive demand / supply imbalance of great therapists to those who need them most. Finally, even if one does find outstanding therapists who incorporate a holistic approach, there is still one intractable problem. Habits are hard to change.
Although highly effective therapeutic interventions exist, the fact remains that although our brains are neuroplastic (able to form new neural connections), this change is difficult and takes a long time. Most people lack the discipline, belief, or both to stick to the tried-and-true path until a new habit is formed and they get sustained relief from their suffering.
THE SOLUTION: EQNMT
Psychedelic Therapy and A New Healthcare Company, EQNMT is focused on evidence-based holistic care. We combine the best wellness methodologies known to science with psychedelic therapy to optimize the health and wellbeing of our clients.
Psychedelic Assisted Therapy:
For many, psychedelics are the missing ingredient needed to make sustainable, positive behavioral change accessible.* Two of their most powerful characteristics are worth elaborating on:
1. Psychedelics can help give our lives direction
Psychedelics mute our psychological defenses (they reduce activity in the prefrontal cortex), allowing us to access parts of our psyche that are hidden from our normal conscious experience. One of the most important benefits to potentially be gained from the psychedelic experience is that it can accelerate the discovery of what we value most. Psychedelics seem to connect us with our authentic selves, free of the baggage of our upbringing, societal conditioning, and our trauma.
Put more simply, psychedelics can help us discover what it is we want, not what our parents want, not what our friends want and not what society wants to sell us. We have one life, and it is a tragedy to spend it living someone else's. Not only is it tragic but doing so also makes us miserable.
Psychedelics can help us discover the destination we want to orientate our lives towards. And once we know the destination, we can then begin building a practical plan to get there.
The hallmark of the psychedelic experience is its ineffability. It is "too great or extreme to be expressed or described in words" and it can be very difficult to make sense of after it is over. Therefore, it is critical we work with trained psychedelic therapists / guides so that we can interpret these profound experiences accurately, ground them and use these insights to develop an executable plan of action.
Although the drugs themselves can provide benefits on their own, it is the therapeutic framework that surrounds their administration that is able to take these insights and cultivate them so that we can integrate them into our day to day lives. After all, we can't spend our lives permanently on psychedelics.
2. Psychedelics promote neuroplasticity
Once we have a clear and meaningful destination and a plan to get there we then need to execute. And this is where psychedelics are 'magical'. Our minds, especially the older we get, are analogous to a rock-hard block of clay. It is possible to make changes to the clay by utilizing various tools of neuroscience, clinical psychology and others but doing so is like chipping away at the clay bit by bit. We can make changes, but it takes a long time and it’s really hard work.
Taking a psychedelic is like heating up the clay so it can be molded far more easily and quickly. This makes it much easier to implement new behaviors into our lives (ie following the plan developed) and through repetition habitualize these behaviors so we don't have to rely on will power to stay on course towards our most valued and meaningful goals.
Ongoing Evidence-Based Holistic Care
Foundational to EQNMT's approach is caring for the whole person, recognizing that our mental, physical, social and spiritual health are interconnected.
We utilize physical and mental diagnostics and assessment tools to get baseline measurements for our mental and physical health. This data is combined with our subjective goals (some discovered during our psychedelic experience) to construct plans of actions that are both data based and personalized. As we progress through EQNMT's programs and beyond we incorporate ongoing measurements against baselines to confirm we are making measurable improvements in our health and well-being.
These ongoing measurements also inform iterations to plans of actions. When we stop growing, we become miserable. The goals we set for ourselves are merely the bait. Once they are achieved, we must set new meaningful goals to go after. This is literally how our dopamine circuits work. Healthy forms of dopamine are released when we are making progress towards meaningful goals not only at the achievement of the goal itself. The only finish line that we are aware of is death (and even this is debatable). We never fully arrive; we just end one adventure and start another. The goal (if there is one) is to improve our moment-to-moment experience and 'get better at feeling bad' while we struggle towards achieving our meaningful goals.
We now have a destination, an holistic evidence based plan to get there and a much more moldable mind to make it easier to adopt and habitualize the new behaviors needed achieve our goals. The only thing left to do is execute and this is the hardest part. Most of us know what to do but we do not do what we know. The temptations of cheap dopamine on demand make it extremely hard for the lone individual to stay on the righteous path and not fall back into negative behavioral patterns.
In addition to helping guide us in our personal journeys, EQNMT's programs are focused more broadly on the 80/20 of wellness, immersing us in the activities we should incorporate into our lives to build and maintain a solid foundation of mental and physical health. Combining these activities with an increased neuroplastic brain is analogous to pouring oil on a fire. The logic is that after practicing these activities with a much more malleable mind we are more likely to have laid down the foundational neural pathways needed to habitualize these behaviors.
Community and Accountability
High quality personal relationships are the most important components of our emotional health. By focusing on in-person group work EQNMT aims to reduce the friction to cultivate authentic relationships with our fellow human beings.
Group work also accelerates insight and understanding. By hearing about and learning from other people's experiences we can gain greater clarity into our own inner worlds. Seeing that we are not alone and that others experience the same types of suffering that we do is deeply comforting. Group work allows us to learn from one another and share strategies and tactics to overcome challenges.
A strange quirk of human nature is we often care more about others and / or about what others think about us than we do ourselves. Although this can be unhealthy and a large component of our programming seeks to cultivate self-love, we can leverage this tendency to our benefit. Our community will hold us accountable to the commitments we make to ourselves. We might be able to rationalize poor decisions in a vacuum but knowing we have to explain this behavior to our fellow EQNMT members serves as a powerful incentive to keep us on the right path.
Finally, group work is critical for EQNMT to achieve its mission. Traditional one on one therapy is not scalable. Life is very difficult and there will be times in almost everyone's life where some type of therapy is appropriate. This theoretically means that we need one therapist for every human being on the planet. This is impossible. Not only do we need group therapy led by trained mental health professionals, but we also need trained communities so that the community itself can be self-healing.
EQNMT was founded by an entrepreneur, James Stein, and two clinical psychologists, Brad Kallenbach and Anthony Townsend.
We are dedicating our lives to the building of this company because we concur with Jordan Peterson that:
"The antidote to life's suffering is to pick the highest ideal you can imagine for yourself and then orientate yourself towards that ideal"
Building EQNMT is the highest ideal we can imagine for ourselves. Simply put it is our life's calling.
We have been running psychedelic assisted therapy retreats for the past 3 years and in November of 2022 we opened our first Wellness Center in Johannesburg, South Africa. In Q2 of 2023 we are launching our Ketamine Assisted Group Wellness program in the United States that incorporates the approach laid out in this document.
For detailed information on all our programs, please visit our website here.
*Disclaimer: At EQNMT, we advocate a holistic approach to mental and physical health. While we recognize the potential benefits of psychedelic therapy for personal growth and behavioral change, we acknowledge that it may not suit or appeal to everyone. Please always consult a qualified professional before entering into any new treatment. Individual results may vary.